• Michael T. Christensen

George Lucas and J. K. Rowling Both Became Their Villains... But Her Villain is Irredeemable

"Death of the Author" and authorial intent have been a point of discussion in online spaces for quite some time, and two divisive creators were the targets of much of the debate: J. K. Rowling, who kept adding details to Harry Potter after-the-fact, and George Lucas, who continued editing his work as decades went on.

Then, after some time passed, they both wrote a poorly-received series of prequel films, while simultaneously pushing a huge media empire of tie-in content. Lucas had a head start, and his prequel films came out while hype for Rowling's first series was at its apex (we are sadly still in the middle of Rowling's ill-advised prequel film series).

And I'd been planning to write about that for some time, but in all honesty, others have already discussed it... and then Rowling changed the narrative.

Lucas eventually sold his career-defining properties to Disney, and then donated a large of the money to charity and started building low-income housing (though the project has been stalled due to pushback from local politics). In his words, "we have enough millionaires."

Rowling uses her considerable influence to push anti-transgender messaging and conspiracy theories, encouraging her fans to buy hateful merchandise. If we accept the premise that Rowling is on a similar career trajectory as Lucas, simply a decade or two behind, then I shudder to think what will happen when Rowling steps back from her creative role in Pottersville, and begins to solely dedicate herself to the causes that matter to her.

Over the course of thirty years of success, George Lucas eventually became what he once fought against. He was part of the studio system, the head of a huge corporation that called the shots for smaller creators. Even documentaries produced about his early success can't get away from comparing him to the villains - the latest documentary about the original trilogy is called "Empire of Dreams," because somewhere along the way we forgot that the Empire in Star Wars was evil. (How about "Dreams of a Rebel" instead? No? Okay then.)

The Empire has all of the resources, and Vader kills anyone who disappoints him. While I've not heard any stories that Lucas is a tyrant or a yeller, he certainly availed himself of the privilege afforded to the successful: he surrounded himself with people who agreed with him. The prequel trilogy is full of ideas presented by someone who simply wasn't told "no."

The third prequel film even ends with the major villain editing the narrative about the Jedi, while Lucas was actively editing his old films to fit with his own, shifting preferences.

How fitting that Rowling also became her famous villain.

The Empire has no ideals; they simply crave power and control. Whenever anyone makes a sales pitch about joining the Dark Side, they use some variation of the same phrase: "join me, and we will control the galaxy."

But Voldemort has an ideology. He presents a world of otherness, of protecting privileged people from the perceived invaders, and trying to prevent people he views as "dirty" or "less than" himself. While Rowling spent the past few years making accurate comparisons between Trump's administration and Voldemort's tactics, she missed the fact that she began to take on some of the same traits of her infamous antagonist.

She seems to genuinely believe that transgender people are the biggest threat she can dedicate her time to fighting. Oh, she may not want them to die, but she can't admit that they are what they claim to be. She now sells pins that say "transgender women are men," and denies anyone who claims otherwise.

They can't be wizards, because they weren't born from good wizard stock.

And now her former fans have begun to treat her the way wizards treated Voldemort; they are reluctant to say her name, because talking about her gives her power. Jokes abound about how "no one wrote Harry Potter," because they want to preserve what they have without addressing what happened afterward. Other voices point out lines from the earlier books that show how toxic she "always was," and perhaps that's a discussion for another day. But the truth is, she has given herself over to hate.

Darth Vader has few ideals outside of maintaining the Empire. That's why people wear Darth Vader shirts and buy Stormtrooper merchandise; despite the fact that they're modeled after real-world villains, much of their real-world evil has been filed away. The Empire represents power without morality. Which is why even those who dislike the prequels can still enjoy Lucas' other work, because you can argue that he simply "lost his way" and gave in to the draw of power and control.

But Voldemort represents hate. Most people don't wear Voldemort shirts or get Death Eater tattoos, because his evil feels too real, too close to home.

Darth Vader eventually threw off the shackles of his evil and redeemed himself, although he could not live to see the new world he had created for the next generation. But Voldemort could not be redeemed; he was hateful to his core.

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