American critics are losing their marbles, says Yair Rosenberg in his Deep Schtetl newsletter. Many are convinced that JK Rowling’s views on transgender issues have rendered Harry Potter toxic and unpopular – the “neoliberal fantasy of a transphobe”, as one writer put it. Others say Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has fallen from grace because he cast too many light-skinned actors in his musical In the Heights. But back in the real world, these two cultural icons remain as popular as ever. Miranda’s soundtrack for the new Disney film Encanto displaced Adele at the top of the album charts. The Harry Potter books are still international bestsellers – along with Rowling’s detective novels and new children’s story – and the Broadway show is a hit too.
It’s pretty obvious why critics have this blind spot: they’re stuck in their bubbles. Spend enough time on Twitter, and you’ll find plenty of evidence that Miranda, Rowling et al are as good as finished. But most people aren’t on Twitter – in fact, around 97% of tweets “come from less than 6% of American adults”. That’s not even remotely representative. The truth is that most people have no idea about Rowling’s views on transgender issues, let alone boycott her writing because of them. The critics claiming otherwise are doing a disservice to their readers. Cultural criticism is of no value “when it’s entirely disconnected from the people it’s meant to reach”.