Warner Bros. Touts ‘Inclusive Culture’ After Rowling Dustup

Warner Bros. Touts ‘Inclusive Culture’ After Rowling Controversy

(Bloomberg) -- Warner Bros., the studio behind the “Harry Potter” movie series, said its “position on inclusiveness is well established,” after author J.K. Rowling made remarks about transgender people that members of the films’ cast called discriminatory.

The comment from the studio, a unit of AT&T Inc., hinted that it disagreed with Rowling’s position on transgender people, but stopped short of criticizing Rowling or saying it would sever ties with the author. The film series based on Rowling’s books about a boy wizard took in more than $9 billion at the box office and are a key selling point for AT&T’s just-launched streaming service HBO Max.

“The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues,” Warner Bros. said in a statement. “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.”

The Harry Potter franchise is among the most valuable in Hollywood, with spinoff movies, theme parks, toys and distribution rights still generating millions of dollars in revenue.

Rowling, one of the most commercially successful authors of all time, has opined on trans issues for years, but came under fire earlier this week after criticizing an article from global development-focused media group Devex that used the phrase “people who menstruate.”

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted on June 6. She was swiftly criticized by trans activists. In the following days, the stars of the Harry Potter franchise, including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne and Katie Leung, said they disagreed with her stance.

Rowling expanded on her comments in an essay, saying that if laws don’t protect the concept of biological sex, it puts women in danger.

“I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe,” Rowling wrote. “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman -- and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones -- then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.”

Watson said transgender people “deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”

Warner Bros. and other divisions of AT&T have been trying to adapt to evolving social norms, sometimes awkwardly. The HBO Max streaming service removed “Gone With the Wind” this week, only to later tell viewers it would be bringing the controversial movie back “with a discussion of its historical context.” The 1939 Oscar-winning drama is often criticized for racial stereotypes and how it glorified the South during and after the Civil War.

WarnerMedia plans to return “Gone With the Wind” to HBO Max as soon as next week with an introduction by a prominent scholar of African American studies, the Washington Post reported late Wednesday, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the matter. A WarnerMedia spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company isn’t alone in grappling with the content in its library. Netflix Inc. and other streaming services cut a number of British comedy shows from their lineup this week because of depictions of blackface. And the reality shows “Cops” and “Live P.D.” were canceled by the Paramount Network and A&E, respectively, after worldwide protests against police violence.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.