In a plot that echoes what happened to J.K. Rowling herself after she publicly defended transphobic views, the author’s newest novel centers around a transphobic YouTuber facing online backlash.
In “The Ink Black Heart,” Edie Ledwell, a popular YouTube cartoon creator, is criticized by her fandom for being racist, ableist, and transphobic — that last one because of a bit about a hermaphroditic worm. According to Rolling Stone, photos of her house are pasted online, she receives death threats and eventually Ledwell winds up stabbed to death.
“The Ink Black Heart” is the sixth installment in Rowling’s “Cormoran Strike” mystery series, which she publishes under the penname Robert Galbraith.
The character of Ledwell bears a striking resemblance to Rowling. “Harry Potter,” like Ledwell’s cartoon, has been criticized for reinforcing problematic tropes — for instance, by creating an antisemitic caricature of goblins as long-nosed greedy bankers.
Rowling is also infamous for her transphobia. In 2019, she tweeted in support of Maya Forstater, who was fired for writing transphobic messages on Twitter.
Rowling doubled down on transphobic tweets by publishing a 4,000 word essay in 2020 arguing that allowing trans women into women’s spaces hurts women and that many trans men don’t truly need to transition.
Her arguments lost her fans and earned condemnation from numerous stars of the Potter films.
Marking another similarity to Ledwell, Rowling said she’s been doxxed.
Photos of her house were, in fact, put online in 2021 — though as Them noted, her two Edinburgh residences are both identifiable historical landmarks, one of which actually has its own Wikipedia page. Rowling has also received death threats at numerous points.
Despite all that, Rowling claimed, “The Ink Black Heart” isn’t about what happened to her.
“I had written the book before certain things happened to me online,” Rowling told Graham Norton.
The novel was published August 30, and immediately garnered a number of less-than-positive reviews.
“[I]t is almost literally unreadable unless you adore Rowling to the point where you would endure any torment that you thought she wanted you to undergo,” wrote Nathan J. Robinson in a review titled “J.K. Rowling’s New Novel Shows Why Having an Editor is Important.”
Twitter users also mocked the story for containing pages and pages of imaginary online posts. They noted one scene in particular where the book seems to make fun of spoon theory, a method of conceptualizing what it’s like to live with chronic illness.
“Can we just pull back for a second to untangle the fact that [Rowling] wrote a tweet from the POV of a disabled person, complaining about the lack of an author’s empathy for disabled ppl, on the SAME PAGE that she uses a disabled person’s struggles for humour?” one person tweeted.
Can we just pull back for a second to untangle the fact that she wrote a tweet from the POV of a disabled person, complaining about the lack of an author’s empathy for disabled ppl, on the SAME PAGE that she uses a disabled person’s struggles for humour?
— Fred Rochez (@frochez) September 1, 2022
Lark Malakai Grey, who co-hosts a queer “Harry Potter” podcast called “The Gayly Prophet,” told NPR he found the book embarrassing for Rowling and was gratified to see online derision toward “The Ink Black Heart.”
“She has published a 1,000-page self-insert fanfiction where she’s the victim — it’s the kind of behavior that you’d expect from a petulant teenager, not a grown adult with immense wealth and power,” Grey said. “Seeing the internet fill with jokes about the book has been an absolute joy after all the harm she has caused my community.”