Hogwarts Legacy‘s release has been quite controversial for several reasons, including the many issues with J.K. Rowling’s outspoken anti-trans propaganda and what seemed like unwillingness to respond to it in meaningful ways on the developer’s part. This was not the only contentious fact about the game, as Hogwarts Legacy‘s representation of the Goblin Rebellion in the Harry Potter universe was seen as an antisemitic narrative that further made prospective players distance themselves from the project. When it was later revealed that Hogwarts Legacy‘s Sirona Ryan was a transgender witch, many gamers felt betrayed by the developer’s silence, and her introduction too wasn’t immune to further controversies.
Although Hogwarts Legacy was made without the involvement of J.K. Rowling, it was being marketed at a time when the author was proudly flaunting her earnings from Harry Potter as an IP in response to the outrage on trans people’s part. Even the name Sirona Ryan didn’t sit right with former Harry Potter fans, as Rowling herself is known for on-the-nose names for stereotypical characters. One of the biggest examples is the inclusion of Asian characters in the book series in the form of Cho Chang. On top of that, Hogwarts Legacy‘s dialogue doesn’t allow Sirona – the first canonically trans character in Rowling’s universe – to really shine.
Why Hogwarts Legacy’s Sirona Ryan Was Too Little, Too Late
One could argue that Avalanche Software had the perfect opportunity to wear Hogwarts Legacy‘s trans representation on its sleeve by making Sirona known to the public via marketing material, and this would have immediately turned the public’s opinion on the game on its head – at least to a degree. Something like this would have sent a clear message to those hurt by Rowling’s nonsensical hate campaign, with many of them being former fans of Harry Potter books and movies.
There were even boycott attempts against Hogwarts Legacy at the hands of those that scorned the decision to make yet another big Harry Potter-inspired property that would net more money for Rowling, thus still giving her a platform to actively discriminate against one minority. As such, if Hogwarts Legacy were instead to lean onto its transgender representation before launch, the game wouldn’t have suffered from all these controversies as much. However, the fact that players had to find out that a trans character was in the game by playing, that she goes by the name of Sirona Ryan, and that her only reference to this is “It took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard” all are disappointing choices.
While the character’s introduction was probably a gesture of goodwill towards the trans community, be it people who had ties to the Harry Potter franchise or just people who were being and still are discriminated against on a regular basis, the attempt was klutzy, to say the least. Even when asked about comments regarding the Rowling controversy and support for trans people in interviews, the developer skirted the issue even though it had the chance to talk about Hogwarts Legacy‘s Sirona Ryan and her gender identity.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Avalanche Software didn’t want to do this, and things might have been more complicated than they seemed on the administrative level. Even then, and even with Hogwarts Legacy not standing up for trans people in a time of need, transgender representation within the game should have been done justice. As it stands, Hogwarts Legacy‘s sale numbers and the fact that a separate Harry Potter Quidditch game is coming are only bringing Rowling back into the limelight, and this does no favors to the trans community’s well-being. This will hopefully present an opportunity for a Hogwarts Legacy sequel to rectify Sirona’s depiction and represent trans people in a more meaningful way – and not only in the game.
Hogwarts Legacy is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, with a Switch version releasing November 14.
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