I’m a Slytherin…What Do I Do Now?

The author of Harry Potter is a TERF. A TERF is a trans exclusionary radical feminist. She denies the existence of trans women. She thinks trans women are just men in dresses that wish to do harm to cisgender women. She thinks that trans men are lost sisters. She is an active threat to trans people across the UK and the world. 

She is also the creator of something I hold close to my heart. Closer than my religion on the best of days. 

There have been murmurs about what to do with Harry Potter for at least a decade. There had always been rumblings that Auntie Jo Rowling had some unsavory thoughts about trans people. And for the most part, the fandom was content to just remove her from the fandom. IHarry Potter is a phenomena and was always more than the author. By the 2010s when these conversations were brewing, there was fanfic, entire AUs, fan art, roleplays and more that were in places better done than the original work itself. Knowing what Hogwarts House you were in was needed and entire friendships and relationships were made and broken over House placement. Entire personalities were based on House placement. There was merch, cosplay, and midnight theater showings. 

And all in the background was a conversation about “Death of the Author”. A conversation I was happy to indulge in. It was the easiest path to take that meant I could distance myself from Rowling’s inflammatory nonsense and still enjoy the one source of remaining serotonin in my life. 

I can’t ethically do that anymore. 

Hate crimes against trans people have risen exponentially in the UK. Hate crimes and anti-trans litigation are also on the rise in the US. All of this can be linked to Rowling’s very approachable form of anti-trans hate. She brings up “valid points” about how inclusionary language is harmful. That she’s just a good feminist for not trusting men in women’s spaces. That she’s a victim of past sexual abuse and that she’s “rightfully worried” about men parading around as women like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those are all points that if you’ve never met a trans person before all seem like valid concerns to have. It creates a simple pipeline from concern to bigotry. 

Canceling Rowling in theory is easy but not supporting her financially has been hard. On one end, there were folks who immediately destroyed their books and merch, vowed to never give her another cent, had tattoos removed and said they’d never show the Wizarding World to their children in an effort to stop hate. 

There were the middle ground folks, which for the most part included me, that said they would provide no new financial support but found too much meaning in the franchise to entirely cut it off. For many, Hogwarts was a home away from home that kept those with mental illness, trauma and addiction safe from their own less than savory realities. Harry Potter was most importantly about community and leaving that behind…putting up our wands and cloaks…that felt too hard to do. 

There were others that felt that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism and took immense comfort in knowing that Warner Brothers had cut off some of her profits from the Fantastic Beasts franchise and the upcoming Harry Potter video game that everyone thinks is fantastic. I understand where these folks were coming from. For every dozen of us willing to pack it in, there were others that had no concerns about Rowling’s rhetoric and harm and would still consume this product anyways. 

Then the slippery slope came in: do you denounce everyone who agreed with her? Ray Fienes was one of the hardest (especially considering how brilliant I thought he was in The King’s Man) and Robbie Coltrane (who passed away in 2022) also sided with Rowling and he was the most comforting and accepting presence anyone could ask for. The main case almost unilaterally disagrees with Rowling. Danield, Emma, Rupert, Tom…all of them have openly come out to say they disagree with her views but you can’t deny they still profit off of their work decades ago. 

I was willing to stay in the middle lane until visiting The Wizarding World at Universal Japan. I don’t want to talk about how much money I spent but I felt alive. I felt like I was at home. Like I had finally gotten my Hogwarts letter at 32 and I could run around with a wand, casting spells with wands my friends and I picked based on our personalities. I felt powerful going through the motions of spells and getting each one correct much to my friends’ amazement. I felt alive. 

And then the guilt set in. 

I had promised to remain in the middle path, not giving Jo Rowling anymore money in exchange for blissful ignorance about the active harm she’s doing. 

I am a Slytherin. I’m proud of my house despite its fascist implications. I have always prided myself on my cunning, ambition and charm. 

And now, here I am. I am surrounded by Slytherin merch that has defined me for over a decade. I am unsure of what to do or how to feel. I obviously despise Jo Rowling and her rhetoric. I stand firmly with my trans brothers and sisters and those that are somewhere in between. I am horrified by the rise in anti-trans litigation and sickened by the increase in violence against trans people across the world. 

But I don’t have a straightforward answer as to what to do with my merch. For now, I am phasing out of displaying it publicly. I won’t be part of something that is clearly anti-trans. But I also am incredibly sympathetic to those that still associate heavily with Harry Potter and their Hogwarts House. 

For now, I won’t be creating a bonfire of all my Slytherin merch. But my relationship to all the money I have spent supporting a TERF has certainly changed. 

Surviving Canceling

You may remember that I posted a little blog post on Masons’ Cavies…but you also may not know that the post didn’t exactly go over well…so let’s talk about canceling, cancel culture and how I’ve been since that happened.

On Stan Culture

There are very few pieces of music videos that really stick with me. I have favorites, sure, but very few feature imagery that haunt me. Stan is one of those distinguished few that have left me haunted and hollow.

Stan is a song written by Eminem and featured Dido and tells quite a compact and well thought out story of a man named Stan who is obsessed with the rapper, Eminem. Stan writes letters obsessively to the rapper and each one is a step further into madness and ends with Stan kidnapping his pregnant girlfriend, locking her in the trunk and driving his car into a body of water as his letters become increasingly desperate and angry at the rapper who by his own warped mind’s opinion is intentionally ignoring him. The video ends with the rapper finally writing back and saying that Stan was obsessive and to seek help only to realize that he’s too late and Stan has already done something unthinkable.

So let’s talk about Stan Culture. 

Stan as a term is now used as both a noun and a verb and describes a very obsessive fan of a particular person, genre or thing. I noticed it popping up in speech a couple of years ago and mostly ignored it because it didn’t connect immediately but then the hate mobs began to form.

And as a fan of many things, I’ve never seen people swarm in such a way over things that just don’t deserve it. If we focused half of the attention K-Pop stans put on their bands as we do on the fact that we’re a country that’s apparently okay with kids in cages and a border crisis then I doubt we’d be in the socio-political place we’re in now. I’m not here to tell folks they can’t like what they like: if someone insults my son, Jason Todd, I will fight them but at the end of the day I know that it’s a comic book and that never is worth calling someone a slur, doxing them or spewing just hateful nonsense at them. 

Y’all, I could do a whole other post on cancel culture but the stan mobs have turned cancel culture into a full on terror. Stans have an almost swarm-like ability to overwhelm a person who is “problematic” or threatened their hive and they attack without warning. Remember that whole Becky with the Good Hair- thing? Most stans were attacking the wrong person on the Internet, not even the true center of their ire.

Patrick Wilhems said it best when talking about Star Wars “this is a movie about space wizards meant for children”. He’s a fan and that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s a fan, he’s just not so much of a fan that he’s willing to attack literal people over a space opera written by a man who couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. 

Being a fan doesn’t mean having to be cruel to others. I am very passionate about anime and comic books and movies and literature and that never results in malicious attacks against others. Sure, it may have resulted in a off-hand comment occasionally but never targeted attacks against others.

I think what bothers me about Stan Culture is the lack of self-awareness when it comes to the name. I would pack away all of my official and unofficial merch if someone called me a “stan” because to me that means I have crossed a damn line. It’s almost like people have forgotten that this term is not positive or endearing. It’s taken from a song that’s literally about an obsessive fan killing himself, his unborn child and his girlfriend because of a fandom. It isn’t a good thing and it’s certainly not something I’d ascribe to myself. 

Now, because it’s in the popular lexicon, a lot of people use the term ironically. I know Contrapoints has and other Youtubers and personalities have and I want to think that such a thing is okay but in my heart I just can’t. I just see that music video all over again and remember how much sadness and pain that song brought to me. Do I think there’s room for casual use of the word? Sure, I’m not a fascist, I’m not going to police all language. But I do think there has to be some awareness of the roots of the term and that it is not something good, positive or light. 

Where do we go from here? Well, I think fans of all genres and types can benefit from a little come to Jesus about how we talk to each other and other people in general. That doesn’t mean you can’t be enthusiastic but just because someone doesn’t like an anime I do doesn’t mean we’re going to go to real blows or that I’m going to encourage my friends/fans to send that person hate over not agreeing. Fandoms have always been a little hostile; we defend ships with canons (yes, it’s a nautical pun) and we spend a lot of time explaining why something is as we think it is. But it rarely delved into name-calling and undeserved cruelty. It’s easy to spew venom from a keyboard and with the bonds we continue to form online, it only gets easier to say whatever your mean lizard brain can come up with when someone even so much as dares to threaten their ship.  We can understand that at the end of the day, the thing you love is just a thing. Anime is not a replacement for people, it is a bridge to connect to others. And being a fan doesn’t absolving figures who have definitely done something wrong of their sins. Tarantino is a monster for how he treated Uma Thurman and Diane Kruger but that doesn’t mean I don’t love his films. I can admit he did something bad and still say I think most of my top 10 favorite movies are his.

Stan culture confuses me. On one hand I want to let people like what they like but on the other…it’s a word so rooted in and involved in people at their worst. There are better ways to be a fan. 

There are better ways to be a person.