Recently, you (like me) may have been surprised and saddened by how much once-beloved rags-to-riches Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has been attacking trans people through uninformed and often hateful rhetoric on the internet. Now I don’t know if it’s a case of she can’t communicate well online (not like Twitter is a platform of incredible social discourse) or if she’s just a bigot and frankly I don’t care. Her actions are emboldening hateful people and she’s causing damage to an already oppressed group of human beings – that’s what matters.
But to counter that, I was even more surprised (but delighted) by this:
This charming stop-motion short was tweeted by the official Godzilla Twitter page, along with the message along with the message “Happy Pride.” So, whereas J.K. Rowling surprises with bigotry, the LGBTQ community and its allies can count Godzilla as a friend.
As I said: surprising. Now, at the end of the day, neither of these two can be considered an expert in sexuality or gender. J.K. Rowling being a former English teacher turned author, Godzilla being an imagined allegory to the nuclear bomb. I cannot stress enough that, if people are looking for knowledge to inform their opinions on transgender rights, ask an actual expert.
That said, it’s always interesting to see what happens when cultural figures take views outside their original scope. Looking back at the two properties – the works of J.K. Rowling and the Godzilla series – it is interesting to see if there is anything else that might support or contradict this stance. Let’s take a look.
The Politics of Godzilla
With over 30 films and multiple books, shows, and video games – there’s a lot of Godzilla to cover. Luckily for you, I’m a pretty big G-Fan, so let’s dive into it.
Godzilla at its heart is a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the fallout of global conflict. Created by Ishiro Honda (among others), the original Godzilla film is stark, brutal, and loaded with anti-war messaging.
Since then, the series can be seen as many things, including a reflection of the changing attitudes between Japan and America (if Godzilla is America, it is interesting to see how he morphs from enemy to friend to just giant external force).
Certain more politically charged Godzilla films such as The Return of Godzilla and Shin Godzilla have drawn more political allegories, the former showcasing the horror of being between the USA and Russia during the Cold War and the latter being about how excessive bureaucracy dooms a nation to inaction against hostile threats.
So, political commentary and Godzilla have walked hand-in-hand since creation. Notably, all three of the current American films strip out America’s nuclear blame and make it more of an environmental struggle. Godzilla is a response to humanity’s inability to coexist peacefully in natural balance.
Okay, so that’s broad strokes – I could go far more in-depth here but I think you get the point. The larger question is: Does Godzilla ever say anything about sexuality?
Well, not really. At least not that I can recall. Most early Godzilla films do feature romance, but it is always heterosexual. Invasion of Astro Monster does technically feature inter-species love with a human male falling for an alien, but said alien is very human looking and very feminine.
The only possible exception I can think of comes in Godzilla vs. Megalon, where two grown men are seemingly raising a boy between them. There’s nothing explicit but also no mention of the boy’s mother or any other parental figure. This may be the first and only homosexual couple in a Godzilla film to date, but – like I said – it’s strictly implicit.
The Politics of Harry Potter
Okay, forgive me here – it’s been a while since I read the Harry Potter series and I’ve never finished any of J.K. Rowling’s other work (I tried A Casual Vacancy but put it down after a few chapters). So I will admit to not being nearly as large an authority here as whatever I have in the Godzilla fandom. Just a quick disclaimer.
Okay, so – before all this transphobic stuff happened, I liked to think of J.K. Rowling as a textbook example of a false progressive, at least when it came to diversity. To be fair, the Harry Potter series as numerous positive messages in it. The importance of friendship, for one. The dangers of extremism, propaganda, and misinformation for another. Heck, those books even have a commentary on the evils of slavery, as well as how too often women are dismissed when they speak out on valid social injustices. All of this and more is found in the pages of Harry Potter and it is good.
On diversity, however – eh. It’s a bunch of white kids. Nothing wrong with that, but hardly pushing the boundaries of inclusion, despite some(?) effort from the author. Point is, you have some broadly drawn racially diverse supporting cast and that’s it.
Oh, but Dumbledore – yes, let’s talk about Dumbledore. The headmaster of Hogwarts made headlines after he died and the series ended for being gay. Now, was there anything to support this sexuality in the books? Not really? I mean, I didn’t see it and I went back at the time and looked for it. Honestly, before the dramatic reveal, I would have guessed that Dumbledore was asexual. Just didn’t seem like he cared about that kinda stuff.
But J.K. Rowling tooted her horn as a champion of inclusion and said that if only she had known sooner, she would have included more of this element.
Then came the Fantastic Beasts prequels and she got her chance and…yeah, to date, no dice. The Crimes of Grindelwald is many things but a story of two star-crossed homosexual lovers it is not.
So, while J.K. Rowling’s books do have a lot of positive messages regarding civil rights and human rights in general – she has about as much LGBTQ diversity as Godzilla vs. Megalon.
When Creators Run Amok
So, here you have two entities – neither of which I would call an intricate part of the LGBTQ conversation, but have both taken stances on it. Godzilla the ally, J.K. Rowling the problematic entity. Does this mean that trans people have to embrace Godzilla while burning their Harry Potter collections?
Absolutely not. I say this as an author: Creators are separate from their creations. I fully believe this. While a bit of my personality goes into everything I make, there is plenty more than almost comes from another source. Call it inspiration, call it random neurons firing in the brain – there is something that happens when a piece is written or filmed or made. Art exists by itself, independent of the artist.
To be clear, I’m also not saying trans people have any obligation to not burn their Harry Potter series. It’s up to them and I pass zero judgement either way. Likewise, if I don’t see a ton of trans people at the next G-Fest, no part of me is going to be like “and after all Godzilla did for them!”
In my view, the positives of both series should be celebrated and any and all negatives should also be discussed/evaluated. Nothing is gained by glossing over imperfections in pursuit of something that does not exist. I think it is also important to remember that, at this point, Harry Potter and Godzilla are also both larger than one person and have each had many different creative perspectives involved (for instance, while J.K. Rowling comes off like a jerk these days, Daniel Radcliffe still seems like a genuinely nice human being). Point being: I don’t find it simple.
If you decide that, in the wake of J.K. Rowling’s problematic behavior that you don’t want to give her or the Harry Potter series any more money – that is your decision. May I suggest the Godzilla series instead?
There’s also plenty of work by trans writers and artists that you can enjoy and support: