Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed rumors of a possible Harry Potter TV series during a presentation announcing the new streaming platform that combines HBO Max and Discovery+, renamed Max. The show will be a "faithful adaptation" of the original book series by J.K. Rowling, who will serve as an executive producer, Variety reports. The news of Rowling's involvement reignited her critics, who decried her history of making comments deemed transphobic.
In response to questions about the author's role in the series, considering the backlash she's faced over her commentary on transgender people, HBO CEO Casey Bloys avoided addressing the latter. "I don't think this is the forum," Bloys said. "That's a very online conversation, very nuanced and complicated and not something we're going to get into. Our priority is what's on the screen."
The backlash over the series is reminiscent of the debate that erupted over the release of the Hogwarts Legacy video game, which led to calls for a boycott of the game. Yet, the widespread criticism did not seem to put a dent in the success of the game's record-breaking release. Despite the public outcry to boycott the game, Rowling stands to gain financially from the success of Hogwarts' Legacy and is now headed into a new era for the franchise. Does this mean Rowling has managed to survive the allegations of her critics and remains uncanceled in the eyes of the public?
What have the commentators said?
Based on the game's success despite the boycott, "J.K. Rowling wins by a landslide," Helen Lewis opines in The Atlantic. The controversial views she expressed in the past "are clearly not fatally repulsive to normie consumers," Lewis adds. The game managed to rake in over $850 million in revenue in the first two weeks of sales. The success of the game "follows the pattern of other recent J. K. Rowling projects," Lewis writes, "despite her alleged outcast status." Perhaps, Rowling's critics "failed to make the case for Harry Potter's untouchable status to the general public," Lewis muses. Either way, Lewis concludes, "the attempt to force a consensus that J.K. Rowling is a bigot…has been a miserable failure."
Conversely, Collider's Rachel Leishman says Rowling's anti-trans comments are "finally coming back around to bite her." Rowling has become "a social pariah since she began sharing her transphobia online" and has avoided events related to the series. Additionally, the author's "production side of things has also taken a hit," Leishman continued. The profits for Brontë Film and TV, a production company where Rowling is a majority shareholder, reportedly dropped 74 percent. While the company cited COVID restrictions for the loss, Leishman argues that "Rowling's continued vendetta against the trans community that led to this 74 percent drop in profits."
The forthcoming Harry Potter series on Max is set to unfold over 10 years. HBO CEO Bloys compared the potential budget for the show to that of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, per Variety. Considering the expansive source material, the budget will be "whatever it takes to make a quality show," Bloys said. David Heyman, a producer of the Harry Potter film series and the Fantastic Beast films, is "in talks to return" for the new project, Variety says. "The next task is locking in the show's writing staff, and Bloys confirmed those discussions are in the early stages."
For her part, Rowling seems to be optimistic about the TV series despite the backlash over her involvement. "Max's commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I'm looking forward to being part of this new adaptation which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a long-form television series," Rowling said in the press release announcing the show.
Rowling recently started to address some of the backlash she's faced from fans and critics on a podcast series hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper called The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling. In response to fans who think she has ruined her legacy, Rowling thinks they "could not have misunderstood me more profoundly." In the trailer for the podcast, which premiered Feb. 21, Rowling says, "I never set out to upset anyone. However, I was not uncomfortable with getting off my pedestal."