Host Megan Phelps-Roper wrote to J.K. Rowling, and no – her response was not delivered via owl. Rowling replied with an unusual proposition and invited Phelps-Roper to her Scottish home for candid conversations as shared in “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.” In the series, the Harry Potter author discusses her life and career, tackling everything from her controversies to book bans, and debates on sex and gender.
The series also “examines some of the most contentious conflicts of our time” and will sit down with Rowling’s supporters, harshest critics, historians, clinicians, journalists, and other guests in future episodes.
Stream the podcast from episode one to learn more about Rowling’s backstory – from her mother’s death, leaving an abusive relationship, fearing her ex would burn Harry Potter drafts, and living in poverty, to writing one of the most successful and popular series of all time. There are episodes diving into 1990s culture, what happened when the first Harry Potter books were released, and the issues Rowling has been embroiled in over the last few years.
On the podcast, Rowling addressed her problematic tweets/commentary about gender and other topics that resulted in her writing an essay where she referenced the term “TERF” – “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” The essay elaborated on her 2019 tweets – when lawyer Maya Forstater was ousted from her job at the Centre for Global Development after a tweet that transgender women could not change their biological sex. In 2020, Rowling retweeted an article about “people who menstruate” and her comments raised eyebrows.
In an essay, Rowling wrote “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.” Rowling received backlash from the public, activists, and fans due its inflammatory content. Warner Brothers, the company behind the Harry Potter film franchise, stated they were not on board with Rowling’s comments or viewpoints. Cast members including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson also made statements in response.
In a podcast episode, Rowling said that her comments were “profoundly misunderstood” and that she “never set out to upset anyone.” She elaborated, “However, I was not uncomfortable with getting off my pedestal.” Rowling said she received “so many death threats I could paper the house with them”
In upcoming episodes, hear about the 1990s culture wars and the pushback from Christian communities when the books were released. They attempted to ban the Harry Potter series, and meanwhile, Rowling was ” accused of mainstreaming witchcraft and poisoning children’s minds.”
Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church in 2012 and wrote Unfollow, documenting her journey “loving and leaving extremism.”
“The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling” is a journalistic look at Rowling’s life, career, and pop culture surrounding her work. Tune in for new, weekly episodes wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.