- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
How much can one controversial tweetstorm cost? That’s the burning question as Warner Bros., Universal Parks & Resorts and Scholastic execs all grapple with the fallout after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, 54, spent part of Sunday tweeting her views on cisgender and transgender women, who she said, by nature of biology, will never be the same.
“Erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives,” Rowling wrote, drawing widespread condemnations that she was using her massive platform — she has 14.5 million Twitter followers and sold well over 500 million Harry Potter books — to promote dangerously transphobic views.
Even Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, couldn’t bite his tongue and published a lengthy response Monday. “Trans women are women,” the 30-year-old actor wrote. “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,” he continued, referring to the author by her first name.
On Wednesday, Rowling responded to the uproar with a lengthy statement of her own, one in which she detailed her growing concerns over mounting misogyny — she reveals having been the subject of physical abuse and sexual assault during her first marriage — and “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” which the author describes as a phenomenon in which adolescents identify as trans but then reconsider that identity.
“I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility,” Rowling writes.
Rowling detailed abuse she has faced on social media as a result of her opinions on the subject and closed her missive by writing, “All I want — is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.”
The controversy could not come at a worse time for Warner Bros., which produced all eight highly profitable Harry Potter movies and, following the COVID-19 shutdown, is poised to start up production on a third installment of Fantastic Beasts, a Rowling-penned franchise spinoff starring Eddie Redmayne and Johnny Depp as warring warlocks.
The Fantastic Beasts franchise was always a high-stakes bet given its massive budget ($200 million for the most recent installment, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindewald) and the amount of control Rowling wielded. Former Warners CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who was ousted after a 2019 sex scandal, beat out other studios and brought Fantastic Beasts into the studio fold by wooing Rowling over a series of trips to the U.K. But he also handed her creative control (the studio cannot hire someone else to rewrite her script without her approval — a departure from the Potter films, for which she did not have script approval).
Planned as a five-film franchise, Fantastic Beasts already was looking shaky even before Rowling’s tweets. Crimes of Grindewald made $655 million worldwide, a noticeable drop-off from 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which earned $814 million worldwide. It is unclear if the polarizing missive will prompt fans to bail. (A Change.org petition to boycott Rowling and Harry Potter merchandise had just 146 signatures since launching June 7.)
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said: “The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues. Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”
Sibling company HBO Max also would be vulnerable if the Rowling backlash picks up steam considering that the new streaming service boasts the Harry Potter film library (NBCU still has the rights to air the films on its linear channels). The expectation is that HBO Max will at some point exploit the property for a small-screen series.
Warner Bros. isn’t the only Hollywood entity deep in the Rowling business. Universal Parks & Resorts is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides and themed areas in Los Angeles and Orlando. In a statement to THR, a spokesperson said: “Our core values include diversity, inclusion and respect for all our guests, as well as our team members. Our theme parks are places where people and families of all types are welcome to enjoy their time together. Beyond that, we have no further comment.”
Scholastic — which has sold more than 500 million Harry Potter books since its original 50,000-copy run of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone back in 1998 — remains very much in the Rowling business: A deluxe reissue of Sorcerer’s Stone is due in October 2020, with illustrations on every page.
The children’s publishing giant issued a statement on Thursday, saying, “J.K. Rowling is one of the world’s most accomplished authors and is known in her writing and philanthropy as a champion of oppressed and vulnerable people. We support her right to express her personal views and beliefs. We also fully support the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. As the Scholastic credo states, we believe in the worth and dignity of all individuals, and are opposed to discrimination of any kind.”
June 10, 5:48 p.m. Updated with Warner Bros. statement
June 11, 6:31 a.m. Updated with Scholastic statement.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day