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October 20, 2007

So big news if you’re a Harry Potter fan (or a Harry Potter hater, I suppose): this last weekend, the magnificent J.K. Rowling gave a Q&A regarding her work, and when asked if Dumbledore ever found “true love”, she replied that Dumbledore is gay.

Ignoring the fact that “Dumbledore is gay” is not “yes” — in fact seems to be “no, because” — I’m still a little bothered by this, which is ironic. While other gay rights groups will no doubt applaud her for being willing to write such a fantastic character and not let his sexuality compromise his character (as a lesser writer might have done), my objection is that it removes some of the impact of Dumbledore’s character, or potentially does.

So Dumbledore had a love affair with Gellert Grindlewald, and that is why it took him so long to step up and defeat him in their “famous duel” (this relationship is set up on the chocolate frog card Harry gets in Book 1) — he still loved him and he didn’t want to think ill of him. Which is great, but couldn’t he have loved him even without being gay?

That’s the main thing that bothers me: whenever a male character in today’s movies, TV, and even books shows any genuine affection for another male character — even non-sexual affection — that character is a gay character. You don’t see that happen when two female characters share affection, and I think it perpetuates the stereotype that only gay people show affection — and you don’t want people to think you’re GAY, do you?

As a role model, I almost feel like this revelation diminishes Dumbledore’s compassion, if only in the sense that “oh, well of course he was so nice and emotionally-invested in his relationships. He was gay. That’s how they are.” No doubt people will start reading a Catholic priest vibe into Dumbledore’s intense interest in Harry, which would be the real goddamn shame here.

Look, I love the Harry Potter series. I really do. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was astonishing and, in my view, perfect. I wouldn’t have wanted her to do a single thing differently (well, except maybe let Neville finish off Bellatrix Lestrange instead of Mrs. Weasley — he had more invested in that relationship). And I really do think it’s wonderful that she had the courage to write a gay main character, and the talent not to make it obvious.

I just wish that being gay wasn’t a prerequisite for male compassion — although, I guess there’s always Harry and Ron’s relationship. They clearly love each other very much, and it works out well for them (maybe because they’re NOT gay?).

But then, we come to the other problem: homosexuality-as-tragedy. We have yet to have a mainstream gay character whose story does not end in tragedy. The most mainstream gay movie of the last decade was Brokeback Mountain, and that didn’t work out. Gay relationships never work out in the media. Even most gay indie films I watch, the boy doesn’t get the boy. The best he can hope for is that everyone else accepts who he is and what he wants, but he’s not going to get what he wants in the end.

This isn’t Rowling’s fault, I just wish that if Dumbledore’s greatest tragedy had to be loving too much, it didn’t have to be “in a gay way.”

All that being said, I’m probably just over-thinking it. After all, Dumbledore was the champion of love and reason, who all the good guys looked up to, trusted, and revered in one of the most popular book series ever written. And that probably can’t be a bad thing.

I’ll still re-read the series many times, and pass it on to my kids someday.

  1. node.ue permalink

    lol dumbledore’s gay

  2. node.ue permalink

    Having said that, I do think that maybe Dumbledore has a little thing going for Harry. I always thought that was kind of creepy, gay or not.

    …having said THAT, well, gay people need more happy endings.

  3. Daniel Broadway permalink

    Is that why his wand is longer and more powerful than the others? *rimshot*

  4. Master Darksol permalink

    “No doubt people will start reading a Catholic priest vibe into Dumbledore’s intense interest in Harry, which would be the real goddamn shame here.”

    “Having said that, I do think that maybe Dumbledore has a little thing going for Harry.”

    yep, there it is.

  5. Ray permalink

    At the very least it could be viewed as a stunt. “Hey guess what, this really cool character is gay, OMG, how awesome is that?!”

    It just seems like an afterthought, something she threw in for the hell of it. It wasn’t important to the story because being gay had no bearing on what had to be done (i.e. why Harry needed to be protected, and Voldemort needed to be stopped).

  6. Phi permalink

    I had similar feelings about the revelation. Not only the way she announced it (she should have just replied “Yes, Grindelwald”, but maybe that was a slip), but also that Dumbledore never really struck me as a sexual being.

    Outside of fan fiction, his talks about love don’t have the slightest undertones of sex, and loving Grindelwald as a best friend was plenty of motivation to avoid a confrontation.

    It’s almost like she thought “huh, sexual feelings for females isn’t one of his primary motivations…must be gay”.

    Wonder if she’s pissed off the asexuals now :p

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