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What boycotting JK Rowling means on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you believe in equal rights and you support the trans community in spirit. That you call yourself an LGBTQIA+ ally and wear rainbows in June and march at Pride with your queer friends. If you support J.K. Rowling instead of boycotting her, all of that is performative. Because it’s easy to advocate for human rights in the face of overt injustice, against people who want to openly deny people rights. But when it’s time to really take a stand, to renounce something you like because it’s problematic, will you do it? Will you stand with your queer friends then?

J.K. Rowling has said a lot of things that were transphobic. There is no way around it at this point. The author has reiterated her points time and time again with conviction. And a few other things that made me lose faith in her long before that. Now, people coming to her defense will say she is entitled to her own personal opinion. That she is not hurting anyone with her thoughts. That she changed her perspective recently and spun her argument around women’s safety rather than trans rights. But the issue is much more complex than that. Her thoughts, per se, aren’t hurting anyone. But her words? J.K. Rowling has a terrifyingly immense fanbase. Her words are endangering trans lives.

When she tweets about her own prejudice against trans individuals, she is preaching to an echo chamber of millions of people who listen to her as if the world hangs from her keyboard. People who feel validated in their own ignorance and hatred. People who go out there and spread that message and turn it into discriminatory and violent acts.

This needs to be established. Words have consequences. Celebrities especially, who hold so much mediatic power, need to be held accountable for their actions.

I am sick of hearing people my age, people who should know better, that they have stopped supporting J.K. Rowling when they still buy her new books and go see her new movies. That is the definition of supporting an author. Unfollowing on social media is not enough to boycott somebody.

The reason why Rowling is so rich isn’t that she sold billions of books – although that certainly contributed. It’s that she gets royalties. As of 2020, her biggest source of income are the Wizarding World theme parks. She also gets a cut from every time television airs a film based on her books. A cut from every cinema or theatre ticket sold (don’t go see Cursed Child, it’ll be an actual waste of your savings). A cut from every item of Harry Potter merchandising you buy your friends for Christmas. If you truly want to show you don’t support her, then stop supporting her.

I know, I know Harry Potter was your childhood. It was my childhood too. And my teenage years. I named my dog after a Harry Potter character. I still have posters up in my childhood bedroom. Like many in my generation, I am the person I am thanks to Harry Potter. I still love the characters. I still stay up at night reading and writing fanfiction inspired by the world of Harry Potter. But I go out of my way to make sure nothing I do supports a person with transphobic views. I go out of my way to make sure more and more people know what supporting her means for certain people.

Not everyone wants to be an activist, and that’s fair. What I find truly unacceptable is people claiming ignorance. “I’m a feminist and I don’t agree with what she said about trans people, but let me enjoy Potter in peace.” It doesn’t work like that. If you’re an ally as you claim to be, you shouldn’t enjoy Harry Potter in peace. You should fight against the powerful person telling millions of people that we aren’t all equal, a powerful person claiming that some people deserve fewer rights than others. Isn’t that what Hermione and Harry would do? Isn’t that what they did do?

I’m not saying we need to collectively disown and renounce Harry Potter, throw away our memorabilia and burn the books. I’m not saying we should pretend to hate it or that we never loved it in the first place. I’m saying we should take what it taught us and use it to make the world a kinder place. And yes, paradoxical as it sounds, that includes boycotting its creator.

It’s not a moral dilemma. We can enjoy a story and disagree with the author’s political views 20+ years after she wrote the books, it’s as straightforward as that. Philosopher Roland Barthes, a pillar in literary theory, comes to our aid in this: he coined a concept called la morte de l’auteur, quite literally “the death of the author.” Barthes encourages readers to split an author from their works and to view them as two separate entities. The author has full agency over the work, but relinquishes their authority over it the moment a work of art becomes public; it stops belonging to the author and it becomes property of its users, who are free to do with it what they will. This theory is also the most strenuous defender of fanfiction and fanart in the eternal debate around transformative works. Like John Green once exemplified and paraphrased, “books belong to their readers.”

J.K. Rowling owns the rights to Harry Potter (as she should, given she’s written it), but she doesn’t own our relationship to it. And we don’t owe her anything in return. There was no blood oath sealed when we first purchased The Philosopher Stone in the 90s or 00s binding us to the book’s author. We did not vow our unquestioned allegiance. Perhaps some of us did when we were younger, overcome with romanticism. Today, we cannot forsake our critical sense in the name of that loyalty.

Keep heart, Potterheads. Harry and his friends and their adventures belong to us. We get to still love them. I do. I have supported J.K. Rowling for over a decade of my life before she started spewing nonsense, but I don’t owe her my integrity now. I don’t owe her anything else but the truth. And the truth is I am, in part, what she made me: a woman who won’t stand for injustice and will speak out against it. It’s almost ironic that it was her own characters that taught me to fight back against her.

Many people are convinced, in theory, by this argument. But in practice, they don’t see what they can contribute. J.K. Rowling is too popular to ever truly boycott, and that may be true. But we should all do our part. If views drop, if ticket sales and book sales drop, eventually, in the long run, the industry will notice. If official merchandise isn’t being sold at the same rate it used to be, there will be a decrease in production. So take those steps. Unfollow her on social media, report her problematic statements. Buy second-hand books, DVDs, merchandise. You will also do some good to the environment and maybe to someone in need. You can also consider supporting small entrepreneurs and fan creators and buying non-official merch. Better to support them than a billionaire and a huge conglomerate like Warner Bros, who certainly doesn’t need your money.

It’s a miracle Warner Bros was able to bring back the entire core cast for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film. Many of the actors have chosen to distance themselves and even condemned J.K. Rowling for her TERF-sounding statements. In fact, it’s safe to assume many only agreed to come back for the reunion at all because the author would be absent. This choice may look like a damnatio memoriae, like WB itself decided to exclude her from the show, but it’s actually a premeditated marketing move. By excluding her from all promotion of the reunion, they are ensuring the masses are not reminded of Rowling’s recent statements, and that they will purchase an HBO Max subscription and tune in happily with no sour feelings.

On her end, Rowling is also able to, if she chooses, play the victim, the part of the female creator who was excluded from a celebration of her own work of art. Ostracized and written out of the narrative she herself has created. Please do not be fooled by this pity-inducing move. J.K. Rowling is still very much earning royalties from the reunion. She may not be present in person, but she’s still making money out of it. Our nostalgia is once upon played upon and manipulated to enrich her.

Watching Return To Hogwarts on HBO Max still equals supporting J.K. Rowling. Watching the new Fantastic Beasts film does too. It means handing even more power to a person who spoke against trans rights.

Do you want to be on the right side of history?

TV Shows Pop Culture

‘Shadow and Bone’ is Netflix’s best fantasy show to date

Like any well-written fantasy, Shadow and Bone operates on an allegory for the real world. Underneath the phenomenal directing, the stunning sets, and the magical special effects, it is a story about prejudice and otherness, about faith, zeal, and overreaching. 

The series is an adaptation from the novels by author Leigh Bardugo known as the Grishaverse and a crossover of sorts between the eponymous Shadow and Bone trilogy, about Alina Starkov, an orphan and soldier in the First Army who goes on a classic hero’s journey, and the Six of Crows duology which is about a band of – for lack of a better term – criminals who make heists an art form.

The show did a spectacular job staying true to the nature of the source material while becoming more conscious, more dynamic, and full of surprises for book fans. There aren’t many significant differences in plot, apart from those that stem from the Six of Crows characters being inoculated in the main storyline in a very welcome mix. The Crows add a completely different dimension to the show, contributing to what can effectively only be described as a heist storyline. This creates a highly heterogenous ensemble cast where everyone is driven by a different motive and goal, and the viewers have fun uncovering all those layers to most characters, while some may remain a mystery reserved for future seasons. 

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.” The iconic saying that the entire series revolves on doesn’t make it into the show in words, but it still hovers over the story constantly. All the characters are hungry, some even greedy, for something. More power, more money, more love, more acceptance, more freedom, more ambition, more time. 


Alina Starkov’s (Jessie Mei Li) storyline perfectly follows that of any chosen one: ordinary girl – what’s more ordinary than a soldier in a land that’s based on Tsarist Russia? – becomes extraordinary in the span of a moment, finding out she’s always possessed a unique power that could save her country. She’s the Sun Summoner, one of the most powerful Grisha who’s ever lived. Alina initially rejects her new status as it takes her away from the only home she’s ever known, her best friend Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux). Through time and with a little encouragement from new acquaintances, Alina gradually comes to accept and embrace her nature. 

The show follows a circular structure. Alina starts off as a nobody, a little girl everyone picks on, who strives to be ordinary so as not to draw unwanted attention; she ends the season disguised once more as a nobody, trying to escape her Saint’s notoriety. She doesn’t take her gift lightly and she isn’t leaving her country behind for good. The promise of her return feels as tangible and as sure as the Crows’ next heist. 

As a fan of the books, I believe the show really enhanced the story. The new medium allows us to not be limited to the first-person point of view, one that’s tied to the main character’s biased narration with only Alina’s thoughts and feelings to establish the world and the relationships. In fact, the true key is seeing all characters and how they act when they aren’t around Alina. That makes all the difference when it comes to her two love interests (which I know you are all here to read about): halfway through the season, Alina is mad at Mal because she thinks he’s deliberately ignoring her, and the show lets us see Mal is actually on a dangerous quest that will take him to her, while Alina’s many letters to Mal are being intercepted by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), who sees Alina’s need to be wanted and loved, and uses it to his advantage to manipulate her. 



In the book, we are stuck in Alina’s head along with her frustration with Mal and her budding attraction to the Darkling, never seeing what they are really up to. The show uncovers their motives for us. General Kirigan is not romanticized through Alina’s eyes. Ben Barnes did a spectacular job diving into his layers, humanizing him while playing a twisted character. There is no doubt he is a megalomaniac, thirsty for blood and power, who doesn’t care about others as long as he wins. What makes the story so intriguing, though, is that a part of him genuinely craves Alina’s approval and love, mirroring that side of her. 

That’s what is so tragic and refreshing about this series: just because opposites attract, doesn’t mean they’re right for each other. Sometimes, one’s opposite is beyond saving and redemption, because the choices they make should be more important than the qualities they’re born with. As Alina points out in the last episode, she and Kirigan could have saved and ruled Ravka together as equals, but he overreached and put a collar around her neck to control her power like a puppet. What people find romantic about this, I will never know. 



Through everything, Mal and Alina always strive towards each other, towards home. In the same way that Alina causes the death of her companions when she burns the maps so she can go through the Fold with Mal, Mal’s friends die on the mission to find the Stag so he can go see Alina. How Alina can only let herself be seduced by the Darkling’s charm after she’s apparently moved on from Mal (and how even before she kisses Kirigan, she looks at the scar on her palm) isn’t lost on the audience, either. In the meantime, while they are unable to communicate, we are the repository of the words Alina and Mal want to exchange. Poetically, they both write to each other about true North, a trope that I can never get enough of. 

At the end of the day, it matters little that Mal and Alina’s undeniable love wasn’t labeled. There was no need to charge the last few episodes emotionally even more by having them share a hurried kiss in the wilderness. It would’ve stopped the action, slowed the pace down, and for what? They’re each other’s home and true North and have been all their lives, which is worth a lot more than a kiss or two. In any other story, the protagonist might’ve at least tried to push the best friend away, saying the mission was too dangerous, to save their life, but Alina doesn’t, and it’s not out of selfishness. It’s because, for both Mal and Alina, there simply isn’t a scenario in which they’re not together and things can go well. 



Alina and Mal have always been outsiders and they are subject to the outward racism that we still have in our world. We see another kind of prejudice in the show too, the loathing of the Other. Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman) and Nina Zenik (Danielle Calligan), a Fjerdan Druskelle and a Ravkan Heartrender, provide us that exposure: the real reason why Ravka is at war with all neighboring countries is that they are scared of their Second Army of Grisha. Fjerda in particular believes Grisha to be abominations, inhuman creatures who go against nature and Djel, witches who should be burned at the stake. That is what drives Kirigan – an urge to make the Grisha safe (and to rule the world, of course) because he remembers a time when they were hunted even within Ravka’s borders. Through Nina and Matthias, we see that this prejudice is born of ignorance, not of inherent evil. 

When Nina and Matthias prioritize survival and put aside their differences, their personal beliefs and vendetta, they become better for it. They come to realize that what they both fear and hate is the unknown, because up until that point, they believed the lies they had been fed to perpetuate the war between their countries, a conflict that Fjerda excuses to effectively plan the genocide of all Grisha. When Nina and Matthias, twin souls, soldiers destined to fight for different sides, finally make their own choices, they are finding not only each other, but themselves. 


Greed is a lever

The missing piece of the puzzle are the criminals who call themselves the Crows: Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), a rising star of the underworld of Ketterdam, Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), his most trusted spy, and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), his sharpshooter. They see an opportunity to strike a life-changing deal and they take it. What drives them? Greed, on a superficial level, but so much more. Vengeance, freedom, faith, debt. We mostly hear about Inej’s backstory, but it doesn’t mean the stories of the other Dregs have been erased: Easter eggs are scattered across the episodes. It’s only fair that we come to uncover Kaz’s secrets with time instead of all at once, but just hearing the way he utters Pekka’s name is enough to tell us there is more. I am sure his and Jesper’s backstories will be shown in due time next season. 

These events are set before Six of Crows, so it’s wonderful to see the dynamics between the trio gradually shift until they become what they are at the beginning of the books. Kaz and Inej melt hearts with their intensity. Their relationship was one of the things I was worried about in the adaptation because slow-burn doesn’t even cover it, and that’s exactly how it should be; the show captured it flawlessly, without the characters having to explain themselves. Jesper, too, was simply perfect and he stole hearts especially in the scenes with Milo the goat, the true MVP. 

The Crows’ plot is all original to the show, so it’s where the showrunner could express his true potential as a creator and storyteller, and I daresay he passed with flying colors. Kaz’s plans are true brain-teasers, but not enough that they’re impossible to follow; the dialogue is witty. It’s clear from the casting of the show that the writers’ room cared deeply about diversity and representation. By adding Poppy, they wrote in the first-ever trans woman of color in a fantasy show, and with Jesper, they added a bisexual and biracial sex scene that somehow didn’t come off as tokenism.


When the future of the world feels like it hangs on Alina’s shoulders, it’s nice to have the Crows balance the stakes. It was entertaining to witness Jesper’s jokes, Inej’s faith, Kaz’s scheming and how the three intersect to create the perfect trio. Even the directorial choices when it came to their story were refreshing. They mixed up the pacing and provided a constant change of scenery, allowing us to see more of the world—and how word of the Sun Summoner is spreading throughout Ravka. 

No matter how confident he is, Kaz completes a 180-degree turn by the end. Though a firm non-believer, he recognizes that Alina must go free, and he puts aside his pride when he lets her go and renounces the promise of one million kruge. Perhaps kidnapping a Saint was crossing a line even for Dirtyhands. 

That restraint goes to reinforce the overarching message of the show, setting the good guys apart from the villains: overreaching is never good. Excess of greed, of ambition, of power, can only lead to true corruption. Even in a world of magic, there must be a limit to what humans—and Grisha—can do without upsetting the order of things. Alina understands that when she refuses to kill the Stag to take his power for herself. 

In the finale, everything comes full circle for our cast, with a delicious role reversal: Mal and Alina are on the skiff again, one hovering over the other on the brink of death; Nina and Matthias are again on a ship where one of them is a prisoner; the Crows looking for a Heartrender for the next con.

It was lovely to see the characters come together at the end and how they quickly forged alliances. Honorable mention to Inej and Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta), the duo I didn’t know I needed. The entire cast portrayed their characters spectacularly, and I wish I had words to describe how much I loved Genya Safin (Daisy Head), David Kostyk (Luke Pasqualino), and Fedyor Kaminski (Julian Kostov), as well as the scene-stealing Baghra (Zoe Wanamaker). In addition to the brilliant writing, a note must be reserved for the details of the spectacular sets and the intricate costumes as well as the score and special effects. 

Shadow and Bone is a transformative experience for audience and characters alike. In the span of the 8 episodes all characters, perhaps with the exception of the long-lived General Kirigan, have come a long way, and we cannot wait what there’s in store for them

We can only hope that Netflix announces a season 2 (and 3, while we’re at it) soon so that showrunner Eric Heisserer and his brilliant team can continue adapting this masterpiece. There are a couple of new characters we are dying to see. After all, what is infinite? The universe and the greed of fans.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Prepare to be bewitched by Diana and Matthew in “A Discovery of Witches” season 2

The first season of A Discovery of Witches has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1 on IMDB. I’m leading with this to convince each and every one of you who might have passed on this gem if you thought it was “just another show about witches and vampires.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let me tell you that this story is a true masterpiece and deserves to be watched even by the most convinced fantasy skeptics.

Based on the best-selling All Souls novels by Dr Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches is a tale about supernatural creatures that live among us, but also a tale of community, belonging, history, legacy, and evolution. It is also, undeniably, a love story; perhaps the best I’ve discovered in 2020. 

If you haven’t watched season 1 or read the books, go do that now and then come back to this review, because it will be quite spoilery for season/book 1. If, on the other hand, you are awaiting details about the upcoming season 2, buckle up. 

Something that positively struck me about the adaptation of book 2, Shadow of Night (my favorite!), is how marvelously it portrayed that, as Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont timewalk to 1590 to find the lost Book of Life, their quest inexplicably turns inwards, towards themselves and each other, as they simultaneously face harsh and hostile surroundings. The balance between their world-changing quest and their internal one hits the perfect spot between introspection and action. Which is incredible, considering how much plot there is to establish and unpack, and how many faces to introduce. 

As a historian, Diana hasn’t had a lot of success in meeting her heroes: they all turned out to be different than expected.

The first new character we meet is English playwright Christopher Marlowe, played spectacularly by Tom Hughes, who brilliantly captured Kit’s duplicitous nature and daemonic essence. Kit is Matthew’s best friend, and he is also the first to openly doubt and reject Diana, setting a hard-to-break pattern of hostility that she will face in 1590.

Diana is little more than a refugee in this time and place, with no possessions or connections save for Matthew. It’s clear from the first that her success depends on her partner and on her ability to quickly adapt to and accept societal standards. It certainly isn’t easy for a proud outspoken 21st-century feminist to be thrust in that world, and the outward sexism wearies Diana faster than you can say France. 

“Women own nothing… save what lies between their ears.”

I was infinitely glad that the slights and limitations that a foreign woman such as Diana would suffer in 1590 were, for the most part, established implicitly, rather than with pitiful speeches on misogyny, because how could Diana, a professor of history, expect anything different from the 16th century? What’s better, we are reminded that Diana actually has it easier than most, as a beautiful woman married to a rich, influential, and fearsome man. 

She is warned time and time again that Matthew wouldn’t be the same once in a different context. He does regress to his 16th-century self in front of Diana’s eyes and together with her we discover more of his (seemingly endless) secrets and an even darker side of him. Soon enough, he starts displaying more territorial and vampire-animalistic behavior that Diana doesn’t tolerate for one second, giving the audience no chance to misinterpret possessiveness for romanticism. No, she meets him headfirst beat for beat until he relents. 

“Diana’s getting to know him again in this era,” says Teresa Palmer.

The two share a lot of incredibly sweet and tender moments too, but the season isn’t without their fights, which I appreciated in equal measure. Despite what 1590 might want of her, Diana will never be a passive housewife. She confronts and provokes Matthew when necessary and she always does what she needs to get her way. 

The undeniable chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode – together with the spectacular writing – is the reason why the show works so well, easily translating into the best on-screen supernatural couple I’ve ever seen. Their scenes feel even more spontaneous and genuine than in their freshman season. 

Palmer has clearly grown in her role in tandem with Diana herself. The only funny note I have is that as an Australian actress playing an American pretending to be English, Teresa’s Aussie accent came through a couple of times, but it only served to make me smile, like in the instance where somebody asks her where she hails from and she hesitantly replies “Cambridge, my lord… well, perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge.” However, she delivers every demanding scene spectacularly. 

“Perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge…”

Matthew Goode’s already flawless performance is required to step into divine levels as his character gains even more layers, and Goode will shock you with mind-blowing results. I do not say this lightly, but he will be robbed of an Emmy if he doesn’t win one. 

Diana Bishop might have a hard time adjusting to being Mistress Roydon, but the 16th century presents Matthew de Clermont with a more daunting challenge: to face and battle with his past, his old self and the decisions he has taken, with his conscience much heavier. He is nearly eaten by remorse because he cannot stop or undo everything wrong that happened the first time around. The stakes are much higher now, and his actions have more dangerous repercussions both on the past that now surrounds him, and on the future. 

Old wounds reopen in Matthew, almost to the point of choking him. He’s caught between loyalties (to his father, to his master, to his God) but he never lets that interfere with his love for Diana. No, because every moment of every day he chooses her against the conflicting interests of his past and present self. 

 “He shifts into this darker version,” says Palmer. 

It was marvelous to witness a more vulnerable side of Matthew, with Diana being his guiding light, his anchor, his strength, in a poetic role reversal from last season. The heartbreaking scene where we see him unravel might be my favorite of the series. 

But Matthew isn’t reduced to a broken man. We see different sides of him, in contrast to his stoic presence of season 1. In 1590, Matthew can be playful with his friends, tender with his lover, aloof with his family, assertive and persuasive with great potentates, caring with children… after all that, it’s uncanny but hilarious to see him be chastised by his father like a schoolboy.

On this note, if Diana underwent a sort of generational conflict in season 1, coming to terms with her late parents and their questionable secrets, now we witness multiple characters struggle with accepting their fathers’ legacies and stepping out of their shadows. Matthew and Baldwin have to come to terms, in different ways, with the future/past loss of their larger-than-life father Philippe de Clermont; similarly, Matthew’s revolutionary son Marcus is forced to grapple with the responsibilities brought about by his new role as Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus that he gained in his father’s absence, and what that means for him and for the world. 

As Diana and Matthew prepare for a journey within their journey that sets in motion unexpected events in the future, chaos and uncertainty ensue in present-day Venice, Oxford, and Sept-Tours. While a good 75% of the action is focused on the main couple, we do check in on the other characters, even if not as much as fans might hope (missing my fave Miriam!). Matthew and Diana’s storyline is so full of complications, with unexpected obstacles at every turn, that it needs to take center stage; the events in the present are allowed to move at a much slower rate. 

The source material to cover is massive and mostly told from Diana’s point of view, except for a couple of sporadic chapters to keep us updated on the present. In the show, we simply have to follow more characters. I know more casual watchers will lament the convoluted storyline that might be perceived as compressed, but as a fan of the book, I guarantee the producers did nearly everything in their power to save time without making too important changes. Almost no character in the huge cast is erased (just the one, sigh) but they cleverly altered the timeline and inverted the order of certain events to condense. The only way they could’ve adapted Shadow of Night better is if they’d been granted a longer season. 

Before we conclude, a word on certain characters I have not yet mentioned. Gallowglass is everything I wanted him to be. Painfully loyal to Matthew and quickly fond of Diana, he brings in a comedic and vibrant energy from the first moment the camera sets on him. Steven Cree portrayed him perfectly, just as every book fan might hope. 

Matthew’s mother Ysabeau never fails to deliver elegant sass mixed with intensity. She had me in tears in episode 6. Newcomer Phoebe Taylor might shock some, but I was enraptured by her character and Adelle Leonce’s performance. 

Having seen the first 7 episodes of season 2, I can certainly say the show succeeded in capturing the essence of Shadow of Night. The writing has only become more powerful, the world-building and atmosphere always inviting me to get lost in ADOW’s world. Books fans will enjoy many Easter eggs — pay especially close attention to the murder cases and other crimes happening in modern-day Oxford and the early mentions of blood rage. 

Every single detail in the show is perfect and full of meaning. The crew who worked on the sets and costume departments deserves multiple awards for recreating Elizabethan London buildings and costumes from scratch, a feat that sounds easier than it is. Just an example of the exquisite cinematography: I couldn’t help but notice that as the School of Night is talking about the changes in Matthew, a golden “MUTATIO” is engraved on the wall behind Kit. It’s a minuscule detail, but isn’t there where the devil lies?

Behind the familiar feuds between witches, vampires and daemons, this story truly strives to find the answer to one proto-Hamletic question, “why are we here?”, investigating humanity even within the supernatural.

A Discovery of Witches is the best fantasy show on air. Season 2 will leave you on the edge of your seats and begging for more when it premieres on January 8. Find out where you can watch it based on your location here!

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Editor's Picks LGBTQIA+ Music Pop Culture

We have to stop making straight celebrities our gay icons

Every year I attend Pride, a place for so many of us to feel safe and loved and free to be whoever we want to be. It is a time for celebration, for joy and love. It is a time to cheer at how far we’ve come, and often to protest what is still denied to us.

Music plays a big part in Pride, and I am still appalled at the kind of music that I hear every time.

I can only speak for the parades that I have attended of course, but I am sad and angry that I rarely or never hear a song by an artist that is actually LGBTQ+.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!” That’s not at all what I’m saying. The point of my indignation is that while we’re out there celebrating ourselves, we may as well be dancing and singing along to artists who put themselves out there and write about the same struggles.

A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande as the best straight ally
[Image description: A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande for Celebrity Straight Ally] Via British LGBT Awards
There is this tendency to hail some straight artists as gay icons, probably because they’re campy. Salon Magazine’s explanation for this phenomenon was that “Drag queens imitate women like Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, and Cher because they overcame insult and hardship on their path to success and because their narratives mirror the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet.”

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

The only queer singer that I’ve heard at a Pride recently is Lady Gaga, but the DJ wasn’t even aware that she identifies as bisexual. He admitted he just thought of her as a gay icon, “like Madonna and Beyoncè and Barbra Streisand.”

This was said to me by a gay man who works in an organization for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights.

Similarly, the internet hails Ariana Grande as the gay icon of her generation. I love Ari, and I adore her voice, but she’s been known to purposely perform ambiguity (also when it comes to race and ethnicity) to create mystery and speculate on her identity. Essentially, she likes to queerbait (BUWYGIB music video, anyone?).

If we’re choosing contemporary straight allies to represent us, I’d rather hear from somebody like Alessia Cara, who doesn’t speculate on her sexuality, but sings of naturally being one’s true self while often wearing what traditionally is considered male clothing because she’s never cared for the norm.

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

Again, everyone is welcome and free to march to whatever songs they wish to at Pride. It would just be nice if it was a celebration of the people who are actually providing some representation. I would love to hear some Janelle Monàe, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and Halsey, especially their songs narrating the struggles and joys of being queer.

And there are hundreds, thousands of lesser-known queer artists who are not mainstream and deserve to be heard. What better place than Pride to introduce them to a wide audience? What better place to promote unknown gay talent?

This is not a rant as much as it is a suggestion and plea from somebody who is sick and tired of still hearing Katy Perry’s incredibly biphobic “I Kissed A Girl” at Pride in 2019.

We can do better.

In more recent years, there have been so many other mainstream songs where a female singer will talk about having “illicit” feelings for another girl that are not “bisexual anthems” but only harmful to the community. (A couple of names that come to mind are Rita Ora and Demi Lovato.)

Taylor Swift’s new single “You Need To Calm Down” clearly wishes to be the gay anthem of the year, and you can tell that her heart is in it. The video truly is a triumph of self-expression that celebrates everyone’s individuality in different shapes and colors.

With a petition to support the Equality Act and an Instagram feed full of rainbows everywhere, Taylor is gracefully presenting herself as a saving hero to the LGBTQ+ community this year. She’s probably ensuring she’ll win the Vanguard Award 2020, which is a prize GLAAD presents to a cis straight member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to all these famous people for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I appreciate that they go out of their way to call out homophobes and to support their queer colleagues and fans.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!”

Regardless of whether it’s just a pandering marketing move to gain access to the gay community and widen their fanbase, I’m sure their words and gestures mean so much to so many people, and I see with my own eyes that they do influence many for the better and accelerate acceptance.

They’re not the problem. They’re doing their duty as decent human beings.

It’s just that, I would like for a gay icon to actually… you know, be gay.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum but we’re so slow at accepting fellow queers and promoting them for their talent? The older generation might not have had (openly) queer artists to turn to, but we do.

It is time we started to lift them up.