Some millennials are still waiting for their Hogwarts letter more than two decades after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was released in the United States. The book topped the New York Times bestsellers list, and its sequels were enormously popular too. But not everyone raced to join Dumbledore's Army. The book that launched a media empire also held the top spot on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2009.
Initially, most of the concerns over J.K. Rowling's wizarding world were religious. Father Daniel Reehil, the pastor of St. Edward Church & School in Nashville, Tennessee, sent parents an email claiming that "the curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text." Therefore, he explained, the school was removing the book from its library. Christian parents in Minnesota, Michigan, New York, California, and South Carolina issued demands for the series to be exorcized from their school libraries too. Even Pope Benedict XVI weighed in on the controversy, writing in 2003 when he was still a cardinal that the books "deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly."
While these concerns diminished over time, new ones originated from the other end of the political spectrum, and Rowling remains She Who Must Not Be Named. In December 2019, the author was lambasted for supporting Maya Forstater, an infamous trans-exclusionary radical feminist. "Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill," Rowling tweeted, triggering outrage from trans activists and their allies.
Separating Rowling from her work—which has earned her nearly $1 billion—has been a challenge for Potterheads. A few have gone as far as hosting book-burning parties or lighting their copies of Harry Potter books aflame on TikTok.
For different reasons, many progressive millennials and traditional Christian parents share a disdain for the series. But perhaps that's the mark of a great story—everyone can find cause both to love it and to hate it.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.