Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Violence in Harry Potter Community Calls for Barrier between Fans, Stars

Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen.

Wizard rock is a genre of music generated by the fan culture surrounding the Harry Potter books. Since J.K. Rowling and the books themselves are so universally popular, many fans look closer to home to find new ways to channel their love for the series. Wizard rock songs are all about things that happen in the Harry Potter universe. As a genre, it has gone through many different incarnations, and its uniting theme is the content, not sound or quality. Though wizard rock fills a very specific niche, the fandom is big enough that it has a huge cult following and fan base of its own. There have also been spin-off bands playing music about “Doctor Who,” “Lost” and the “Hunger Games.” Only a handful of bands actually get known for their music, but famous wizard rockers have between several hundred thousand and over a million subscribers on YouTube and other forms of social media.

The online Harry Potter fan community is predominantly teenage girls, yet almost all of famous wizard rock stars are men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Due to the online base of this fame, it is very easy for fans to reach out to the content creators that they admire. Fans have the opportunities to meet these stars at wizard rock concerts and Harry Potter conventions. Recently, several internet personalities and wizard rock stars have been called out for abusing their power and taking inappropriate advantage of their fans. The accusations of abuse include rape, statutory rape, harassment, stalking, emotional manipulation, intentionally getting underage girls drunk and being generally terrible people. 

My relation to this community is through the wizard rock radio show “The Witching Hour” on KWCW that I inherited during my sophomore year at Whitman College. I don’t always think that wizard rock is the best quality, as far as music goes, but I think it is beyond cool that people use Harry Potter as a way to channel artistic expression. I love wizard rock as a statement of solidarity between people who are all manners of obsessed with Harry Potter. I thought that the Harry Potter fandom and wizard rock communities were safe spaces free from systemic problems like rape culture. It didn’t occur to me that a community centered on something as innocent as Harry Potter could have such a violent, horrible side to it.

The recent accusations mirror an incident a couple years ago when an Internet-famous musician who wrote songs about similarly “nerdy” topics was arrested on several counts of child pornography. He pled guilty to soliciting sexually explicit content from underage fans. He moved in the same circles as some of the men who are currently accused, even accompanying their bands on tour. The response to his arrest was disappointing. No one wanted to talk about it. If there had been serious discussion about preventing sexual violence within fandoms, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so far. It also poses the question of what bystanders could have done to intervene. Other semi-famous people in the wizard rock and YouTube communities who were friends, housemates or tour-mates with the accused must have been aware of this behavior at least on some level, but they all turned blind eyes. People who choose not to call out unacceptable behavior because they want to avoid drama and protect their own reputations, need to check their priorities because they are partially responsible. A solid understanding of consent is important no matter what context or community is being addressed.

I don’t know how the wizard rock community or the Harry Potter fandom is going to move forward from these events. I think the seeming lack of a barrier between the Internet stars and their fans needs to be redefined with set boundaries. Or, hierarchies within fan communities should be dissolved, no longer prioritizing wizard rocker content creators, since everyone in the community should have equal standing as just a fan of Harry Potter. I don’t want the wizard rock fan community to end because of this, or for the Harry Potter fandom to be permanently scarred as a toxic community. It’s not fair that a small group of people could take something so great, the fan community, wizard rock, or even Harry Potter as a general entity, and ruin it for others. However, if Harry Potter, and everything that has stemmed from it, has taught us anything, it’s that with love and solidarity you can overcome even the worst adversity. For now, the fandom has to heal by supporting the survivors, making sure that their voices are heard and addressing their complaints. As J.K. Rowling said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

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