To Harry Potter on his 40th birthday, with best wishes from a fellow millennial
You’re 40 today, which makes you part of the first-ever batch of millennials to hit the big four-oh. This generation grew up with you. And you of all people know that as a generation, we just can’t seem to catch a break.
Many happy returns of the day!
I really do hope you make the most of it, with your beautiful family. Congratulations on repairing your relationship with young Albus, by the way. It can be so difficult, having to earn your teenaged child’s trust all over again, knowing that you’ve hurt them. And that’s kind of the point of this letter: trust. Trust is precious, not least because it’s one of those rare things you cannot hope to gain through theft or coercion. And trust is what you and Jo are losing, globally.
You’re 40 today, which makes you part of the first-ever batch of millennials to hit the big four-oh. This generation, which I am a part of, grew up with you — or at least a great many of us did, anyway. And you of all people know that as a generation, we just can’t seem to catch a break.
Sure, we didn’t have a literal Dark Lord to fight during our formative years. But all those people you saw queuing up to see the last Fantastic Beasts movie (a real stinker, sorry)? That’s us. Most of us started our careers with piss-poor wages, thanks to a recession (do you know what a ‘wage scar’ is? Hits you like a bolt of lightning, it does). And just when we had adjusted our expectations, the pandemic struck and now a record number of us are unemployed and facing an uncertain future.
But we had you. Around July 2007, when the true scale of the financial crisis began to be understood and newspapers were calling it ‘the end of capitalism’ (if only!), 20-somethings drew some small measure of solace from reading The Deathly Hallows, from the “good old-fashioned closure” that marked its last few pages. Through your victory over Voldemort (never in doubt, really), we reminded ourselves that sometimes, the good guys win. At a time when the world seemed to be enjoying a good laugh at our expense, this was doubly important. You were doubly important.
And, of course, the most marginalised among our ranks (ie Harry Potter fans) — queer, trans and non-binary people of colour — leant on you even more than usual, for capitalism is designed to dump its risks on these people, while also systematically denying them its gains. Imagine their horror when Jo (who, let’s face it, has been sliding down the ‘bespoke bigotry’ path for years now) basically declared war on trans rights — and backed it up with a long, thoroughly bigoted screed. Letters like hers are very dangerous indeed, for they feign rationality and scientific temper, while simultaneously ignoring facts that do not suit their agenda. Jo wants us to think that she’s only looking out for the rights of what she perceives as ‘real’ women (ie cis-gendered women) — firstly, that’s just not true (recognising a marginalised group’s rights does not automatically imply denying a different group) and secondly, note how similar this sounds to the silver-tongued provocations of Grindelwald.
Queer Harry Potter fans responded, expressing their shock and hurt at Jo’s words, and her doubling down on the kind of right-wing agenda that you and Hermione and Ron fought in your glory years. “What does this mean for my fandom?” wonders one of the fans. Well, I’ll tell you what happens in a lot of cases — erasure. Unable to reconcile their fandom with the hatred that Jo has dished out, they will quietly remove that ‘proud Hufflepuff’ keychain from the drawer. They’ll relegate their Hogwarts cosplay nights to the Recycle Bins of history. And even those who do not sever their ties with the Potterverse entirely will think twice about investing time and energy in your future adventures. Because let’s face it, there will be future adventures; the Harry Potter Global Franchise Development Team (sounds too generic to be true, but it’s what Warner Bros went with) will see to that.
The only thing is, it’ll likely be an adventure for straight, white people because you’re losing everyone else rapidly. Jo’s record on social justice issues was always suspect, to say the least. We’ve stood by while Jo peeled off one tokenistic, retconning gesture after another — Dumbledore became retrospectively gay (the best kind of gay, since it doesn’t hurt the creator’s bottom-line during release, and earns them brownie points years after), the onstage Hermione becomes a Black woman. And let’s not even begin with ‘Cho Chang’, a name Jo chose because ‘Fu Manchu’ was already taken, I’m guessing.
Jo has already demonstrated that she doesn’t listen to most of her fans (indeed, she sued a children’s news website for exercising their free speech). Our hope is that she listens to you, her favourite child, as it were. Urge her to let go of the hatred and stand with us. I believe it was Dumbledore who said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
You must be brave all over again, dear Harry, for all of our sakes. You have your mother’s eyes. Help her see the truth, once and for all.
— Featured image from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child via Facebook/@CursedChildLDN
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