‘Fantastic Beasts’ has become the world’s most problematic movie franchise

‘Fantastic Beasts’ has become the world’s most problematic movie franchise

Is Fantastic Beasts cursed?

After two films and with a third on the way, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter prequel franchise is now in the unenviable position of having a trio of its key talents in varying temperatures of hot water.

Author JK Rowling has served as the films’ screenwriter, yet is now a serious flashpoint of controversy due to her past (and still ongoing statements) about trans issues that have prompted even the stars of the Harry Potter and the Fantastic Beasts films to denounce her comments and distance themselves.

Star Johnny Depp plays the franchise’s villain Gellert Grindelwald and has been under fire for years due to domestic violence allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Actor Ezra Miller plays the critical lynchpin character, Credence Barebone, and in April was slammed after a video appeared on social media of a man presumed to be Miller seemingly choking a female fan to the ground outside a pub in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Obviously, each situation is very different and comes with its own context. Rowling has been universally criticized for her trans beliefs, while she maintains that she’s a lifelong progressive advocating women’s rights. Depp has strongly denied Heard’s claims, saying that she abused him instead, and some fans feel Depp was exonerated by a leaked audio recording in January of Heard saying things to Depp such as, “I was hitting you” and “I can’t promise I won’t get physical again. I fucking get so mad sometimes I lose it.” Depp is also suing The Sun newspaper for libel over the abuse claims in a trial that’s expected to begin soon and could lend an official verdict of sorts to the issue. Miller has yet to comment on the choking video, which is unconfirmed to be him.

The problem for Fantastic Beasts is less about the particulars of each case (though the Rowling issue appears especially damaging, at least at the moment) than the fact there are now three lightning-rod talents attached to one upcoming film — which has some other baggage to carry as well.

The previous Fantastic Beasts movie, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, wrestled mightily with how to handle Depp, who divorced Heard in 2016. The actor made an in-character appearance at San Diego Comic-Con and agreed to do just one interview to promote the film. Adding to the uproar surrounding the movie, some fans accused Crimes of keeping Dumbledore in the closet and handling Nagini’s storyline in a racially offensive manner. Going into the third film, it is like that scene in Titanic when the captain realizes that five lower deck compartments have flooded: “[The ship] can stay afloat with the first four compartments breached, but not five. Not five!” The question is whether a massive expensive family-friendly film franchise can stay afloat with so many of its compartments flooded.

Because there’s yet another factor to consider (another compartment, if you will) and that is Beasts‘ box office. The first film, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, grossed a hearty $814 million worldwide. Then Crimes worrisomely fell to $654 million worldwide (despite adding Jude Law to the cast as a charismatic young version of the fan-favorite character Albus Dumbledore), and also received much weaker reviews (just 36 percent “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes). The decline in fan interest and critical esteem set up the third film to have a considerable headwind going against it — and that’s before you add all of the above.

And yet, halting the franchise could be financially painful for the studio as well. The first two films begin a story and their future value as products (for fans to rent and own) hinge on that story being complete. Even if the remaining films merely broke even at the box office, they would arguably be worthwhile since a complete story from beginning to end is always going to be more valuable in the streaming afterlife.

And remember, there are supposed to be five of these movies! The original plan was to make a quintet of Beasts movies, each set in a different country in the Wizarding World.

So what happens now?

Production on the third film — largely set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — was scheduled to begin March 13, but filming was halted at the last minute due to the pandemic. The release date was Nov. 12 2021, but that will presumably change. Warner Bros. isn’t commenting about the controversies for the time being.

Arguably the most difficult issue is Rowling, who is creatively integral to the franchise and quite adamant in her views — the author doing a total about-face and apologizing seems unlikely (and for many, it won’t matter at this point if she does). On the third film, she’s joined by Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, but there’s no getting around the fact that she co-wrote the script and has outlined the remaining films. The Wizarding World belongs to Rowling just as much as Middle-earth belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien. To some extent, a certain degree of fandom uproar about major franchises seems increasingly inevitable (Marvel and Star Wars have had controversies, too, in recent years). Yet Beasts is now carrying a collective burden that no spell can easily vanish.

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7 Comments

  1. Julian_woodhouse
    July 09, 12:58 Reply

    Cancel culture is becoming problematic. For the same reason why statements like “I don’t see colour” are problematic is the same reason why trying to erase biological differences as a criterion for sex is problematic. You can be a transwoman in your own right and still have basic human rights afforded to you without infiltrating spaces that are specific to ciswomen. Some countries don’t need people to undergo physiological changes to be categorised as women. And these people want access to women spaces where victims of sexual violence from men want some recuse. Why can’t transpeople be comfortable carving a niche for their hard won rights without trivialising the legitimate concerns of ciswomen simply because they might have some privileges that are not yet accessible to them. Someone raises an issue and because it doesn’t fit mainstream ideals of what liberalism is… You attempt to censure and cancel her. The times are becoming strangely orwellian.

    • Flexsterous
      July 09, 21:39 Reply

      “Why are gay people not content with being left alone in their pervasion? Why do they want to get married, own houses and adopt children that they’ll corrupt with their deviant lifestyle? Why were these black people not comfortable carving a niche at the back of the bus where they we’re confined and respect the rights of white people not wanting to associate with them” that’s what you sound like, and where are these ciswomen spaces that trans women should stay out of, bathrooms? or is it the sexual violence spaces? cause they(trans women) themselves aren’t victims afterall, its not like they are being raped and killed or anything. SMH

      • LemonSix
        July 10, 18:46 Reply

        Read what Julian said, again.

        I’ll quote a portion you conveniently ignored as you rushed into asking questions you believed run parallel to Julian’s:

        “You can be a transwoman in your own right and still have basic human rights afforded to you without infiltrating spaces that are specific to women”

        Note the mention of basic human rights.

        So, maybe getting married to a consenting person is part of that, no?

        I won’t even go the one about owning a house, because that one’s weak AF.

        As for adopting children they’ll corrupt with their deviant lifestyle, I’ll ask you to note that none of the GC women you love to hate (and are working in vain to cancel) is saying transsexuals have deviant lifestyles.

        And you see that whole analogy about black people… I guess you were never explicitly told that public infrastructure is exactly what it is, public.

        So, there, I’ve said it.

        And about the right of white people to not associate with blacks… Hey, if you stay in your house, I won’t come there and ask you to associate with me.

        Heck, even in public, in a molue, that guy who is sweating all over your business isn’t demanding that you associate with him. He’s just making use of the same public facility you’re making use of.

        Finally, transsexuals are victims of violence and disrespectful acts, and we GC folks acknowledge that.

        And we’re all wondering where y’all TRAs got the wonderful idea that MEN are killing transwomen because women aren’t letting them into women’s spaces.

        • Flexsterous
          July 11, 22:51 Reply

          By saying “infiltrating spaces specific to women” you’re saying trans women aren’t real women, and should stay away from real women. I’m not a trans woman, I’m a black gay man, some people still think I’m not a man cause I’m gay and an unworthy human like they are just cause I’m black. I don’t have the patience to counter every point you made swing as we differ in transwowen being women.

      • julian_woodhouse
        July 10, 20:32 Reply

        Simply drawing parallels between other demands made by social justice movements and demands currently being made by the trans movement is not an argument. Each social movement and struggles have peculiarities specific to them that must be brought to the fore when discussing them rather than utilising a one-size-fits-all approach to paint every single demand made by civil rights movement as one and the same. Let’s look at a specific issue first. Banning trans people from the army. Male and female are both allowed to serve to the best of their capacity to defend their countries and actualise. Why should trans people not be allowed that same right. Is there something inherent in their status as trans people that make them incapable of serving dutifully in the army? Does their trans status compromise the army’s ability to function in any way. Polling data, common sense and research has shown that this is not the case. Why then should they be denied this right? Thus, you can classify this particular action as transphobic.
        .
        Sometimes, discrimination in certain instances are justified. If you deny a blind man a job as an air traffic controller, no one would bat an eye…. but refuse a blind man a chance to perform as a singer because he is bling and there’d obviously be backlash that you’re able-ist and reasonably so.
        .
        let’s look at another issue: sports. There is a reason why there are male and female distinctions in sport. Females could have fought to enter the same space as men but because of difference in physicality. Females are given their own category to compete against themselves. There is a reason why females are not clamouring for equality in the sporting arena because this puts them at a serious disadvantage. Now, trans women growing up were predisposed to testosterone which affected the way their bone development and overall body structure came to being not to mention that taking these hormonal supplements are not even a pre-requisite to identify as trans. It has now become psychosocial for the most part. Even when they undergo sex changes and become female, the effects of these hormones in their previous sex still exist in some form. Would it then be fair to tell cis-women to compete in the same category as transwomen when the very concept of sports centres around creating a fair playing field. People who have tried to raise this issue have been labelled “trans-phobic”
        .
        .
        Let’s look at another issue: specifically, the issue that was raised by J.K. Rowling. Women disproportionately suffer sexual violence at the hands of male. These women need safe spaces where they do not have to fear their abusers. These women have found spaces where they can feel safe and have their issues sorted out. The laws in several European states are being mended such that people who have not undergone sexual change and have no intention to do so are for all intents and purposes women. Would these rape victims and sexual abuse survivors feel comfortable if those sorts of people have access to that space? The answer is no. Is there something inherent in their trans-status that allows for discrimination. Yes, the fact that their physical disposition constitutes a threat for these people. For the same reasons these groups are closed to men is the same reason these groups are closed to them. J.K. Rowling’s said this…. J.K. Rowling’s is transphobic.
        .
        .
        Let’s deal with this very specific issue and not conflate every issue together. The issue on bathrooms is different. All toilets could become unisex, they could add a third category for non-binary, they could mandate you to use the one you were at birth or use the current gender you identify as. It’s not as if there’s a security division at toilets tasked with ensuring the right genders use the right toilet. That is a different issue. Toilets are not necessarily safe spaces.
        .
        .
        Back to the sexual violence spaces because transwomen are still victims. There is nothing wrong with forming support groups specific to trans people the same way black women, gay people and other minorities have support groups specific to lines of their identity. I’ve been typing for quite a while but the point you should take from this write-up is this. These support groups are safe spaces and these women are still minorities. Sexism does not stop simply because you’re Beyoncé. The sexist man who does not know who she is, would still be sexist towards her. If you read her follow up article (J.K. Rowling), you’d realise that there’s a gender dysmorphia in the trans community post transitioning. If you look like Laverne Cox, you’ve made a commitment to being seen in that light. Why should people who still look masculine and could very well identify as male the very next day be allowed access to those spaces. What then is the point of gender and sex?
        .
        .
        Anytime someone has a contrarian view about identity politics that does not conform to mainstream posturing, that person is transphobic….cue chimamanda because she said one time like that that trans women are different from cis women. A lot of nuanced conversations can’t be had because of all this virtue signalling and posturing that happens on twitter.
        .
        .
        Is not being allowed into safe spaces reserved for ciswomen the same as denying them job opportunities, preventing them from getting married, “leaving them in their perversion”. The simple answer is no.

        • Flexsterous
          July 11, 23:25 Reply

          I have basically no problem with everything you wrote but this part “Would these rape victims and sexual abuse survivors feel comfortable if those sorts of people have access to that space? The answer is no”. Cause it still sees trans women as men.

          Whenever I’m personally faced with such quandry I try to put myself in the situation to see if it would be ok with me if I face a similar challenge or restriction. So many gay men have boundary issues when it comes respecting straight men, so it should be reasonable and fair to restrict gay men from playing team sports where they could see these straight men naked and make them uncomfortable in the locker rooms.

          If we let people be with what makes them uncomfortable none of the civil rights would have been achieved, issues had to be forced, women had to get in men’s faces for the right to vote and be any thing other than a house wife, black people had to get into white peoples faces, Mary slessor had to challenge the killing of twins.

          I dont know about you, but i wouldn’t like to be told what I can’t do because I make someone else uncomfortable. I guess at the end of it, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • Flexsterous
          July 11, 23:32 Reply

          Plus, there are cis women with beards, muscles and those who are very masculine, would those women be allowed into those spaces, or would it make the other women uncomfortable as well?

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