Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

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?

LGBTQIA+ Celebrities Gender The World Inequality

Rowling’s transphobic essay didn’t deserve the nomination for the Russell Prize 2020

The Russell Prize is a pretty new award – it started in 2017. The prize celebrates the ‘holy trinity of writing’; which includes language, moral force, and the knowledge or learning behind it. The recognition is meant to celebrate writing that is monumental, well-written, and capable of inciting change. In 2017, Ronan Farrow’s essay about Harvey Weinstein, published in the New Yorker, won the prize. The 2018 and 2019 winners were a blog post on toxic journalism and an essay on Bing Crosby. In 2020, one of the contenders is JK Rowling‘s essay on trans rights.

The essay was published on her own blog, where she writes about her experiences online, the hate she’s received for her views, and the ‘cancellation‘ she’s undergone as an author and a public figure. One can probably argue that Rowling’s essay is well-written, but it is not informative, and definitely not knowledgeable. Throughout her essay, she argues that trans women’s rights will impede on women’s rights, that trans women are not women, and that women will be unsafe if trans women are allowed into women-only spaces. 

She also notes (with concern) of the ‘explosion of young women wishing to transition’ and those ‘detransitioning’, because of regret. Her argument is that it’s easier than ever for people to transition – resulting in people transitioning to ‘avoid homophobia’, or to ‘avoid misogyny’. Furthermore, she swivels back and forth between arguments – either stating that gender identity is a choice, one that people choose to move between, while also claiming that she knows a ‘transsexual’ woman who she fully sees as a woman.

Rowling’s essay is controversial, to say the least. Her arguments are discriminatory, and her reasoning for why people turn to transition is flawed and inaccurate. Her claims of ‘talking to various experts’ are unfounded, as there isn’t a single citation in the essay. It’s hard to accept her words at face value. Many have called her essay factually incorrect.

One argument she makes is that young people transition to avoid facing homophobia. What she fails to note is that transgender gay people exist. Gender identity and sexuality aren’t mutually exclusive.

She also fails to acknowledge that transgender people face more violence and discrimination, in fact they even face discrimination from other members of the LGBTQ+ community – Miss Major Griffin Gracy, a trans activist claims that mainstream LGBTQ+ movements shut out members of the transgender community.

Another argument she makes is one that’s common amongst TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) – that accepting trans women as women would result in men entering women’s only spaces to prey on women. However, reports have shown that police officials and schools haven’t seen evidence of this happening, and organizations dedicated to women’s rights have debunked this argument as a myth.

The BBC argued that her essay deserved the nomination, claiming that “offense is the price of free speech.” I can understand how this statement can be used to commend a piece of work – when an author is brave for speaking their mind, for blowing the whistle on harmful practices, or for highlighting something the public needs to know. Some ideas can offend certain groups, and it’s hard to draw the line between what should and shouldn’t be celebrated, based on a particular group’s perception or acceptance of that idea.

With regards to Rowling’s essay, however, it’s incredibly difficult to digest that claim. Her essay is offensive in its misinformation, in the ideas it supports. Her arguments are unfounded and her claims aren’t backed by studies or research. Rowling does have the freedom to say what she believes in, but she also needs to recognize that she’s a public figure and that her words have power. We’ve seen her ideas being used by senators to block more inclusive laws – for example, one senator used her quotes to block Senate consideration for the ‘Equality Act‘ – and this essay fuels that fire.

This has gone beyond ‘academic debate’ to real effects on people’s lives.

What makes this essay difficult to digest is because she comes from a place of pain and trauma – she’s a survivor of domestic abuse and wants to fight for women’s rights. However, feminism includes trans rights. Trans women are women, and women’s rights should include support for trans women, too. Fighting for women’s rights should not result in another community suffering. One group does not need to be marginalized for another to rise up. 

I’m irked by her nomination because it shows support to transphobic ideals. She is a good author – her words are influential. We see her ideas being celebrated; her transphobic views are shared, discussed, and rewarded. Without a shred of evidence, she’s become a figure of authority on trans rights.  I’m tired of these ideas continuing to gain traction because of her work. Her writing continues to be in the spotlight for its controversy, and this is another essay that attracts attention, and another way her words affect real people, their lives, and their very sense of being.


Stay updated on our News and Social Justice coverage by following our brand new Instagram account!

LGBTQIA+ Gender Inequality

It’s time we normalize gender inclusive language

TW: Mentions of transphobia

Recently, Harry Potter fans were hit hard when author J.K Rowling released a transphobic tirade on Twitter and, later, a virtual manifesto of transphobia on her website. Rowling essentially stated that she didn’t believe transgender women to be women. In several subsequent tweets and messages that demonstrated dangerous ignorance about ideas of sex and gender, Rowling dug herself deeper and deeper into her mess.

While I found all her tweets deeply disturbing, one, in particular, stuck out to me.

The issue here is that Rowling implies that the phrase “people who menstruate” can and should be replaced with the term “women”. This idea is not only morally flawed, but scientifically incorrect, for two primary reasons.

Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate.

Firstly, not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate. The phrase “people who menstruate” was specifically used in order to be more inclusive than the term women. Transgender men and non-binary or gender-conforming individuals are not women, but issues of menstruation still pertain to a large number of them. Similarly, not all women (not even all cisgender women!) menstruate: people with PCOS, people with hysterectomies, people past the age of menopause, etc., may not menstruate, even if they were assigned female at birth.

Reading Rowling’s tweet made me incredibly frustrated, but it also made me question the nature of inclusive language as a whole. As a linguistics major, I’m intrigued by the way we use language to express our views, our emotions, and how the use of one word can change everything. How, at its very core, the curl of our tongues and the strokes of our pencils hold so much power.

Recently, people have been advocating to make languages more gender-inclusive. In this advocacy, one of the biggest phenomena is the use of the letter “x” to sidestep gender markings.

At its very core, the curl of our tongues and the strokes of our pencils hold so much power.

The most widely known usage of this phenomenon is Latinx instead of Latina or Latino, in an attempt to make the identifier gender-neutral. Spanish is a highly gendered language, leading to people advocating for a shift to more inclusion. This goes beyond just the commonly used term Latinx. For example, my Spanish professor would consistently begin his emails with “Queridxs todxs” instead of “Queridos todos” (“dear all”) in order to avoid gendered language.

However, the term Latinx, and all other efforts to erase gender in Spanish, have been met with opposition. Many Hispanic-Americans believe that the term is actually an elitist idea. Opponents have argued that altering Spanish to remove gender markings erases identity while also implying that Spanish is an exclusionary language and needs to be changed. It’s even argued that the term is a form of linguistic imperialism, with the US forcing their ideals on the Spanish language despite pushback from speakers.

The use of “x” is also quite widespread in English. Words such as Mx. instead of Mr. or Mrs., and, most controversially, womxn instead of women, represent examples of pushes to make English more inclusive.

All these terms make for fascinating case studies, but I have been particularly interested in the term “womxn” as well as the controversy surrounding it.

The term “womxn” is meant to include transgender women, cisgender women, and non-binary individuals (typically women-identified nonbinary individuals, or those assigned female at birth), and to reject the sexist sequence “men”. However, many non-cisgender women, who are meant to be accommodated with the term, feel that it actually others them (as “women-lite”) and would prefer that the term “women” is continued to be used.

Then there is also the issue of no one being able to pronounce the word, or having it pronounced the exact same way as “women” which many argue defeats the purpose.

When I consider the validity of the term “womxn”, I struggle to accept it as a part of the English language. If the term “womxn” alienates the very people it’s meant to include, should we really be using it?

As a cisgender woman, I don’t think it’s my place to draw a hard line here. But I do fervently believe that our language needs to be evolving to be more inclusive of those it has long excluded. For example, Chester M. Pierce coined the term “microaggression” in 1970 to easily articulate a specific form of discrimination that did not have a clear name. Conversely, we’ve effectively eliminated the acceptable use of derogatory slurs against racial and gender minorities. These are both examples of how our language and language use has changed to accommodate our changing society.

Oftentimes when I discuss the issue of inclusive language with others, I’m surprised at the opposing view, especially those of older generations. They view language such as “people who menstruate” as clunky, unnatural. After all, we didn’t use this language before, why now?

It’s not strange for people to push back against blunt changes in our language. Yet the truth is that language change is one of the most natural phenomena we have. Every time we create something new, whether it be technology or political theory, we need to expand our language to articulate these new ideas. Our pronunciations can change leading to huge shifts in language, such as with the Great Vowel Shift in England. But these changes don’t ruin our language at all – they just contribute to its perpetual evolution.   

There’s a reason why Shakespeare is akin to a foreign language, why “y’all” is no longer just a Southern quirk, why we don’t hesitate to use the singular “they”. Whether we like it or not, notice it or not, our language is always changing right alongside our society. And more often than not, this change is for the better. Adjusting our language use to be more inclusive is a necessary change as we make strides towards real, not surface-level, inclusivity.

Culture History Life

Studying History made me lose all my heroes

Who are your heroes? This a very common question to ask, both in schools and in university applications. Sometimes the question even comes up in job interviews.

However, if studying History has taught me anything, it’s that heroes don’t exist.

After all, all heroes are human.

The first historical character that I became obsessed with was Isabella I of Castile. She was the first queen of Spain and ruled in her own right. She insisted upon choosing her future husband herself and funded Christopher Columbus’ expedition which led to the Spanish conquest of the Americas. I admired the power that she held and the fact that she became a fundamental piece in the history of my country despite being a woman. Nonetheless, I can’t separate this reality from the fact that she was the person that introduced the Inquisition in Spain, as well as the one that expelled the entire Jewish and Muslim population from the country, provoking an enormous diaspora.

They say you lose your hero when you meet them but sometimes just a bit of digging is enough. I thought Isabella’s case would be a one-off, but I kept finding problematic aspects in almost every historical figure I studied.

For example, most of the American Founding Fathers owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson alone owned 2000 of them to work in his plantation. So did Seneca, and, to be honest, almost every famous Roman or Greek person is likely to have as well.

Winston Churchill caused the death of three million Indians due to starvation by deliberately diverting food from India to feed English people during World War II.  He blamed it on them for ‘breeding like rabbits’. He stated that he hated Indians and said that “they are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

I found problematic aspects in almost all famous historical figures.

Let’s not forget all the figures that had very controversial private lives.

Gandhi, the famous exponent of peaceful resistance and leader of India’s independence movement was known for cheating on his wife and sharing a tent with naked young girls to ‘test his restraint’. How about the fact that Elvis met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu when she was 14? According to a biographer, Elvis ‘was fascinated with the idea of real young teenage girls’. And, of course, who can forget the accusations against Michael Jackson in the recent documentary Leaving Neverland (I know I’ll never be able to listen to his music the same way).

Even writers I loved when I was younger have posed incredibly hurtful and problematic views. I adored Roald Dahl’s work (Matilda, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…). Nonetheless, his stories are much less appealing since reading about his 1983 interview, where he said that Hitler ‘didn’t just pick on [the Jews] for no reason,’ adding that ‘there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity’. Orson Scott Card, famous for writing Ender’s Game is known for funding homophobic organizations and has even argued that sodomy laws should still be in effect. It broke my heart to read J.K. Rowling’s recent problematic tweets about transgender people.

The memories that these books left in me will always be there. In the same way, the actions of historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Isabel of Castile, or Winston Churchill changed the world forever, and our society will not be what it is without them.

Instead of admiring people, we should admire specific traits or achievements.

However, their impressive actions can’t erase their problematic ones. Good deeds don’t erase mistakes, particularly if they were never recognized as such. Of course, especially with older figures, we need to recognize the different customs and social views of the time. Nonetheless, the fact that at the time slavery was acceptable, doesn’t mean that we should forget that they owned slaves.

Studying History has taught me that heroes are human and that it is wrong to idolize people. None of us are perfect so why should historical figures be?

Instead of admiring people, we should admire their particular choices or actions. For example, I can admire J.K. Rowling’s dedication to writing when she was a broke single mum and still strongly disagree with her views on transgender people. I admire Isabella’s determination to be a ruling queen and not let her husband take over her Crown but I also despite the policies that she designed against ethnic and religious minorities.

I can aspire to achieve their courage and determination without aspiring to be exactly like them. Our heroes need to fall if we want them to truly serve as motivation for our actions.

Movies Books Pop Culture

Here’s the big problem with everyone’s fave author, J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling was one of the most influential people of my childhood.

The Harry Potter books shaped my life. I was obsessed, and I still am at 21. But I am mature enough to realize there are problematic aspects. And most importantly, I am mature enough to understand that while I owe J.K. Rowling a lot, I don’t owe her my unconditional love. 

Or my integrity.

I disagree with many of her choices and I don’t support many of the things she has said and done in the past ten years.

In October 2007, three months after the last book in the series came out, Rowling revealed during the American press tour of The Deathly Hallows that Albus Dumbledore, the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay. This revelation came a little too late, unfortunately, as the character was already deceased. 

JKR said she always knew in her mind that Dumbledore was homosexual and in love with his friend-turned-rival Gellert Grindelwald and that it was the “great tragedy” of his life. This came as a shock to most people, as there had been no indication in the books to support this claim. 

I don’t know if JKR actually planned for Dumbledore to be gay all along.

Many thought she made it up for publicity. Many others found it a great step for the normalization of LGBTQ+, especially in 2007, when there wasn’t a lot of representation. More conservative people condemned JKR altogether for even daring to mention that one of her characters might have been homosexual, despite the fact that this was of no consequence in the books.

Rowling later stated that Dumbledore never loved anybody else after Grindelwald and lived the rest of his “celibate and bookish life” – the remaining 100+ years – as asexual

This kind of sounded like a justification of her previous claim. As if to say, “yes, he was gay, but he only had feelings. He didn’t actually engage in sexual activities with anyone. Don’t worry, children at Hogwarts were safe from a would-be older gay predator.” 

Again, this was certainly well before the LGBTQ+ community was more universally accepted, let alone respected. It was a bold move for her to out Dumbledore, but it was simply too little and too late. She chose to play it safe, only saying it after the book’s release and after the character’s death.

Dear old J.K. was never a paladin for the oppressed.

I don’t know if JKR actually planned for Dumbledore to be gay all along or if she came up with it last minute. I understand that it might have been her publisher’s order to erase it from the narrative. 

I personally don’t think that was the case.

Dear old J.K. was never a paladin for the oppressed. She has always played it safe. She chose to use her initials instead of her full name because this way, ‘people’ wouldn’t know she was a woman right away. She also claims that she has played with the idea of writing the books from Hermione’s perspective, but then didn’t because ‘people’ wouldn’t be interested in reading about a girl having adventures. 

She often blames others for her choices.

In the same way, “it’s a book for children” is not a valid excuse for not including a gay character. Homosexuality should not be taboo or something that needs to be censored. By the time the later books were published, some of the films were also out and Harry Potter was a global phenomenon. She probably had the power to stand up to whatever ‘people’ pressured her not to include gay Dumbledore.

This debate recently sparked up again when it was announced that a younger Dumbledore would have a big role in the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans were anticipating to see potential hints at the relationship between Dumbledore/Grindelwald or, at least, Dumbledore’s feelings.

I no longer think of J.K. Rowling as one of my idols, and it’s okay. 

But director David Yates crushed their hopes when he stated in an interview that Dumbledore would not be explicitly gay in the upcoming film. LGBTQ+ fans and allies were enraged to hear about this and the backlash fell on J.K. Rowling since she is obviously the owner of the material and also serves as the screenwriter. 

[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, "Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun?"] via Twitter
[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, “Being sent abuse about an interview that didn’t involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that’s only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what’s even *more* fun?”] via Twitter
It’s not over. Feminists across the world were infuriated when JKR defended Johnny Depp and supported his casting in Fantastic Beasts, despite the domestic violence allegations against him.

A lot of longtime HP fans also lost their faith in the author when the script for Cursed Child, the 8th story in the saga, came out. Most people were disappointed by the lack of consistency and bad characterization, not to mention the plot holes.

I no longer think of J.K. Rowling as one of my idols, and it’s okay. 

It doesn’t mean I have to stop liking the books that helped make me the person I am. I can still respect her as a person, and I certainly do not send her hate on social media. 

I actually unfollowed her and simply distanced myself. I’ve stopped supporting her and I won’t buy her next book or pay to see the next movie. 

It’s as simple as that.


Update: As of December 19, 2019, Rowling has continued to show a lack of progressive beliefs in action, the latest of which had her defending a woman espousing anti-trans beliefs

[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, "Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill"] via Twitter
[Image description: Tweet by J.K. Rowling, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”] via Twitter
As of June 2020, Rowling continues to express mildly transphobic opinions on Twitter:

She disappointed again, and instead of taking a step back and apologizing, she continues to fight for her uneducated opinion – while influencing millions of devoted followers.

Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

The Internet Movies Books Pop Culture

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

The new Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald is splitting Potterheads in two, as some are running to midnight showings and others are seething in anger. The recent Harry Potter spin-off is problematic for a host of reasons that span from casting choices to plot holes to poor storytelling decisions.

The issues began when it was announced that Johnny Depp would play Gellert Grindelwald.

Despite accusations of abuse from his ex-wife Amber Heard, J.K. Rowling and David Yates defended their choice and chose not to recast, a decision that left many angry and upset. In light of the fact that Ezra Miller who plays Credence just revealed his own #MeToo moment earlier on in his career, as a long-time Harry Potter fan, the choice to include Depp is disappointing. It also feeds into the fears of #MeToo victims, namely of being brushed off and overlooked for their traumatic experiences. 

Then there’s Dumbledore’s mishandled coming-out story.

In 2007, while on tour, Rowling announced that she had always imagined former Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore to be gay and had only ever been in love with friend-turned-enemy Grindelwald. While there were plenty of anti-gay, homophobic responses, there was a lot of pushback from fans themselves who believed this was yet another failed attempt by Rowling to include diversity in her books.

It would have been fine if Dumbledore had been gay from the beginning but it was never alluded to at all.

Apparently, it was decided (by Warner Bros, maybe?) that Dumbledore’s homosexuality would not play a bit role in The Crimes of Grindelwald, other than a scene in which Dumbledore hints, “We were closer than brothers.” Not only is this a missed opportunity, but once again, Rowling’s previous attempts at inclusion come off as thoughtless and out of context.

Just to mention another one, her portrayal of Harry Potter’s crush Cho Chang, a Chinese student with a name made up of two Korean last names who just had to be a Ravenclaw, played into the unoriginal stereotype of the smart Asian. In the Crimes of Grindelwald trailer, we suddenly learned that Nagini, Voldemort’s snake and Horcrux, had once been a human woman of color. Nagini was all along a Maledictus, “or the human vessel of a blood curse that destines them to eternity as some kind of beast.”

Rowling said she based this story on the Indonesian mythology of Naga or snake-like mythical creatures. This is problematic for many reasons.

Firstly, this revelation means that not only did Nagini become the slave pet of a white supremacist (an idea that plays into the fetishization of Asian women), but it also means that Rowling knowingly allowed a teenager to decapitate an enslaved person without any acknowledgment or mention of this prior.

Then there’s the fact that Nagini will be played by Korean actress Claudia Kim and that the Naga myth first came from India, not Indonesia as Rowling insisted. Including people of color in a story takes careful planning and should present them as full characters, not simply props that are there to fulfill a purpose and then disappear into the background when it’s convenient.

What’s most disappointing to me is that like so many others, I looked up to Rowling and adored the world she created. All of these additions and changes she continues to bring up in respect to the series come off as nothing more than an attempt to stay relevant and add inclusivity to a world that was clearly never very diverse in the first place.

Enjoy this silly video that explains our anger and disappointment in a much easier way:

Books Pop Culture

I wouldn’t be who I am today without Harry, Ron, and Hermione

The Harry Potter series recently turned 20 years old, and something about that to me is incredible. This series is almost as old as I am. And when I think back to my childhood, most of what I remember is Harry Potter.

I started on the series listening to my mom read it to me when I was about five, and then I fell asleep listening to Jim Dale read the audio-book version until I was well into my teens. I still listen to them now, if I really need to knock out.

And from my ninth birthday to my thirteenth, I went to see the movies as my birthday party. It was devastating to me when they stopped coming out in November and started coming out in the summer.

What was I going to do for my birthday if not watch a new movie of my favorite thing ever?

I went to the midnight release of the seventh book, got my copy at 12:02, and finished reading at 3:45 AM, after having had to stop reading for about 45 minutes because I was sobbing that the series that had changed my life was over.

[bctt tweet=”I wouldn’t be who I am today without Harry Potter.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I wouldn’t be who I am today without Harry Potter. I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life, but there was something special about this series. At this point, I think I’ve reread the whole series in its entirety around 14 to 15 times. And I never get sick of it. And now, when I reread the series, it’s like visiting with childhood best friends.

The time might have changed, but our relationship is entirely the same.

I was at just the right age to really feel the magic, too. By the time I was reading the books on my own, I was about seven or eight years old, which was old enough to really believe, at least for a time. I waited like so many other kids, on my eleventh birthday, for that letter. I thought for sure it would come; that Hogwarts, the Wizarding World, was where I belonged.

Obviously, the letter never came. And I grew up.

But somewhere in the foundation of my personality, it burrowed itself in and became a part of me. I could as easily tell you facts about the world of Harry Potter as I could facts about my own life. Liking this series is a fundamental part of who I am.

I saw myself in these characters. I saw myself in Hermione.

As someone who’s been called a know-it-all for most of her life, it was so nice to see how that can be a positive trait. And seeing how the Trio created a friendship based on mutual love and understanding and a loyalty that never wavered taught me how to be a friend. And they were my friends.

When I switched from private to public school at 10, I didn’t know anyone going in. But I always knew that I’d have Harry Potter to come back to and that Harry, Ron, and Hermione would be waiting for me.

[bctt tweet=”As someone who’s been called a know-it-all, it was so nice to see how that could be a good thing.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Harry Potter taught me how to be able to criticize the things I loved. Because I love this series, but I can still tell it is not without fault.

J.K. Rowling created one of the most incredible fictional worlds in this generation, but she is still just one person with one lived experience, and “Harry Potter” has influenced people all around the world. People have created a new layer to this world by putting out a call to action about how they interpret the Wizarding World. They’ve placed their own experiences onto the worldbuilding that was already there. People have created a layer where there is more religious diversity, more LGBTQIA+ representation beyond J.K. saying at a book reading that Dumbledore is gay.

But people do this because they love this book and this world. And at the end of the day, “books belong to their readers.” And reading who people have interpreted this world has helped me become a more aware person. I’ve become more aware of how more inclusivity is so important in fiction.

People want to see characters like themselves. And with the Harry Potter universe, people can write endless ways to fit themselves into this magical world where they are sure they belong.

[bctt tweet=”I grew up believing that magic could be real, and I could make it for myself.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I recently went to London when I was abroad, and my friend and I stopped at King’s Cross Station. It was simultaneously nothing and everything I expected. The line to take the stereotypical photo at Platform 9 and 3/4 was too long for us to get one, as our train to the airport was leaving relatively soon. But I remember seeing that silly, movie set photo-op, and feeling this warm feeling inside.

I’m one of the millions of people who grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

I grew up believing that magic could be real, and I could make it for myself.

Seeing how happy everyone was by being there, at that silly half-cart with the scarves that have piping in them to make them look like they’re blowing in the wind, made me realize how much this series has changed the world. Being at Platform 9 and 3/4 made me feel like I was going home. 

Because, like J.K. Rowling said at the premiere of the eighth movie, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” 

And it has, for the past twenty years.

For me, it will forever.

Books Pop Culture

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is anything but magical

I still remember when the last Harry Potter book came out. My sisters and I went to the nearby Walmart (because our town didn’t have a bookstore) to buy 4 copies at midnight. I stayed up for the next 9 hours reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, grasping onto every word. My heart broke at every major death (RIP DOBBY & HEWDIG & FRED) and I felt a sad satisfaction as I finished the final pages of the best book series ever written in the world.

Harry Potter means to me, as it does to many of us, so much more than 7 great books. I met some of my best friends in a Harry Potter chatroom (that we named SPEW) and some of my best memories relate to the series in some way. So when JK Rowling decided to release Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts 1 & 2 on Harry’s 36th birthday … I was VERY EXCITED.

I picked up the books on July 31st around 3pm.


I was unreasonably excited and felt like a pre-teen/teenager again. It’s been 9 years since a new HP book came out. IT FELT SO GOOD. Also Snapchat had a Harry filter and it made everything so much better.


I immediately started reading. The difference between a novel and a play was quickly apparent. The pacing was weird and (obviously) the dialogue was central to the story. But… I wasn’t drawn in or compelled. I was becoming more and more disappointed as I read on.

Without giving too much away, the play begins 19 years post-Battle of Hogwarts as Harry and Ginny’s son Albus Severus Potter (come on) boards the Hogwarts Express for his first year. Albus is scared of being sorted in Slytherin. None of this is news — this is the shitty epilogue we were all forced to read at the end of book 7.

And since most of us are competent humans, it’s 100000% predictable that, hey, Albus gets sorted into Slytherin.

And then the play fast-forwards through his first 3 years and his solidified BFFness with Scorpius Malfoy (seriously?) and his growing isolation from his hot-shot celebrity father. All that happens in like 4 pages.

And then Albus and Scorpius have a bad idea to save Cedric from dying and go back in time to screw some shit up so Harry has to find them and save them/the world because that’s what The Boy Who Lived does. Except he’s doing it for his son because #fatherhood.

Oh also at some point Harry tells Albus he wishes he wasn’t his son or something because apparently men are incapable of expressing feelings so they just say things that are clearly not okay to say to your children.


About 250 pages into the book, I actually left to go get dinner. I remember not sleeping or eating for hours during HP 5, 6, and 7. So me leaving before finishing should tell you a lot. Anyway, when I came back, my cat had taken my seat.

She was even less amused than I was.

From this page onward, the play sort of picked up. It was slightly more amusing. Particularly because of Draco and Ron, who were both brilliant and true-to-themselves which I very much appreciated. Also Ron has the BEST quote of the play. I won’t post it here, because out of context it makes no sense. But just know it happened and that it’s lovely and that you should read the play for that purpose alone.

[bctt tweet=”Just read it, but certainly consider yourself warned.” username=”wearethetempest”]

When I finished the Cursed Child, I didn’t really feel much different. I hadn’t been moved by the text like I had with the original series. I was, very plainly, disappointed. It didn’t have the original humor, creativity, and story-telling. And, honestly, I feel like I’m betraying my childhood by admitting the script didn’t have that Harry Potter magic we all adore.

I imagine the pacing and plot may suit a play much more than a sit-down reading. J.K. Rowling herself insists that this story needed to be told as a play. Unfortunately it’s not showing in America anytime soon, so I won’t be able to confirm/deny that. So I can’t help but feel let down and wanting more.

This perfectly expresses my current feelings.
This perfectly expresses my current feelings: angsty, OOTP Harry.
Malfoy’s initial face represents my initial excitement. Then I was “punched” with reality.

Overall, the play is maybe a commentary on parenting or growing up or how weird teenagers are or what not to name your children. And, because of my undying love for the original series – I recommend this read to any Harry Potter fan. It’s a bit nostalgic and all Ron-Hermione shippers will appreciate the timelessness of their love (because it is the only true love other than Buffy+Angel). And it’s really quite fun. Don’t expect any deep meaning or intention from JKR – reread the series if you’re looking for a compelling and powerful story. Just read the Cursed Child as it is, and certainly consider yourself warned.

Books Pop Culture

10 definite signs you’re stuck in a young adult novel

How can you tell you’re in a young adult novel? Is it the hormones, the rage at the machine, the love interests? It can all be a bit of overwhelming. Here are 10 tell tale signs you’re definitely in a young adult novel. Okay? Okay.

1. You are involved in a love triangle.


Both your love interests are hot. And kind. And smart. And they both love you more than you could ever imagine. But in like, different ways, you know? Like, it feels like you can’t live without either of them. How to choose? Wait to see which one of them sacrifices themselves for you. Oh, they both already have? Okay, well, make them play rock, paper, scissors?

2. You are the chosen one.


The future of the universe lies on your scrawny pubescent shoulders. How will you handle such a massive task? With friends, a mentor, and a pair of old Converse that tell the world you come from a modest background but you are a force to be reckoned with.

3. You do not want to be the chosen one.


What did you possibly do to deserve this? You just want a normal life like all the other teenagers at your school. WHY YOU? Who cares if the fate of the world is up to you and that you have the potential to take all the oppressed people out of their misery. You just want to go to the arcade on a Friday night like everybody else. Ugh.

4. Someone you love very much is dying. Or already dead.


You feel somehow responsible for their death. You either had to choose between saving them or the rest of humanity and they insisted on sacrificing themselves for the good of the rest of the world and you live the rest of your life trying to honor their legacy but also with the terrible weight of guilt.

5. Your parents are the absolute worst.


And that’s why you have to run away and find yourself away from the suffocating, blazing fires of your suburban hell hole.

6. Your parents are the absolute best.


And now one of them is/they are both dead and it’s all your fault. You will become enveloped in your own guilt before rising above this.

7. You have a group of friends that are all so different that they all contribute their own traits in your quest to save the world/come of age.


In real life, you would probably never hang out with these people. Birds of a feather flock together.

8. The world you live in sucks.


Because it’s post-apocalyptic and your status in society is defined by how long your pinky fingernail can grow in two months.

9. The world you live in sucks.


Because no one understands you as YOU, you know?

10. Everyone is wearing the same thing.


And you can’t stand tunics or the color taupe anymore. You rebel by coloring a button red with a sharpie that you bought from the black market since sharpies have been banned since the founding of The Republic.