Despite HBO’s mealy-mouthed assertions that Potter is “affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance,” the franchise can’t separate itself from Rowling’s transphobic reputation. She’s the celebrity face of anti-trans politics, and this show will bolster her prominence in the public eye. Meanwhile, a new cast of child actors will be thrust into the spotlight, publicly attached to an increasingly toxic franchise.
Amid these concerns, many fans (or former fans) also critiqued a less fraught element of the Potter TV announcement: The promise that it will be a “faithful” adaptation. This idea unintentionally highlights the pointlessness of adapting Harry Potter again, because the original movies… were already very faithful to the text.
This isn’t a scenario like Percy Jackson or His Dark Materials, where a new reboot can correct the mistakes of an unpopular, “disloyal” adaptation. People still love the Potter films, which stick relatively close to the source material. A TV series will offer more time to flesh out the details—but some of those details were left out for a reason.
In fact, while Warner Bros. is keen to capitalize on Potter‘s lingering popularity, the iconic nature of the movies is a double-edged sword. As many people snidely pointed out, HBO Max’s announcement video uses the original Potter logo, Hogwarts outline, and nostalgia-inducing music by John Williams. The new adaptation will have to thread the needle on retaining this brand recognition while offering “new” takes on familiar material.
Casting the adult characters may prove especially tricky, because the films already used up a ton of A-list British talent. And in 2023, some actors may not wish to associate themselves with Rowling.
It goes without saying that Potter is a major cash cow for Warner Bros., but this TV announcement feels notably cynical compared to, say, a new Star Wars spinoff. With theme parks and merchandise on the line, Warner Bros. is desperate to keep Potter afloat. But the original cast are unlikely to return for a Cursed Child movie, and Fantastic Beasts flopped. This leaves the studio with limited options, catering to a controversial author who retains a lot of creative control.
Ironically, there’s already a potential Potter spinoff that fans have been clamoring to see for years: A Marauders-era story, covering the period when Harry’s parents were at school. But Rowling doesn’t want to do that, and seems unwilling to hand over the reins to other writers in the Potter universe. In fact, this HBO show is such a Rowling-centric production that it will be co-run by her literary agent and the showrunner of Rowling’s Cormoran Strike TV series.
So if Warner Bros. wants to keep making Potter content, they have no choice but to retread old ground, attempting to outshine a film series that fans already adore.