J.K. Rowling has (basically) been expelled from Hogwarts.
The HBO Max Harry Potter reunion did its best to skirt around its glaring dilemma when it came to the controversial author, keeping any mention of the Wizarding World creator to a minimum.
Over the course of the much anticipated Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, which aired on the streaming platform on Saturday, Rowling was spotted a handful of times during the nearly two-hour special, only appearing in archival footage.
The network made it abundantly clear that she was not directly involved, flashing a disclaimer every time she (briefly) appeared that her interviews were filmed back in 2019, amounting to a total airtime of less than 30 seconds.
Mentions or references to Rowling were also sparse, with cast members and directors sprinkling a few anecdotes about her involvement in filming and production of the eight blockbusters.
Rowling, HBO, and film studio Warner Bros. have stayed mum about the reasoning behind her notable absence, although a spokesperson for HBO disclosed to the Los Angeles Times that producers had approached Rowling for an interview but failed to clarify if she refused to sit down or if the new interview footage had been scrapped. Instead, they noted producers felt the old interview footage was “adequate.”
It’s not a surprise that Rowling’s screen time was limited, considering Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have all publicly distanced themselves from Rowling following her numerous transphobic statements over the years. (HBO could may also have decided to stave off significant backlash should the special prominently feature Rowling.)
The 56-year-old first drew a wave of outcry back in Dec. 2019 when she backed anti-trans activist Maya Forstater, who was fired from her tax job in the U.K. when she declared that “men cannot change into women.” In the following years, Rowling has doubled down on her bigoted views on Twitter, insisting that someone’s biological sex should be the defining factor of their gender identity, implying that transgender people are prone to criminality (pointing to widely debunked fears about trans people in bathrooms), and re-framing trans rights as an assault on feminism, stating that “erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives.” (The criminality argument is especially rich given that she passionately defended Johnny Depp’s presence in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise after he was accused of serial domestic abuse.)
Rowling has not made any direct mention about the special, but on Wednesday was still stoking the flames, arguing that she “never said there are only two genders.”
“There are innumerable gender identities,” she wrote, linking to a blog post that she wrote addressing her views. “The question at the heart of this debate is whether sex or gender identity should form the basis of decisions on safeguarding, provision of services, sporting categories and other areas where women and girls currently have legal rights and protections. Using the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably obscures the central issue of this debate.” (Again, Rowling pitted transgender women and cis women against one another in an imaginary civil rights battle.)
Radcliffe has disavowed Rowling’s comments, stating in 2020 that “transgender women are women.”
“While Jo [Rowling] is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment,” he wrote.
“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”