Daniel Radcliffe’s Freudian feud with JK Rowling

The Harry Potter star is still taking potshots at the woman who made him famous.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Culture Identity Politics

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Daniel Radcliffe (he / him) wants you to know he’s ‘sad’ about JK Rowling’s insistence that women and men are distinct categories of human.

‘I do look at the person that I met… and the world that she created, and all of that is to me so deeply empathic’, said the Harry Potter actor in a querulous interview in the Atlantic last month. Supposedly, by refusing to accept that women can have penises, Rowling is betraying that empathetic legacy. Bring out the nonbinary-size tissues.

Back in 2020, Radcliffe issued a statement rebuking Rowling for her views. ‘Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people’, he claimed. He says that, having worked with the Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention hotline for LGBTQ+ youth, it would have taken ‘immense cowardice’ to not speak out against her.

Framing his vilification of Rowling as a noble act might be the former child star’s most breathtaking performance to date. Far from being brave, mouthing mindless mantras about ‘trans rights’ seems to be a prerequisite for anyone who wants to get so much as a toe on the red carpet these days. Clearly, Radcliffe has neither the wit to go off-script, nor the guts to step out of line from the chorus of woke celebrities he is so desperate to join.

With almost admirable chutzpah, Radcliffe talks of ‘empathy’ while refusing to acknowledge the stream of threats and abuse Rowling regularly receives from trans activists. And for someone with an apparent interest in adolescent mental health, he has remained remarkably tight-lipped about the findings of the Cass Review, which have vindicated Rowling’s concerns about gender ideology. The report revealed that some of the most vulnerable children in Britain have been put on an irreversible pathway to sterilisation without any solid evidence that this would help them. As Rowling said following its publication last month: ‘Kids have been irreversibly harmed, and thousands are complicit, not just medics, but the celebrity mouthpieces, unquestioning media and cynical corporations.’

Of course, most of the problems raised in the Cass Review have long been visible for anyone who has cared to look. In 2017, at around the time Radcliffe’s co-star and fellow trans activist, Emma Watson, was getting her breasts out in a photoshoot for Vanity Fair, Keira Bell was preparing to lie on an operating table for a double mastectomy. Bell, who has since been at the forefront of a legal case against the prescription of puberty blockers to children, had been led to believe by activists that she would be happier living as a transgender man. Today, breastless and with a voice deepened by testosterone, Bell regrets her decision and lives without knowing if she will be able to have children. For some reason, tales like hers have never troubled the botoxed brows of the Hollywood elite.

There is something undeniably Freudian in Radcliffe’s disavowal of the woman who gave him his career. Despite desperately tugging at the umbilical cord, he has been unable to break free of the Harry Potter spell. Clearly, he resents his showbiz mummy.

In a rare moment of self-reflection, Radcliffe told the Atlantic: ‘Harry Potter is going to be the first line of my obituary.’ In this, he was not acting, nor saying what was most comfortable. For once, he was telling the unvarnished truth.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Culture Identity Politics


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