Jon Stewart
Stewart argues his comments have been misinterpreted.

Is the Harry Potter series anti-semitic? Comments made by comedian Jon Stewart are igniting intense debate over the fantasy franchise’s depiction of the goblins at Gringotts Bank, and whether they play into offensive Jewish stereotypes.

The comments came during an episode of Stewart’s podcast, “The Problem With Jon Stewart.” It was released last month, but the segment didn't get widely circulated until this week when a video was shared on Twitter. Here's the segment in question:

“Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are,” Stewart’s remarks began. “Have you ever seen a ‘Harry Potter’ movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks who run the bank are? Jews!”

Stewart then jokingly compared the Harry Potter films’ portrayal of the goblins to antisemitic illustrations from the conspiracy text ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’.

Thus began a spirited online debate: are the goblins at Gringotts an offensive Jewish stereotype, or are they just goblins? 

Backlash Begins

Not everyone agreed with Stewart’s remarks that Rowling and the goblins of her Harry Potter universe play obviously on Jewish stereotypes. They argue, among other things, that such a portrayal of goblins is hardly novel – these mythical creatures have a long history of being depicted as money-hoarding bankers with pronounced facial features.

Others pointed out that the goblins described in the book, and those that appear in the movie (which is what Stewart was referencing) are quite distinct. One Twitter user went straight to the source material to try and debunk the claims.

Others sought to highlight the offensive irony of such an accusation in the first place:

And even the Campaign Against Antisemitism tweeted their support for Rowling, writing that she has been a “tireless defender of the Jewish community,” and said that “those who continue to use such representations are often not thinking of Jews at all, but simply of how readers or viewers will imagine goblins to look, which is a testament more to centuries of Christendom’s antisemitism than it is to malice by contemporary artists.”

Accusation? What Accusation?

When the video was first shared, it sparked headlines such as "Jon Stewart accuses J.K. Rowling of antisemitism in 'Harry Potter.'"

Many people cheered Stewart for calling out this offensive stereotype and seeking to hold its creators accountable. However, the picture quickly became muddied when Stewart himself pushed back on the narrative:

He later posted a longer video calling out the publication Newsweek by name (WARNING: strong language):

Is a Goblin a Goblin?

Regardless of how he meant them, Stewart's comments have clearly generated renewed conversation over Jewish stereotypes in media and the potential harm they cause. Some fans believe that while Rowling may have had no antisemitic intent when creating the banking goblins at Gringotts, she may have accidentally relied on antisemitic tropes.

Others pointed out that harmful Jewish stereotypes, intentional or not, are not new to the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Critics pointed to the character of Watto in Star Wars, as well as the Ferengi species in Star Trek, as examples.

What do you think? Are these portrayals actually offensive stereotypes? Or is everyone making a mountain out of a molehill?

When is a goblin just a goblin?

14 comments

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    It's just click bait. - No story here.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    The lengths that people go to, in order to find a way to be offended.

    1. Cindy L Edgar's Avatar Cindy L Edgar

      I agree 💯

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Wow, this just proves that people in Hollywood (about 99% of them anyway) have way too much time on their hands and are racists. Who in their right mind would look at the harry Potter movies and think such racist thoughts? If he would have tried to equate Dobby to Black slavery, he would have had to hide for the rest of his life as no one in the black community would stand for this stupidity. Why cant you just get a movie that allows you to enjoy yourself for a couple hours instead of having some moron try and preach to you what they think the movie means or what it should mean. Thats why these are called FANTASY and not reality.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    It’s just the woke community getting upset at everything if it doesn’t suit their woke agenda. I’m surprised no one has yet complained that Snow White wasn’t black, and that Goblins Lives Matter. Come to think of it, I wonder if the 7 dwarfs were gay, or transgender? I also wonder if Goblins have been saved by a Goblin savior? 🤷🏼

    🦁❤️

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      No sir, this is in fact a well understood thing that you would know if you had ever formally been educated in literature. For example it has long been known among those who play the popular fantasy game D&D, that Orcs are stand in for black people, goblins typically are portrayed in a fashion very akin to the way the british described the Picts in their race based pseudo sciences like Phrenology.

      In a popular older CRPG called Arcanum, the Gnomes in that game also are just as the goblins in HP, very clearly stand ins for how families like the Rothechild family is often portrayed in anti semetic circles.

      You do know every time you say things like Woke, it indicates you are mentally ill right? Oh wait ofcourse not, you are mentally ill after all. Then again you are no better then flat earthers as far as your grasp on anything.

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    I bit...for about a second or so.... ;)

  1. Thom's Avatar Thom

    These are imaginary characters. Who cares?

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Totally agree, Thom.

      🦁♥️

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    It's a film for god's sake leave JK ROWLING alone I'm sure it's all been misinterpreted I'm not a Harry Potter fan and the whole film is make believe. Witches, Wizards, Goblins, Broomsticks et Al Do people not realise this.Im great friends with my best mate who is half Jewish he doesn't get offended with fantasy films jokes etc

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      You out yourself as a liar. Among the Chosen People, only those born of a Jewish mother are of the people, if you had a jewish mother you are jewish end of story. If on the other hand your mother was not of the people then you can only be of the faith, never of the blood.

      Only poser types call themselves half Jew. Lots of ill informed actors do that I notice.

  1. John M. Hayes's Avatar John M. Hayes

    Fantasy creatures in a fantasy story. Certain forces in this country have tried...successfully, unfortunately....to foster animosity where it doesn't exist. If we're busy fighting and arguing with each other, we're not paying attention to what they're doing.

    1. Kurt Neuleuf's Avatar Kurt Neuleuf

      So true John. not just in Literature but in all aspects of our modern life. Excellent comment. Thank you

  1. Kurt Neuleuf's Avatar Kurt Neuleuf

    These "people" who are raising issues with the book raise some very interesting psychological questions! A) how did they obtain the right to censor popular literature? B) how did they obtain the right to impose their will on the populace? C) Who told them that the populace was too stupid to obtain meaning from the book, and gave, only them, the power to judge the reading for the populace? D) What rights do these"people" have that makes them think they are superior to the rest of the population?. E) Is it really all about cultural and religious issues?? I personally i wonder if the whole episode is not just a political and/ or religious media stunt for attention?

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