Friday, March 11, 2016

On J.K. Rowling and Magic in North America

You may or may not have seen (you've probably seen) the "stories" released recently by J.K. Rowling about magic in North America that are meant to be teasers for the Fantastic Beasts movie. And well... They weren't that great. I've read quite a few opinions on them at this point, and it's definitely something where I feel like other people have said what needs to be said far better than I ever could.

That's especially true when it comes to the controversy of J.K. Rowling's portrayal of Native American culture. As a white person, I think it's much better to point you to Dr. Adrienne Keene's blog posts about this on her blog Native Appropriations. Her posts have been linked back to in most of the other articles I've read about this, so it's a good place to start. I've actually been reading her blog for a long time now, and I highly recommend it in general.

As far as the recent Harry Potter controversy goes, she's written two recent posts about it. One was written when we only had the trailer for these stories that were being released:
It actually makes me kind of want to cry. Harry Potter was such a formative series for me, and holds such a deep place in my heart–and to see and hear this feels like such a slap in the face to me and other Native Potter nerds. It’s exactly what I worried would happen in my original letter to Jo. (source)
When the story itself was released, she wrote another post about her reaction, and it's that one that is perhaps the most important to read. If you read anything else on this topic, I would encourage it to be that post. What she says in it isn't anything I can emulate here, and I think I'm far better off sending readers to her post than trying to comment on it on my own.

One other article I will mention is one that I just read. It focuses on a lot on the various ways the stories were disappointing, including J.K. Rowling's less than stellar attempts to work with American history, and I would recommend reading it as well. I can't guarantee to you that I agree with every single point made, but I can say that I agree with the article in general.

As far as a personal reaction from me goes, I am disappointed. One thing I will mention just because it's what's been on my mind for today in particular is what this means for Fantastic Beasts. I have been pretty optimistic about the movie for a long time. I had hope that it would be good, but I would be lying if I said this didn't dent that optimism. I know these are just stories on Pottermore that, really, shouldn't hold that much sway on the movie, but with everything presented in them, I've become a bit worried about how the American wizarding world is going to be built in this movie.

Truthfully, I wasn't exactly thrilled with No-Maj when that was released. I don't think I talked about it online because I didn't want to dwell on it. I'm not against the US and the UK having different terms for certain things. Of course they would. In this case, it was more the term itself that irked me. I can't give you a reason why other than that I don't like the sound of it.

But I wasn't going to let that bother me. It was a small detail, and I didn't think it was worth getting upset over. It's only now that this other stuff has piled up on top of it that it's really starting to get to me. I still want to be optimistic, but I just can't manage it at the moment. And I can't tell you how that will or won't change before the movie is released.

After thinking about this, I think the problem (and I'm not the first one to mention this) is that J.K. Rowling really does feel disconnected from American culture as she was creating this. Whereas with Harry Potter she was intimate enough with British culture to create a world we all fell in love with, the magic seems to be missing from this. That being said, I don't know if she had Americans helping her with this or not. Either way, she was obviously the ultimate authority, and we wound up with what we wound up with.

There's probably a lot more I could say, but at this point in writing this, I'd really like to stop dwelling on it more than I'd like to continue going on about all of my negative feelings. I've done that enough already at this point.

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