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It’s only been announced for a few hours, and it’s already controversial.
A Harry Potter TV series was greenlit by Max (formerly HBO Max) that will remake J.K. Rowling’s beloved best-selling fantasy novels into a “faithful” longform series to roll out over a period of 10 years. The ambitious project will cast new leads and include far more detail from the seven novels, which were often rather truncated in their previous adaptations into Warner Bros. feature films, which launched with 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Except, you know, there’s the whole divisive matter of Rowling herself.
Max could not make a series without a deal with the author, who still holds considerable control over the filmic rights to her stories. Rowling will be involved with the new series as an executive producer, though she is not expected to have day-to-day control or contribute to the writing. Many consider the author’s opinions expressed about the trans community to be offensive.
“J.K. is an executive producer, and her insights will be helpful,” explained Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO & Max Content. “We are in the Harry Potter business. The TV show is new and exciting, but we’ve been in the Harry Potter business for 20 years; this isn’t a new decision. We’re comfortable being in the Potter business. J.K. is a very online conversation. … It’s very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into. Our priority is what’s onscreen. The Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive about love and acceptance, and that’s our priority, what’s on the screen.”
When everybody read Bloys’ statement, they decided to forget their concerns and take a wait-and-see approach.
Oh wait, that’s the total opposite of what happened. Here are a few reactions from media professionals:
Vulture critic Kathryn VanArendonk wrote, “This faithful adaptation of harry potter, announced with absolutely bullshit craven disdain for rowling’s political impact, is bad.”
Reporter Sean T. Collins wrote, “If you interview an actor or filmmaker or executive involved with the Harry Potter tv show and don’t lead with a question about JK Rowling leading a hate group you’re done, over, out of the art club.”
Out magazine tweeted: “We don’t want any new Harry Potter content if noted transphobe J.K. Rowling is involved..”
Entertainment podcaster Dave Gonzales tweeted: “Ten years of a Harry Potter series with Rowling as EP is just ten years of press events dragging her anti-trans agenda back into the news cycle.”
Decider editor Alex Zalben sarcastically tweeted: “The witch hunt against JK Rowling continues with a 10 year commitment to faithfully adapt her novels, for the second time, now in TV form, with the unlimited resources of one of the largest entertainment companies in the world! Witch hunt!”
And here are some fans: “Adapting every single ‘Harry Potter’ book into at least one season of TV each is basically committing to a decade-long relationship with TERF J.K. Rowling. You don’t do that if you’re remotely open to accepting that trans men are men and trans women are women…” And: “Just be honest! Say Harry Potter is a lucrative franchise, you hope to make millions off of it and you don’t particularly care about the harm that comes to trans community from Rowling.” And: “JK Rowling should make an interesting Exec Producer of the new Harry Potter series given that she doesn’t seem to understand any of the themes of her work.”
Whether all this will have any impact on the show itself is unclear, yet it seems unlikely. The most recent test case would be the February release of the game Hogwarts Legacy, which was similarly slammed for Rowling’s involvement and faced calls for a boycott, yet broke sales records, moving 12 million copies in its first two weeks alone. A more distant test would be the Fantastic Beasts film franchise; a five-movie plan was cut down to a trilogy amid collapsing box office. The ticket-sales plummet coincided with the rising controversy surrounding Rowling’s views, but, on the other hand, the films were kinda dreadful, with the second and third entry scoring under 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s tough to pin that on the Rowling controversy.
As one fan put it: “Ppl who claim to hate JK Rowling are so funny bc they still read her books, still watch her movies, still play her video games, still go to the Harry Potter theme parks, and still buy the merch. She can’t be cancelled and she’ll never go broke. They need to realize this.”
As for Rowling herself, she released this statement: “Max’s commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I’m looking forward to being part of this new adaptation which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a long-form television series.”
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