Tag Archives: J. K. Rowling

A Look Back at CWR 2019 (And a Look Ahead to 2022)

When last I updated this blog Donald Trump was still the President of the United States, and it would still be a little over half a year before COVID-19 significantly made its presence known in North America. Since then life has undergone drastic, almost unimaginable changes, and as I make my entirely unexpected return to Culture War Reporters I thought it would be fitting to provide updates on the half dozen posts I wrote back in 2019 to underscore the ways in which time has moved inexorably onwards.

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu – January 11, 2019

It’s laughable to look back on a post that explores J. K. Rowling’s take on representing the LGBTQ+ community given that the author has positioned herself as a bastion against what she views as the dangers of transgender men. How could I have known that at the tail end of the year she would tweet support for Maya Forstater, a British woman who was fired for her comments about that particular group of people? Since then Rowling has doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so on, down on her stance, in many ways becoming a figurehead for the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) movement. This has caused a rift in the Harry Potter fandom between those who would demonize the author and paint her entire body of work as being “bad” or “problematic” and others who would defend her writing to the point of adopting beliefs and stances that they might not otherwise.

Michael Chu, on the other hand, is no longer the head writer on Overwatch, and in fact no longer works for Blizzard Entertainment at all. He now acts as Narrative Director at 31st Union, a “San Fransisco Bay Area studio formed with a common purpose of crafting highly engaging entertainment and a commitment to putting fans first.” As far as his former employer, we’ll be digging into that oversized can of worms a little further down.

Continue reading

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:


The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

Continue reading

Rowling’s Wizarding World: Just As Small As Ours, Unfortunately

I like the Harry Potter books. I just can’t say I love them [my favourite YA series of novels is Percy Jackson & the Olympians], and after having finished all seven and catching the last few movies in theatres haven’t thought about them much. Certainly not enough to give the Pottermore website, created by Rowling to give HP fans what they continue to jones for, even a cursory visit.

On that same note I haven’t really been following Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel and spin-off to the film franchise, aside from perking up at the idea that protagonist Newt Scamander might be something other than White. I briefly mentioned it back in 2013 when covering the inherent problem with assuming that White is the norm, but ultimately stopped paying attention after it was officially announced last June that Eddie Redmayne had been cast in the role.

That said, fantasy worlds and the worldbuilding involved in their creation have always interested me, and I didn’t hesitate to click on a link a friend had shared on Facebook stating that Rowling had “[revealed] four wizarding schools, including one in the United States“, with the latter being one of the settings in the upcoming film. After all, if one of the aforementioned magical places of learning was to be in North America chances were that the other three were located elsewhere. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had always been my favourite of the series, with one of the many reasons being that it featured the two other wizarding schools and characters from them, expanding the universe beyond the borders of Great Britain. Continue reading

Write Off, Write On

I’ve read all four Twilight books. Would have checked out Midnight Sun, a retelling of the first novel from Edward’s perspective, but a copy was leaked online and Meyers never ended up releasing it. My plan is to read a minimum of 52 books this year, and my hope is that 50 Shades of Grey makes it onto that list somewhere.

No, I’m not a middle-aged suburban mom who’s been catfishing you all these past two to three years. All of that was just a little background to set up today’s topic, which is our right to write about, well, anything. Continue reading

Archetypes: Why Wizardry Triumphed Over Mythology

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [marketed that way everywhere but in the States and India] was released in 2001. Nine years later Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the first film adaptation of Rick Riordan’s series of young adult novels, hit the big screen. One went on to spawn a sequel the following year, while the other is taking as long as three. One of the reasons for this, I think, lies in the studio’s portrayals of the characters in their respective works.

I’m not going to go into a great deal about the Harry Potter franchise. The first book was released in 1997, and since then the films have swept up Western culture [and others] up into a wonderful world of witchcraft and wizardry. This post is written under the assumption that you have at least some familiarity with the works.

I opted for an image of them really young, since the majority appear to be just shots of good-looking young people staring somewhat broodily at the camera.

At their foundation, Rowling’s novels are built on a trio. Harry Potter is the chosen one, the courageous hero, the primary protagonist. Second is Ron Weasley, redhead, best friend, basically a wimp [for a lot of the series]. Last, but certainly not least, is Hermione Granger, the girl, the genius, the level-headed one. Clearly this is a team with some kind of equilibrium to it and a formula that works, and this is definitely evidenced in Riordan’s pentalogy.

The Lightning Thief, the book the film was based on, stars Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, talented swordsman, fearless warrior, and new to being a halfblood. Second is his best friend, Grover Underwood, a satyr, kind of a cowardly kid [goat jokes, everyone]. Topping this all off is Annabeth Chase, Athena’s daughter, meaning that she’s definitely got the wisdom thing going on. Clearly if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Before you go to assuming that Riordan’s books are a cheap knock-off, don’t; the series is a well-written take on both Greek mythology and the young adult genre as a whole.

From left to right: Grover, Percy, and Annabeth.

The problem isn’t that the characters appear to mirror those in the Harry Potter books. If anything, this is a strength of sorts, as they’re both familiar and effective. The issue is that the film adaptation of the novel takes these archetypes and throws them out the window. The result is this: three badasses.

In Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy, Grover, and Annabeth are all depicted as being a) brave, and b) proficient at fighting, making them essentially slightly different facets of the same archetype. Yes, Annabeth is the one knows more about mythology and magic, et cetera, but she still wields a sword along with the best of them, transforming her from a cold, sharp-tongued girl to an athletic tomboy.

The irony is that Chris Columbus directed both films [as well as Academy Award winning The Help], choosing to faithfully adapt one and tailor the other for a specific audience, going so far as to significantly age the characters. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief has all the signs of a movie meant to catch the world’s attention with action, special effects, and good-looking teenagers. Three traditionally heroic characters are three times as entertaining, or at least that’s what a certain type of logic would dictate.

The film did well regardless, pulling in $225 million and with the sequel supposedly [I reserve the right to express some doubts] dropping sometime next year. Fans of the book, however, are hoping that Sea of Monsters is a much better installment than the first. Full character rewrites are rare, so the best they can expect is a film that respects the narrative of the series, and strives to fit their characters into that.