Haley Saffren ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Writing a novel is difficult. It can take years to complete a book and make sure there are no grammatical errors, that the plot is consistent and flows, that there is enough imagery to create a clear picture, etc., and even then there might be flaws within the book. J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter, one of the most popular series in the world, from the ground up. Yet, recently she has proven that even she faces challenges, especially when it comes to pleasing her fans. Rowling’s reluctance to make the Grindelwald and Dumbledore relationship, seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald, overtly romantic has sparked mass controversy and reignited the conversation of what is considered fan service and whether it is okay in novels.
Fan service in books is when an author listens to what their fan base wants and puts it in their novel. As the creator of the story, the author should have the final word as to what content goes into their story. While J.K. Rowling confirmed that Dumbledore is gay and in love with Grindelwald and the subtlety of the relationship makes sense for the Harry Potter series, she is now trying to justify why making it more obvious in the new stories coming out makes sense. This received backlash for various reasons, the two biggest being that LGBT representation is not frequent in novels especially explicit representation, and it seems like Rowling is only making it more obvious to appeal to a wider audience. J.K. Rowling is in complete control over the Harry Potter books and it is not her obligation to bend to her fans’ every whim, but the backlash is understandable and deserved.
Fans are an integral part of a book’s success. They are the ones who make a story popular and they are the ones who find themselves connecting to stories for various reasons. However, this generation has given a voice to the fans that are passionate about representation and the ones who notice when an element of a novel does not add up. They are the ones who are not afraid to demand changes be made to a story if they feel like it is necessary. These fans may look ungrateful, but there are times where they actually make a lot of reasonable points. For example, there are times when a romantic relationship does not have enough moments, and there are times when a character does something so out of character that it should be justified by the author.
These are some of the few instances where fans are better aware of than the author themselves. While the author should still have complete control over their own story, they should not always disregard the fans as being too crazy or only complaining because they did not get what they wanted. These fans actually make valid points and being part of the fan base, they should be taken seriously because they care enough about the material to try and get the inconsistencies fixed. That does not mean the author should bend to their fans’ every whim, but there are times when they should listen to what the fans are trying to say and take it under consideration. Fan service is not always about pandering to the fans; it can also be about improving a story, which is what J.K. Rowling could do if she listened to her fans about the Dumbledore and Grindelwald relationship.
Fan service can get to the point where it is excessive, but it can also be beneficial for source material. J.K. Rowling hesitating to make the romantic aspect of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship explicit would be pandering to the fans, but in a wonderful way. It would confirm Dumbledore is gay and that the subtle hints of his romantic relationship with Grindelwald wasn’t just another case of queerbaiting. Authors listening to fans’ demands is not always required to make a book better, but it is definitely worth listening to what all the fuss is about.