Opinion: WB Games' PR dance around J.K. Rowling isn't helping Hogwarts Legacy

The stink of Rowling's anti-trans tirades has lingered over Warner Bros. Interactive's new Harry Potter game, and a shoddy recent response ensured it's not shedding that stink anytime soon.

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I have kept mostly to myself when it comes to the conversation about Hogwarts Legacy. I haven’t jumped for joy. Instead, after the announcement, I reserved my judgement to check and see if J.K. Rowling was still making royalties off Harry Potter. To my disappointment, that appears to be the case. And so I, the happy husband of a trans individual, quietly (mostly) decided I would not be sharing my money or support with the game. It wasn’t a big deal really. The game looks neat and I was content to stand aside and let likely innocent people have nice-looking things.

That was until recently I learned by way of Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier of WB Games President David Haddad addressing the question of J.K. Rowling’s relation to the game during a company Q&A. I thought, “well it would probably be smart to say it’s her IP, but she’s not involved, and leave it at that.” Imagine my disappointment when Haddad instead went on to say that Rowling is entitled to her opinions. You know, like the one where she said trans existence cannot be accepted because it threatens her feminine experience.

I’ve kept myself sensibly quiet outside of a few concerns regarding this matter (not of Rowling. Of her, I’ve been quite vocal in my opposition). However, I do not expect that everyone working on Hogwarts Legacy at Avalanche Software and Portkey Games shares, or perhaps even knows about, Miss Rowling’s anti-trans beliefs. The same can likely be said of people that still support Harry Potter things. Some people can separate the artist from the creator and enjoy the product. I sometimes can too. I haven’t been able to in this case because of the subject matter, but I’ve respected people’s desire for this game in spite of the circumstances surrounding its creator. Despite everything, I still think there’s magic in getting lost in the Harry Potter universe. I just refuse to give my money or support to a clearly anti-trans platform for a little fleeting escapism.

With that in mind, if Haddad said what he did, I would expect it’s because he’s trying to be diplomatic and play careful with PR on this game he’s trying to sell, but here’s how it came off to me: The person who thinks my husband’s identity as a trans being is fake because if it’s real it might void her experience as a female is entitled to believe that. She is entitled to believe that trans people have not struggled, because if only they had, she would march with them. She is then entitled to bank on that same misplaced sentiment by writing a new fiction about a man who dresses up like a woman to commit murder conveniently right after her tirades about the alleged falsities of trans identity.

Well, yes. You might be surprised to find that I too believe J.K. Rowling is entitled to her horribly misguided opinions and the choices they spur her to make. But entitlement to free speech does not mean freedom from consequence, and much like her, my spouse and I (and let’s face it, many others) are entitled to not only find her opinions heinously offensive and damaging to the experience of trans people the world around who are affected by her, in this case, unfortunately large platform. We’re also entitled to vehemently withdraw support from her and her projects, as well as the projects of others which may benefit her.

It’s not just that, either. I also take issue with the second half of Schreier’s allegations about Haddad’s interaction in that same Q&A. Haddad allegedly boasted of his team’s efforts in diversity and inclusion, its work with LGBTQ groups, and direct cooperation with trans media representation at GLAAD. “No mention of Rowling or Harry Potter there,” reads the tweet in question. Yes, I’ll bet there wasn’t. I’d almost certainly gamble on the fact that Haddad sure as heck didn’t mention his support of J.K. Rowling’s right to her anti-trans opinions in his feelgood conversations with LGBTQ and GLAAD leaders. Why would he? He’s trying to sell a game.

And that’s the bottom line here, right? We’re trying to do our jobs and move money around here. Who am I to judge? I’m a professional writer. I write news for a living. I spend every day separating myself from the stories I don’t necessarily feel great about. I will cover Hogwarts Legacy as we get closer to its launch and probably after. And I’ll do it without these long paragraphs of why J.K. Rowling is a misinformed anti-trans megaphone and I won’t buy products supporting her. But we all have souls too. It’s almost impossible to not leave a little of my thoughts behind in my work. I also have this platform to speak my mind now and then within sensibility. I have love in my heart for the good people in my life and I have indignation for the people that threaten my precious friends and loved ones directly or, in J.K. Rowling's case, ignorantly indirectly.

I expect Haddad probably has one too, a soul. That said, it would appear to me that he put that soul aside more than he really needed to in order to try to sell Hogwarts Legacy. Whether it’s because he doesn’t know full of Rowling’s opinions or perhaps agrees with them on some level, I don’t fully know. What I can safely say is that the moment he went past nebulous diplomacy to say J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans opinions should be protected is the moment I went from quiet disappointment to a full opinion piece on why he blew it. Hard. And I have a feeling I won’t be the only one who remembers when Hogwarts Legacy gets closer to launch. WB Games' address of J.K. Rowling's extremely public and problematic stances is something that inevitably has to happen, but they're blatantly doing a PR dance around it. And such as the case, they're misstepping.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
    • reply
      October 2, 2020 9:45 PM

      Appreciate the article and sharing your thoughts on the subject. I too feel fairly strongly that voting with our wallets is one of the few inalienable rights we have as a consumer.

      Just an FYI she makes money from the theme parks as well - a portion of ticket sales, merch and even food/beverage sales within the land. She has her hands into essentially every pocket of the IP.

    • reply
      October 3, 2020 3:38 AM

      Thank you. A good article that puts into words my thoughts too.

    • reply
      October 4, 2020 1:59 AM

      I don't believe it's necessary for a company to distance itself to the personal opinion of an IP holder. Her opinion my be hurtful to some, but it has nothing to do with the IP and (afaik) had no influence on the IP

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