Disclaimer: The following article discusses the documentary’s contents that gives away spoilers and illustrations seen in the documentary. The article also discusses recent transgender issues revolving around J.K Rowling. Please refrain from reading if sensitivity is an issue or if you have not watched the documentary.
When it was thought to be done and dusted, here it is muggles, witches and wizards, Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. A documentary that reunited cast members and film workers to bring the undeniably nostalgic 10 years of most of everyone’s life back to reminisce. Aired on HBO Max on New Year this year to remind all of a work of art from a pure heart.
The trio, Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson) and Ronald Weasley (played by Rupert Grint) reunited at Hogwarts and took fans behind the scenes of this classic thorough and in-depth interviews and conversations. Other cast members also made an appearance, including Draco Malfoy (played by Tom Felton), Rubeus Hagrid (played by Robbie Coltrane), Lord Voldermort (played by Ralph Fiennes), Bellatrix Lestrange (played by Helena Bonham Carter), Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman), Neville Longbottom (played by Matthew Lewis), Lucius Malfoy (played by Jason Issacs) and many more.
The reunion almost resembles that of a school homecoming, with the opening sequence showing some of the cast receiving their Hogwarts letter and returning to the Grand Hall. The cast shared their memories at Warner Bros. Studio, home to all the beloved sets of the Harry Potter movies. For example, the cobblestoned Diagon Alley, Platform Nine and Three Quarters, Gringotts Bank, Dumbledore’s office along with the Gryffindor and Slytherin common room.
While most are familiar with the story and setting of the Harry Potter series, this documentary brings a new insight behind closed doors to how such an amazing work of art all began, persisted through and humbly came to an end, leaving a soft spot on the audience till this day. Although the legend of it all endures through a spinoff, the Fantastic Beast series, the foundation of it all had to start somewhere.
‘The Boy Who Lived’ marked the first chapter that started it all, commentary to the books as did the documentary’s flow. Recollecting each and every movie, cast members who reunited once again shared their journey spilling tea from their memories along the way. Videos and clips of sets were also included in the documentary, further enlightening audiences on how phenomenal scenes were brought to life. Not to mention the casts’ duality on sets were definitely a sight to see. It included waltzes in the Great Hall, secrets revealed in the Gryffindor common room, the revelation that the director of Goblet of Fire, Mike Newell fractured his ribs when play-fighting with James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Daniel Radcliffe’s love letter to his co-star Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange).
The children, adolescents turned teenagers all grew to love in this series, is by far history’s only act to have watched the whole cast grow up on the screen. Not to mention the ‘British royalty’ of acting in those days were a very big part of the journey who grew to love the younger ones as family. Wholesome as it was truly a gallon of butterbeer that melted everyone’s hearts beyond explanation.
After all that was wonderfully executed, the question arises- Where was the author who created this magnificent parallel universe in the first place? Only archived clips of J.K Rowling were shown in this documentary, let alone totally making up to not even 30 seconds of the 102 minutes documentary.
“The documentary is a calculated act of rebranding, designed to separate the Harry Potter movies from Rowling’s influence or involvement” read an article by Polygon. And another article from Los Angeles Times read, “An HBO spokesperson told The Times that Rowling was invited to do a new interview but that producers felt the previously captured footage was adequate. HBO did not respond to requests for clarification as to whether Rowling declined the interview or filmed a new interview that producers then decided to leave out of the special”.
So what is actually happening?
J.K Rowling was chastised in December 2019 for her comments to the announcement of Maya Forstater, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development, whose contract was renewed after she tweeted that transgender women couldn’t change their biological sex. Maya Forstater was also accused of using “offensive and discriminatory” rhetoric to oppose planned changes to the United Kingdom’s Gender Recognition Act that would allow persons to self-identify as the opposite sex. After her contract with the Center for Global Development was not extended, Maya Forstater went to court to appeal the termination but lost.
“Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill,” J.K Rowling tweeted after the ruling. This led to backlash from the transgender community stating that “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary”.
Like adding fuel to the fire, J.K Rowling was again caught in between cross fire when she commented on an article titled ‘Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate’ – “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” – J.K Rowling. Once again the author faced backlash from the transgender community for not considering people who menstruate who weren’t identified as women.
While being constantly canceled, J.K Rowling even posted an essay entitled ‘Anonymous Letter From a Terrified Lesbian’ on her website, further supporting her stance. The essay soon again boomeranged while coherently gaining attention from several cast members who were also The Golden Trio.
“While Jo (J.K Rowling) is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment. Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.” – Daniel Radcliffe.
“I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men,” his statement read. “We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.” – Rupert Grint.
“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you, and love you for who you are,” she wrote. “I donate to @Mermaids_Gender and @mamacash. If you can, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to do the same. Happy #PRIDE2020 Sending love x.” – Emma Watson
However, the question that now remains is if it was right to leave or separate the person who envisioned it all from the ever-growing franchise?
Regardless, Return to Hogwarts is exactly what all Potterheads envisioned and definitely the best gift to start off the new year. It contains enough untold stories and honesty from the cast to give it more a genuine heart than probably anyone expected. The simplicity of this line by Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) about the stories and films, “It’s made people who otherwise feel lonely, they feel they belong”. Perhaps in another 20 years, there will be a reunion again. Until then, always believe in magic, always believe in love, always.
Written by: Jamie and Isabel
Edited by: Maki