J.K. Rowling Has Authority to Determine Canon
As the Harry Potter franchise expands to include things such as Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, several fans have voiced their concern that J.K. Rowling is losing her original magic touch in order to simply appease fans or – in an even harsher judgment – rake in more money and bolster her fame. Particularly with Cursed Child, fans were displeased, saying that it was too much like “a bad fan fiction” or that others (meaning authors Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) should not have had their hand in it. Rowling took to Twitter to say that the story was her own despite the collaborative work with the others and that she pronounced it as canon – to the collective groan of many disappointed fans. Discussions sprang up about the story belonging “to the fans,” which of course paved the way for the reappearance of the trite academic phrase “kill the author.”
I know people will come after me for this. The comments will be flooded with saucy Slytherins, goaded Gryffindors, raging Ravenclaws, and huffy Hufflepuffs. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and with all due respect, I am about to share mine.
The story may be for you, but neither the thing itself nor the process of making it is about you.
Let me break that down into something not so painful. Joanne Rowling was once a struggling single mother before the wizarding world brought her fame. She is a literal Cinderella story and a hero to many authors, including myself. She accomplished what some of the people who berate her probably couldn’t sell to a cereal box company. She crafted the characters, made the plots, fooled us with narrative misdirection, and had us drooling in bookstore lines after midnight just to get the next book about the boy who lived. Now some of us are questioning what is and isn’t true when it comes to her universe? That’s like telling a painter whose painting has already been accepted into the Louvre that their painting doesn’t deserve to be in the Louvre because they didn’t use your preferred shade of red.
Now, I’m not saying interpretation is wrong. That is more than half the fun of reading. I have a friend who recently convinced me that Luna reads upside-down because she watched her dad edit The Quibbler, and since J.K. Rowling has not confirmed nor denied this theory, I am free to imagine a tiny Luna sounding out upside-down words to my heart’s content. However, when the universe gets as expansive as the wizarding world, people start asking what fits into the actual narrative. If this universe were real, what would we consider a legitimate fact? The only person who has these rights, in my opinion, is the author(s) and perhaps a few that they have trusted to carry on the true message of the universe that they have created.
Yes, stories are for the fans to enjoy and interpret. Yes, to some extent, authors cannot dictate what those interpretations are. I have a friend who legitimately thinks Dumbledore is the epitome of evil. Did J.K. Rowling mean to convey that? Probably not. His interpretation is not wrong in his own eyes, but if he came to J.K. Rowling’s house for dinner and started to say her writing sucks because it doesn’t fit his perception, he would be in the wrong. On the same token, if fans start looking for the truth (like the fandom did when we used to want to hear about Harry’s children before Cursed Child), they have no right to ask questions and then disagree with the very creator about the answer. People asked for it. People got excited about it. And some people didn’t like it. Not liking something is fine, but discrediting J.K. Rowling’s motives or writing ability just because you didn’t like something, in my opinion, is wrong. I liked Cursed Child, but I can see where people were coming from when they said that it resembled fan fiction. Nevertheless, Rowling announced it as canon, so until she or somebody she entrusts with the story changes that, we have to accept it.
There is also the matter of her ability to change or continue to write. One of my friends, who is a diehard fan and a calculating Slytherin, insists that the Time-Turner in Cursed Child goes against original canon rules about time travel. While this may be true, he is neglecting to take into account that Rowling is very detail-oriented and always does things for a reason even if it’s not immediately apparent. After all, she addressed plot holes in Fantastic Beasts:
All will become clear. Trust me. https://t.co/NwA12ZzgsA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 21, 2016
This story is far from done, and in the end, it is a piece of work that J.K. Rowling has put her heart and soul into. We have a right to our interpretations and opinions, but we don’t have a right to judge whether a work is part of a universe someone else created, especially if we have professed to stand by it “until the very end.”