« Modest Proposals: Take Back the Campus | Main | Take Back the Campus »

November 15, 2007

Comments

Anna

"If it wasn’t necessary to be explicit during the series itself, why is it necessary now?"

Exactly!

SSmast

When I first heard the news on NPR that Rowling had explained to a theatre of students Dumbledore was gay, I was in a state of shock. I never saw an inkling of this written in any of her books, nor the characters depicted in the movies--it was not "straight" nor "gay"...it was asexual. He was a mentor to Harry, just giving him advice and help as needed. After this statement was made even a gay man who wrote for his California University newspaper wrote in his coloumn that this was a PR stunt...that's all I can make it out to be as well. She has turned a wonderful series into something really confusing for a lot of children and the parents who did support her work (even though they often take parenting advice from Dobson) now may not because of that 'political/PR stunt'. Other than a few crushes (and a wedding or two) there was nothing sexual going on--why thrust it into the books now--to look better to one set of people? I thought Rowling was a great writer (really, you can't put them down) and I (as an English major in college, B & N employee for over three years, and involved in a before/after school program to help reading scores) thought "Wow! Someone has gotten kids excited about reading again..with MASSIVE books!" but after that, I lost a whole lot of respect for the lady, as I'm sure other parents have, too for trying to invent sexualized content in a great children's series.

Ken

What Rowling has done with this off-the-cuff "revelation" is hand a loaded weapon to Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps et al and paint a big red target on all us Christians who like fantasy and have defended Harry Potter.

The witch-hunt and book-burnings will resume shortly.

K

You should have a spoiler warning on this post for those who have not read the books.

Anna S

I agree with you completely. It seems like an attempt for cheap publicity to me.

I also read (http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/books/10/20/harry.potter.ap/) that she "regarded her Potter books as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority."" I'm all for tolerance but my experience is that people who are pushing tolerance have a very limited understanding of it. Tolerate only things that were traditionally looked down upon but be intolerant of those who don't agree with you.

I have a follow up question to HP fans as someone who has never read any of them (sorry!). I often hear people say that her books are (in a good way) crypto-Christian because of certain imagery and a certain moral code. But I've also heard people say that she is a master at being derivitave of a an older and well-trodden genre. Do you think that any Crypto-Christianity (Judeo-Christianity?) is simply her regurgitation of the older and more authentically Christian devices of older books and authors? Discuss.

L.B.

I think that Dumbledore's sexuality is relevant to facts revealed in the seventh book, or at least illuminates those facts in a way that let them make more sense to me. Though that part of the story stands well on its own without that information.

In any case, the announcement was not made in a "theatre full of students," but to a select group of contest winners who were mostly adults. Rowling didn't call a press conference wearing rainbow wizard robes, but mentioned this fact in passing as part of a very thoughtful response to a pre-teen or teenage girl's question about a serious issue in her life, though the exact question and answer are locked in some far corner of my brain by the flu medication I'm on today...I think it had something to do with the nature of love. It's on the Leaky Cauldron site, and I think the standing ovation was in whole or in part a response to JKR's answer to the question as a whole, not to the information about Dumbledore. Though considering how many people write racy same-sex pairing fan fiction among serious Potter fans.....

It's only the mass media that seized on that bit of information and made a huge deal of it.

In any case, Dumbledore seems to have lived the ideal life for a gay man from a conservative religious point of view, at least--he fell in love once, the love wasn't reciprocated or consummated, and he stayed single for the rest of his life.

And for better or worse, any nine-year-old who doesn't know what it means to be "gay" in America today is clearly living under a rock.

Bethany

This is an interesting article on the subject by a university professor.

http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2007/10/23/dumbledore-is-not-gay-taking-stories-more-seriously-than-the-author/

lizriz

I don't think the mere fact that JK Rowling conceived of Dumbledore as gay brings anything more sexual to the series than does the knowledge that a male and a female character got married and had a kid or Harry's various crushes and romances. I mean, you've kind of got to conceive of homosexuality as perverse to have "Dumbledore is gay" hit you different than other romantic relationships in the book. Which a lot of people simply don't.

ssmast

I may have under-clairified what I said earlier. On J.K. Rowling's official site, it says, "It addition to these three events for schoolchildren, there will be an event on the evening of October 19,2007 in New York City, open to fans of all ages. One thousand readers will be selected in a sweepstakes and will receive a pair of tickets to the event at Carnegie Hall on Friday October 19 at 7 p.m.". I knew all this before I wrote it and assumed (as it IS a children's book and the person who asked the question WAS a child, and the only other events she had in the USA WERE for children) that the "thousand readers" would mostly be children and their parents (so yes, probably more adults than kids, sheesh). Even still, being as there was never any mention or hint of sexualized content with the old man, I feel she should have just let it alone. It is one thing to write in a homosexual character (think "And Tango Makes Three") into a child's story--that parents can discuss with their children, tolerance, etc...but as someone who was trained at a University for four years to pull every theme out of a story, look through every set of 'lenses' (in reference to a "feminist reading" or a "biographical reading") I found NOTHING in there that would have given a child a hint of that. I am more interested in what will become of his character now that he has been 'outted' by Rowling to future student readers, has anyone explained this to their own children or relatives' children? Has there been any discussion like this on the internet (I am asking for adult/child interviews, etc.) I would be interested in reading them.

ssmast

One other thing: why can't males have really good male friends without being accused of homosexuality? My husband and his group of guy friends have a very close loyalty in each other, encouraging each other through rough times, letting each other stay at homes, drive cars, etc. when on vacation visiting the other, even down to sending a check when one is struggling financially! Yet, they have all been accused at one time as 'gay with each other'(by the way, they're all married). What kind of ridiculousness is this? Are we so jealous of great friends (because, lets face it, good friends are hard to come by) that we have to turn it into something it isn't? If I didn't clarify enough before, I didn't read into the Dumbledore/Grindewald 'love-connection' before because it wasn't that...it was friendship. If we could all be so lucky.

madhousewife

And for better or worse, any nine-year-old who doesn't know what it means to be "gay" in America today is clearly living under a rock.

The rock--that is where my nine-year-old would be living. Of course, my nine-year-old also doesn't know who J.K. Rowling is. (Not a big fan of the 700-page novels, my nine-year-old.)

Personally, I feel free to ignore this information. But it is an interesting question, how it will color the way future readers perceive the story (assuming the Dumbledore-is-gay factoid survives the generations). I don't know. The way everything is so sexualized in our culture, maybe it WILL be "obvious" to future readers that he must be gay. I still think it was just a really lame publicity stunt.

ssmast

Thank you for the article, I agree.

Luthor Rex

I seriously doubt the gay-ness has anything to do with politics.

It has always amazed me how women cannot understand or begin to comprehend why a heterosexual man would choose to remain single. It's like a woman's brain will cook!

Maybe their ego's are offended! ;-)

Mischa

I have to say I disagree. For me, imagining how the characters love lives turned out was a big part of the story. And not just the main characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione, etc.), but the supporting characters as well. For example, I wondered whether or not Hagrid or Professor McGonagall ever married and had children.

When I heard the news that Dumbledore had been a victim of unrequited love, his character became even more tragic to me. I don't think it matters who he was in love with, it's awful that his character suffered this in addition to the other events in the book.

Unrequited love seems to be a big theme in this book. Sometimes it works out (Harry and Ginny) and sometimes it doesn't (Snape and Harry's mother, for example.)

We most certainly wouldn't have been satisfied conjuring for ourselves who Harry loved, so why should we act like we'd be satisfied not knowing who Dumbledore loved?

If Rowling had revealed that Dumbledore had once been engaged to a beautiful muggle or witch, I'm sure a lot of people would be itching to know the details. This debate seems to be a reflection of just how intolerant we still are.

ER

Actually, I believe the question asked was, "Did Dumbledore ever find love (or maybe it was 'true love')?", and Rowling, instead of saying the truth which was "No", responded, "Dumbledore was gay, actually." So not a question on the nature of love, or even a question requiring any sort of information about his sexuality.

I agree that it was unnecessary and irrelevant information. Nothing in the book points toward a gay Dumbledore, though of course anyone is free to speculate about the characters in the books to their hearts' content (see some of the fanfiction being written for evidence of this). If it was vital to the plot she should have put it in the book. Otherwise, the answer to the girl's question should have been a simple, "No."

Julie

Personally, I think that after finishing a series, a book and its characters are out of the author's hands. People have license to interpret its contents how they wish. Thus Rowling can offer that she saw Dumbledore are gay, but this is only as valid as anyone else's interpretation.
I did read the transcript of when she revealed this, and it was in response to a specific question about whether or not Dumbledore ever found love. Thus, I don't think she could have answered this question without revealing that she saw him as gay. Personally, I think that she kept these details out of the books to avoid controversy and because it had little bearing on the plot, but why should she hide her views after being asked directly?

tamar

I'm not sure I see any specifically crypto-Christian imagery in the series, or at least nothing so overt as C.S. Lewis. Besides the "magic" aspect, I never encountered anything that offended me, seemed inappropriate or incompatible with my religious beliefs. Some of it is too scary for children IMHO and I did NOT like the obscenity at the end of Book 7, but other than that it simply seemed like a series that encouraged selflessness, kindness to all, and a strength of character during the difficult period of adolescence.

As for the gayness-
I agree that this information is relevant to certain plot details and, in an important way, adds a new dimension to his relationship with Grindenwald. It wasn't simply a friendship- it was an infatuation that blinded Dumbledore from G's faults.

Also, it explains some of the anti-D attacks by people like Rita Skeeter, especially the suggestions that his relationship with Harry was inappropriate- the connection between homosexuality and pedophilia is one that persists in this society as well.

I am glad that a character beloved around the world is gay. It's difficult to "hate on" someone you know and love- it puts prejudices into perspective. And I'm not talking about a personal opinion on the morality of loving a person of the same gender, but rather of the disgust and violent hate that sadly appears in otherwise good people. For example:

"The bottom line is this: These people are terrified that their kids will one day get off a school bus and say something like, 'I didn't know that the woman who wrote America, The Beautiful was a lesbian, mommy. You told me that lesbians are un-American child molesters who hate G-d. She sang about America and G-d. She was a nice lady. Why did you lie, mommy? Why did you lie?'"Don't Quote Me: Truth, Lies, and Textbooks by Kim Ficera, May 24, 2006

Finally, discussions about homosexulality invaribly revolve around "sex," which is why I think this situation, which is so clearly about "love," does not have to be upsetting for young readers. Any child who can appreciate that a man and a woman can love each other- like Mommy and Daddy- does not have to understand anything about sex. So why is it so difficult to explain to a child that a Daddy and a Daddy can love each other, too? I was always able to understand that my uncles loved each other just like my parents did- sex was never mentioned. And until the "where do babies come from?" conversation is necessary, it doesn't have to be.

Marauder

I think we should have found out that Dumbledore was gay because of the fact that he was apparently in love with Grindelwald, and their relationship was important in the last book. However, I think we should have found out in the actual book itself and not as some tacked-on endnote. J. K. Rowling has this bad habit of telling her readers what they're supposed to think about her books, and this is one of many examples.

A (Straight) Man

> Indeed, the pointless revelation of this character's sexual preference is roaringly uncharacteristic of Rowling's style of exposition.
>
>But I must admit, I'm reluctant to explain all this to my kids.

Maybe you could explain to them that being gay, is not a "preference". That is should be no more tabo than mentioning that he is an epileptic, or that he is black, or that he is straight, or that he is white, or that he is tall.

Liz Neville

P.S. to A (Straight) Man: That a character is black or white or tall is evident without probing into what should be private-- one's sexual habits, be they hetero- or homosexual. The author never made any justification within the series for the revelation of Dumbledore's sex life; I still object to it being made explicit after the fact.

Cand86

Sorry to be commenting so late, but I just discovered Wendy Shalit, the blog, and this post came up first from a Google search.

I sort of take issue with the idea that revealing Dumbledore to be gay is "sexualizing him". Homosexuality, let's remember, is a sexual orientation just like heterosexuality. We are no more sexualizing Dumbledore by revealing him to be gay than we are sexualizing Harry Potter by revealing him to be straight- being gay is as much about romantic and emotional attraction as being straight is.

As for the revelation itself, well, she was asked a question and gave her answer- that she wrote him as a gay character. She didn't call a press release to the tune of "Dumbledore's Outta The Closet!". I also find it rather important to give out this information, because we DO live in a heteronormative world. Everybody is assumed to be straight unless told otherwise, and though I agree it does seem hastily tacked on, I'm glad for the insight to her envisioning of the character and for making it explicit- in other words, opening up people's eyes to the fact that just because the book doesn't say doesn't mean it ain't so.

California Divorce Lawyer

Was that last comment supposed to make sense?

The comments to this entry are closed.