TW: This article will be discussing anti-Semitic imagery.
Okay, let’s be frank. The trans rights movement has had a rough month. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon’s polls plummeted after Sturgeon pushed through her historically unpopular Gender ID bill. Sturgeon also defended an AMAB trans person being placed in a woman’s prison despite this AMAB trans person having violently raped several women. The reaction by the public wasn’t pretty.
Then India Willoughby, a prominent trans activist and TV personality in the UK, waved her white Karen flag high when Willoughby compared being asked questions on TV to being lynched.
Sure Jan. A wealthy white British woman being interviewed about trans people in women’s prisons is EXACTLY THE SAME as the historical trauma black Americans suffered for centuries at the hands of lynch mobs. That’s not appropriative at all. No sirree!
Oh, plus the Harry Potter game Hogwarts Legacy has already broken records for pre-release sales on Steam despite a loud online boycott by trans activists. JK Rowling has been busy doing evil things like opening rape shelters and helping refugees escape Afghanistan while prominent trans rights activists have been… um… posting Hogwarts Legacy “spoilers” on social media?
I mean, how can you post a “spoiler” for a game? Isn’t the whole point of the game not the story but the world-immersion aspect? People only want to enjoy the top-notch visuals and character interactions and puzzles. Who cares about “spoilers?”
Try harder. I mean, the Black Panthers civil rights movement served free breakfast to low-income children in an effort to make inroads for their cause back in the 60s. Maybe trans activists could do something like that instead of continually posting on Twitter about who cursed Anne? Just saying.
Trans activists are a bit on the ropes at the moment so they have now started a new tactic: insisting that JK Rowling is anti-Semitic! Not only is JK Rowling transphobic (she’s not, btw, but let’s leave that to the side for the moment) but she’s HATES JEWS!
How is JK Rowling anti-Semitic you ask? I can understand the confusion there. The whole through-plot of the Harry Potter series was about the conflict between Death-Eaters (thinly-disguised Nazis) and “Mudbloods” (wizards born from Muggles, who were seen as “impure” by the villain Voldemort’s followers). It was basically a metaphor about the conflict between the supposedly pure “Aryan” Nazi movement in the 20th century and Jews.
JK Rowling has always been pretty explicitly anti-Nazi.
But no. A lot of trans activists out there are INSISTING that JK Rowling is anti-Semitic and frankly as a Jewish person whose grandfather survived the Holocaust… it’s starting to piss me off.
Please stop using Jewish historical trauma as a rhetorical tool to go after JK Rowling. Please don’t. It’s not great, especially when the arguments being made are in such bad faith.
Why is JK Rowling anti-Semitic according to these new critics? It’s because the goblins that run Gringotts bank are (allegedly) anti-Semitic caricatures.
So let’s break this down. Are the Gringotts goblins anti-Semitic caricatures? Let’s check out the passage from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where the goblins are first introduced.
“Gringotts,” said Hagrid.
They had reached a snowy white building that towered over the other little shops. Standing beside its burnished bronze doors, wearing a uniform of scarlet and gold, was-
“Yeah, that’s a goblin,” said Hagrid quietly as they walked up the white stone steps toward him. The goblin was about a head shorter than Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet. He bowed as they walked inside.
So let’s compare Rowling’s description with classic anti-Semitic imagery from Nazi Germany.
There is some overlap. The goblins run a bank and anti-Semitic tropes usually show Jews as bankers obsessed with money. The goblin has a pointed beard which is also often seen in anti-Jewish imagery.
Other more well-known features involving anti-Semitic caricatures are missing from Rowling’s goblins. The goblin is dressed in a suit of red and gold while anti-Semitic cartoons usually show Jews to be dressed in black. The goblin is “swarthy” while anti-Semitic cartoons usually show Jews as pale and wormy. The goblin has very long fingers and feet, which is not a traditional anti-Semitic physical trait. We don’t get a description of the goblin’s nose or whether the goblin is hunchbacked.
Something else that’s noteworthy: JK Rowling’s goblins are very subterranean. The vaults of the bank are deep in caves underground. The goblins travel from vault to vault in miner’s carts that drive themselves. There seems to be a real mining tradition associated with the goblins.
Again, Jewish stereotypes are not associated with mining.
Do you know what is associated with mining? Ancient Anglo-Saxon and proto-Germanic mythology about tiny bearded men who mined underground. You can call them “dweorg” (Old English), “dvergr” (Old Norse), or “twerg” (Old High German). Or you could call them “dwarves” as JRR Tolkien did. Or goblins, as JK Rowling did.
You can’t call them anti-Semitic caricatures, however. The mythology of dwarves in Britain pre-dates the movement of Jewish populations into Western Europe.
Now, that being said, while JK Rowling never intended for the goblins to be anti-Semitic caricatures, the makers of the Harry Potter movies are on slightly shakier ground.
Unlike the description of the goblins in JK Rowling’s writings, the producers of the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seem to have given the movie goblins far more anti-Semitic overtones. The goblins in the movie had large pointed noses (something Rowling never wrote in her description), are dressed in black Victorian banker clothes (again something Rowling never described), and are hunchbacked (another description that was never in the book).
Keep in mind that Rowling had no input when it came to character design for the Harry Potter movies. She merely signed over the rights to her work and was not further consulted by Warner Bros. Her only credit in the movie Philosopher’s Stone is as the author of the books the movies are based on.
But then again, the producer of the Harry Potter movies was a man, and thus less likely to attract the wrath of penis-possessing people. The fact that none of the (male) costume designers, visual concept artists and producers of the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone movie have been criticized for their anti-Semitic imagery shows the bad faith in which the accusations of “anti-Semitism” against JK Rowling are made.
Because let’s be real. The people criticizing JK Rowling for “anti-Semitism” don’t actually give a damn about us Jews. They’re just throwing anything they can at Rowling and hoping it sticks.
And it’s still not working.
When the main villain of your movement is busy opening needed rape shelters while the people who represent your cause appear to spend all their energy posting TikToks about what exactly it means to be “tri-gender”… you’re losing.
It’s time to stop obsessing about JK Rowling and start solving actual problems affecting the trans community today. Trans people are disproportionately houseless and low income and unemployed. That needs attention.
And if you could stop exploiting Jewish historical trauma in your fight, that’d be just great.