If you’re thinking about heading to a Universal Studios park – any Universal Studios park, not just Florida! – you’re in for a lot of fun and adventure. While I personally enjoy a lot of different aspects of the parks, most people are flocking to Universal for one very specific section – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Although this section of the Florida park opened over a decade ago, it remains the busiest section of the park to a shocking extent – it’s extremely challenging to walk around in both Hogsmeade and wizarding London because there are people everywhere.
For Harry Potter fans, this land is undeniably very cool. It’s a bucket list location for so many people I know. However, if you’re like me and don’t want to financially support J.K. Rowling after her transphobic essay, then you may feel conflicted on going to Universal Studios. I want to reassure you – there are a lot of ways to enjoy Universal Studios without selling your soul to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the moment you buy a ticket to the Universal parks, you’re already financially supporting J.K. Rowling. To quote Forbes:
Rowling receives low double-digit millions from a share of ticket, merchandise, sponsorship and food and beverage revenue.Forbes, “How J.K. Rowling Earned $95 Million In A Year“, 2017
While further details – like percentages she receives on ticket sales vs. merchandise sales, etc. – have not been fully disclosed, this small snippet reveals a nugget of unfortunate truth. The best way to avoid supporting J.K. Rowling at Universal Studios is to stay home.
But lets say you’re going anyway – maybe you’re going with your family, or you bought the tickets before you knew she gets a cut, or because you think the rest of the parks are worth the small transgression. There are a few ways within the parks that your can still avoid supporting Rowling as much as possible.
#1. Don’t Buy Harry Potter Merchandise.
Those Hogwarts robes? Interactive wands? Slytherin socks? They all are licensed Harry Potter products. Rowling gets a cut of all merchandising profits, so every Harry Potter-themed souvenir you purchase supports her a little more financially.
While it won’t commemorate your time in the park by coming from the park… there are other ways to love Harry Potter and have Harry Potter things without giving a percentage of every purchase to J.K. Rowling. My first recommendation would be to go to Etsy – there are amazing tailors and woodcrafters on the site that can make you robes and wands that are far nicer quality than the ones you can buy at Universal. Way back before Wizarding World was opened, I commissioned Ravenclaw robes from Etsy and they are still in amazing condition. I also have a handcrafted wand from Wynott’s in Salem, much nicer than the plastic ones they have in the parks. And much less expensive!
“Okay, but Amber,” you may be saying, “Etsy wands aren’t interactive. I can’t use them in the cool spots in the park.”
I hear you, I do. But consider this – the Wizarding World is so crowded, that except for Knockturn Alley, you have to fight with twelve other people to get in the right position to use the magic spots. Some of them work better than others as well. I was perfectly content watching other people use their wands – you won’t miss out on the bits and pieces built into the world without having an officially licensed interactive wand. I promise.
#2. Don’t Purchase Food or Drinks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This one can be a bit of a downer, because the food at the Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron is so refreshing compared to the rest of the quick service restaurants in the park. To make matters worse, everyone wants to try a butterbeer at the park! It’s part of the experience!
Don’t even get me started on Honeydukes or Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. I really, really wanted some of that ice cream.
I understand this can be really difficult, but if you make an effort to eat in other parts of the park – or even leave for lunch, rest your legs, and come back – that’s a little more of your money that doesn’t go to supporting Rowling. Plus, there are some definite downsides of food in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter anyway. For example, the seats in the Three Broomsticks are really low to the floor. Really low. I consider myself a short person, and they were uncomfortably short for me. Have you ever tried sitting in a little chair intended for a preschooler? It’s like that, just a bit sturdier.
Plus, Butterbeer? At its heart, it’s a butterscotch drink. You can easily make your own butterbeer at home – hot, iced, or frozen – and have something that tastes just as good as what you can get at the parks. Plus, by making it at home you have a bit more control over how disastrously sweet it is… and you don’t have to wait in an eternal line. Worst lines in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? #1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. #2. The Butterbeer Stand. You think it’s hyperbole now but if you ever go to the park… you’ll see.
#3. Limit Your Social Media Posts (or at Least Acknowledge Rowling’s Transphobia)
There are a lot of places throughout the Universal parks that are very clear photograbs. Disney and Universal are both extremely good at doing this and if you’re a fan of something, it’s really difficult to resist taking that iconic picture. I’m not telling you not to take any iconic pictures.
The big takeaway I want folks to get from this section is that part of the reason everyone loves the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so much is because they really, really want to get their Hogwarts letters even now, 24 years (I think?) after the first publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. One of the reasons I rarely talk about the books on the blog anymore is because by perpetuating conversation, we are keeping the stories relevant. As long as the stories are relevant, Rowling will be able to continue to use her platform to spread transphobia and that’s not okay.
Do I think that one person not posting seventy-five thousand Instagram photos or orchestrated TikToks is going to change the world? No. But I do believe that when we work together, we can achieve positive change. Or, at the least, we can use the opportunity to educate our followers on Rowling’s background so we don’t have another generation of readers going into the Harry Potter books, falling head over heels in love, then finding out there’s so much racism in the books and they’re written by a transphobic author.
There you have it, folks! Three major ways you can go to Universal Studios, but minimize the amount of financial support Rowling gets directly from you. And you know what? You can still have a lot of fun there! Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is truly the best overall ride Islands of Adventure (not Velocicoaster, oh my stars no) and the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is really amazing – there’s no other book in the world where you can literally walk right into its most important setting in meticulous detail.
If you’re Universal Studios bound, I hope you’ll take some of this advice into consideration before you go. It takes all of us working together to make a better world, and this is one of the many very, very small ways your can help make a difference and stand up to support the transgender community.