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Is J.K. Rowling a Bad Author For Not Including Enough Representation?

I’ve been seeing this one all over Pinterest/Tumblr posts. J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is so big, so vast, that many wonder: why aren’t LGBTQ issues discussed? Why aren’t there people of different sexualities? Unfortunately, these thoughts tend to turn into hateful remarks about Rowling herself.

So I’ll answer this question right now:

No.

Here’s why.

We already know Rowling is a tolerant person.

This may be irrelevant, but I don’t care. She speaks out against Trump, even though she’s not from the U.S. She donates a considerable part of her salary to charities. Her books speak volumes about the importance of coming together (more on that in a bit). We know that she’s a good person politically, so I’m not sure why the vile comments about her are necessary to begin with.

Some of these topics weren’t talked about much when the books were published.

Some gen-z Tumblr users may not even be aware that the first few books were fare of the 1990s. This wasn’t a hot-button issue yet. .Would it have been nice for the LGBTQ community to feel more respected in the 1950s, or the 90s, or whenever? Yes. But the truth was that it just wasn’t talked about very much, so you weren’t going to see it in a lot of literature. You can’t always blame people who grew up in a different time. Because it wasn’t a hot topic, you can’t really expect it to be written about. Rowling can’t just grab a Time-Turner and rewrite everything to accommodate. If these books were just being published now, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t a need for this argument.

It’s unfair to assume high expectations and politically correct things from authors whose novels were published in a different time. Take the time period with a grain of salt. Even so, there are enough messages about tolerance and equality here that I don’t think complaining about the lack of certain groups is worthwhile; the message in these books obviously spreads to all minorities. You just can’t expect to hold published authors to the standards of your day–that’s like criticizing a non-offensive 1950s novel for having the main character be a housewife. Maybe it wouldn’t fly today depending, but as a product of its time, it’s fine. And if the character is a good, well-drawn character, who cares if she’s not Wonder Woman even if it was written in 2010?

The books’ themes already heavily deal with topics of love and tolerance.

This is literally everywhere. Voldemort’s entire regime revolved around racism, or the idea that “pure bloods” (wizards from strictly magical families) were much better and “purer” than “half bloods” or “mudbloods,” wizards coming from families including non-magical people. In reality, this makes no difference just as white people are no better than those who are black. Additionally, there are characters of many races mentioned. As seen in early debates over the Cursed Child play, just because a character’s race isn’t stated doesn’t automatically make them white– Hermione could easily be black if you wanted her to be. There are many more instances of togetherness too…encouragements by side characters for the houses to get along; teamwork in the Triwizard Tournament; I could go on forever. Just because an author doesn’t discuss one particular facet of diversity, this doesn’t automatically make her a bigot and nowhere is this more obvious than in the Harry Potter series. I feel strongly about equal rights. So you wouldn’t call me a bigot for not writing about it in my last novella, would you?

Quite frankly, given that Rowling is presumably straight herself, the Tumblr community would probably be jumping on her for “getting things wrong” anyway. Either way, you’re looking at an argument.

Finally, it’s not like everyone is white and middle/upper class. Just a few diverse characters in the series for anyone who needs reminding: the Patil twins, Hermione (perhaps), Cho Chang, Dean Thomas (and arguably Seamus), Anthony Goldstein, and Angelina Johnson.

Not all authors delve into issues that aren’t their own.

Many writers tend to write their MCs from their own experiences. This can often be because they just don’t know what it’s like to be of a different race, country, or sexuality. I feel like many bloggers or authors would probably have a problem if Rowling tried to make one of her main characters gay and got details “wrong” (see previous paragraph). Also, considering the time period, doing research might have been trickier. On the other hand, equality in general is a longtime issue relevant not just to everyone in the real world, but in the books as well.

There wasn’t enough time to delve into romance issues to begin with–which is fine, because that’s not what the books are about.

Even with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, romance is barely touched on. (Keep in mind that most of what we see of the Harry/Ginny relationship are aspects expanded on by the fandom. There’s really barely anything between them in the novels.) And then there’s other characters. I really don’t want to be seeing Dean Thomas’ love affair with a Slytherin seventh-year male when I could be reading about the fight to defeat Voldemort. Similarly, I’ve also heard complaints about not enough Jewish wizards. Schoolmate Anthony Goldstein is indeed Jewish, but it would be distracting and irrelevant if Rowling focused too much time on a minor character’s religion (or even Harry’s, as it’s not relevant to the book at all). Some Tumblr folk might say that this could be as easy as dropping a detail, like two boys kissing in a corridor, but that can be distracting if you hear about it all the time. As a book blogger, I would probably call an author out on this type of thing for constantly distracting us with pointing out the sexuality or background of random characters. Doing so feels forced. A recent novel I read did a bit of this and rather than necessarily being diverse, it was kind of a distraction. You can’t cover every issue in books this size. However, what they do cover about acceptance, they cover well.

Still, we wonder: are gay characters ever going to become the majority? Maybe not, because it’s unrealistic…most of the world’s community identifies as straight. However, it’s also not realistic to not include people of other orientations. We’re a big world, and we should strive to get to know each other and showcase each other a bit more. I personally would like to see more books around LGBTQ characters where the focus isn’t their sexual orientation. But there are many more books for that.

Mostly I’d like to add that the vile, insulting, hateful comments towards a clearly well-meaning author that I’m seeing online completely erase the meaning of what the angry blogger is trying to say about tolerance. Authors’ failure to address a certain issue in their work doesn’t mean they are evil villains perpetuating privilege. Common sense 101: not everyone can talk about every issue in every book. If bloggers are writing spiteful things about well-meaning authors, the issue lies with the blogger, not the book. So-called social justice warriors would do well to make sure they are not accidentally practicing what they are protesting. As Dumbledore put it, accidental rudeness still occurs alarmingly often. I hope that we don’t give up on these great, important stories because a few internet bloggers decided that there weren’t enough minority characters to their liking.

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