Embracing Willful Ignorance Makes You Part of the Problem

Content Warning: Discussion of Harry Potter and the harmful tropes in the franchise, along with discussion of JK Rowling and the harm she has caused via her financial support and platform as one of the most active and mainstream Trans-Eclusive Rradical Feminists in the world.

By the time this post goes up, the latest Harry Potter game will have been widely released. As I write it, though, there are still several days before then. Typically, these posts tend to lag a week behind anything that happens since I like to write them far enough ahead that I can let them sit for a while. I need time to let my words gain enough distance that I can evaluate them more evenly than I wrote them. Writing is, after all, an emotional activity for me. I can’t separate how I feel from what I create, I can only ever smooth out the rough surfaces and hard corners. This post, however, isn’t about the game. All I’ve got to say about the game right now is that trans rights are human rights and that no one should continue to support a person who is actively using the platform and money derived from said support to promote a Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist agenda so thoroughly and completely as Rowling has.

This post is about learning how many of my friends, some of whom I was very close with, wound up still buying the game despite knowing the aforementioned. Something I find incredibly disappointing and upsetting given that I’m a non-binary person whose identity and life choices are directly attacked by the person who created the intellectual property the game is based on. I also find it incredibly disappointing because the whole plot involves crushing a rebellion of a goblins who are frequently described in a way that falls into a lot of harmful anit-semitic tropes. Honestly, between this and how horrible I’ve come to realize the books are (reading them again in college, after honing my literary criticism skills, made it clear how much awful stuff is contained within the books and this comprehension has only grown in the time since), I’m having a difficult time cutting anyone any slack as they chose to continue to support the franchise and, by proxy, the creator.

I enjoyed the books as a kid and I don’t think that having enjoyed the books, movies, or video games makes anyone a bad person. I do think, though, that excusing any of the problematic content of the series and it’s creator in order to continue finding joy in the series after becoming aware of said problematic content is a bad thing to do. It doesn’t make you a bad person, of course, as one bad choice does not a bad person make, but it does tell me a lot about your priorities. I mean, it’s not exactly a secret, any more, what kind of horrible stuff is in the books thanks to the growing popularity of literary criticism as long or short form video content. There’s any number of videos pointing out that evil people in HP books are described in horrific terms to make it clear that being fat, ugly, or (in the case of female villains) “mannish” is an indictment of their character, that the goblins of the world are an anti-semetic stereotype, that the whole “slavery is good” thing going on with the house elves is horrible, and that almost all of the diversity seen in the series was shoehorned in after the fact.

There’s a line between oblivious ignorance and willful ignorance here. If you genuinely did not realize how awful some of the stuff in the HP books is (which is fair, since they scrubbed a lot of it out in the movies) and were somehow not aware of the harm that the creator, Rowling, is perpetrating in the world, then you get a pass up to this point. I might be incredulous about how you’ve managed to stay unaware this long, but not everyone is as ready to critically engage with the material they’re consuming as I would like and I have to accept a certain amount of unknowing participation. Now that you know, though, you have no excuses. If you don’t believe me, any amount of goolging will start showing results that include everything from deep-dive critial anaylsis of the movies, books, and games, to analytical essays tying Rowling’s rhetoric to the anti-trans movements in the US and England. If you read all this or already knew it and still chose to support her works, then you’re in the Willful Ignorance zone and have become a part of the problem.

I’m sure the people in my life that inspired this post would protest me lumping them into the wilfull ignorance zone, but that doesn’t get them out of it. Academic detachment can cause just as much harm as willful ignorance, if it does not comdemn the harmful material it analyses. Wanting to recapture a nostalgic joy while ignoring the harm perpetuated by your pursuits is the literal definition of willful ignorance in this case. It’s frankly exchausting, trying to talk to people about why they’re making these choices and why that matters to me, someone who isn’t involved in their single-player gaming experiences, but all of these people are close enough to me that I can’t justify taking action without trying to reason with them first.

I don’t expect to change any minds at this point in time. The game is out, this information has been passed around for years now, and it has long since escaped my relatively large but still niche corners of the internet. None of this should be new information to anyone, except maybe how I feel about it and how it effects me. I’ve kind of avoided making that point, prior to this recent series of discussions, because it is difficult to make an argument calmly when you’ve said that this is a blow against your identity and the other person hasn’t grasped how deeply insulting and upsetting that is. I mean, if I can’t count on their support when it comes to a luxury good and something as simple as not buying a video game, how can I count on it when it comes to more important and potentially life-threatening stuff. At this point, though, I’m tired of trying to be polite and thoeretical about it. By the time this goes up, I’ll have been explicit about how this impacts me with all those people and I can only hope the conversations have gone better than I expect them too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s