In an interview for The Sunday Times with Emma Watson earlier this week, J. K. Rowling made a terrible mistake. She revealed that she believes Ron and Hermione were a sort of “wish fulfill- ment” on her part, a duo doomed to years of couples counseling and endless fighting. This comes nearly 10 years after she said that readers who did not see the Ron/Hermione relationship coming were missing “anvil-sized” hints. What’s frustrating is that this isn’t the first time Rowling has attempted to change her story years after publication. A few years ago she revealed that Aberforth Dumbledore had had some bizarre and probably sexual relations with goats—and in 2007, she revealed that Albus Dumbledore was actually gay. Let’s talk about the unspoken rules of writ- ing that these sorts of announcements break. There are two undeniable but sometimes hard to swallow tenets of art made for consumption: The first is that it belongs to its consumers (and books, therefore, to their readers). The second is that its creators sometimes fundamentally misunderstand or deliberately disservice their own creations.
George Lucas didn’t understand that Han Solo shot first; Ryan Murphy didn’t under- stand that Blaine Anderson would never cheat on Kurt Hummel; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his main character because he didn’t like Sherlock Holmes—and then brought him back because his fans were so angry. Rowling has failed to understand her char- acters in a way that profoundly disservices her readers. Her characters have a future that is written, quite literally, in ink: Ron and Hermione get married, have children, and seem reasonably happy together 19 years after their first kiss. To an extent, it does not matter what Rowling thinks of her characters now, because they are not hers anymore. Her ownership share has been diluted down to one out of however many millions of people have read the books. Con- sidering the series has sold 450 million copies in the U.S. and U.K. alone, Rowling’s share is looking pretty small. Rowling’s beliefs regarding her characters barely matter—because the moment an artist puts their work out for public consumption, they lose ownership over it. It is impossible to separate the art from its consumers. They are the ones who determine whether the creation lives or dies—whether it tops the New York Times best seller list for 10 years or ends up a forgotten e-book on Lulu.
Of course, Rowling still has influence over the characters; and if she wanted to, she could release a book tomorrow that says the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was an alcohol-fueled dream from a post-breakup Ron, that he and Hermione never got married, and that Hermione actually married the ghost of Cedric Diggory or Harry’s evil twin Barry. But, until she does this, it doesn’t really matter what she thinks of her characters. They aren’t hers anymore—they’re ours, and if we see the chemistry between Ron and Hermione gradually growing over the course of seven years, and if we believe his jealousy over Viktor Krum and hers over Lavender Brown was genu- ine, then Romione isn’t just canon: It’s correct.