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Ralph Fiennes Says J.K. Rowling Backlash Is ‘Disturbing’: ‘I Can’t Understand the Vitriol’

Ralph Fiennes starred as Lord Voldemort in the "Harry Potter" film franchise.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2, Ralph Fiennes, 2011. ©2011 Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter publishing rights ©J.K.R. Harry Potter characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and ©Warner Bros. Ent. All rights reserved./Courtesy Everett Collection

Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ralph Fiennes voiced support for J.K. Rowling in a recent interview with The Telegraph (via The Hollywood Reporter). The actor, who starred as the villainous Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” film franchise, said he’s disturbed by the treatment of Rowling in the aftermath of her controversial opinions on gender identity and biological sex. Rowling’s views have been condemned as transphobic, and Fiennes’ “Harry Potter” co-stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and more all showed support for the transgender community in the aftermath of Rowling’s comments.

“I can’t understand the vitriol directed at her,” Fiennes told The Telegraph about Rowling and the backlash she’s faced over the last year. “I can understand the heat of an argument, but I find this age of accusation and the need to condemn irrational. I find the level of hatred that people express about views that differ from theirs, and the violence of language towards others, disturbing.”

Backlash against Rowling ignited June 6, 2020 after she posted a series of comments to Twitter in which she argued that discussing gender identity negates biological sex. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” the author wrote. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives.” Rowling later published an essay on the matter.

Radcliffe, who led Rowling’s “Harry Potter” film franchise in the title role, published a statement a few days later via  The Trevor Project’s website in which he stood up in support for the transgender community.

“Transgender women are women,” Radcliffe wrote in his open letter. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

Radcliffe continued, “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the [‘Harry Potter’] books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you … if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that.”

The Rowling backlash grew to such an extreme that Warner Bros. issued a statement on June 10, 2020. Warner Bros. is still in business with Rowling on the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, the third film for which is back in production.

“The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues,” the studio said. “Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”

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