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Amid calls for a boycott, ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ controversy raises questions about what it means to be a ‘Harry Potter’ fan



The night before she was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, Brittany Cater wondered if the trip was a mistake.

The “Harry Potter” universe created by author J.K. Rowling has been a part of her life for nearly 25 years, but renewed controversy over the author and a new video game set in her universe have put Cutter on pause.

She had long put off visiting her, but her deep connection to the fantasy world eventually won out.


“I started reading ‘Harry Potter’ when I was 11,” said Cater, 36, as she unwrapped a new wand in a hidden alley in the park. “It is very much a sanctuary and a safe place. I started listening to it as an adult again, and it was a perfect stress reliever during a turbulent time.”

But more than two decades after the first book was released, not every reader who grew up imagining the halls of Hogwarts and sipping on Butterbeer at Hogsmeade no longer considers the world of “Harry Potter” to be a safe place.

For weeks, a battle has been brewing between players as parts of society have called for a boycott of “Hogwarts Legacy,” a game set nearly 100 years before the events of the “Harry Potter” books. The debate, first sparked when the game was announced in 2020 and renewed with its release this month, centers around an ethical question: Can fans support the “Hogwarts Legacy” and “Harry Potter” franchises while also condemning Rowling’s comments on transgenderness and gender equality. identification?

Her views, which have been shared online for the past three years, have been widely criticized as transphobic, leading many fans to wrestle with their nostalgia and cling to a narrative that has brought them years of joy and a sense of belonging.

Hogwarts Legacy, the long-awaited big-budget role-playing game from Warner Bros. Games, questions about separating art from artist and about what our popular cultural consumption says about our beliefs.


Critics called the author’s opinions—and consumer support for the game—dangerous at a time when a wave of anti-LGBT bills were being introduced in legislatures across the country. Many who love the “Potter” universe agree with this criticism but argue that it was the fans who really brought the universe to life. .

“Nothing can touch that,” Cater said. “Political views that she has that are harmful can’t touch that.”

She added that exploring the wizarding world could help show the world that the “Harry Potter” fanbase is larger and more inclusive than any beliefs espoused by the creator of the fictional world.

For Dylan Whitaker, the world of “Potter” is alluring because it “makes you question what’s real and your way of thinking.”

“Obviously, she’s very attached to the brand, but I feel like the brand is bigger than her now,” Whittaker, 31, said of Rowling in the midst of a smartphone photo shoot for Universal’s take on Hogsmeade. “Creators can create content that is inclusive of everyone, maybe not quite like, ‘This is the JK Rowling thing.’ Get away with it, and the fun can continue.”


Despite the controversy, analysts believe calls to boycott the game will not hurt sales. Although official sales figures have not been released, “Hogwarts Legacy” has consistently topped the sales chart on video game digital distribution service Steam since its launch last week. Reports out of the UK show that the game had biggest launch The game “Harry Potter” so far.

The “Hogwarts Legacy” dispute could affect sales by about 10 percentage points, said Michael Pachter, a research analyst at Wedbush Securities.

“If a game is going to sell 5 million units, it’s going to sell 4.5, something like that,” he said. “And you’d never know. We wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I don’t think enough people care about a massive mass boycott, where people march, and thousands of people show up with signs in front of Warner Bros.’ gates.”

The game has timing on its part, added Butcher, because games released in the spring “tend to do very well” due to the lack of competition.

Andrew Uerkwitz, a senior analyst at Jefferies, said that the “Hogwarts Legacy” controversy raised awareness of the game, and ultimately served as free marketing.


“Yes, there was controversy…but it doesn’t detract from how impressive the world of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Harry Potter’ is,” he said. “Based on sales, Metacritic scores, and user scores, the game met or exceeded quality expectations.”

However, the controversy hasn’t stopped fans and critics alike from launching personal attacks against each other online. Video game publications have argued about whether they should review “Hogwarts Legacy”.

The game’s website IGN included a note with its review, which largely avoided controversy, arguing instead that the Critic’s role is to “answer the question whether and why we find ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ interesting to play; whether it is ethical to play is a separate but still very important question”. Meanwhile, GameSpot greeted the game’s launch with a A primer on transgender charities And Detailed article which outlined Rowling’s comments and how they are viewed by the trans community, and at the end asks players to stand in solidarity with their trans peers.

Those who decided to play found themselves having to justify the decision.

When Samira Early turned on her Twitch channel on a recent weekday and logged into “Hogwarts Legacy,” comments about the county poured into her stream as she battled a large armored troll, dodged attacks, and cast spells.


“Dude, just play the game if you want to play it. I’m a trans girl. I love Harry Potter. I hate JK Rowling,” Early, who gushes under a Twitch handle Yishai, to approximately 10,000 viewers. It’s a Harry Potter game. About [expletive] wizards. “

Roughly 1.28 million people watched “Hogwarts Legacy” content on Twitch last Thursday before its official release on February 10, according to the game’s developers — making it the most-watched single-player game ever on the platform.

Early said it was up to each player to decide if they wanted to avoid the game. She said she respects that others don’t want to play or invest their money in a game that benefits Rowling, but online attacks on players enjoying “Hogwarts Legacy” cross the line.

“I was called a fanatic,” she said in an interview. “I got the name of a piece of human garbage. I’ve been called a complete scum – that’s just to name a few. “

Gemma Stone, co-founder of the site writes acrosssaid she understands why the game has such broad appeal: the Harry Potter universe has long lacked an expansive role-playing game like Hogwarts Legacy.


Long before the events of the primary books, the game follows a similar heroic plot with a deep devotion to detail. Players can spend hours exploring the halls and rooms of Hogwarts before exiting the castle.

Stone used to be a fan of the older “Harry Potter” video games, many of which don’t have the best critical reputations.

“I understood why the game was so popular,” Stone said. “This is something our generation of players have been asking for for a long time.”

She said that was before Rowling’s comments on transgender issues.

“I have a lot of nostalgia and a childhood connection to ‘Harry Potter,’ but I just can’t get caught up in the franchise anymore,” Stone said. “I’ve taken a long time to understand JK Rowling at this point. I’m beyond grieving. I’m just angry.”


In 2020, Rowling tweeted an editorial that referred to “people who menstruate”, saying: “I’m sure there was a word for those people. Someone help me out. Whompin? Wimpund? WooMode?”

Thousands of people responded to the tweet, many of whom were offended by her comments. The author doubles down and visits again: “If gender isn’t real, then the reality women experience globally is erased,” she wrote, adding that she supports “every trans person’s right to live in whatever way feels authentic and comfortable to them.”

A few days later, she posted an article on her website about “reasons to speak out about sex and gender issues” and tweeted it with the caption, “TERF wars.” (TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism).

In the post, she recounts her former support for Maya Forstetter, who lost her job in London in 2019 and sued alleging discrimination based on what she describes as her “gender-critical” views, including her belief that “it’s impossible to change sex.”

Rowling’s comments and the ensuing article prompted members of the “Harry Potter” cast – including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Bonnie Wright – to respond in support of the transgender community.


In a trailer released this week for a podcast titled “The Witch Trials of JK Rowling”, Rowling tells her critics, “You could not misunderstand me more deeply.”

A Warner Bros. spokesperson declined. Games commentary. A representative for Rowling said the author would not discuss the “Hogwarts legacy”.

Game developer Avalanche Software sought to deviate from Rowling’s comments, citing the game’s comprehensiveness as evidence that it is intended for a wide range of players.

The character generator in the game allows players to create a character with traits of any gender, and the game is populated with a variety of actors. A statement on the game’s official website indicates that Rowling had no input on “Hogwarts Legacy”.

“Rowling was not involved in the game’s creation, but as the creator of The Wizarding World and one of the world’s greatest storytellers, her extraordinary writing is the foundation of all projects in The Wizarding World,” the statement said. “This is not a new story from J.K. Rowling, but we have worked closely with her team on all aspects of the game to ensure it remains consistent with the magical experiences fans have come to expect.”


To Streamer Veronica”nicatin’ Ripley, Rowling’s non-participation is irrelevant.

“I’m not telling anyone not to play Harry Potter,” said Ripley. “I tell them you can’t fund transphobia and then still claim you’re an ally. You wouldn’t be surprised or hurt when trans people point that out. As creators, we have a certain level of responsibility to our community.”

Ripley added that there is no artistic separation from the artist.

“I think most conversations about whether or not art should be separated from the artist are from artists who are already dead,” said Ripley. “No one forces you to consume a luxury good. There are tens of thousands of video games out there. Do you have any idea how many magic wizard games there are? There is no limit to that.”

In response to the game’s release, many in the trans creator community highlighted a game bundle for sale on an indie storefront called “Transient witches are witches.” For $60, players get a variety of fantasy games and art from LGBTQ+ content creators.


Some titles explore attending a school for wizards and fan-hopping – “Tomorrow for Mar” – while others focus on storytelling, including a game about healing monsters called “All Magical Creatures Great & Small”. To date, the package has raised $152,767 for its developers.

Some used the game’s release as an opportunity to raise money for organizations supporting the transgender community – a move criticized by some, saying operators should play a game from a transgender developer instead.

After 11 hours of play last week, Early, the Streamer raised $1,525 and donated the money to the National Center for Gender Equality.

Referring to Rowling, she said, “I thought doing this charity podcast, where I use her IP address to donate money to a cause that she hates and that she really wants to support, is the best thing I can do,” referring to Rowling.

The contributions it made from broadcast revenue were not good enough for some viewers, who continued to criticize it for its gameplay. An observer told her that no matter how much money she donated to charity, it would never be reimbursed for supporting the game.


But fans who continue to explore the world of “Harry Potter” see an opportunity to lead by example by stripping themselves of Rowling’s beliefs and building a fan base beyond the author.

“I’m having a lot of fun with this, and it’s a resilience with it,” Cater said in The Wizarding World. “I can make other people, whom she may not make safe with her views, feel safe by being here and supporting them in these places.”

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Shou Zi Chew switched to Fancams after a congressional hearing




Compilations of thirsty videos and comments dedicated to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew began appearing on the platform after the CEO Congressional testimony Yesterday, when he spent five hours defending the platform before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On TikTok, fan edits dedicated to the 40-year-old declared him the “TikTok daddy” and “the best CEO of our generation.”

Qiu was at the head of questions lawmakers had about the future of the popular video-sharing app, which currently has more than 150 million monthly users in the US alone.

Both Democratic and Republican politicians have expressed concerns about the app’s China-based parent company and what that means for user safety, data privacy, and national security. Some legislators have named The platform to be banned in the US due to concerns that its parent company, ByteDance, could or would share US user data with the Chinese government. In his testimony, Qiu said there was no evidence that the Chinese government had accessed user data.


Qiu Fei said written agreement that began his testimony.

There are currently three bills in Congress that could affect Americans’ access to TikTok. Two would pass legislation to strictly ban the platform, while the other would give the government the power to ban any technologies deemed a national security risk.

Yesterday’s session put TikTok’s CEO in the spotlight as he asserted that banning the app would be harmful to millions of American businesses, and that a new subsidiary named Texas Project It will provide a useful solution that will allow the application to remain active in the United States.

While lawmakers seemed unconvinced, Chew’s defense of the app, including his praise for sub-communities within the app, such as “BookTok,” a community for people to discuss reading recommendations, seemed to strike a chord with those who found inspiration on the platform.

Online, a growing group of creators seemed to admire Chew’s performance despite his hearing-strained nature and showed their admiration in the most colorful of ways: by creating edits and fan memos.


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Talk of selling or banning TikTok complicates Sino-US relations




The latest clash between the United States and China over popular social media app TikTok is likely to worsen already strained relations between the two countries, as Beijing and Washington wrestle over software bans, technology exports and concerns about espionage and national security.

Last week, the Biden administration She renewed Trump-era efforts To allay security concerns about TikTok, which was created by Chinese tech giant Bytedance Ltd. , by demanding that the widely popular app be sold from Chinese ownership or face a possible ban in the United States on Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said. It was bipartisan grilled by a House committee whose members asked specific questions about data security, alleged racial bias toward content creators and the platform’s mental health effects.


Chinese government, determined to transform domestic technology companies in world championssaid it would oppose any sale of TikTok.

Here the dispute stands.

How is China responding?

Hours before Qiu began testifying before a congressional committee on Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Xu Jueting said that China They firmly oppose the demands US officials said TikTok would be sold, adding that any change in ownership must comply with Chinese regulations.

Xu said the forced sale would “seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including China, to invest in the United States.”

Commentators, in Chinese official and social media, criticized US lawmakers for their biased statements and questions at Qiu’s hearing. Others have dismissed the event as political theater, or accused the US of trying to steal the technology that powers TikTok’s addictive short video recommendations.


Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the United States has no evidence that TikTok poses a threat to national security and should stop discriminating against foreign companies.

China has always emphasized that Data security issue It should not be used as a tool for certain countries to popularize the concept of national security and abuse of state power to unreasonably oppress other countries’ companies.”

But some analysts question how far Beijing will go to protect TikTok. Angela Chang, director of the Center for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong, said that while the Chinese government has taken action to prevent the sale of TikTok and its underlying technology without its consent, it is less concerned about a US ban on the app.

The ban on TikTok does not do much harm to China’s national interests become a technologically advanced countryZhang said. “TikTok will have to fight this battle alone.”

Can the US impose a sale or an embargo?

China’s announcement that it would block a sale complicates any US efforts to advance the deal, especially since Beijing added export restrictions on domestic technology in 2020 that require government approval.


Absent divestment, the Biden administration may be left with few options besides pursuing an outright ban on the app. The United States has already blocked the download and use of TikTok on some government agencies Because of national security concerns. Earlier this month, the White House passed a bill that would allow President Biden to completely ban the social media app.

The move renewed pressure dating back to 2020, when the Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok and WeChat, another popular Chinese app Used for social messaging and communication. Bytedance explored a potential sale of an ownership stake in TikTok to Oracle, which was never finalized. Federal courts have also challenged then-President Trump’s attempts to block the app a few years ago.

That year, India banned more than 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok, after escalating border skirmishes and growing concerns about Chinese military aggression. Governments in Britain, Canada and New Zealand have also restricted TikTok to government-owned devices.

Just what is the problem with TikTok?

According to TikTok, the app has about 150 million monthly active users in the US, but its widespread popularity has exacerbated suspicions among US officials that user data collected in the US could be transferred and used for espionage in China.

Republican and Democratic politicians in favor of selling or banning TikTok have cited concerns about the security of user data, and whether that information could be obtained by the Chinese government. They also took aim at TikTok’s history of content moderation, potential for spreading misinformation and Adverse effects on young peoplethe largest user base of the application.


To the American people watching today, hear this: TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you and manipulate and exploit what you see. [it] Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said during the hearing Thursday with TikTok CEO Chew.

In addition, Chew, who is Singaporean, faced questions about the charges Human rights violations in China and espionage, based on a Forbes report that Bytedance planned to use TikTok to monitor the locations of some US citizens.

In China, many US technology platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google have been blocked as part of the country’s strict internet censorship. Instead of TikTok, Chinese users have a sister version called Douyin, which is more strictly moderated than its overseas counterpart and limits the time young users can spend on the app.

Has TikTok addressed these concerns?

In his congressional appearance, Chew rejected the notion that TikTok was a tool of the Chinese Communist Party or a threat to US national security.

Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not It is owned or controlled by the Chinese government. In his opening statement, Qiu said it is a private company.


He assured the committee that TikTok would prioritize teen safety, protect US user data from unauthorized foreign access, guarantee freedom of expression and provide access to independent monitors to ensure transparency.

Qiu also outlined the company’s proposal to alleviate concerns about Chinese government influence. He said the company spent nearly $1.5 billion implementing the plan, called Project Texas, which involves the use of Oracle cloud computing company To direct and store user data in the United States, which gives the Austin, Texas company access to some of its technology.

“Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access or force access to it,” he said.

But his five hours of testimony did little to assuage lawmakers’ concerns about the app.

Researcher David Shin in Taipei contributed to this report.


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Why Biden’s Potential TikTok Ban Doesn’t Spook Influencers




The US government may be slowly moving towards a drastic restructuring of TikTok, if not an outright ban on the Chinese-owned social media app. But for Jesse Butler, the internet personality and singer with 4 million followers on the embattled platform, the buzz is old hat.

“I’m kind of closed off about it,” said Butler, 27, of Los Angeles. “I’m like: ‘No, there’s no way it could happen again.’” “

However it seems to be happening again. In 2020, President Trump — fueled by growing concerns about the app’s data privacy standards and its ties to the Chinese government — began pressing parent company ByteDance to spin off TikTok’s US assets or face a complete ban from the country.

Those efforts fizzled out after the courts blocked Trump’s bid to ban, but they haven’t gone away entirely. Now President Biden is after them again.


The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, has it It said He told ByteDance he had to Either sell TikTok or kick it out of the country. Meanwhile, Congress is considering wholesale bans on apps that China can control, and there appears to be significant bipartisan demand for change.

Xu Ziqiu, CEO of TikTok, testified before a House of Representatives committee in Washington Thursday morning, fielding questions about the platform’s data privacy, ties with China, and impact on US users.

“ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government,” Chiu said House Energy and Commerce Committee. In response to concerns about user privacy and safety, he added, “We believe what is needed are clear, transparent rules that apply broadly to all technology companies.”

In the opinion of many analysts, the commission Indicates an imminent crisis for TikTok.

“We see 3 to 6 months for ByteDance and TikTok to reach a sale to a US technology company,” investment firm Wedbush Securities said in a note to clients after the hearing. “If ByteDance fights this forced sale, TikTok will likely be banned in the US by late 2023.”


We would characterize today’s testimony… as a ‘disaster’ moment, the brokerage said.

However, TikTok creators who spoke with The Times this week described a mixture of sentiments in reaction to the growing possibility of bans or forced divestments. Some who make a significant amount of their earnings on the platform are concerned about how they will adapt. Others said they were less anxious, either because they had seen everything before or because they were more willing to adapt.

Butler, who joined the app in 2017 (when it was a app), during Trump’s campaign to ban the app, said she makes about 40% of her income through partnerships with brands. “We were all posting final videos and ‘if this is the last time we see you’” [messages] to our fans.”

Jaci Butler has been using TikTok since 2017. Now, she’s accounting for a federal crackdown on the app — the second such effort she’s faced since she joined.

(Brandon Friend Solis)


This time, she said, the nervous energy the TikTok community displayed in 2020 has been replaced by a quieter sadness.

“People don’t seem as freaked out as the first time,” said Alex Stemplewski, a TikTokker user in Orange County who is known for his photography. “My creative friends, they didn’t even come up with this to me. … People are like, ‘Well, we worked so hard about it the first time we thought it was going to happen, and it didn’t.’”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tone wasn’t the only thing that changed in the years since the federal TikTok campaign’s first push. Many social media creators and influencers have moved to diversify their online presence, asking their fans to follow them across multiple competing social media sites.


This task has become easier in recent years American technology companies I started release their own versions From TikTok’s signature format: an endless feed of quick videos powered by Invisible recommendation algorithms. Creators can now share TikTok-like content to YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and more.

“The first time that TikTok was potentially banned was a good wake-up call,” said Stemplewski, 33, who generates more than half of his earnings through TikTok. “It was a reminder that the sound business strategy for me as a content creator is to diversify.”

Emile El Nems, vice president and chief credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an email that a US TikTok ban would benefit competitors like YouTube, Instagram and Snap (which TikTok hosts copycats of Spotlight).

However, even if platforms like Reels and Pants offer viable alternatives, many creators feel emotionally attached to TikTok, which launched the current wave of ultra-short video stars.

“I had a lot of fun with this,” said Kelsey Kutzor, 29, a lifestyle and fashion influencer based in Brooklyn. “I learned a lot. I was able to reach an audience that I might not otherwise have been able to reach.”


As the Biden administration began hinting it might take action against the company, it began backing up its old posts on Pinterest and YouTube in case her phone suddenly stopped allowing her to open TikTok.

“Will we have to start over on another app?” she asked. “It messes with our creativity. We’re nervous. We’re all on edge, basically, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

To avoid banning TikTok, politicians have suggested that parent company ByteDance could instead sell its US operations to a local buyer, though the Chinese government said on Thursday. will oppose compulsory sale

It will be a less annoying change for TikTokers because they can still access the app. However, such a sale would raise new questions. For example: How can another owner change TikTok?

“I never thought my audience would be global, but it is,” Kotzor said, adding that she worried the new owner might change how the app’s content recommendation algorithm works. “I wonder if it was bought by an American company, if it wasn’t so globalized.”


The impact of the sale “really depends on who bought it,” Butler, the singer, said. “I think the concern is if something happens like Twitter and Elon, you know? How things kind of escalated.”

Elon Musk, the tech mogul who runs Tesla and SpaceX, acquired Twitter in october after a lengthy will-not-contradict-management. Since then, he’s laid off employees, faced legal challenges, overseen bugs and outages, put up a laundry list of site changes, and at one point, commissioned A system that aims to aggressively promote its posts to users.

For many Twitter users, this was a warning about what can happen when the popular social media app comes under new ownership.

Renewed efforts to ban TikTok have also thrown a wrench into the ambitions of new influencers.

Valeria Fredgotto, a 23-year-old student living in Chicago, has been building her presence on the app over the past few months, gaining popularity in part due to her participation in “remove effect” direction. You remember in 2020 seeing Instagram memes of the TikTok music logo emblazoned on a grave. Now it’s a TikTokker itself, and it has a personal stake in this.


“I don’t think people really believe anything is going to happen,” she said. “I hope people take it seriously — because now I’m inside, I’m like, ‘Okay, this can radically change the way I support myself.’” “

Los Angeles Times colleague Helen Lee contributed to this report.

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