JK Rowling has done a pretty good job at George Lucas-ing all the goodwill she built up from the Harry Potter series. While she has said questionable things about the series over the years, some funny and some less so, the one that still sticks out was when she compared those suffering from lycanthropy (i.e being a werewolf) in Harry Potter to those suffering from HIV/AIDS in the real world.
Back in 2016, Rowling dropped a book of Harry Potter trivia, titled Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, and it contained a very interesting tidbit about how Remus Lupin, the series’ token werewolf character, was meant to be a metaphor for the stigma faced by those suffering from diseases like HIV/AIDS.
“Lupin’s condition of lycanthropy was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS. All kinds of superstitions seem to surround blood-borne conditions, probably due to taboos surrounding blood itself. The wizarding community is as prone to hysteria and prejudice as the Muggle one, and the character of Lupin gave me a chance to examine those attitudes.”
Okay, I see what you’re trying to say there, JK Rowling, but how could you not see the issue with that particular metaphor?
HIV/AIDS is a disease spread by bodily fluids that suppresses the body’s immune system. It is something folks have to treat and monitor every day, and there’s still a big of a negative stigma about the disease among uninformed people.
Being a werewolf means you can live a normal life except for whenever there’s a full moon, in which case you’d turn into a vicious, uncontrollable beast who could infect others with lycanthropy by biting others. Oh, and many people in Harry Potter hate werewolves.
I can see how JK Rowling is trying to compare the negative stigma of being a werewolf to the negative stigma of having HIV/AIDS, but using a fictional beast that infects others through biting as a metaphor perhaps isn’t the best idea.
If Rowling wanted to talk about AIDS and the stigma associated with it, she could’ve just given a character AIDS instead of going through the trouble of making someone a werewolf and explaining to fans what it all actually means.
Unsurprisingly, folks on the internet weren’t too happy about this little metaphor and JK Rowling responded on Twitter by, well, side-stepping the issue a bit before essentially saying “this has been known for a while, you just missed it.”
Perhaps is a good thing she has resorted to revealing oddball facts like how wizards and witches dispose of their bowel movements because god forbid we get another problematic JK Rowling metaphor.