“Hogwarts Legacy”, a video game developed by Avalanche Software at Warner Bros, launched today. The game stems from the mythology of the popular Harry Potter series, originally written by J.K. Rowling. Rowling is continuously followed by her controversial comments regarding transgender women that were posted to her Twitter account in 2020. Activists felt that Rowling’s language was transphobic and showed a limited understanding of gender expression.
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
Following a series of tweets in which Rowling struggles to separate gender identity from sex assigned at birth, she went on to publish an essay titled “TERF Wars.” The term “TERF” stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In the essay, Rowling continues to ignore complaints from activists and former fans regarding her lack of understanding of gender expression. The controversy began when Rowling liked another person’s tweet that excluded trans women from the feminist movement because they were assigned male at birth.
There's just no evidence that me being me is causing problems for any of the other women I've met
If there are ever any problems between women and trans women they should be dealt with sensitively and sensibly on a case by case basis
Please, for the love of God, leave us alone.
— Paris Lees (@parislees) June 10, 2020
Rowling claims that all of this began while she was researching for a trans character she was writing–the character appeared in her novel Troubled Blood, and the depiction was largely criticized for being a caricature of trans stereotypes.
Following the emergence of the controversy in 2020, many members of the cast of the Harry Potter film franchise expressed disagreement with Rowling’s transphobic views, and invited their fans to educate themselves or donate to trans-inclusive charity organizations, including the Trevor Project. These were notably Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, Rupert Grint, and Eddie Redmayne.
I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.
— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) June 10, 2020
Nearly three years later, the controversy continues to haunt Rowling’s formerly loyal fanbase. Even fellow acclaimed author Stephen King tweeted on the issue, expressing support for trans women.
Yes. Trans women are women.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 28, 2020
The “TERF Wars” essay came as a major disappointment to LGBTQ+ fans and allies of the acclaimed and hugely popular Harry Potter franchise. Several of the characters in the book series preach of love and acceptance, and to learn of Rowling’s beliefs was devastating.
Harry Potter is about the magic of love, acceptance, belonging. The power of courage. The impact of hope. Trying to take those things away from people is a terrible tragedy. Trans women are women. 💖
— Mallory Rubin (@MalloryRubin) June 10, 2020
Fans were met with an ethical dilemma at today’s game release. Some felt that because Rowling did not write the game, that it would be okay to play it for old time’s sake. Others wanted a complete clean break from the franchise altogether.
For anyone who is a Harry Potter fan and wants to play the new game without supporting JKR, here are suggestions. Buy it used or donate money to an LGBTQ+ charity to offset the royalty price. If you don't want it in your house at all that's perfectly understandable as well.
— Stefan Swanlund (@StefanSwanlund) February 6, 2023
This game doesn’t make anyone a transphobe, this game doesn’t make a 12 year old who loves Harry Potter a transphobe (who I saw someone calling which is abhorrent) I support the lgbtq+ community. But I’m buying this game. To support the devs. Who worked hard to bring a great game https://t.co/j8k31mSS3M
— Brett (@MrBLTs) February 6, 2023
The thing that will never cease to amaze me about people who tirelessly defend Harry Potter is that they'll say, "But you used to like it, you just don't like it anymore because you disagree with JKR's brazen transphobia" and it's like… Yes? Why would I need any other reason
— Cian Maher (@cianmaher0) February 6, 2023
Others turned to the game’s introduction of a new character in the Harry Potter universe–Sirona Ryan, a transgender woman. The move was likely made to regain the trust of Rowling’s former fanbase, but it continues to draw criticism from the LGBTQ+ community on social media.
Sirona Ryan is such an insane thing to name the first trans Harry Potter character. They might as well have called her Misterima David or Boybitsa Jerry.
— Jaclyn Moore (@JaclynPMoore) February 6, 2023
"Sirona Ryan" is one half step above calling her "Manley McMansname" I guess https://t.co/lYplZBH5Uq
— Mx. Dillon Frizzle (@iamtheaardvark) February 6, 2023
Satirical memes of the situation to depict the blatant PR save with Sirona’s character made the rounds on Twitter.
BREAKING: The upcoming Harry Potter universe game ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ will introduce the franchise’s first ever openly gay character, named “Homie McSexual”. pic.twitter.com/dRYcdTK9Fh
— vin! (@Vward98) February 6, 2023
i think the trans community can accept the first trans character in harry potter being named Sirona Ryan if they introduce the first TERF character and name her Dee Vorced
— pudding person (@JUNlPER) February 6, 2023
Other avid readers pointed out that despite the nostalgic tug of the series, people need to distance themselves, as the many extensions of the series all likely profit J.K. Rowling in some way.
The thing about Harry Potter is that it sucks and there are a million other books and movies and video games to enjoy made by decent people but people who have made HP their entire personality can't let go.
— 🎃 Dave Scheidt 🎃 (@DaveScheidt) February 6, 2023
The transphobia allegations are only one of several controversies to surround the series. Others include negative stereotypes of Jewish and Black people.
These clowns… I swear I'm so tired of explaining this:
Recognizing antisemitic tropes =/= believing said tropes are true. No, I don't associate the Goblins in Harry Potter with Jews. But I understand the trope well enough to know that antisemitic POS's do. pic.twitter.com/AadEYLyuHG
— Persephone Silver 🏳️⚧️ 🏴☠- $1188/$2000 (@PSPersephone) February 6, 2023
Just a reminder that J.K Rowling has a black character in Harry Potter named Shacklebolt. pic.twitter.com/mZlQJDeXfY
— Dreadful (@Dreadful4Tymes) February 6, 2023
Outside of the controversies associated with the novels and film franchise, gamers are praising the developers of “Hogwarts Legacy” for its accurate depiction of the Hogwarts grounds.
Hogwarts Legacy, I keep repeating I am a big Harry Potter fan, read all books, played all games, watched all movies and this game is a childhood dream come true
The way he walked INSIDE Hogwarts in this clip is how also I imagined it as a kid
I cannot wait to play this game! pic.twitter.com/WmSiFNWMAx
— The Keyblade Master (@MKH13Omasters) February 4, 2023
The game is currently available to download here.