The Harry Potter books, and the universe they spawned, are beloved by millions. It’s so unfortunate, then, that the franchise’s creator, author J.K. Rowling, has repeatedly proven herself to be the worst kind of anti-transgender bigot. That bigotry is in the spotlight once again as the big-ticket Harry Potter game Hogwarts Legacy is due out soon. It’s also likely why the popular left-leaning subreddit r/GamingCircleJerk basically just exploded in anti-Hogwarts Legacy sentiment.
As its name suggests, r/GamingCircleJerk is a “circlejerk” subreddit meant to be a tongue-in-cheek riff on r/Gaming. Most posts are jokes, but the occasional “unjerk” posts are sincere, as was the case last Wednesday when moderator GrizzlyPeak72 posted a photo of Rowling and the game’s cover along with the text, “A friendly reminder from your modteam that this woman is a TERF and anyone who pledges to support her monetarily is also a transphobe.” That post alone elicited over 3,700 comments, and it was just the start.
“TERF,” of course, is the abbreviation for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which refers to self-identified feminists who, when you get down to it, more or less oppose trans people’s right to exist in society. Rowling’s history of transphobic comments can be easily researched online, and I won’t repeat them here. Suffice it to say it’s not a stretch to describe her as a TERF.
Discussion of the post and the wider mentality underlying it spread through Reddit and across social media. Some voices protested, claiming that supporting Hogwarts Legacy didn’t mean supporting Rowling’s beliefs. Others said it does, in fact, as buying the game supports the bigoted author monetarily. Some commenters brought up the questionable parts of the Potter canon itself. And yet others, somehow, seem to still believe Rowling isn’t a TERF at all despite her openly repeating TERF ideology.
Many members of the GamingCircleJerk subreddit have shown support for mod GrizzlyPeak72’s initial post, in both joking and serious ways, which is unsurprising as the group often mocks the closed-minded anti-gay, anti-women, anti-trans views that unfortunately still proliferate in gaming communities. GrizzlyPeak72, who posted the initial “unjerk,” said more than 1,000 transphobes have been banned from the subreddit since their post last week. There are also plenty of people who have said they still plan to play the game after pirating it. And even some in the Harry Potter subreddit have expressed concerns about the game, both because of its content and the creator’s views.
But ultimately this is well-trod ground, as grief over Rowling’s worldview stretches back to the original books themselves. There has long been criticism of the series’ stereotypical portrayals of non-white characters (when they exist at all), its messy allegories for racial and social injustice, and its arguably racist and antisemitic depictions of house elves and goblins.
In the Harry Potter canon, the goblins repeatedly rebel because they face discrimination. Unfortunately for would-be defenders of Hogwarts Legacy, the plot description for the open-world action RPG game as we know it so far involves your character quelling a goblin rebellion that is aligned with dark wizards, which raises the possibility that you’ll effectively be filling the role of a magical cop, keeping down those who are fighting for a more just and equitable society. It’s also concerning that the former lead designer of Hogwarts Legacy was an alt-right Gamergate troll.
Combined, the entire Harry Potter franchise is being reexamined as people reckon with the idea that maybe one of their childhood favorites isn’t as great as they remember and struggle to determine whether they can separate the art from the artist, especially one who continues to profit handsomely from said art.
Hogwarts Legacy tells players, “Your legacy is what you make of it.” That’s probably the best thing to keep in mind when weighing whether or not to pick up the game.