Okay, so I have some thoughts on this.

I want to love J.K. Rowling. I truly love the Harry Potter books. I truly love the world she created. I truly believe that those books have transformed our culture in some ways that are really positive. I am a proud Ravenclaw and Hermione Granger is my Patronus.


I've been trying to put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so disappointed in Rowling's words and behavior of late - not just the Depp thing, but also the Navajo skinwalkers thing from last year with Ilvermorny - and I think I've finally figured it out.

As a writer, I found her origin story so inspiring. She was a broke single mom on public assistance and, as Lin-Manuel Miranda says, she wrote her way out of her circumstances. The art of storytelling changed her life. That's beautiful to me.

We all know the story of The Publishing House That Harry Potter Built, how everyone passed on her manuscript until Scholastic said "sure, what the hell, we'll buy it," and then she like singlehandedly turned the ship around with all those sweet sweet Potterbucks. Amazing.

So the story of J.K. Rowling the author is the story of someone who was given public assistance by the government, and was given a chance to succeed by a publishing house who believed in her. She was helped when she needed help. That's how she became who she became.

And the story that made her famous is the story of a kid in terrible circumstances - abuse, neglect, loneliness, danger, grief - who is helped when he needed help, and is willing to sacrifice for others. 7/
I believe that the J.K. Rowling who first wrote those books espoused the values that the books stand for.

But now she is the most recognizable author in the entire world and is a kabillionaire and suddenly I am no longer sure if her values are the same.

The Ilvermorny debacle was the first moment where I began to really see the defensiveness of Wealthy White Feminism seep into the way Rowling responded to critique of her work. There were so many better ways to handle it and she swung and missed SO BADLY. 9/
See, and here's a place where as a writer I am fully 100% in sympathy with her, Rowling is now completely boxed in by the Potterverse. She's reached a level of fame where this is the only thing the world is ever going to let her write from now on. Even if it's time to stop. 10/
If she tries to write ANYTHING ELSE, even under an assumed name like she did with "The Casual Vacancy," she'll get outed and it gets held up next to the Potterverse books anyway. She can't escape it. So I get the desire to find a way to broaden the world.

What she SHOULD have done, in deciding that she wanted to expand the Potterverse to explore other cultures, is either A) partner with writers FROM those cultures to create and flesh out the backstory, or B) at MINIMUM do a fuckton more research into them than she did.

So when she released the story of Ilvermorny on Pottermore and everyone was like "girl no you cannot use things that are SACRED to Native culture like that," it was clear that no Native folks had been consulted by the white British lady about how this would make them feel.

It is . . . not difficult to imagine how Native peoples might feel like the rich white British lady showing up to appropriate stories and symbols she doesn't understand for her own personal financial gain might be, um . . . you know, an unpleasantly familiar sensation.

So, okay. There's backlash. People are frustrated. The old J.K. Rowling, who built a fantastical wizarding world on the framework of a set of progressive values that champion diversity? You'd think she would have heard that and listened, right? Maybe apologized?

Yeah, no.

That's because the Potterverse is no longer just the story she poured out from her heart in that tiny apartment in the few hours she could carve out while her kids were sleeping, the story that saved her and turned her life around.

Now it is a multi-million dollar business.

Which brings us back to the Johnny Depp question, and why her response today was so enormously frustrating.

The thing that is very very important to understand about writers whose books are made into movies or TV shows is that they have control over casting, writing, story structure and production approximately nothing percent of the time. There are incredibly few exceptions.

People like Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin are given a lot of creative control, compared to other writers, in the making of their shows, because they were big-ass stars already and they have agents who would have demanded that before signing anything.

But the vast majority of writers, when they're lucky enough to sell the rights to something, have no ability to affect the outcome after that. Which includes casting. 99.99% of writers who find a problematic actor cast in their book's movie are stuck with him.

But the exception to this rule is people exactly like J.K. Rowling, and that's why I'm angry at her.

Rowling is a producer on the Potter movies. Rowling has arguably more creative control over the film versions of her books than any other writer who has ever lived. If she wanted Johnny Depp out, she could have made it happen. She did not.

Let's recall that the old Rowling, the one writing the first Potter book by hand on legal pads in her public assistance apartment, the brave and creative scrapper whose love for these characters saved her and kept her going, wrote a hero who ESCAPES A LIFE OF ABUSE.

Harry lives with a family that abuses, mistreats and neglects him, and then gaslights him about that abuse until it's all he knows and understands and he can't imagine a better life, but he's saved by people who tell him "you deserve better than this."

What makes it possible for Harry to return to the Dursleys' house every summer between school terms and no longer suffer psychological harm from their abuse is that now he understands that that treatment was not normal and not something he somehow deserved.

There are also too many incidents to count throughout all seven books where a major plot point hinges on a character saying "this is a terrible thing that happened to me" and whether or not they are believed about their own story.

Did that thing REALLY happen? Did you REALLY see the thing you thought you saw? Does such a being REALLY exist? Is Voldemort REALLY back? Is that REALLY true? That sounds implausible. I know that guy, he can't be a Death Eater. He comes from such a respectable family.

You see where I'm going here, yes?

The old J.K. Rowling we all fell in love with built a world where BELIEVING PEOPLE WHEN THEY TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM, EVEN IF IT IS IMPLAUSIBLE OR TERRIFYING, is the most important thing you can do.

But the current J.K. Rowling is the CEO of a massive multinational corporation built on the backs of that story she first wrote by hand back before she had any wealth or power, and Johnny Depp is an actor who has been proven to be able to anchor a film franchise. So.

It was frustrating enough when she was merely silent. Today's statement is so much worse than saying nothing.

Today's statement achieved the following things:

--it confirmed that she would, in fact, have had the power to do something about casting Depp in that movie if she had chosen to exercise it, and that he continues to remain in this franchise with her enthusiastic consent.

--it confirmed that she had all the same information the rest of us had about Amber Heard's story and her allegations of abuse, including all the documentation and testimony from other witnesses, at an early enough point that there would have been time to recast.

--it gave us vague assurances that she did some degree of due diligence in looking into the story to assess whether or not it was true, but offered no specifics of any kind.

--it explained away that lack of specifics with some handwaving about confidentiality clauses.

--it declared that she, J.K. Rowling, now possessed information she was not at liberty to share which essentially exonerates poor Johnny Depp from these mean and unfair accusations of wrongdoing, and suggests that we should take her word at face value.

"I looked into it and I can't tell you what I found out but rest assured, Johnny Depp is innocent and we all love him and that gold digger Amber Heard made it all up" is so much worse than "no comment." It's so, so, so much worse.

This is EXACTLY the kind of privileged white feminism we saw with Lena Dunham's statement last month: "yes, I believe women, I'm a feminist, I trust women when they come forward about their abuse .... unless I'm friends with the guy, then she's lying."

This is what you say when you've built your brand on being a progressive feminist and you want people to believe you still are - YOU want to believe you still are - but now there are huge amounts of money at stake and suddenly things are a lot more complicated.

Believe me, I get that she's in a tricky position. It is easy to stick by your principles when it costs you nothing. It is harder when big things are at stake. I don't know what's in Depp's contract, or in hers. I can't fathom how much money we're talking about here.

But this is why this whole situation is so fucking depressing.

Because J.K. Rowling is not the Harry Potter of her own life story anymore.

She's no longer the scrappy underdog who came from a world of no privilege and always took the side of the powerless.

She's like one of those dudes from the Ministry of Magic who was too scared to take a stand because they didn't want to lose their comfortable position.

And it's so sad. I'm so much more sad than angry. I mean I'm angry too, but my overwhelming feeling is " . . . oh. okay. so as soon as you have a shitload of money you're just like every other rich person in the world."

It would have been so easy for her to release a statement that basically said "I stand by my values, I believe women, I believe abuse victims, I am the person you always believed me to be, but here are the limits of my authorial control on films."

But instead she confirmed that SHE HAD A CHOICE, SHE HAD THE POWER, SHE HAD THE ABILITY TO DO THE THING THAT A HEROIC PERSON WOULD DO and instead of being Hermione Granger she was like . . . Cornelius goddamn Fudge.

This is what White Feminism looks like. It means you stand with other women when you look good doing so (like roasting Trump on Twitter, which costs her nothing), but you won't stick your neck out and use your unfathomable privilege if it might negatively impact you.

For the life of me I don't know why she's doubling down on Johnny Depp, when Hollywood is full of dudes who would fall all over themselves to headline a Rowling film franchise and who have never abused anyone in their lives. But she is.

So, that's where we are. She's made her choice. She's said her piece. She's not the woman we wanted her to be. I'd like to believe that she once was that person. I'd like to keep believing in the woman who first sat down to write that story. But who knows.

I am not personally invested in the "Fantastic Beasts" 'verse, and haven't seen the first movie, though someday I probably will. There are good questions to be asked about boycotting vs. not boycotting. I think that's a personal decision, tbh.

I don't think it is morally bad or wrong to see these movies because Johnny Depp is in them. I think if this story means something to you, you shouldn't let this take that away from you. I think we're allowed to enjoy things that are problematic, as long as we're aware.

Go see it if you want to see it. Don't feel guilty for enjoying it. Don't apologize for loving the story. The story belongs to you. The world belongs to you. If you love it, it gets to be yours.

But if @jk_rowling disappointed you today, let her know why.

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