The ‘Harry Potter’ reboot, JK Rowling, and when you know you’ve moved on

When I was 9 or 10 years old, I could name all 150 original Pokemon in order practically from memory. The original Pokemon movie (Mewtwo Strikes Back) was one of the most important movies in my young life. My dad even took me to Atlanta to see the touring Pokemon Live! stage show, and I wore that soundtrack out on my portable CD player. 

But today there are more than 1,000 Pokemon out in the world, and I can confidently remember the names of maybe 20 characters. 

Sometimes you just move on from something that once meant the entire world to you. 

This month, Max (formerly HBO Max – which is a whole different mess) announced a Harry Potter reboot was officially in the works. The streamer has already declared a decade-long commitment to a TV series that promises to be even more faithful to the original books than the record-breaking film series from the 2000s. 

Even though I had my issues with the film adaptations, I gave them my whole heart and saw every single one on opening night – even dragging my whole youth group out during mission trips in Texas and staying out for midnight premieres of the final two films. When Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ended, me and my friends sat there in the theater devastated that the thing we loved had finally come to an end. It was like a family member had died. 

When those films were coming out, I remember announcing to anyone who would listen how much better this series would be as a television show that could dedicate a full season to each novel, providing enough time to visually represent every word on the page, including plots and characters that had been cut from the movies. 

But now that dream is becoming a reality, I just don’t care. 

Maybe as an aging millennial, I’ve grown even more attached to and defensive of the film series. Being the same age as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint and growing up alongside them during our formative years is something I can never replicate.

I spent years after the books and movies ended trying to get as close to Hogwarts as I could – I visited the Universal Studios park right after it opened and dragged my parents all the way to London on a pilgrimage to the Harry Potter Studio Tour along with a number of actual filming locations from the movies. 

But maybe it’s that since 2011 I’ve become a different person. I’ve experienced more of the world and seen the highest highs and lowest lows that humanity has to offer. I’ve learned how to empathize with people who will live vastly different life experiences than I could ever imagine. 

I certainly have a broader and more diverse perspective on the kinds of movies that are made and the types of stories that can be and should be told. In 2011, if a movie wasn’t part of a franchise like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the emerging Marvel Cinematic Universe, I really wasn’t interested. But since then, I have learned to watch and appreciate every genre of movie, from 1930s slapstick comedies to gritty 1970s dramas to 2010s elevated horror. 

And as I’ve changed, the Harry Potter franchise has changed. In 2016, Warner Bros. attempted to launch the next chapter of the Wizarding World with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The first installment was a solid movie and genuinely a fun time, but the series has seen disappointing diminishing returns in each successive movie as it’s been weighed down by complicated storylines and overstuffed plots. 

But then there’s JK Rowling. For more than a decade, she was one of the most important people in my life. Her words had a foundational impact on my morality and personality. When I was in sixth grade, we had to write a letter to one of our heroes, and I wrote to JK Rowling. And to my surprise “she” wrote back to me – and even sent a “signed” photo! I thought she hung the moon.

It was clear after Harry Potter ended that Rowling didn’t quite know how to let go of the world that made her a household name. She quickly launched the Pottermore website that allowed her to share more details and histories of the Wizarding World that millions around the world – including myself – desperately craved. 

Eventually, the evolution of Pottermore and Rowling’s Twitter account led to answers being given for questions no one ever asked, like how wizards at Hogwarts used to go Number 2 on themselves in the middle of the hallways and then just use magic to clean themselves up before the castle installed indoor plumbing. At some point, we can know too much about anything. 

Rowling continued to use her platform, especially Twitter, to offer her opinions on a wide variety of topics, many that didn’t even concern her fictional creation. 

In recent years, she has become infamous for her controversial stances on the transgender community. In particular, she has denied the validity of transgender women and has been belligerent in her responses to those who try to educate or engage with her.

For someone whose signature work is full of themes like equality, love, friendship, acceptance, freedom and diversity, it’s extremely baffling and disappointing for Rowling to have drawn such a hard line in the sand on this subject. For years, I watched Harry, Ron and Hermione learn to appreciate and accept the differences of those they came in contact with, be they house elf, goblin, centaur, giant, half-blood, pure-blood, Muggle-born, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. So for their creator to be so close-minded is such a disappointment. 

I am a cisgender man and will never fully understand the experiences that transgender individuals go through. But from the perspective and philosophy I have developed throughout my life – a lot of which has been based on the themes of the Harry Potter series – I fully support the trans community and their desire to live their authentic lives as long as they search for happiness and don’t bring harm to others. 

So between my disappointment and dismay at Rowling’s beliefs, the shambles of the Fantastic Beasts series, and my own personal growth and education, I feel like I’ve moved on from Harry Potter and the Wizarding World. 

The final death knell for this reboot series – on a base production standpoint – is that the announcement video and promotion so far have used the original John Williams theme and the visual of the movies’ Hogwarts castle. Especially with the theme parks in Orlando and Japan designed to match the film series, how much can you change the iconography to make something new without undoing the legacy and physical manifestations of what has already come before? 

I wish the reboot series well only in that I know the new child actors will be scrutinized and watched like hawks from the second they’re announced, and I hope they are protected, appreciated, and showed the love that millions around the world have for the characters they will be chosen to portray. 

I will always be grateful for the time I have spent at Hogwarts and the lessons Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Sirius, and so many other characters have taught me, but now it’s time for me to move on, take that knowledge and find new places to learn, grow and challenge myself even more, all while trying to leave a positive impact in my wake.