Stan-Shaming: Harry Potter vs. Sarah J. Maas

With the upcoming release of Sarah J. Maas’ latest novel, A Court of Wings and Ruin, the anti-Maas book stan mentality has come back in full force. While many are celebrating spoilers and tidbits from the new book and are eagerly anticipating its release, many more are shaming them and accusing them of being “fake woke,” only hating Maas’ lack of diversity until she releases a new novel. And while this is not always the case, a new question has arisen: why are fans of Maas’ books shamed, but fans of Harry Potter aren’t? J.K. Rowling and her hit series have received the exact same criticisms Maas and her books have (and it can be argued that Rowling has handled the backlash worse), and yet it is still socially acceptable to stan her books. Many have begun to wonder: why? Well, I have a few thoughts on that.

The first reason I suspect this double standard exists is because of the relationship between these series and their readership. Harry Potter is not only a cultural phenomenon, but something an entire generation has grown up with. This world and its characters have become an intrinsic part of who we are, many of us being able to name our Hogwarts House but not our blood type. We have developed a nearly lifelong bond with these books and they have in turn become a staple and symbol of the Millennials.

On the other hand, Maas’ books have only existed for a few years and have nowhere near the wide-reaching influence and connection to its audience. While some do feel very connected to her worlds and characters, we haven’t grown up with them and so it’s easier for us to separate ourselves from them. Maas’ books simply don’t have the same influence on our generation and so it’s far easier for naysayers to question why people still love and support her books. They are simply not the accepted part of our culture that Harry Potter is.

The second reason is the fans and how they handle the poor diversity and representation and the ways in which they consider the author. In my experience on stan Twitter and other fandom sides of social media, Harry Potter fans are quick to critique the lack of rep and Rowling herself. It is almost a part of being a Harry Potter stan in a way, loving the series but criticizing its failings, gross lack of rep, and the misconduct of Rowling. This isn’t quite the case with Maas’ fans. Though some do call her out and acknowledge the problematic aspects of her books, many still fall prey to fangirling rather than critiquing. That can be hard for people who have been harmed by her poor diversity and bad rep to swallow. Of course, this isn’t the case for all her fans, but unfortunately there are enough that people notice and get upset. And perhaps the Harry Potter fans have an unfair advantage. I mean, the series ended almost ten years ago, so we’ve had a lot more time to sit with the material (and for Rowling to release bonus material, claiming rep that wasn’t in the books, finally allowing us to see her true colors). Perhaps having that time to go over and over the material and feel better about critiquing something they love, time to study and not just read the material, has allowed the fandom an easier time pointing out its flaws and calling out the author.

The third and final reason is that the modern Harry Potter fandom subsists largely on headcanon. Go to any Harry Potter fan account and you’ll find countless posts about non-canon things in the world, things therefore untouched by Rowling. Again, perhaps this fandom has the advantage, having nearly a decade of subsisting on just that, but, when your fandom has become mainly headcanon, it’s hard to hate (especially when the headcanons have become more and more diversified). Maas’ fans are focused more on the canon content, which, as we know, has bad representation. There really isn’t much headcanon-based fandom, all of it covered in Maas’ fingerprints (jokes about ghostwriters aside). With little original content by the fandom, people wonder why they love something not-so-inclusive.

Is it ultimately unfair? Yes, sure. Especially for the Maas book stans who are active criticizers. But all of this thought, whether conscious or not, goes into why people will “stan-shame” Maas fans and not Harry Potter ones. (And, of course, none of this is meant to defend Maas or Rowling, who are both messy and don’t really care about rep.) Double standards are never fair, but try not to be too hard on critics of fans. And just remember, it’s not really about you and more about the bigger issue at hand.

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