For the feminist writer and critic Joan Smith, however, the explanation for the strength of feeling against Rowling must lie elsewhere – as she is not actually transphobic. “It’s not a matter of separating the art from the artist, and whether or not her unpleasant views are reflected in her books, or the game based on them. The views complained about don’t exist.
“Nobody who accuses JK Rowling of being transphobic has ever been able to come up with anything she’s said or written which is actually hostile to trans people or saying that they shouldn’t have the same rights as everybody else. What she thinks is a lot of gender ideology is not about giving rights to people who don’t have them, it’s taking rights from another group: [like] saying women-only spaces now have to be open to men if they say they’re women. I don’t think it’s a real accusation, it’s a device to shut her up.”
Why do people want to shut Rowling up? Partly because she has campaigned so much against misogyny, thinks Smith. “Also I think she was always bound to attract a really visceral hostility because she’s become very wealthy and successful, and women who achieve that kind of thing – it sparks a kind of envy. And it tips over very easily into misogyny.”
Nevertheless, fewer and fewer public figures want to take the risk of seeming to be endorsing Rowling’s views by associating with her in any way. The actor Sebastian Croft, a teen idol after his role in the Netflix drama Heartstopper, has apologised for voicing a character in Hogwarts Legacy, in terms more appropriate to somebody who’s just been outed as a former member of the Hitler Youth: “I was cast in this project over three years ago … This was long before I was aware of JK Rowling’s views … I know far more now than I did three years ago.” He joins many of the young actors made famous by the Potter films in tut-tutting at Rowling.