Can ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ Actually Distance Itself From JK Rowling’s Transphobic Ideology?
On March 17, Playstation had its State of Play for Hogwarts Legacy to give an update on how the game’s development is going. The video has racked up 8 million views on Youtube in just a week. Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world RPG taking place in the Harry Potter universe, created by Avalanche Software and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment under its Portkey Games label. The game takes place amid the 1800s at Hogwarts, where the player is a new student and the main conflict is a Goblin rebellion.
An open-world Harry Potter game is something that Potterheads have wanted for years, and it’s hard to blame them. The team at Portkey Games clearly put a lot of passion and work into the game creating a product that looks like the ideal Harry Potter game. However, the relationship that many queer people, especially trans people, have with the Harry Potter franchise has changed since JK Rowling has begun embracing and vocally supporting TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, for those who don’t know) ideologies.
Even though there’s absolutely no involvement of JK Rowling in the development of Hogwarts Legacy other than the use of her IP, she ultimately will have some type of profit from it. This is a point that the studio has emphasized in their Q&A section on their website. Although they’ve distanced themselves from JK Rowling in this way, they haven’t done anything else, like condemn her harmful rhetoric. Just having trans options in the character creation, whatever that means like what we saw happen with Cyberpunk 2077’s character creation, isn’t a proper statement against transphobia. We’ve seen several of the stars from the Harry Potter franchise speak up against her transphobia and it’s disappointing to see the studio using her IP stay quiet.
I totally believe the Hogwarts Legacy developers, at least on the base level, are supporting, kind people who I wish nothing but the absolute BEST. And I'm not here to tell people to not buy the game. But please stop telling trans people we're being ridiculous by choosing not to.
— Jessie Earl 🔜 Mission Chicago (@jessiegender) March 21, 2022
On top of Rowling’s transphobia, another major issues being raised is the game’s villains, who are Goblins. The Goblins, with their “hooked noses and greed,” have drawn a lot of deserved criticism due to antisemitic tropes they’ve drawn upon from the books and it’s unfortunate to see this become the central conflict in the game.
I think I speak for many trans people when I say:
We do not care about how you've justified support for a certain video game through contorted logic or loopholes.
Do whatever you want to do.
I'm not going to lecture you, but I'm not going to ease your conscience either.
— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) March 17, 2022
In some cases separating the art from the artist is possible. But is that actually possible in the case of the Harry Potter franchise when JK Rowling’s words on trans people are being used as support for several of the anti-trans bills being drafted around the world? It’s not up to trans people to explain why you shouldn’t buy the game, but solidarity and actual allyship involves listening to what trans people are already saying about it. Whether or not you choose to support the game, it’s important to acknowledge the harm that JK Rowling is currently causing to the trans community as she continues to double down on her transphobic rhetoric.