Monday, October 22, 2007

Dumbledore's Alleged Gayness Doesn't Matter

Okay, I get that in this era where the push for "gay rights" has inexcusably been confused with being of the same importance as "civil rights" for blacks, any news of a "celebrity", even a fake celebrity, being gay is bound to garner major headlines. But I really don't see how author J.K. Rowling's revelation that Albus Dumbledore, the former headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series, is - or rather, was - gay is such a big deal. Since the news came out...ha is as if fans have been rushing back to their bookshelves to try and find all the little remarks and other clues in the book series which make you go "Hmmm..."

No doubt, there are certain people who, having no lives or common sense, are celebrating Dumbledore's "outing". Here's the thing: Unless there is a specific passage in any of the Harry Potter books where Dumbledore leaves no doubt as to his sexual orientation, J.K. Rowling's statement in New York last week - despite her authorship of the series - should be seen merely as just being her own opinion. It's not "canon", and since J.K. Rowling is not God, her word - her ex post facto word - has not and cannot earn the status of "gospel".

While I'm not the most cynical of people, J.K. Rowling's choice of "revealing" Dumbledore's "true nature" at Carnegie Hall appears to me to be - in no small way - a slimy attempt at appearing more tolerant than she actually is. Oh, she may very well have written the character of Dumbledore with the knowledge stored up in her head that he was gay. But since she declined to reveal this "fact" until several months after the seventh and final book in the series was released, there is more than just a reasonable amount of doubt in my mind about her motivations in doing so now.

You see, had J.K. Rowling "revealed" this news before the Deathly Hallows was released to the public (or before any of the other books were published), like it or not that may have affected whether parents would have allowed their children to read the series. Many parents who may have already been wary of the prevalence of "witchcraft and wizardry" in the books, but chose to buy the books for their kids anyway, would probably have been much more opposed than they would openly admit to their children reading books about children who attend a school whose headmaster is openly gay. But what harm, really, can be done by the author saying Dumbledore is gay after the fact?

Not much. The copies of books, the copies that have made J.K. Rowling one of the richest women in the world, have already been sold. Newcomers to the series may scrutinize the text more than those who patiently waited for and read the books over the course of several years, and their thinking about certain statements by the Albus Dumbledore character will undoubtedly be colored by J.K. Rowling's recent announcement about him, but nothing, really, has changed. And unless J.K. Rowling rewrites, revises, etc. one or several of the Harry Potter books, nothing will change about that being the situation, for the better or the worse.

Does J.K. Rowling's "outing" of Dumbledore change the way I view the Harry Potter series? Quite frankly, no. I don't think of myself as being thick-headed for "missing clues" about Dumbledore's sexual preference, because I don't recall ever being told (over the past six years or so) to look for such clues. That wasn't the point of the books, though certain idiots will likely now claim that it was.

Whatever J.K. Rowling says - non-canonically - about the late Albus Dumbledore doesn't erase the fact that millions upon millions of kids who might otherwise have had their faces planted in front of video game consoles or HDTVs instead sat down on couches, at kitchen tables, or in parks to read. And read. And read some more. And she didn't just get ADHDTV kids to read, either. One of my fondest hobbies this past summer was walking around Bryant Park in Manhattan at midday and counting how many adults had their noses buried in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I estimated, one day, that at least 70% of the people in the park were - and there were a lot of people - reading the book at that particular moment).

Celebrating J.K. Rowling's "don't ask, don't tell" policy about the character, a policy which lasted for the better part of a decade, seems pretty stupid to me (especially in this day and age, when "pride" in - and openness about - who you are is supposedly all the rage if you're gay or lesbian). We're talking about a fake wizard and an author's ability to turn that wizard into whatever she wants once the checks have been cashed. If Dumbledore being gay really "mattered", J.K. Rowling would have been open about it in the books, rather than coy.
So no, it doesn't make a difference to me whether Albus Dumbledore was gay or not. Not really.

What does matter about the whole Harry Potter phenomenon in general is that however shrewd and selfish a businesswoman J.K. Rowling is, she got people not only to buy books, but to read them, and not only to read them, but to anxiously await the publication of another book year after year after year. That's pretty special, that's a big accomplishment, that's what's important, and if kids - and adults - should take away anything from the Harry Potter series, it's not questions about whether Dumbledore's queer. It should be that reading can be fun...and people should do a lot more of it.

1 comment:

C-ho said...

J-nutt, did you hear that J.K. told the director of HP6 to be careful how he portrays Dumbledore because he's a homo?