The Harry Potter series — you know, that world-wide phenomena that not only kickstarted a generation reading, but also spanned movies, merchandise, theme parks, and now spin-off series — ended in 2007. The last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published on July 21st, 2007. If you’re like me, you stayed up the whole night, devouring page after page until you got to that “19 Years Later” part. Once you were done with that, Harry Potter was over. There was no more Harry Potter.
In 2007, you closed the book and talked to your friends who had already finished it, too. Maybe you tore out the epilogue, because it ruined the non-canonical ships you loved. Maybe you reread the story again immediately, and then maybe you talked to more people about it, but that was it. You probably didn’t go on the internet and flame Harry Potter, because the internet was a much different place back then. You couldn’t even go on Twitter and talk about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007 — and that’s because Twitter wasn’t a thing yet.
Looking back, it’s honestly a pretty good thing Twitter wasn’t around during Harry Potter‘s publishing timeframe, the 10 years from 1997 to 2007. Can you even imagine the theories (and memes) about the Chosen One had Twitter been at our disposal? The social media platform was developed in 2006, but only started gaining popularity that following summer, and we were all too busy reading Harry Potter to care about it.
Potter‘s author, J.K. Rowling, joined Twitter in August 2009. These are her first Tweets in September of that same year:
OH. HOW THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED.
In this new digital social landscape, we’ve learned how to connect to one another in so many fascinating, complex ways. In other ways, it’s divided us. I can think of no greater example of just how our ability to connect has divided us than the wedge that has been driven through the Harry Potter fandom. Instead of using social media to its advantage, for some reason social media is now working against the legendary boy wizard, and the results are NOT GREAT.
Back in 2009, Rowling did not tweet a lot. Then she started tweeting more, and then even more, and Pottermore launched. Then Pottermore was redesigned like six times, and soon, we were flooded with Harry Potter information, trivia, and facts that we never had before. Remember when Rowling kept apologizing for deaths during the Battle of Hogwarts and we lost our shit each time? Remember when like every other Tuesday she’d just be like “And oh BTW, this student was Jewish?” Remember how she dropped so much information so fast, it became a joke in itself?
Many of us woke up every single day, wondering what she’d drop on us next. Not only that, she started answering our questions, and weighing in on fan theories, and even liked the idea that Dumbledore is death.
This was all fun and games, and we felt connected to the author (many would probably say our *favorite* author) in a way that was new to us, until it wasn’t. After a while, this information dump felt like too much. And though some of it was appreciated — and became cherished information — you couldn’t help but wonder, “Why now?” Why after the conclusion of the series? Why couldn’t this information have come out in, like, the middle of book four?
We could debate this for hours, and we certainly have, but right now we need to address the Hippogriff in the room — what’s recently happened in the fandom, on and off Twitter, and how it’s just a small part of a bigger issue concerning social media. And how Rowling reveals the problem. With all this new information, some narrative lines are starting to contradict each other, and what fans take to be true (because Rowling has told us) is now being discarded as if it didn’t matter. Like, for example, Dumbledore’s sexuality.
In 2007 — after the last book had been published — Rowling revealed that the character was gay, and had actually been in love with Gellert Grindelwald, who just so happens to be the main focal point of the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel. And now in 2018, it’s been revealed that Dumbledore won’t *exactly* be gay in the movie.
For those of us who grew up with these characters, they’re like family to us. We know these characters as if they were blood, and we accept them for their flaws. You can’t cherrypick the qualities of those closest to you, so yes, we just understood that Ron was thick and sometimes dumb, but we loved him anyway. If Rowling were suddenly to announce that Ron was actually the smartest wizard in the world and had been playing dumb the whole time, there’d be massive uproar.
And that’s just a tiny detail about Ron. What we’re dealing with here is a franchise essentially trying to straight-wash a character. It’d be one thing if Rowling had announced Dumbledore’s sexuality a mere month ago to simply clear up details and rumors now; but she announced it in 2007. That’s 11 years ago. You don’t just tell an entire fandom 11 years later, jk, Dumbledore won’t be “explicitly” gay in the film that’s all about his former love, Grindelwald.
Yes, in Fantastic Beasts 2, Dumbledore’s sexuality won’t be “explicitly” gay, which is basically saying “we won’t see him as a gay man in the film,” and all of this leaves the opened ended question of WILL we see him be gay at all? This information isn’t written in the Harry Potter text; it comes from Rowling herself. Since it’s not in print, this description could easily be walked back on, and that would completely change a character we’ve embraced as queer for 11 years.
This, of course, all leads into the bigger issue of how Twitter is now being used for Harry Potter information, and how Rowling is one second eager to give us all this information, and the next, mad that we don’t like it. The Wtf? Dumbledore is not “explicitly” gay in this movie? outcry has caused her to “mute” many people — which like, okay, I get. But rather than mute people she should maybe address it?
All Rowling needed to do was send a tweet explaining that Dumbledore was *still* gay, and would be portrayed as gay in the later movies. She did none of the above, and instead sent out a rather immature Tweet, blaming us for getting mad at this contradictory information.
Now take the tweet, on top of the movie doing away with Dumbledore’s sexuality, and this situation is very unfortunate. It’s downright upsetting for me, because now I feel like I should stop trusting the Harry Potter franchise as a whole, since character development can be rewritten at any given time — if this can happen to Dumbledore, it can happen to anyone, especially if a new movie calls for a different description of someone already established.
Remember how Star Wars director Rian Johnson received a whole lot of flak of his treatment of Luke? Rather than mute his haters, and engage them in a war of words, he provided calm, clear reasons as to why he made this decisions, and even cited his sources. That’s all Rowling needed to do — calmly explain to us, the devoted Harry Potter readers, why she was backing this decision.
Instead, she’s taken to Twitter to share new information, and also vent her frustration with *us*. If that’s what she needs to do, then she can do it, no one is going to stop her. But now, she’s turned the safe space she created to share new information about characters into a desolate area — all within
140 240 characters or less. And in 240 characters or less, Harry Potter is becoming less and less magical.