The Saga Of Gay Dumbledore
It seems that Harry Potter fans and LGBT Twitter are out to get J.K. Rowling.
But, what has HP fans and Queer Twitter up in arms against J.K. Rowling this time? The same as always. Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
It was revealed back in 2007 that the characters had a romantic past, and so fans got excited when the announcement of a Harry Potter prequel series implied the depiction of this romance on the silver screen. After watching two movies into the five film saga, most fans are left disappointed.
Rowling is one for the long game. As such, she has yet to write Dumbledore and Grindelwald into the same scene together (outside of a few Mirror of Erised scenes, which shows people’s deepest desires).
The Video & Quote
Then last week, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released on DVD and Blu-ray. On the DVD release of the film there is a 9 and a half minute commentary on the character of Dumbledore. In the middle of that video, the conversation shifts to Dumbledore’s relationship with dark wizard Grindelwald. You can watch that video below with the gay love conversation starting at 6:17.
“It’s not easy being Dumbledore,” Rowling says on the matter. “He’s mistrusted by the Ministry. They know he has this dark past in which he flirted with Grindelwald’s ideology. This was the part of Potter that I was most interested in revisiting, because the relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore is key to making Dumbledore… Dumbledore.”
She later adds:
“Their relationship was incredibly intense. It was passionate, and it was a love relationship. But as happens in any relationship, gay or straight or whatever label we want to put on it, one never knows, really, what the other person is feeling. You can’t know, you can believe you know. So I’m less interested in the sexual side—though I believe there is a sexual dimension to this relationship—than I am in the sense of the emotions they felt for each other, which ultimately is the most fascinating thing about all human relationships.”
The Internet Strikes Again
After the DVD’s release, the internet caught wind of Rowling’s words and began to play a game of “Whisper Down The Lane.” Variety Fair first reported on the “Distinctly Dumbledore” video before other sources spread the news. Unfortunately, as each secondary source covered the story, they shortened the quote and added a “J.K. Confirms Intense, Sexual Relationship” headline.
Then, the story became even more diluted once it hit Twitter. In many of the tweets shared below, several commenters aren’t even aware of the original quote’s contents or that it came from a DVD commentary video. In fact, a meme has arisen of “fans” mocking Rowling and saying that she gives out unnecessary information to seek attention.
Like, way to miss the point and undermine everything you COULD have done to rectify the mistake of leaving Dumbledore’s orientation out of canon. This further reduces queer relationships and queer characters just to sex in media commentary. Which is the last thing we needed.
— Exorcising Emily (@exorcisingemily) March 17, 2019
me: i —
jk rowling: arthur weasley likes to watch
— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 18, 2019
JK Rowling: Sirius was a furry
— Evan Edinger (@EvanEdinger) March 17, 2019
JK Rowling: pic.twitter.com/Ie3TuWBAhC
— Ira thee Third (@ira) March 17, 2019
since everyone's tweeting about JK Rowling again, i want to point out that what she *actually said* is that she's "less interested in the sexual side" of Dumbledore & Grindelwald's relationship – something she'd never say about a straight couple. https://t.co/qXO5tDUHoZ pic.twitter.com/G5l2F2YUXf
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) March 17, 2019
People are rightly taking the piss out of JK Rowling for her ridiculous post publishing announcements about Dumbledore's sexuality & imaginary sex life. Unless there's an editor's note or some gay sex scene she was forced to cut out then she's simply vying for attention.
— David Hooks (@PoliticsScot) March 17, 2019
it’s performative activism that allows her to present herself as progressive while keeping her films ‘family friendly’ for the bigots that would undoubtedly kick off at the presence of a gay character
— laura (@lauraw97_) March 17, 2019
Honestly, it appears that the name of the game is to condemn JK Rowling. In doing so, HP fans and Queer Twitter have twisted what was once a complex and compelling character into a joke for their own narrative. Many are unwilling to see the multiple angles and factors that go into this gay character and this ongoing franchise. But below, I will attempt to.
The character of Dumbledore has been a headache for all involved since 2007. After the Harry Potter book series finished and the film franchise was nearing its completion, J.K. Rowling shared that our beloved wizarding mentor was gay.
It was during a book reading in front of over 2,000 fans at Carnegie Hall in New York City that Rowling made this reveal.
“Rowling went on to reveal that she had recently read through Steve Kloves’ script for the upcoming movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and came across a scene in which Dumbledore was reminiscing about past loves. Rowling says she crossed out the passage and noted ‘Dumbledore is gay’ in the margin.”
“The audience fell silent, and then after a moment, Carnegie Hall exploded into applause. Rowling said that if she had known that her admission would get that type of response, she would’ve revealed her thoughts on Dumbledore earlier.”
Afterwards, the Harry Potter fandom was split between approving this announcement and wondering why Rowling waited so long to reveal it. Unfortunately, that rift has only grown bigger in the past decade.
The conversation became heated in February, 2018 after Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald director David Yates shared that Dumbledore wouldn’t be “explicitly gay” in the film. “Fans” then turned to Rowling, the film’s screenwriter, to complain despite her not making the comment.
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 31, 2018
Yates then later clarified that he meant Dumbledore is gay but not openly so.
“This part of this huge narrative that Jo is creating doesn’t focus on his sexuality, but we’re not airbrushing or hiding it.”
“The story [of the romantic relationship] isn’t there in this particular movie but it’s clear in what you see… that he is gay.”
“A couple of scenes we shot are very sensual moments of him and the young Grindelwald,” he noted perhaps referencing the Mirror of Erised scenes.
After the film came out, many fans were disappointed to see Dumbledore’s sexuality was not further explored or explicitly depicted. But, many are not considering the several factors into the situation.
First off, we have to tackle the argument of why J.K. Rowling never addressed Dumbledore’s sexuality in the books. Honestly, where would she have put it?
Throughout all seven novels, Dumbledore is an important mentor to main character Harry Potter. But on top of that, he’s a 100+-year-old wizard who keeps thousands of secrets. When and why would he ever walk up to an 11 to 17-year-old boy and start discussing his love life? And it’s not like Dumbledore was dating, so J.K. Rowling couldn’t have shown a gay romance either.
In fact, a huge subplot in the last book is about the fact that Harry Potter never knew Dumbledore at all. And certainly nothing personal. This is the one of the only times that Dumbledore’s past with Grindelwald is discussed in the books series, and most of it is done through mystery and celebrity gossip.
And as a creative writer myself, there’re plenty of facts and thoughts that I have about my own characters that never make it to their appropriate stories. It’s completely plausible that Rowling knew this fact about Dumbledore for years and never had the opportunity to express them before that fateful day in 2007.
Gay Representation In Films
But here’s the thing, the Fantastic Beasts films have the opportunity to be different. The very point of placing this prequel series in the 1940s is to depict not only Dumbledore’s past romance but how it changed him into the person that Harry meets.
J.K. Rowling said it herself in the video above, she’s excited to explore this part of Dumbledore’s past. But, she’s doing so at a snail’s pace. Part of that is due to her own, sometimes long-winded, writing style and the other part is a result of global business.
Let’s face it, Harry Potter and The Wizarding World is a global brand. The Harry Potter books have been translated into 70+ languages around the world and the original films were distributed around the globe. With that comes limitations.
While in the Western World, LGBTQ content is becoming more common in entertainment mediums, there’s still an open hostility to it in Africa and Asia. Look at Bohemian Rhapsody, which had its bisexual content edited out of its Chinese and Malaysian distribution. It was either that or not play in those countries at all. And with Asian countries like China being the backbone of the global box office, any business man would think twice before crossing them.
While creatives like J.K. Rowling may support same-sex representation (though, her history with trans people is not so accepting as them. reports), it’s the businessmen at Warner Bros. that are watering down Dumbledore’s gay storyline. And sadly, Rowling is relenting.
Fan Entitlement And The Twitter Mob
Imagine you are a beloved Harry Potter character. What do you think that bird JK Rowling would say about you years later to remain relevant? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/tgqMYV6JMP
— Clarkisha Thee Auntie (@IWriteAllDay_) March 17, 2019
Of course, Harry Potter fans and queer Twitter are unwilling to even consider the above factors into the saga of Dumbledore. Instead, they fight for an undefined amount of gay confirmation to fit their representation quota. As if a kiss or two will suddenly make an already gay character gayer.
Even worse, there’s an increasing hostility found on social media, and especially Twitter, from LGBTQ people. While our fight for equality, rights, and representation is still needed to this day, our people are becoming the bullies we once condemned. There’s this growing mentality of “If you don’t agree with me, you’re a villain.” And all situations, including Rowling’s, are simply not that easy.
I think, perhaps, Harry Potter fans have become disillusioned and entitled as the years have gone by. J.K. Rowling gave our childhoods magic and wonder that lasted into our adulthoods, but that glamour is fading as we realize that the woman behind the wand is just as human as the rest of us.
Because J.K. Rowling has become this icon and writing legend, many expect more from her. Many expect her to represent everyone and do so fairly. Many expect her to write constant hits, and to be above writing for money or relenting to Hollywood executives. But simply, she’s not.
J.K. Rowling is not perfect. And the people making fun of her on Twitter do so to fit their own narrative. They joke that Rowling’s seeking attention, when, really, they’re just seeking it for themselves.
Dumbledore The Character vs. Dumbledore The Tool
Albus Dumbledore has stopped being a complex character who hid most of his history and perspective in order to pursue a greater purpose. Instead, he has become a tool to fit an agenda of those seeking undefined gay quotas and the uncrowning of Rowling.
Unfortunately, gay representation on a global scale is a hard thing to achieve, and it’s easier to point up at a mountain and yell than to sympathize with those at the top.
JK Rowling is writing for a character that has been in her mind for decades. While we all have ownership of that character at this point, Dumbledore remains her character in her story for her (and Warner Bros.) to make.
And while it would be great to see a kiss or two, the realities of filmmaking are halting that process. But despite that, JK Rowling is attempting to create a compelling story about a gay man who fights a former lover in order to bring forth a greater good. And consequentially, she’s building up this gay character to become the patriarch of a book and film franchise that we already know and love.
While it’s important to fight for gay rights and representation, book fans and queer internet users are in need of a wake-up call that shows them that not everything is as simple as they think. And not everyone is as clearly a villain as Voldemort in the days of Harry.
This is the opinion of one contributing writer and not that of Instinct Magazine or other Contributing Writers.