Will Donahue ‘24
Copy Editor and Opinions Writer
There was a time where simply hearing the words “Harry Potter” was enough to fill me with excitement. J.K. Rowling’s novels were my first introduction to literature and they maintained an iron grip on my personality for years. The craziest part of it all was that I was not alone; hundreds of millions of kids and adults alike were just as enamored with those novels as I was. “Harry Potter” was a cultural juggernaut before long, complete with record-smashing film adaptations and a chain of theme parks to boot. So naturally, the “Fantastic Beasts” series of prequel films seemed like a foolproof money-making machine.
But evidently, this has not been the case. As of writing this article, “Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore” is sitting at around $80 million in domestic box office earnings. For reference, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (2018) and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) ended their domestic runs at roughly $160 million and $234 million respectively. Additionally, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (2011) made over $380 million in domestic earnings, with nearly $170 million coming from opening weekend alone. While “Secrets” has not yet ended its theatrical run, a domestic box office total of less than $100 million would be an unprecedented low for the “Harry Potter” franchise — and it grows more likely every day.
10 years ago, these numbers would have elicited a different reaction from me. I may have even been upset that the general movie-going public allowed my sacred “Harry Potter” franchise to fail. But today, I find myself agreeing with what now seems to be popular opinion: I have no interest in seeing the new “Fantastic Beasts” movie. This series could have been another light-hearted escapist fantasy like “Harry Potter,” but instead we got a series of Dumbledore-centric prequels with barely any connection to the titular Fantastic Beasts. There was once potential for something great, but ultimately “Fantastic Beasts” bailed on its original promise of a fresh take on a familiar franchise. So I bailed on “Fantastic Beasts.”
As time passes, my decision to jump ship seems even more justified. “Fantastic Beasts” has been plagued by a number of controversies, from the recasting of Johnny Depp to Ezra Miller’s series of arrests in Hawaii. But perhaps most notably, J.K. Rowling herself has been involved in a series of transphobia-related scandals. Rowling’s transphobic rhetoric is an ongoing controversy, arguably beginning with her “#IStandWithMaya” tweet in December of 2019. Since that initial tweet, Rowling has doubled down on her anti-trans stance. And despite her bigoted viewpoints, Rowling has remained at the helm of all things “Harry Potter” related.
It is heartbreaking to witness someone with as much wealth and influence as J.K. Rowling spread such harmful rhetoric. And to make matters worse, her wealth and influence is directly correlated to the success of the “Harry Potter” franchise. As someone who has supported “Harry Potter” for practically my entire life, Rowling’s actions were certainly a tough pill to swallow. But in light of recent events, I have no desire to support the franchise any longer. Even if Rowling could not profit from any of it, the “Fantastic Beasts” series has been a resounding disappointment. Pair Rowling’s transphobia with the underwhelming content of recent years, and the decision becomes clear: “Harry Potter” is no longer worth my money.
That said, I will never downplay the impact “Harry Potter” has had on me. I will never forget attending the midnight release of the final novel, or watching the movies on opening weekend, or visiting the theme park at Universal Studios. It’s safe to say I would be a completely different person without “Harry Potter” in my life. But I think the poor performance of “Fantastic Beasts” should be a sign to all “Harry Potter” fans, a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate the role this franchise has played in our lives.
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