Sunday, July 5, 2020

There's No Longer Any Reason to See Fantastic Beasts 3

Another day, another upsetting tirade of transphobic rhetoric from Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Rowling's latest rant implies that young transgender people receiving healthcare is a new form of gay conversion therapy, which lines up with her previous baffling suggestion that some people only transition to "escape homophobia." This is an especially bizarre take coming from someone whose pen name is Robert Galbraith. In case you missed it, Robert Galbraith Heath was known for participating in unethical forms of gay conversion therapy with the use of electrodes which later deemed him "the man who fried gay people's brains."

Rowling continues to spread false information and hateful ideas, which is why I think it's time we decide to collectively boycott Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3. JK "Billionaire" Rowling doesn't deserve another cent of our money.

I will never stop loving Harry Potter because I truly believe it's bigger than Rowling and, like so many people, it's been a vital part of my life for the last 20 years. (If you disagree and can no longer stand the sight of the Boy-Who-Lived, that is also a valid decision which I wholeheartedly respect and admire.) However, reading books and watching movies that are 9-23 years old feels different than contributing to Rowling's future works, which is why I officially have no plans to see the upcoming third installment. But if I'm being honest, Rowling's offensive behavior is really just the nail in the coffin of a spin-off that was barely worth our time to begin with.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had the worst ending to any movie I have ever seen and I will never forget the utter shock and disappointment I felt sitting in that theatre when the "big reveal" was not that Colin Farrell's character had been Grindelwald the whole time, but rather he had been Johnny Depp the whole time. The movie was ruined by a gimmick set up to reveal the inclusion of a famous actor.

Imagine if you didn't know who Johnny Depp was... the ending would have made no sense! The reveal that one character is a cloaked version of another character carries zero weight when you've never actually seen the latter before. Not to mention the fact that Farrell would have been a much better choice than Depp to play the role. I knew at that moment these movies were doomed, but I went and saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald anyway, and it was even worse.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald features Jude Law as young Dumbledore (no complaints, great casting) but Rowling once again opted not to mention the fact that he's gay. She's confirmed his sexuality time and time again, but for some reason refuses to put the words on the page or screen. The LGBTQ+ community has zero representation in Harry Potter and these prequel films were Rowling's chance to make up for it by confirming his queerness in her works rather than making it an afterthought akin to "wizards used to poop themselves." Fans love and respect Dumbledore and see him as a mentor, and allowing him to be out onscreen could have done a lot for a community that's still waiting on better representation in multiple franchises. Not only is Dumbledore and Grindelwald's romance pushed down to subtext and mixed messages, but it's also downright offensive.

We've been waiting since 1997 to find out what Dumbledore sees when he looks into the Mirror Of Erised, and this movie showed him... doing a blood-swapped spell with Grindelwald?! You're telling me the thing Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, a gay man, desires most in this world is for him and the man he loves to CUT EACH OTHER and MIX BLOOD for a spell? That's the dream?! I refuse to believe it.

Many fans were offended by the sequel's reveal that Nagini, Voldemort's pet snake and prominent villain in the original Harry Potter stories, is revealed to be an enslaved Korean woman. Not only did this open up old wounds regarding Cho Chang, whose offensive name and lack of characterization is an unfortunate way to represent your one and only East Asian character, but it also felt like a slap in the face to those who had been waiting to see more representation in this universe.

Not only does this put a woman of color in a subservient role, but it also makes us feel a little uncomfortable about all those times we cheered on Neville as he decapitated her. Not to mention the idea that casting a Korean actor (Claudia Kim) in this role plays into the damaging stereotypes often pushed upon East Asian women in cinema, only this time she's a snake instead of an exotic dragon.

It should be said that all of the problems with the Fantastic Beasts movies come down to Rowling's writing. The reveals are sloppy, the character's motives feel forced, and a lot of it is just plain confusing. (For the record, David Yates proved that he's a fine director with the last four Harry Potter movies, and none of these criticisms are on him.)

Honestly, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was so bland that I barely remember what happened with the exception of Queenie turning bad in the end. While that decision felt completely out of character, it's truly the only reason I originally planned to see the third movie. Queenie and Jacob's relationship is the one compelling thing about these stories and I was curious to know if they'd be endgame. However, that last sliver of interest is no longer worth giving more of my money to a hateful transphobe.

If I went back and rewatched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, I'm sure I could find even more reasons to abandon the spin-off franchise, but I have better things to do with my time. If you can think of anything I missed, please feel free to jump in the comments and list them.

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