They are beautiful. They elevate a beautiful thing to a higher level so it may be appreciated. They call attention to a thing and say “Look at this thing. It is important. It is beautiful. It is a shining example of perfection.” Pedestals are also precarious, and the thing balanced on top must ensure it keeps that perfection or it will topple down. The scariest thing about pedestals? It is how much delight people take in knocking the thing off.
More specifically let’s talk about the pedestals we place our idols, heroes, celebrities and mentors on. We love to read about (or watch) a flawed character in a fictional tale. We cling to Alice’s blind curiosity which sends her on a bumbling escapade through Wonderland where she gets into situations which are unsafe and questionable. We accept that the Doctor was the hand that killed two alien races and countless others, but he feels really bad and usually gives them a chance to choose the right side, so we empathize. Sherlock Holmes is an absolute arse to everyone including his friends and yet we find him charming in his sociopathic idiosyncrasies. (I’m right there with you on all these counts.) We enjoy a flawed character. They get to stay on their pedestal despite weaknesses. Unless they are a real person. Then we must not only ensure that person no longer stands on their pedestal, we must burn down anything tied to them.
This idea has been mulling around my brain in light of the recent disappointing news that JK Rowling most probably is a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist). *if you don’t find this news disappointing, I think we can agree to very strongly disagree* I am extremely saddened and frustrated by this news. I am understanding of the people who are hurt deeply by this. Fans who built so much of their lives around the world she created only to find out they do not fit her mold. I used to have a very high opinion of Rowling that is greatly diminished with disappointment. I want to make it clear I am not okay with Rowling’s standing as a TERF.
Rowling was on an extremely high pedestal held up by literally millions of fans and hundreds of deeds. She is learning how precariously balanced on that pedestal she was. I don’t presume to know if she cares, but we do. On either side of the issue, we care very much. I fully support discussions about this issue, but the ire in response to this very real issue has culminated to accusations beyond the issue.
I read one post that said “It’s not like she cares sitting on top of the pile of money.” Now we are lashing out and being petty about it. One, she earned that money. She worked her ass off for that money. Two, Rowling was the first millionaire to lose their millionaire status due to philanthropy. She has literally been paying it forward on her success. This act of charity does not excuse her being a TERF, but nor does being a TERF diminish the massive amount of charity she contributed back.
I have also read many comments telling people to stop reading her books, stop watching the movies, stop using words like patronous and houses to describe ourselves. A huge group of fans are left worried that if they still love the Potterverse, they are betraying their trans friends and family or themselves. Here’s the thing, I believe the Potterverse is bigger than Rowling. It no longer belongs to her alone. It belongs to all of us. The movies. The fan fiction. Hogwarts houses. The theme parks. Even Harry Potter himself. They belong to all of us; the fans, the actors who brought them to life, the authors, the artists.
Yes, I am saddened to discover that Rowling is a TERF. I am angry with her. But I am also saddened by the absolute glee with which many of us have brought her down. I will turn my back on Rowling and no longer be a fan that holds up her pedestal, but I will not be the one to take joy in her diminishment.
No one is perfect and we must many times answer for those imperfections. Rowling deserves the anger from her trans and trans-supportive fans. As the saying goes “Karma is only a bitch if you are” or something like that…
Here’s what I’m struggling with the most in situations like Rowling’s. Like the characters we love so much, real people are flawed. How do people move past those flaws? If Rowling truly came to a place where she decided that being a TERF was wrong, how does she make amends with those she hurt? If your answer is “she can’t”, you may be a part of the problem. How do we come together and learn to understand and respect one another if we don’t have the ability to get past our anger and hurt? How does the flawed character develop?
My “full” stage name is “Infamous Nina Nightshade” (no, there is not a “the” in front, it is a title like “Duchess”). I’ve been asked on occasion, why not “Famous”? It’s simple really, Infamous implies flaws. Infamous means I can not only be a shining example, it means I can be a terrible warning. Infamous means I can be both. Infamous means I cannot be placed on a pedestal only to be gleefully knocked off. Infamous is a form of protection that with either help me weather the storm or buffer my landing should I fall. I may still be bruised afterward and need to do some mending, but I won’t be broken.