The controversial author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, says that she has been receiving threats online and that she doesn’t believe there is any way to de-escalate the situation.
During an interview on the Graham Norton Radio Show, Rowling was asked about the threats she’s been receiving on social media. “You’re talking about the threats online […] How can we de-escalate all of the things that are going on?” Norton asked. “Is there a way that you as this very visible, vocal person can de-escalate the conversation?”
“I think, on one level, I’m not sure I can,” Rowling replied. “I’m not sure any individual can. I mean, I try and behave online as I would like others to behave… I’ve never threatened anyone, obviously, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to go to their houses or anything like that. Social media… can be a lot of fun, and I do like the sort of ‘pub argument’ aspect of it. That can be a fun thing to do. But there’s no doubt that social media is a gift for people who want to behave in a malign way.”
The threats directed toward the author started following an attack on fellow author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed while attending an event in New York. Soon after the assault, Rowling began to receive tweets from anonymous figures online threatening her life. One user wrote, “Don’t worry you are next,” in response to her concerns for Rushdie’s wellbeing.
Rowling has become a controversial figure in recent years due to her views on transgender people. In addition to incendiary tweets, the author has written an essay defending her stance on gender politics. This, alongside the author’s tendency to claim she included LGBTQ+ representation in her novels without actually including an explicitly gay character in the books, has resulted in outrage from fans and former fans of the series.
Fans are not the only ones who have spoken out against the author’s beliefs. Rupert Grint, along with his Harry Potter co-stars Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, have all criticized Rowling’s words and made their own statements in support of the trans community. In 2020, Grint responded to Rowling’s tweets and essay by saying, “I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.”
HBO Max recently hosted Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, which Rowling did not film a new interview for. Despite some rumors that the author was not extended an invitation due to her stance on transgender issues, it was confirmed that she had in fact been invited but declined to attend. According to the author, her team determined that archival footage from 2019 was satisfactory for the special.
The controversy surrounding Rowling has not only impacted the author herself but has resulted in problems for adaptations of her work. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was the lowest-grossing film in the Harry Potter franchise to date, with some speculating that the author’s anti-trans commentary may have influenced this result.