Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Game upholds transphobia, antisemitism

By Bryn Fawn

 Harry Potter is a beloved series now older than most college students. It is a world of magic and wizardry filled to the brim with child-like wonder. However, the cherished author poorly hides a terrible secret.

Hogwarts Legacy is the new awaited Harry Potter game, taking place in the late 19th century. Review copies have already been sent out, with many raving reviews. Imagine Games Network gave the game a 9/10, Metacritic gave it an 84 out of 100 and Internet Movie Database gave it a 9.4 out of 10. 

Kotaku, another prominent review site, did manage to mention the problems of supporting a game such as Hogwarts Legacy. 

“It’s shortsighted, it’s centrist, it’s crushingly ordinary, the same way that forces like racism and transphobia are the most ordinary, tiresome things in the world.” Carolyn Petit, a writer for Kotaku, wrote.

  1. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, is no stranger to controversy. Rowling has made it well known on her Twitter that she does not support transgender individuals. A tweet posted Jun. 6, 2020 mocked those who strive for more inclusive language for those who menstruate.

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted.

Rowling received little support in the replies. Many mocked her, or simply tore her down for her close-minded view. 

“Aren’t you a children’s writer? Your fixation with the genitalia of strangers is unsettling,” a user responded.

Personal game copies have now been released, but even before they fell into gamers’ hands there was an internet-wide discussion on the morality of purchasing or even playing the game. 

“Death of the artist” is a concept often used as a talking point in the online discussion. Rowling is still alive and still holds the copyright of the Harry Potter franchise. She still profits from royalties. Each time a movie is rerun on television, she is cut a check. She profits from book sales, merchandise and anything officially attached to the wizarding world. Therefore, those who purchase the game are putting money into Rowling’s wallet. 

In contrast, H. P. Lovecraft, author of such works as “Call of Cthulhu,” has died, but was also not covert in his bigotry. Lovecraft named his cat after a racial slur, his literature is filled with racism and he was known to be an antisemite. Yet, it is undeniable what his work has done for modern horror and literature, as he created the foundation for cosmic horror. 

Lovecraft no longer profits from his work. His works are in the public domain, free to be used and profited off of by anyone. Lovecraft also cannot use his money for bigoted reasons as he is dead. Lovecraft’s work can be loved and consumed guiltlessly as it won’t harm the minorities it disparages in text, although a critical lens should be used. 

Rowling still profits and uses her profits to oppress others. Rowling donated £42,0798 to Allison Bailey’s GoFundMe. Bailey is a lawyer who is openly transphobic and who sued an LGBT charity for “discrimination” on these views. The court disagreed.

Game aside, Rowling included antisemitism in her children’s books. Goblins run the wizard banks in her world, an on-the-nose connection to a persistent Jewish stereotype. The goblins themselves in the movies have a grotesque look with exaggerated noses. 

The goblin situation is worse in the new game. The entire plotline involves putting an end to the “goblin rebellion.” To be specific, the player chooses whether to support or defeat the rebellion, but it is heavily implied that the moral choice is to snuff out the opposition.

The game does include one transgender character: Sirona Ryan. The name is a spit-in-the-face to transgender individuals. Ryan is hinted to be a transgender woman, yet part of her name includes “sir,” as if she is a man in women’s clothing.

Andrew Payro, a Jewish former SUNY Plattsburgh student, claims he “lived, breathed and ate Harry Potter.”

Payro shared how he knew many minute details of the universe, and at one time could discuss them for hours. Payro said his fixation was most prominent from third grade to eighth grade.

Payro feels hateful towards Rowling now.

“I do not agree with her or support her beliefs as a transgender Jewish person. That would be pretty counter-intuitive,” Payro said.

Payro has been enraged by the online discourse surrounding Hogwarts Legacy.

“No, I don’t think it’s okay to purchase Hogwarts Legacy, because J. K. Rowling has flat-out said the money from her products she directly funnels into anti-transgender campaigns,” Payro said. “By buying the game you are fully supporting this woman.”

Payro was less certain about just playing the game. Payro said pirating the game is OK as it does not support Rowling. Payro is unsure why “anyone would want to play the game” unless they are “critical” of it.

Payro finds it “baffling” that some do not find the game and its plot points antisemitic.

“It could be a neon sign. It could be included in the title of the game and people would still somehow find a way to [deny it,]” Payro said. 

Payro shared the difficulty of leaving the Harry Potter world and franchise. He said he was heartbroken from losing a universe he had fallen in love with as a child. He said he felt as if it was “ripped away.”

Payro has since found “better” content to consume and enjoy. He said there are other media to consume, especially in the fantasy variety. Indeed, as there are plenty of other fantastical and whimsical worlds out there that include wizards and magic. 

“If people want a Harry Potter game, they should simply grow up and find a better interest,” Payro said.

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