No One Is Asking You To Give Up Harry Potter

No One Is Asking You To Give Up Harry Potter

You may have heard there's a new Harry Potter game coming out. Hogwarts Legacy is quite the talk of the town, in fact. On the one hand, some people don't want to play it because the chief creator of the property is the most influential transphobe in the world, and support for the game not only ensures her stature and profile remain dominant in pop culture, it also informs corporations that transphobia is not a deal breaker. On the other hand, people are extremely excited for their shiny new toy.

As some people would tell it, that's a tough decision. I think we all know, deep down, that it's not. TheGamer won't be covering the game in terms of reviews and guides, and it wasn't a decision any of us had to think about all that hard. People think it's a hard decision because of their connection to Harry Potter, or perhaps more accurately, they don't want to make the decision because of Harry Potter. But no one is asking you to give Harry Potter up.

I sympathise with the Harry Potter fans. Truly. I read the books as a kid, liked them a lot, watched the movies as an older kid, liked them less, but I understand the power this series has over people. It shaped childhoods, it guided them through tough times, the pages and flickers of the camera are baked into memories of rosy evenings and easier times. Harry Potter matters to people a great deal, and it's horrible for these people that, through no fault of their own, it has been twisted by its creator into something vile and hateful.

You can point to some problematic tropes in the series, but a lot of them only seem like foreshadowing Rowling's descent into selfish centrism now that her transphobic views have reared their repellent head. House elves who like being slaves, goblins modelled after Jewish bankers, and names like Cho Chang and Kingsley Shacklebolt feel like part of a bigger picture now, but few of the children reading the books when they originally released were aware of the hostile worldview these writing flourishes represent. I don't think it's fair to blame a 12 year old reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for not understanding the underlying racism of a name like Cho Chang, just as it is not fair to blame the same person, now 34 years old, for the author of said novel being the acceptable face of modern transphobia.

But I repeat – no one is asking you to give up Harry Potter. I don't want you to burn the books you have on your shelves, I don't want you to throw your DVDs out of the window. Your notepads, your boardgames, your backpacks, your pins, your custom-made wand… they can all stay too. I might not have your affection for Harry Potter, but I know what it is to love media deeply. If some terrible truth arose that forced me to confront Taylor Swift or The Simpsons in the way you have been forced to contend with loving Harry Potter, it would be heartbreaking.

The cultural divide over Harry Potter, and the venomous defence of it, have desensitised us to the problem, but everyone should take a moment to consider how they would feel if the most influential, most powerful, most life-shaping piece of media you absorbed in your formative years was suddenly and irreparably corrupted.

Still though. Don't play the Harry Potter game.

You might wonder how I can hold this sympathy, claim I want you to give nothing up, and still 'demand' that you don't play the Harry Potter game. It's quite simple. All of the books, and the movies, and the pencil cases are part of the past. They are stitched into memories indelibly. They already exist, and burning these books to tarnish the memories out of self-flagellation is unnecessary. But Hogwarts Legacy is part of the future. You have no memories, no nostalgia, no sentiment attached to it. It is just a product, a product that is betting on you caring more about toys than about trans people. Do you want them to be able to cash that bet?

You're not being asked to give away anything of yourself. You're being asked to let one of the ten or so triple-A open world games that will release this year slide on by, and it's the game made by a team who have never made a game of this scale, whose last game was 2017's Cars 3: Driven To Win, a game which has already been delayed several times and, with a lack of morality and the ability to use Unforgivables, is not loyal to the source material. Harry Potter is not even in this game. If it was not the subject of a culture war, and if other people weren't telling you not to play it, you'd admit this game has a lot of red flags. You've got a lot of eggs in one very rickety basket there.

You can still love all of the Harry Potter stories from your childhood, and the feelings they give you are not wrong and do not make you a bad person just because JK Rowling has contorted her power for oppression. But Hogwarts Legacy is a new thing that has no connection to you besides being set in the same school as these stories. Buying it tells corporations that you don't care about discrimination against trans people. It tells trans people that too. Don't play the Harry Potter game.

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