In 1977, George Lucas released one of the very most indelible bits of pop culture ever sold with an unsuspecting public. Legend Wars took the world by push and has transcended entertainment to become common world-wide touchstone. For exactly twenty years, it felt as if no other fictional world could ever reach the same levels as a galaxy significantly, far away. However in 1997, J.K. Rowling released the first Harry Potter novel. Now everyone you know can let you know which Hogwarts House they participate in. The jargon — Quidditch, Muggle, etc. — has inserted our lexicon and our dictionaries.
The two creators also reveal a lot in keeping. Both were scrappy fighters, believing in their worlds when no one else does. Both focused their stories around Chosen One children who learn lessons about morality, empathy, and sacrifice. Both spent years creating their fictional universes, applying guidelines and long histories to flesh out the narrative. Both tried to use their well-constructed lore to expand their cultural footprint. They both offered us so much, but cultivating an ardent fanbase is similar to supplying a mouse a cookie. We have been both ravenous and exacting. And it now appears J.K. Rowling is on a collision course, repeating the mistake of prequel-era Lucas.
Oceans of printer ink have spilled combing through every misstep created by Lucasfilm when it comes to the Star Wars prequels. I won’t squander our time wading too profound, but last but not least: regardless of how you are feeling about the complex accomplishments or storytelling in the Superstar Wars prequels, the stilted and disjointed narrative concentrating on politics and trade was a far cry from the simple and familiar Hero’s Journey Luke Skywalker undertook in the original trilogy. The resonant contacts fans experienced with Luke, Leia, and Han as they battled felt absent from the prequels. It’s hard to connect with a whiny protagonist that murders children. Placing the focus on Anakin instead of Obi-Wan or Padme created a barrier to psychologically connecting with the audience. Everybody loves Darth Vader, but no person wants to root for him.
Now it seems J.K. Rowling is going down the same course Lucas tread before her, though by another path. Almost immediately after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, Rowling started writing tidbits from her notes that never made it into the final novels. Fans learned trivial things such as Luna Lovegood’s career and the names of every child delivered to the main cast. There were head-scratchers like a simplistic view of American background, and there were shockers like the simple fact that Dumbledore was homosexual. That last nugget of information was fell back in 2007, this means admirers have known Dumbledore was “canon-adjacent” into men for over ten years. Now she’s walked that statement back. Dumbledore will not be “explicitly” homosexual in the future Fantastic Beasts 2, a story that views Dumbledore coping with the actual fact that the person he’s in love with — Grindelwald — is basically a Wizard Nazi. The backlash has been quick and brutal.
While taking different routes, both Lucas and Rowling have arrived at similar destinations. Tinkering with their worlds has brought them only lover ire. The backlash against Lucas was for poor storytelling and stiff performances. Lucas missed what it was about Superstar Wars that resonated with is lovers and the result was Lucas eventually providing Lucasfilm to Disney. On the other hand, J.K. Rowling’s mouth area made inspections she can’t cash. Adding LGBTQA+ representation following the truth resonated with supporters that longed to see themselves shown in reviews at Hogwarts. Rowling also attempted to relieve the blinding whiteness of her world by suggesting Hermione could very well be dark. But once it was time to place an openly gay Dumbledore on display, she demurred. Increase that her support of Johnny Depp despite credible allegations of home mistreatment, and you have a creator simply not attaching with their group of fans.
Of course, it’s the right of the creator to improve their story however they see fit. Lucas and Rowling both created beloved fictional universes that been successful beyond their wildest dreams. However, in that success, the rules change if they like it or not. When you have churches springing up in the name of the Jedi, professional Quidditch clubs, and literal representations of your eyesight become more active as theme parks, the energetic shifts. Right or wrong, audiences will feel possessive of these properties they’ve poured money and time into. The desire to perfect or add-on to a creative effort is seductive. Not an creator alive hasn’t noticed the nagging internal voice whispering that yet another forward and the draft will be flawless. But trying out a story is like pulling a stray thread over a sweater. Maybe from the flaw easily removed, or maybe tugging too hard will unravel the whole with techniques you could never consider.