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We do not need death of the author to save our childhoods


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Today is a very special day, as it is the birthday of one of our generation's most beloved fictional creators, Ms JK Rowling herself, and also the birthday of one of the most famous fictional characters of all time, Harry Potter.

Recently however, Rowling has landed herself in some hot water on Twitter due to shoehorning in diversity that was not originally stated in the books (like Dumbledore being gay) and then not delivering on it in the new Fantastic Beasts film despite being one of the few authors with the clout to do so. This has led fans to suggest that we need "death of the author", the idea of separating a fictional work from its creator, in order to preserve our childhood memories of Harry Potter. Well I disagree with this idea (though I like many other people do not love the way JK Rowling utilizes her Twitter platform) because with something as huge as Harry Potter, and an author as well loved as JK Rowling, it's pretty much impossible to separate the two. 

To be honest, I also wouldn't want to. JK Rowling had a massive impact on my life as a young reader - I always loved books, but Harry Potter was the series that took me from plain love, to "I want to do this when I'm older". I doubt that without Harry Potter I would have even considered becoming an author, let alone be actively working towards it now. Am I disappointed with some of the things she has said on Twitter, and her reactions to people's criticism? Yes, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't. But that doesn't take away the things that JK Rowling's creations have done for me: I have bonded with some of my best friends due to a shared love of Harry Potter, I am a writer and a book blogger because of it, and have generally be hugely inspired by the series.

You could say that I would still have those things if the was taken author out of the equation, and yes, admittedly it would. But I think an author is intrinsically linked to their work, and if I have been inspired by it, it is because of the author's words and their imagination - how exactly do you take them out of that?

People are flawed. That's a massive part of Harry Potter: none of the characters are necessarily completely good or completely evil (though I would argue that the good characters are given slightly more nuance than the supposedly bad ones, but that's another discussion for another time!). For instance, Harry can be incredibly arrogant and selfish. Hermione is prone to being cruel (Rita Skeeter beetle anyone?). Ron is insecure and prone to jealousy. Do these negative traits cancel out the positive ones? No, not necessarily.

As such, the same applies to JK Rowling. She can make thoughtless statements on Twitter, and might not always take criticism well, but does this cancel out the incredible impact she has had on millions' of childrens' lives and experiences of reading? I don't think so. I think so many of us have idolized JK Rowling for so long and seen her as this great warrior for justice that we've kind of forgotten that she's also human and therefore flawed. These flaws don't make her any less of a great writer or give her stories any less impact, they just mean that she's human and we shouldn't expect her to be some perfect, god-like figure who never makes mistakes. 

Sure, it is disappointing to learn that an author isn't quite as perfect as we had hoped they were. But we don't need to completely separate JK Rowling from Harry Potter in order to keep our beautiful childhood memories of the stories alive. We just need to accept that she isn't flawless and we're not always going to agree with everything she says online, but that that JK Rowling is still the same JK Rowling who created our favourite childhood story. That will never change and knowing that she isn't perfect doesn't ruin our childhood memories, it just means that we've all grown up and see things through a different lens now than we did as children.

And after all, isn't that what Harry Potter is all about?

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