Friday, September 18, 2020

J.K. Rowling, Aging Face of a Zealous and Growing Ignorance Movement

It’s a shame seeing J.K. Rowling become the face of a hate movement, and worse, an anti-intellectual movement of sycophants whose rhetorical tactics (fallacious reasoning) are on the level of snotty seven-year-olds. “Back up your assertions!” they squeal, while liking people with TERF in their handles.
        Last December, I posted on my Facebook the following remark: “Just think: J.K. Rowling has driven off more diehard fans in the past week than I will ever have in ten lifetimes...!”
       This was an expression of sincere astonishment at the time, not based on any particular view of transgender issues, but the belief that what drew so many early adopters to her work in the late nineties and early oughts was Harry Potter’s ethos of non-bullying. After all, the orphaned “boy who lived” was cruelly mistreated by his surrogate parents, even forced to live under the stairs, and repeatedly told that what was special about him, what was his gift, made him a freak, abnormal. Whereas, in fact, he was the most powerful hero in the world.
       Such appeal is at the core of most mythic adventures, as Joseph Campbell and Otto Rank would be quick to tell you. What that precise gift may be is unspecified; but to deny what is unique about yourself, to suppress your freakishness, is almost guaranteed to make you unhappy, self-destructive, even abjectly evil. At the very least, another grumpy, dissatisfied Muggle.
       This betrayal by the author of her own creation, and the direct attack upon her first and fiercest fans, was obvious to me, and should be obvious to anyone, whether one feels comfortable with the idea of changing genders or not. I worked with many of the early adopters of Harry Potter when I worked part-time at Borders from 2000 to 2005. I was no doubt hired just a week before the release of the fourth Potter book, The Goblet of Fire, and the first midnight release party, just because of the bookseller’s manpower shortage because of increased sales of Rowling’s series alone.
       My fellow booksellers were nearly all Potterheads, and had been around since the first book’s release. It was their constant handselling to fans, their constant featuring of the books on endcaps and by employee recommendations, that brought the book out of the children’s section ghetto and made it the all-ages reading phenomenon it became. That so many people became absorbed in the million-word saga, including youngsters during the very age in which video games, smartphones, the internet, cgi movies, and other distractions from reading, is an astounding feat.
      The undeniable appeal of the series resided in its core value of accepting that which is honest and unique in oneself, and resisting the brainwashing of the Muggle world.
       Now, the only defenders of J.K. Rowling are illiterate morons, people who’ve never read her books (or if they did, were incapable of grasping the nuances), philistines, anti-intellectuals, and ignoramuses. Most of them are abject TERFs and transphobes (some of whom say as much in their Twitter handles) who nonetheless deny that Rowling is a TERF or a transphobe simply because she maintains that she isn’t.

Bob Doucettes prophetic Pinnocchio-nosed portrait, 2013.
(Actual photographs of the author now literally sicken me.)

       I don’t come to this conclusion lightly. For the past nine months, I’ve been dealing with these idiots on a regular basis—people who friended me on Facebook because they were fans of my comics but now attack me for turning on Rowling; forum junkies on The Leaky Cauldron who spout hatred towards transgendered people while claiming Rowling is not a transphobe (because she maintains she isn’t); yet another Twitter asshole who scoffed at my academic credentials and demanded I “back up my assertions” that Rowling’s ubiquitous online statements spoke for themselves. Brilliant.
       These morons and sycophants are really all that’s left among a once elite, well-read fandom that has now largely turned their backs on Rowling and simply ignore her.
       But to me, the significance is not simply that Rowling has become the aging and most visible face of a hate movement directed at transgendered people; she’s also spearheading a movement of philistines, anti-intellectuals, traffickers in logical fallacies, and people who simply deny reality. She is yet another fellow traveler of the anti-experts, the miseducated, the conspiracy-theory Flat Earthers.
       It is clear, in retrospect, that JoAnne Rowling, who prefers the gender-neutral tags Jo, J.K., and Robert Galbraith over her real (and too feminine) name has some pretty profound problems with gender identity herself. She’s said as much in her now famous bullshit piece, “TERF Wars.” It’s also evident that she has a potty problem—witness the many scenes of violence in the Harry Potter series taking place in bathrooms (a troll attack on a crying Hermione; the murder of Moaning Myrtle by Tom Riddle; the identity-switching Polyjuice Potion scene; entry to the Ministry of Magic, etc.).
       Her movement from bathroom policy to “who’ll have you” to sleep with to menstruation to a medical conspiracy to turn teens into transgender zombies shows that Rowling can’t even decide on what it is precisely that bothers her about any of these issues.
       But Rowling is no longer just a fucked-up daughter of a father who wanted a son, or a horror writer for whom violence in lavatories is a recurring motif; she’s now a champion of stupidity, fallacy, denial, and illogic—for their own sakes.
       She is no longer capable of the simplest honesty—that the RFK Award was revoked, for example (she claims she returned it because she couldn’t keep it in good conscience).
       It is one thing when your phobias and neuroses drive you to bizarre political positions that endanger innocent and vulnerable people. It’s another when you attack the very ethical foundations of your appeal to hundreds of millions of readers worldwide. But it’s the last straw when you can no longer even reason, and can only value fans for their sycophantic loyalty, not their powers of reasoning.
       Most of the readers of Harry Potter have graduated, thankfully. For most of them, it was an introduction to reading, to nuance, to interpretation, to learning. Unfortunately, the author, besotted with power and not having anyone to tell her “no” for more than a decade, betrays the symptoms of coarse stubbornness, indifference to rational argument, and completely pathological denial, if not Early Onset Alzheimer’s.
       Through it all, my statement last December holds true. Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling’s career never would have gotten off the ground at the turn of the millennium if her views, as well as her corrupt, fallacious powers of reasoning, were as well-known and amply demonstrated as they have been in the past nine months.
     The people I worked alongside at Borders, not to mention our customers, were much too smart to have gone along with that.
 
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Read my roman-feuilleton prose experiment, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series! New chapter every Friday!

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