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The special, which was released on New Year’s Day (1 January), features interviews from the cast and directors of the film series, who were interviewed especially for the episode.
However, Rowling’s appearances noticeably feature the caption “filmed in 1999” and account for less than 30 seconds screen time.
The author was not invited to share any new insights for the episode, which saw the reunion of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Instead, her appearance was taken from archival footage filmed for the Warner Bros Studio Tour.
This was due to her controversial comments about trans people; Rowling was met with a backlash in June 2020 after calling out an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate”.
“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” she wrote, adding: “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
While there was a contingent of Twitter users who supported Rowling for her tweet, there were plenty – including numerous celebrities – who criticised her comment as “anti-trans” and “transphobic”, arguing that transgender, non-binary and non-gender conforming people can also menstruate.
Rowling later added that she supports transgender rights and took issue with being labelled a “TERF”, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
In an essay, the author addressed the backlash and revealed her experiences of surviving alleged domestic abuse and sexual assault.
However, the essay sparked further criticism and many actors from the Harry Potter franchise, including Radcliffe, Grint and Watson, spoke out in support of trans women.
The charity Mermaids then wrote an open letter addressed to Rowling, outlining why the organisation believes the author’s comments are damaging to the trans community.
“We would like to begin by offering our solidarity with you as a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse,” the letter began, before going on to address Rowling’s views.
“To address the core of your point, trans rights do not come at the expense of women’s rights,” it read.
Many of Rowling’s supporters have criticised the way the reunion episode, titled Return to Hogwarts, distanced itself from Rowling.
However, her critics highlighted the inclusion of the caption while discussing the reunion on Twitter.
“Laughing at all the ‘filmed in 2019’ for all of JKR’s interview clips…they want to let us know they didn’t invite her back for it all,” one viewer wrote.
Others said that the captions provided them with their “first laugh of 2022”, with one viewer adding: “Losing my mind over the “FILMED IN 2019” disclaimer that apparates next to JK Rowling every time she’s onscreen.”
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is exclusively available on Sky and streaming service NOW.
NOW members can watch the TV specials with a NOW Entertainment Membership and enjoy all ten movies with a NOW Cinema Membership.