The upcoming release of Avalanche Studios’ big-budget foray into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, Hogwarts Legacy has been marred with controversy during development, primarily in regard to the highly controversial author of the books, JK Rowling.
The writer lost a mammoth number of supporters a few years ago after she began transphobic rhetoric online. The strange reinvention of the once-beloved author into a hateful Twitter warrior has left gamers and fans divided over whether or not they should inadvertently support her by purchasing the new video game, set to release on 10 February 2023.
Spoiler alert: you probably shouldn’t.
In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t use Twitter), Rowling is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, aka a TERF. The position seeks to eliminate trans women from the feminist conversation, essentially refuting their gender identity. For some reason, the author is outspoken on this issue and seems to spend most of her day crying about it on the aforementioned app.
It goes without saying that this sort of rhetoric only serves to further alienate an already highly oppressed small group of people—a group that is barely protected by our governments and face daily struggles ranging from dysphoria to targeted abuse.
Rowling’s anti-trans stance led many fans to reassess and reanalyse the Harry Potter books. What has since been highlighted is that her writing repeatedly perpetuated negative stereotypes. Moreover, fans have spotted ways in which the author failed to recognise her own ignorance, particularly when it came to diversifying her cast and naming her characters.
In 2022, Jon Stewart reminded us all on his podcast The Problem with Jon Stewart of how problematic the British screenwriter’s portrayal of goblins are in her fantasy novels, with their image as big nosed, greedy bankers sharing many parallels with antisemitic stereotypes—a negative portrayal of Jewish people that has long persisted.
The imagery was reinforced even stronger in the films, the production of which she was heavily involved in. The worst part is how the bank that Harry and Hagrid enter in the first film has the Star of David adorned on the floor, silently reinforcing the parallel. The plot of Hogwarts Legacy actually revolves around a goblin uprising too, making the oppressed minority the villains. Obviously.
There is a clear oversight and unconscious bias in Rowling’s characterisation. It becomes even more apparent when you consider the fact that the only named East Asian character in the book is called Cho Chang, a name that makes zero linguistic sense when considered against actual Chinese naming conventions. Even worse is the name Kingsley Shacklebolt, given to one of Harry Potter’s few named black characters. How Shacklebolt got past everyone is beyond me.
In an interview with IGN on 25 January 2022, the game’s director Alan Tew addressed some of the issues surrounding the upcoming release, stating that they want to make sure that “the audience, who always dreamed of having this game, had the opportunity to feel welcomed back.” The team is painfully aware of the dark cloud that Rowling casts over the content. In spite of this however, Tew made a point of avoiding any mention of the author’s name during the recent interview, and instead only reiterated what he’d said previously when challenged on how he felt about working on the Intellectual Property (IP) after Rowling’s biases made headlines.
In addition to Tew’s unwillingness to get into the ethics of working on a world made by a transphobe, one of the game’s lead designers resigned from his role at the company in March 2022 after it was revealed that he ran a semi alt-right antifeminist YouTube channel. Red flag, anyone?
As you can imagine, Warner Bros’ and Avalanche Studios have tried to make positive changes to the game and entice fans back. Jason Schreier reported for Bloomberg in 2021 that Hogwarts Legacy would allow for trans playable characters, a move that was made possible thanks to persistent work from the team who were reportedly “uncomfortable with Rowling’s position and rattled by the effects she has had on a game they’ve put a lot into.”
Although a step in the right direction for the game, journalist Laura Kate Dale highlighted that it wasn’t really enough. And we can’t blame her, there’s a number of other better games you can support that are enjoyable and have zero ties to transphobes.
The team also previously announced that Rowling would have little creative control over the title—a pledge that ultimately failed to sooth critics as she’d still likely be making a fortune from the use of her IP.
Twitter users have been outspoken in their criticism of the game and calls to boycott. SCREENSHOT wanted to speak with a member of the trans community to better understand their perspective on the reality of people purchasing a game that will actively put money in the pocket of a transphobe.
Aries, a 23-year-old trans woman and avid gamer, shared her thoughts with me on the upcoming release, stating: “Buying the game actively hands money to someone who uses her status to step on trans people and spread transphobic views. People need to grow out of this franchise—it really doesn’t deserve any attention especially considering how unimaginative it is, as well as the prejudices and stereotypes it pushes.”
It’s worth noting that some gamers don’t see any need to boycott the title. In a brief chat with someone who chose to stay anonymous, I was told: “Honestly, I see the issue people have, and power to them for wanting to boycott the title but ultimately it’s a game that a lot of people have worked very hard on.”
They continued: “No matter how sh*t Rowling is, she’s still entitled to earn money from a game that uses a world she created. I don’t agree with her, but I want to play the game and I think we should try to remember that she had very little involvement in the final product. We can enjoy something that the developers worked hard on.”
The problem for so many is that the legacy of the Harry Potter universe is forever scarred by a woman who repeatedly pedals outdated and transphobic logic into the Twittersphere. We haven’t even mentioned the fact that she’s actively supported by heavily problematic groups like the LGB Alliance—an organisation whose primary aim is to erode trans rights and issues from the conversation.
If you grew up loving Harry Potter, as so many gen Zers and millennials did, you’ve likely had to reevaluate your love for the series. Ultimately, your standpoint on the Potterverse is up to you. I just hope that this exploration into the series’ problematic creator and on-going controversy might help you make an informed decision on whether or not you should boycott the game.
We’ve all shared a few laughs watching Adult Swim’s outlandish sci-fi comedy cartoon Rick and Morty, which follows the titular characters as they go on space-faring adventures that parody a huge backlog of science fiction clichés. The show rarely holds its punches and often treads a thin line between the boundaries of political correctness, a line that the one of show’s co-creators, Justin Roiland, seems to have crossed many times in the real world.
News has been steadily surfacing about the showrunner’s conduct, particularly in regard to how his actions are not only emblematic of a persistent problem in showbiz but also of one that’s reflected in his own show. From the moment Roiland first faced accusations and the revealing signs Rick and Morty fans found throughout the show, to the creator’s recent tweet about the whole situation, here’s everything you need to know.
It was Thursday 12 January 2023 when things first began to circulate. Reports revealed that the increasingly controversial creator was facing domestic violence charges—stemming from an incident with a former girlfriend that took place in 2020. If found guilty, Roiland could serve up to seven years in prison.
As reported by the BBC, the allegations against the cartoon creator were brought up by an anonymous Jane Doe who police say was in a “dating relationship” with Roiland at the time of the incident. The exact charges imply domestic battery with corporal injury and false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud and/or deceit.
Of course, in classic fashion, Roiland’s legal team have vehemently denied any wrongdoing and assert that the District Attorney’s office will dismiss the case once it has gone through review. In the meantime, the Ricky and Morty creator has been ordered to keep at least 100 feet away from the accuser at all times and to not harass her. The case was initially due to resume on 27 April 2023.
If you thought that things couldn’t get much worse for the infamous voice behind the show’s headline characters, then you’re in for a surprise. Only days after it was revealed that Roiland is facing domestic violence charges, DMs between him and several women were leaked online, highlighting a creepy and sinister side to the critically-acclaimed director.
The first conversation comes straight from the receipts of Allie Goertz, former MAD magazine editor and pop culture musician. She first crossed paths with Roiland in 2015 after she created a Rick and Morty concept album. What followed was sexually explicit and racially charged messages from Roiland, which he inevitably tried to cover up by claiming he was drunk. Those who are squeamish, scroll past because these messages are incredibly difficult to digest.
Goertz revealed that this unpleasant interaction completely turned her off Rick and Morty—insanely understandable. Of course, this was a highly upsetting situation, particularly considering the musician had devoted so much of her time to making a concept album for the show.
The next DMs come from a since-deleted Twitter post revealing sexually explicit messages from Roiland towards a minor. The language used in the messages is consistent with what we have seen of the creator in the past—reflecting a nasty pattern. Warning again: these ones are vomit-worthy.
Even without context, the messages above are disturbing. However, the story becomes that bit more unsettling when you find out that the recipient was only 16 at the time. Not only is Roiland creepily obsessing over her being “jailbait,” but he even spouts racist jokes in an attempt to be funny. Once again, heavily toxic and problematic.
Roiland’s gross attitudes were once again highlighted in a clip from an episode of The Grandma’s Virginity Podcast from 2011, where he detailed how he feels bad for victims of Chris Hansen’s famous To Catch a Predator, saying that the girls they lure the men in with have “fully developed” bodies, adding that “of course, I’m attracted to that.”
Another clip from the same podcast had Roiland saying: “100 years ago, it was little 13-year-old girls—if they were built like a woman, they were getting married and having kids. And now we’re going to be all precious about it?” Yikes is the only word that comes to mind. The creator clearly has a history with these sorts of attitudes and how they snuck under the radar for so long is unbeknown to us.
As upsetting as it is to admit, red flags begin to crop up when you revisit some of the cult show’s episodes—signs that point to Roiland’s disturbing sense of humour and problematic attitudes.
Ex-fans that were shocked by the leaked messages took to TikTok to joke that Mr Jellybean (a giant anthropomorphic jelly bean that featured in an episode of season one) was actually a self-insert for Roiland himself. While the character appears innocent to begin with, things take a turn when Mr Jellybean tries to sexually assault Morty. The scene is graphic, intense, and heavily bothersome considering everything that has now come to light.
The show also included a number of instances depicting sexual interactions between characters described as minors—nothing overly graphic, but still oddly gratuitous. Moreover, some fans have also complained online about the hefty amount of incest jokes features in the series.
We’re not out of the woods just yet. In 2018, the video game development studio Squanch Games, which Roiland founded back in August 2016, was sued for alleged sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination, something that was kept as quiet as possible up until recently.
Although the accused isn’t Roiland himself in this case, this additional revelation clearly highlights the toxic environment fostered at a company run by the American voice actor. The lawsuit comes from designer Sarah Doukakos, who alleged she was harassed and belittled by then-technical director, Jeff Dixon.
The case went on to state that Dixon repeatedly crossed numerous lines with Doukakos, through the giving of things like unwanted and unsolicited hugs, as well as repeatedly undermining her gameplay suggestions.
When the victim went to upper management with the worrying claims, she was dismissed and no action was taken against Dixon. The lawsuit went on to say that Doukakos was eventually fired as a result of her speaking up against the technical director, and that the termination was unwarranted.
On Wednesday 25 January, the official Adult Swim Instagram account shared the news that it had “ended its association with Justin Roiland.” That being said, the cartoon network also added that Rick and Morty would still be going on, with the rest of the crew already hard at work on season seven.
Meanwhile, Squanch Games also cut ties with its founder, but like Adult Swim, noted that it still plans on creating more video games.
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According to NBC News, Disney-owned subscription streaming service Hulu has done the same, with Roiland having been dropped from his other cartoon, Solar Opposites, as well as the recently released Koala Man, a show that the disgraced voice actor was also an executive producer on.
Despite these big networks all taking a stance against Roiland, it’s doubtful that nobody knew of his conduct earlier. It seems like this was an easy way out for these companies—a chance to escape without admitting any culpability. And it’s not only them avoiding any kind of backlash. It’s just now been revealed that Roiland himself will walk free.
On Tuesday 22 March, Roiland took to Twitter to share a long message captioned “justice.” In it, he stated that the suit was based on “the word of an embittered ex trying to bypass due process and get me cancelled,” adding that the lawsuit had ended, and that he was “determined to move forward” with his life and creative career.
A spokesperson for the Orange County District Attorney’s office told Kotaku that the case was dismissed “for lack of sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt as a result of additional information that came to light in the investigation.” The publication also reached out to Roiland’s lawyers, but could not obtain a comment.
Though we certainly hope that Roiland’s career will slowly crash and burn, fans will be happy to hear that his various shows are planning to go ahead. That being said, we can’t help but wonder what shape they’ll take without him, given the integral part his many voices played in them. Who knows, maybe AI will lend a helping hand in replacing the creator?