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October 19, 2007 9:20 PM   Subscribe

The world's most famous boy wizard has had to dodge claims of being gay ever since he first appeared in print. Some claim him to be a gay icon, others wonder that there is something about Harry and still more waste their time making gay Potter mashups online. It seems, for some reason, that everyone wants to know. Is Harry Gay? Nope. Dumbledore is.
posted by Stynxno (164 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
YOU FUCKING SPOIOLER ASSHOLE!
posted by serazin at 9:24 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, that's actually pretty cool. Since it never appeared in print, I suppose it's not "canon", but it's interesting to see the author's (unwritten) thoughts on the character.
posted by yhbc at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2007


Oh man, a whole realm of slash just became that much more believable. eros/sophos, here we come.
posted by Nelson at 9:26 PM on October 19, 2007


He was a stylish 150-year-old-ish bachelor. You do the math.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:28 PM on October 19, 2007 [14 favorites]


You know who else is gay?
posted by Poolio at 9:28 PM on October 19, 2007


I only read the first few books, so are there any signs of this in later ones? Seems kind of pointless otherwise. If an author just SAYS something about one of her characters, does that make it canon?

On preview: Or, what yhbc said.
posted by brundlefly at 9:30 PM on October 19, 2007


Thirding yhbc.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:33 PM on October 19, 2007


that's nothing - sauron was transgendered and badly, BADLY misunderstood
posted by pyramid termite at 9:34 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, he was headmaster.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:35 PM on October 19, 2007 [11 favorites]


that's nothing - sauron was transgendered and badly, BADLY misunderstood

His eye may have been all-seeing, but no one ever really saw him, y'know?
posted by brundlefly at 9:37 PM on October 19, 2007 [19 favorites]


mildly amusing
posted by edgeways at 9:39 PM on October 19, 2007


Homoeroticus Queeronia!

*waves wand*
posted by Mikey-San at 9:40 PM on October 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you think about it, Darth Vader is gay: attempting to 'pass' as an evil Sith lord, the black bondage gear (well, okay, that's not exactly gay), hiding behind a mask. Joe Torres is also a gay icon: disrespected, insulted, not valued for who he is, a scapegoat. In 'Finding Nemo', little Nemo, with his 'different' left fin is also gay. Nemo's gayness is coveted by divers and dentists. His father cannot see the truth, but a trip across the world's oceans convinces him to accept Nemo for who he is.

See
posted by KokuRyu at 9:45 PM on October 19, 2007


You know who else is gay?

Please. Gandalf doesn't even compare to Frodo and Sam's passionate, pants-flying-off uncontrollable love for each other. I remember watching the movie and literally thinking that they could start grabbing each other's dicks at any moment.
posted by Avenger at 9:46 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I remember watching the movie and literally thinking that they could start grabbing each other's dicks at any moment.

Seconded. I remember thinking before teh trilogy started that they'd have to play their relationship down to avoid looking gay, and ... nope, totally queer.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:49 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


You guys have cracked the code of all the "world explorers" of the 15th-19th century.
posted by telstar at 9:56 PM on October 19, 2007


WHAT.

THE.

FUCK.

ALBUS?
posted by chimaera at 9:57 PM on October 19, 2007


I have to admit I had a vague inkling, which I rapidly dismissed, when I read the chapter about Dumbledore and Grindelwald in book 7.
posted by chimaera at 9:59 PM on October 19, 2007


Well, Albus Percival. Duh.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:59 PM on October 19, 2007


Nope, never got the impression. Malfoy, of course, always came off looking gay as a maypole, but Dumbledore?

That's so... fanon.
posted by Phire at 10:00 PM on October 19, 2007


Somehow I knew this would show up here soon. I imagine reaction to this information will be a convenient way of identifying a particular variety of asshole, but otherwise find this sort of extra-canonical backstory sort of pointless.
posted by nanojath at 10:08 PM on October 19, 2007


Awwww. But that means he went to Hell when he died...
posted by ELF Radio at 10:09 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dumbledore was a Republican?
posted by stavrogin at 10:19 PM on October 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's said she may be putting together an official potter encyclopedia or some such, so these little background facts and clarifications she keeps giving will likely find themselves in print and "official" sooner or later.

Though I put that in quotes, as, personally, I feel the answer to "If an author just SAYS something about one of her characters, does that make it canon?" is "yes".
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:25 PM on October 19, 2007


.
posted by ericb at 10:55 PM on October 19, 2007


If it doesn't appear in the books, it doesn't matter.
posted by Justinian at 10:56 PM on October 19, 2007


If it doesn't appear in the books, it doesn't matter.

It may not appear in the books, but per Rowling's comments, it's certainly informing the way the character is meant to be played in the films, which makes it canon in that way.
posted by Dreama at 11:01 PM on October 19, 2007


NOOOOO! He's married to McGonagall! I know it's true because I read more fanfiction than is healthy for any one person. I want to believe it's true!
posted by Marquise at 11:09 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]



It may not appear in the books, but per Rowling's comments, it's certainly informing the way the character is meant to be played in the films, which makes it canon in that way.


That depends on whether you consider the films to be canon or not. I would generally say no.
posted by Justinian at 11:10 PM on October 19, 2007


NOOOOO! He's married to McGonagall!

That's what I always thought!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I heard this tonight at a party, and rushed to Metafilter to post it as soon as I got home, knowing someone must've gotten to it first.

Anyway.

This is heavily implied in the last book. I say this not as someone who looks for teh ghey in everything, but rather someone who knows the books backwards and forwards and who, upon hearing this, though, "of course! She means with Grindelwald, right?"

For those who haven't read the books - SPOILER ALERT - Dumbledore became friends with Grindelwald, a talented wizard from Germany, when they were teens way back in the day. Dumbledore was in charge of taking care of his addled younger sister, and resented the reponsibility. WHen Grendlewald came along, with dakr but inspirational ideas for what they could accomplish, Dumbledore started spending all of his time with the big G, neglected his sister, and eventually came to blows in an encouter with DD's younger brother Aberforth, who resented Grindelwald in a manner far more personal than political. This battle killed the sister,at which point DD turned away from GW.

JKR's comments make perfect sense with the books, and explain what she would've run into a thousand problems explaining in the book itself. The chief problem is that, were that information given there, that would've been what the book was about. Everything afterwards would have been tined with "Wait, Dumbledore was gay?" So I understand her not making it canon, and I respect her for stating so now.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:28 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hedwig dies.
posted by puke & cry at 11:34 PM on October 19, 2007


Hmmmm....I'd thought that McGonagall and Grubbly-Plank were a couple after Harry found them together in G-P's room.
posted by brujita at 11:42 PM on October 19, 2007


It may not appear in the books, but per Rowling's comments, it's certainly informing the way the character is meant to be played in the films, which makes it canon in that way.

Who's to say that she had much say in how the character's were played in the film? Or, if she did, that she related that tidbit to the writers/directors/actors?

As for canon/not canon...um, I call intentional fallacy? Regardless of whether she intended Dumbledore to be gay or just said this as a whim, it's still information that's (mostly) extratextual. What she said will lead to a plausible interpretation, but it's not the absolute interpretation. I mean, if we actually gave authors absolute say over the interpretation of their works, we'd be saying that Fahrenheit 451 is not about censorship.

So yeah, essentially I'm nthing yhbc. Of course, if she ever got around to writing an eighth book that was steeped in slash, then it'd be a bit harder to deny.
posted by Weebot at 11:47 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Weebot et al, there's no reason that you have to accept the author's own interpretation of her writing, but this does make a whole lot of sense when you look at the character as whole. Twinkly-eyed, spangled purple velvet sense.

And Dumbledore is like a hundred years older than McGonagall.
posted by zennie at 12:07 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's been so long since we've had an insightful, informative post about the peripheral universe residing within the Harry Potter TM Universe Franchise that I almost forgot it was Metafilter. Thanks!
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:10 AM on October 20, 2007


I guess Harry wasn't the only one trapped in a closet for eleven years?
posted by ELF Radio at 12:27 AM on October 20, 2007 [10 favorites]


(rimshot)
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on October 20, 2007


It was as if a million fanfic writers cried out in pleasure and were silenced...
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Who's to say that she had much say in how the character's were played in the film? Or, if she did, that she related that tidbit to the writers/directors/actors?

She continued, explaining having to slip a note to the filmmakers during a script reading of the sixth film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," when a small reference was made to a girl Dumbledore was once attracted to had made it into the script.
posted by Dreama at 12:48 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


As for canon/not canon...um, I call intentional fallacy?

Thank you! I was trying to remember that phrase.
posted by brundlefly at 1:33 AM on October 20, 2007


Dumbedore is such a hottie.
posted by mek at 2:15 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Q: In the Goblet of Fire Dumbledore said his brother was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms [JKR buries her head, to laughter] on a goat; what were the inappropriate charms he was practicing on that goat?

JKR: How old are you?

Eight.


That's hilarious.
posted by mediareport at 4:29 AM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


From Ian McKellen's website:

Q: Let's suppose Gandalf WAS gay. I don't see how it changes the story.

A: Poor Gandalf doesn't seem to show any interest in sex — now that's an acting problem.

posted by EarBucket at 4:33 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


My wife and I were at this event; it was a great time. JKR read a bit from book seven (the bit where Ron rejoins H&H on their prolonged, uh, camping trip) and then took questions from the audience. JKR packed Carnegie Hall better than the Cleveland Orchestra (who I'd seen there Tuesday night).

We were there because we won a 'sweepstakes'. I'd just entered on a lark and forgotten about it, and didn't even get picked at first - Scholastic called me about 2 weeks ago to say we'd won a "second chance" drawing after some of the original winners wouldn't able to make it.

What surprised me was that it seemed a majority of the folks there weren't New Yorkers - the people sitting around us were from Cincinnati and Arizona and the questioners were from as far away as Hawaii. A very very excited, talking nonstop girl in line behind us saying there were no buildings over three stories in her town, and the ladies in front of us in line stopped every 10 feet to get another picture of themselves in front of Carnegie Hall.

The event was great. Keith Obermann gave the intro ("Thank you very much. Thank you especially to all the people clapping who have no idea who I am."). The entire time she was on stage and signing books, JKR looked happy, like she was enjoying herself and the fans. During the reading she actually cracked herself (and the audience) up when Ron told Hermoine "You came out of my pocket". Somewhere there's a website with all the unintentionally dirty bits in the HP books.

And, yes, the way she handled the question about the goats (how did that get past the screeners?!) was great, at no point did the child asking the question look like she felt she was being talked down to.

The coverage linked in this article doesn't describe the girl who asked "Did Dumbledore find love?". Many of the questioners preceded their questions with statements about how much the books meant to them; this girls was especially thoughtful and poignant, however. She told JKR that the books had given her strength to 'be herself'. It was touching and revealing.

That's why, in the transcript, JRK says "My truthful answer to you" - She went on to say something about how she owed this girl the truth, after how she had just opened herself up (to two thousand strangers in Carnegie Hall) in the question.

Then she said old Albus was indeed a "confirmed bachelor", and the place went nuts. There'd been applause for her when she came to the stage, between every question, (heck, they even applauded Keith Obermann when he said her name) but this seemed like the must unrestrained joy from the audience of the evening. I'm sure at this point I'm reading too much into it, but the impression I got was that these folks, mostly kids, had their own opinion that there really is nothing wrong with being gay, but that they receive such mixed messages from the world, and that it was liberating to hear a hero confirm what they felt.

Anyway, the dude from Cincinnati who was sitting in front of me said to us something along the lines of "I didn't see that coming."

The impression I got was that JKR really, really loves the kids who love her books. She was faced with the task of signing her name 2,000 freaking times, yet, EVERYTIME a kid came along and said something to her she looked at the child, her face LIT UP, and she smiled or said something back. Meanwhile a dozen black-shirted young women who 'work in publishing' were doing an amazing job ushering people and books along. Cincinnati guy timed timed her; she signed 20 books a minute.

We were in one of the balconies, so we might've been about halfway through the signing process. We got our books and left, got some dinner around the corner, and when we were walking back to the train after that we passed the hordes of folks waiting for JKR to emerge from Carnegie Hall; I guess she was still going in there.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:22 AM on October 20, 2007 [83 favorites]


hm, I remember reading and agreeing to some slash-fiction authors frustration after the 4th or 5th book, that every small loophole for maybe just one not heterosexual character in her books was closed by past straight love interests. I know that was also one of the reasons why I stopped reading the Harry Potter books.
posted by kolophon at 5:24 AM on October 20, 2007


And I added it to the mefi twitter stream as soon as I could, I knew you guys would want to know...
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:24 AM on October 20, 2007


But what did the kids think?

"She's so pretty," gushed one 13-year old girl. "I want to be just like her one day; pretty and a great author."
posted by kittyprecious at 5:51 AM on October 20, 2007


Then she said old Albus was indeed a "confirmed bachelor", and the place went nuts.

A small proportion of those kids might have been, like myself prior to about three months ago, completely ignorant of the non-literal meaning of the phrase and just been happy that the old man likes his freedom. Heh.
posted by dreamsign at 6:15 AM on October 20, 2007


Harry's not gay? I have an entire folder of Potter/Snape slashart that says different.
posted by adipocere at 6:25 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not that there's anything wrong wand with that.

Fixed that for you.
posted by ericbop at 6:42 AM on October 20, 2007


Back in the village in the 70s, I used to see Dumbledore at the strip shows. I didn't realize who he was then, but I thought he was an odd looking fellow in the hat and cape next to all of the leather harnesses and feather boas.
posted by PigAlien at 6:43 AM on October 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, and in the brambles between the Pines and Cherry Grove too... he'd take off his robe and use it as a beach towel. He always liked to share.
posted by PigAlien at 6:46 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


nicely done Stynxno
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on October 20, 2007


Regardless of whether she intended Dumbledore to be gay or just said this as a whim, it's still information that's (mostly) extratextual.
But no where does it say he's straight, either. If you read him that way, your being just as, um, extratextual.
posted by FfejL at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Consider that most of the books are from Harry's perspective. Schoolkids usually have a hard time realizing their teachers are people, let alone have personal lives. Unless Dumbledore were really freaking obvious about it, there's no reason Harry would have noticed, and thus no reason to put it in the main text.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:07 AM on October 20, 2007


Harry is clearly not gay*.

* Full Disclosure: I base all of my "Harry Potter" related knowledge off of the Saturday Night Live sketch where Hermione, returning to school after summer vacation, is newly sporting boobs.
posted by Flunkie at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think people are missing the bigger story here: it's not that Albus Dumbledore had a mad crush on a guy, it's that Albus Dumbledore had a mad crush on Hitler.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:55 AM on October 20, 2007 [11 favorites]


But no where does it say he's straight, either. If you read him that way, your being just as, um, extratextual.

True, but is anyone reading it that way?
posted by brundlefly at 9:59 AM on October 20, 2007


She continued, explaining having to slip a note to the filmmakers during a script reading of the sixth film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," when a small reference was made to a girl Dumbledore was once attracted to had made it into the script.

Missed that, though this does suggest to me that Rowling probably didn't relate this to any of the previous films' filmmakers or actors (if she's presumably referring to Steve Kloves, since he's been around the film franchise forever and she's only telling him during Half-Blood Prince.)

But no where does it say he's straight, either.

I didn't say he was straight (or deny that he's gay, if there is any difference between those positions). I even said that Rowling's interpretation is plausible. I just said that Rowling doesn't have absolute say over her books or the her canon, and that someone could deny her interpretation. Though not-gay is a far more boring way to read the book and character.

Now that I think about the film franchise, I wonder how Warner Brothers is going to react to this.
posted by Weebot at 10:06 AM on October 20, 2007


Honestly, I understand that this is news because it's from Rowling's lips, but the series is such a pastiche that this latest bit is clearly just yet ANOTHER lift from the Lord of the Rings - only this time, it's Peter Jackson's version, wherein the Dumbledore analogue was played by a WORLD FAMOUS GAY MAN.

I don't know why all this lifting irritates me so in the series, but it does, oh boy, it does. I just try to keep mumbling 'remix culture, remix culture' to myself.
posted by mwhybark at 10:15 AM on October 20, 2007


Asparagirl: Hitler? Please. Grindlelwald is, at best, Franco.

Weebot: And, I agree with you in as far as the individual reader reading a text creates his own version of what is correct, and that may be correct even if different from the authors vision. However, she absolutely does have a say over the canon.

Interpretation has to do with the readers interaction with the text. Canon, as part of a fictional world, is any part of it accepted as being authentic. Their two different measures, you can't conflate them.
posted by absalom at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2007


Hitler? Please. Grindlelwald is, at best, Franco.

Grindelwald and his followers:
- lorded about the inherent superiority of "pure-blood" [wizards/"Aryans"] over all other [wizards/European peoples], and certainly all [wizards/European peoples] over all [Muggles and other lower creatures/Jews, Gypsies]. Racial purity ideology, pure and simple.
- misappropriated an old estoreric magical symbol [the Deathly Hallows mark/the swastika] as the new symbol for their regime and ideology
- took over much of continental Europe (remember when Bulgarian Victor Krum talked about his grandfather getting killed by Grindelwald's guys?) and seemed poised to take over the British Isles
- was finally defeated in 1945

Tell ya what: let's just split the difference and call him Mussolini.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


replace "esoteric" for "estoreric", sorry.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2007


I think the best thing about the story is how positively the audience reacted to the news. Attitudes towards homosexuality certainly have improved, it seems.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:12 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, that confirms a suspicion I never expected to see addressed by Rowling. She wrote very little about the teachers' personal lives in general, although the text about the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald was rather suggestive. Neat.

Now let's talk about McGonagall. She is a complete mystery to me.
posted by Tehanu at 12:37 PM on October 20, 2007


absalom:I'm aware of the distinction. However, this doesn't seem to be a case of canonicity, but a matter of how to interpret the character.

Regardless, I still wouldn't say that she's the final authority on the matter even when it comes to the canon. Like interpretation, I always considered canonicity to be tied to a text's internal coherence. For something to be canon, the rest of the text (in this case, the Harry Potter series) has to take one particular interpretation as fact and continue on under that assumption. Of course Rowling has a say in the matter: she could add to it to make certain interpretations untenable, and she can decide what texts are "official" to a lesser extent (even on this point you'd get into some knotty issues, but I'm not going to discuss that right now.) Neither are the case here, though. And even then, there are still limits to her authority. If she said all of Harry Potter was a fever dream in the young wizard's head, I'm pretty sure most wouldn't consider that fact canon.
posted by Weebot at 1:00 PM on October 20, 2007


But no where does it say he's straight, either. If you read him that way, your being just as, um, extratextual.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by dhartung at 1:15 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I haven't heard a bit of knee-jerk conservative reaction to this yet. Maybe the Social Right is getting more reasonable? If anyone has seen any irate articles/blog posts about this, I'd like to see them.

I might have to read books 6 and 7 now...
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:47 PM on October 20, 2007


In other "is it canon?" news, Rowling says on her site (click "Wizard of the Month") that Harry becomes an Auror.

Well it was news to me anyway. Now I will start visiting again to see if she mentions other people's careers post-Hallows.

I haven't heard a bit of knee-jerk conservative reaction to this yet.

Try the reader comments on the Newsweek site.
posted by Tehanu at 1:58 PM on October 20, 2007


And of course, you can always rely on the Daily Mail readers for a nice bit of bile.
posted by bent back tulips at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2007


Thank God Douglas Adams never admitted publically that Ford Prefect was "a confirmed bachelor." I woulda had a cow! NTTAWWT
posted by ZachsMind at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2007


clearly just yet ANOTHER lift from the Lord of the Rings

Just like Harry if Frodo and Hermione is... the Ring?
posted by smackfu at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2007


I just said that Rowling doesn't have absolute say over her books or the her canon, and that someone could deny her interpretation.

Rowling does indeed share creative control over the films and methinks she has a lot of influence and power, as her franchise has brought in big bucks for the studio. After all, what she says about her characters, etc. comes from the source -- and her fans will expect compliance to such.
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on October 20, 2007


I haven't heard a bit of knee-jerk conservative reaction to this yet.

Forget the "War on Christmas." What will Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have to say about this on Monday?
posted by ericb at 3:37 PM on October 20, 2007


asparagirl: Deal. At any rate, I was speaking in relation to the other dark wizards of the Potterverse, and Grindlelwald is small potatoes compared to the V-man.

Weebot: I disagree. Whenever the author speaks from "on high" about the nature of the characters in his or her universe, it speaks directly to the canon.

Now, a reader can chose to disregard the canon, (And, IMHO, is encouraged to, especially on first readings) but when an author comes out and flat out says something, it is etched into the canon. Until death, he or she is the ultimate canonical source. Indeed, the source by which canon is defined almost.
posted by absalom at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2007


absalom, I wouldn't necessarily say that Grindelwald is small potatoes, since he was feared and loathed and I recall Voldemort being described as the darkest wizard since Grindelwald. He's merely of a different era, and Harry - who didn't grow up hearing about these past horrors, and whose perspective is the primary looking glass for the reader - probably doesn't see Grindelwald's horror as much as we are hyperaware of Hitler's atrocities. That doesn't make Grindelwald any less of an evil.
posted by Phire at 3:56 PM on October 20, 2007


I heard when he was a student at Hogwarts he played seeker for both teams.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, it certainly sounded like Grindelwald was the wizarding analog to Hitler to me. After all, he was German and defeated in 1945.

Wow, gay Hitler-loving Dumbledore.
posted by MythMaker at 5:42 PM on October 20, 2007


Now, a reader can chose to disregard the canon, (And, IMHO, is encouraged to, especially on first readings) but when an author comes out and flat out says something, it is etched into the canon. Until death, he or she is the ultimate canonical source. Indeed, the source by which canon is defined almost.

Not at all; the source by which canon is defined is the text. This comes up every so often in another venue I read. If you accept the author as the ultimate authority on what is in the text - as opposed to what the author intended to be in the text - you end up having to accept absurdities like Fahrenheit 451 not being about censorship or The Forever War not playing off Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

You also end up with crap like having to believe that Greedo was always supposed to have shot first; this is absurd on its face and the younger Lucas would have been appalled at older, fatter Lucas.
posted by Justinian at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2007


Wow, just wow. I mean, people actually give a shit about this?
posted by fenriq at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but Dumbledore liked him back in his student days, when he was an artist and thinker. Not when he started killing people.
posted by graventy at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2007


Wow, gay Hitler-loving Dumbledore.
The little gay nazi dolls approve! They'd like their wizarding robes and hats, please.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:22 PM on October 20, 2007


Wow, Filtcraft. I thought I was the only one who collected little homoerotic nazi action figures!
posted by Justinian at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2007


As far as when JKR decided all of this, well, she has Dumbledore in control of the Invisibility Cloak at the beginning of the series, even though it was clear he had no need of one in order to become invisible. We find out why he had it at the end of the series, where it is inextricably tied to the Deathly Hallows plot, and Dumbledore's relationship with Grindelwald.

So she might have done some tweaking now and then, but it seems clearly decided from the start, to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:25 PM on October 20, 2007


How many times have you heard people complain about gays and lesbians "flaunting their sexuality" when they kiss in public, express the desire to marry, etc.? How many times have you heard "I'd be fine with homosexuals if they'd just keep it to themselves"? Here's a character who doesn't ask, doesn't tell, keeps his hands to himself, remains unattached after getting his heart broken into smithereens, and yet the bigots still feel righteous anger over being tricked into liking a gay wizard.
posted by Soliloquy at 6:27 PM on October 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


I sure hope Rowling determines that Professor McGonagall is straight. I think she's dreamy!
posted by ZachsMind at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2007


Here's a character who doesn't ask, doesn't tell, keeps his hands to himself, remains unattached after getting his heart broken into smithereens, and yet the bigots still feel righteous anger over being tricked into liking a gay wizard.


I'd much prefer they were offended by a character who was written as gay - and not another cliched sexually repressed British Headmaster, whose homosexuality is so closeted, the author didn't see fit to even allude to it in the story.

I'm offended that yet another gay character has been given to the world - who is basically asexual, having only fallen in love once and never got any action for the next fifty years of his life. One must assume all this, of course, until Rowling decides to yet again give the audience more extra-textual information that she didn't bother to put into the books - which is where it might have meant something.
posted by crossoverman at 8:13 PM on October 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


a comment on AfterElton that I agree to:
"I'm a gay fan and I'm not amused.

- Firstly how very "nervy" of her to out him *after* all the books have come out and it won't harm her sales.
- Secondly not a single rumour of this in the books. Nothing. In my school the students speculated about their teachers being gay or straight, I'm just saying... So the argument of "Harry's big role model is gay. Hurrah!" is void for me, because Harry didn't have a clue. "Harry's big role model is a gay closetcase", yeah, that's more appropriate.
- Thirdly (oh I'm on a role) in another interview she mentioned "unrequited love for Grindelwald" and "his great tragedy". Seeing what she did to Snape, with his big life-long unrequited crush -who never loved again since he was 6 years old (puh-lease), this probably means that Dumbledore never went looking for love again. Basically we have a 150-year-old closeted virgin on our hands. What a positive message on homosexuality! I know I'm being very critical here, but to me she's saying "oh he's gay, but don't worry, he never did anything with it"
- Fourthly, why didn't she just leave one of her more sexually ambiguous characters ...er, ambiguous. Why marry off Lupin to Tonks, two characters that just *screamed* gay without being explicit. Is it because hey, they're young so they still have sex (homosexuals having sex is soooo not-done), while Dumbledore is so old and 'revered' you can't even imagine him ever naked? It just screams "old Celluloid closet queen" to me, I'm sorry.

To me it's just hypocritical. If she didn't put it in the books, she should not have bothered. (And I don't just mean "Dumbledore being gay", I also mean: not a single mention of any student *not* getting married in the epilogue. )"
posted by kolophon at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Justinian:

"Not at all; the source by which canon is defined is the text. This comes up every so often in another venue I read. If you accept the author as the ultimate authority on what is in the text - as opposed to what the author intended to be in the text - you end up having to accept absurdities like Fahrenheit 451 not being about censorship or The Forever War not playing off Heinlein's Starship Troopers."

But there's only so far you can take this, too. After my book Old Man's War came out, people talked about it as current-era take on Starship Troopers and The Forever War. The former was certainly true but the latter was not, since I hadn't read Haldeman's book at the time. People who insist that my book is a reaction to Forever are welcome to do so, but they're going to come to bad conclusions, because they're working from incorrect assumptions.

I think if an author says something about a book that is clearly at odds with the text, you need to default to the text as being definitive, because unlike the author (and the author's mind), the text doesn't change over time. This is why Bradbury's latter-day of denial of Fahrenheit being about censorship falls flat: It's obviously there in the text, and these days Bradbury is old and cranky. But in places where the text is ambiguous or non-reponsive, the authors commentary probably should be viewed with canonical weight.
posted by jscalzi at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think that's an edge case because people were talking about what was in your mind when you wrote the book rather than what was in the text itself. I realize that's true of my Forever War example as well, of course. I agree (obviously) that the author can usually speak, uh, authoratatively on the topic of what is in his mind with the caveats you provided. Lucas/Greedo is on point there.

But when we're talking about what is actually in the text as opposed to the author's mind I don't believe the author is definitive. If I were to say that you wrote Old Man's War as a reaction to Haldeman I'd clearly be wrong and you could speak authoratatively to that. If, however, I were to say that OMW functions as a reaction to Heinlein and Haldeman it doesn't matter whether you disagree. The answer is in the text, not in your head.

And I'd say exactly that. Whether or not you had read Haldeman at the time of authorship your novel clearly speaks to many of the same themes and such.

I'll be picking up Zoe's Tale in hardcover when it gets published.
posted by Justinian at 9:49 PM on October 20, 2007


Oh, and the point being; Rowling can say whatever she wants. If she wanted people to know that Dumbledore was gay she should have put it in the text.
posted by Justinian at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2007


Exactly, Justinian - because the books will probably be read for a long time to come, but her little revelation will be forgotten soon enough.
posted by crossoverman at 10:29 PM on October 20, 2007


You know who else was gay for Adolf Hitler?

Adolf Hitler.

[taps nose]
posted by ormondsacker at 10:35 PM on October 20, 2007


Justinian: "If she wanted people to know that Dumbledore was gay she should have put it in the text."

Rowling may have wanted to keep it open to interpretation.

As has been mentioned earlier in the thread, this story was Harry's story. If Dumbledore's sexuality didn't matter to Harry, it shouldn't matter to us. Dumbledore's sexuality wasn't pertinent to the plot. There was no reason to extraneously throw it into the books, except of course to scare the CONservatives (many of whom are scared already thinking the book is pagan or whatever).

As I understand the context, Rowling was talking to a girl who had essentially uncloseted herself before strangers to ask her question, so Rowling felt it appropriate to make this little bit real for her. However, she also calculatedly stated "confirmed bachelor." This still leaves it open to interpretation.

Those of us who are chronically homophobic, and wish to live in a world where homosexuality is (insert pretty much anything negative here whatever pisses you off the most), can continue reading Rowling's books going LA LA LA LA and pretending we didn't hear that. The rest of you have yourselves a "confirmed bachelor" and you may do with him what you will.

One of the beautiful things about books is that when you're reading it, you are your own director, producer, special effects team, you may even opt to star in it if you want. If you want to make any of the characters gay, that's entirely up to you.

If I ever read any of these books, and I haven't - I have just seen a couple of the movies, I'll pretend everyone on the faculty of the school are secretly furries and whenever Harry Potter is asleep they all dress up in their costumes and hump each other's legs. That may make the books entertaining enough for me to trudge through. I'll probably also make them all drug addicts because it would amuse me.

Rowling may also simply be laying groundwork for interest in future works that refer to the PotterVerse. She'll probably make some kind of encyclopedia that covers material not covered in the story, starting with "A" and going down the alphabet each year until her death. Not that she needs the gravy train, but you can never have enough money.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:53 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


She didn't use the phrase "confirmed bachelor". The actual quote is:
My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.
posted by zixyer at 11:35 PM on October 20, 2007


Rowling may have wanted to keep it open to interpretation.

Clearly, ZachsMind, she has changed her mind on that.

However, she also calculatedly stated "confirmed bachelor." This still leaves it open to interpretation.


According to this transcript:
Question: Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?

JKR: My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.
and
JKR: In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair... [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, "Dumbledore's gay!" [laughter] "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!"
Really not leaving it open to interpretation. But I still have a problem with leaving it out of the text, because these statements of hers are too easy to refute and too easy to ignore.

As has been mentioned earlier in the thread, this story was Harry's story. If Dumbledore's sexuality didn't matter to Harry, it shouldn't matter to us. Dumbledore's sexuality wasn't pertinent to the plot.

We can't know if it mattered to Harry, because neither Harry nor we knew it. We weren't allowed to know it. JKR kept it hidden from him and from us.

Revealing a character's sexuality is not that difficult. In the telling of the tale between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, it wouldn't have taken more than a line to explain Dumbledore's true feelings. Revealing his sexuality doesn't require graphic descriptions of gay sex. It does, however, require something more than... not saying anything about it at all.

That we know about Severus Snape's love of Lily Potter - and many other relationships of his contemporaries - means that the heterosexual relationships were important to the story and the one queer relationship was not. This is a bad example for children and a slap in the face to queer readers.
posted by crossoverman at 11:49 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I understand that this is news because it's from Rowling's lips, but the series is such a pastiche that this latest bit is clearly just yet ANOTHER lift from the Lord of the Rings

So Bilbo's a bum-boy? Who knew? Obviously that's why the book is called Lord of the Rings?

I knew people had to have some reason to plough through such an enormous and enormously tedious book about trolls and dwarfs and wizards, but who knew it was for the gay sex content?

Is the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really a metaphor for being in the closet?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:51 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really a metaphor for being in the closet?

Oh my god - Jesus was gay!
posted by crossoverman at 2:09 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


A character in a book is not gay unless something in the book says or shows that he is gay. The author's chat about supposed intent is not the same thing; she could as easily tell another audience tomorrow that she was just talking out her arse and that she didn't make him actually gay because in the end she didn't want him to be gay. What matters is what's on the page.

The character in a future film is a different being -- the product of scriptwriters, actor, and director, still unfixed and not, I suppose, entirely controlled by the author of the books. That character eventually could, for example, be seen in a romantic situation with another man. But that wouldn't change the character in the books any more than a gay James Bond film would make the James Bond of the Fleming books gay.
posted by pracowity at 2:10 AM on October 21, 2007


CrossOverMan: "According to this transcript..."

LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA

There's all kinds of slash out there regarding characters that were not gay in the source material, but individuals who experienced those works wanted them to be gay, either for humorous purposes or so they could better identify with the characters. Batman and Robin. Kirk and Spock. Holmes and Watson. This doesn't detract from the original source material. Those who need to have these characters gay for whatever reason can pretend that for their own amusement, and the rest of us can ignore it.

If you can't enjoy the series knowing this, just make up some slash that confirms for your amusement he's straight. The world will still spin, the sun will still rise and set, we may all look at you funny and call you weird, but whatever floats your boat.

Rowling created the character. Even if she never admitted it in the books, if she wants Dumbledore to be gay, he's gay. Still, I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear her say that. Not that it matters. I'm not gonna read the books anyway.

I also believe Douglas Adams will come back from the dead and write the sixth book in the Guide Trilogy. If you disagree with me--

LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA
posted by ZachsMind at 3:24 AM on October 21, 2007


LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA

My response was simply to your belief that she said "confirmed bachelor". She did no such thing.

Ignorance is no excuse.
posted by crossoverman at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2007


To those who say "it should have been in the text": Isn't it possible that we're witnessing the tail end of a dispute between Rowling and her publishers? It's at least possible she was forced into taking it out.

This is all beside the point in terms of "interpretation," for all the reasons everyone has said—but I'm not so sure it isn't in the text. Like others I feel this is heavily implied by the Dumbledore/Grindelwald chapter in the 7th book.
posted by BackwardsCity at 6:34 AM on October 21, 2007


Yes, with regard to its presence or absence in the text, I think there's something between her going back and inserting something that was never there and her having mentioned it explicitly in the text. And the in-between thing is what happened.

Just because it's not there doesn't mean it's not there. The entire discipline of the study of literature is dedicated to thinking of things that are in texts that may not actually be there, but are there anyway.

It's there.
posted by lampoil at 9:30 AM on October 21, 2007


It's definitely implied in the text. When I first read DH last summer, I realized Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald. It wasn't super-explicit, no. But it didn't need to be.

All these claims of "it's not in there," -- I wonder if those people read the same book I did?
posted by neko at 10:25 AM on October 21, 2007


> YOU FUCKING SPOIOLER ASSHOLE!

Nooooooooo ... you bitch! you bitch!
posted by WCityMike at 10:40 AM on October 21, 2007


Lazarus Long did Andy Libby, and liked it. When Heinlein wrote that, in Number of the Beast, I was very thankful. (Lazarus answers a question asked by Hilda, while they share a bath). So JK said what she said. Okay, but no big deal.
posted by Goofyy at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2007


To build on what lampoil said, we don't know that Harry didn't guess, any more than we know that he did. He did see that plum-colored velvet suit in Half-Blood Prince, but like everything else, it's open to the reader's interpretation. We know that wizards are eccentric dressers by Muggle standards, so "flamboyant" can mean whatever you think it means, given the context.

This younger Albus Dumbledore's long hair and beard were auburn. Having reached their side of the street, he strode off along the pavement, drawing many curious glances due to the flamboyantly cut suit of plum velvet that he was wearing.

"Nice suit, sir," said Harry, before he could stop himself, but Dumbledore merely chuckled.


I don't feel slapped in the face. Yes, gay subtext is a bit disappointing, as is the (as far as we know) chaste gay role model. Maintext is more honest, but maintext doesn't get read by as many people, either. The message of tolerance that Rowling conveys is stronger than the individual issues she covers explicitly (sexism, racism, classism). So while I'm always disappointed at the glaring omission of sexuality, I do admire the overall message. She's helping kids find courage to be themselves. That includes gay kids, who may not pick up that Dumbledore is gay from the text, but they'll surely pick up that he'd be the first person to defend anyone who gets treated unfairly for being different. They can't miss that he's eccentric, and powerful, and utterly fair-minded in how he treats other people.

So no, she didn't give us a maintext gay character, but she gave Harry friends, whose lives and safety were threatened for being different: Hermione's parents are Muggles; Lupin's a werewolf; Dean can't prove his dad was a wizard. She gave us a hero and his role model who took great risks to defend them against people who have a very specific idea of what wizards should be and are willing to do terrible things to people who run counter to that idea.

The text hints at Dumbledore's love for Grindelwald, but no more than that. That's still more than we know about any of the other teachers, whatever their orientations, except Snape, whose love for Lily Potter was a key plot point.

Sexuality is always an obvious omission in the stories, but I think it stands out all the more because of what Rowling does accomplish. She gave us female characters who are more than love interests and flat characters. She gave us a fantasy world where not all the characters are Caucasian-- and that is still rare in the genre. She made issues of equality and fair treatment central to the storyline. She wrote openly about issues other authors avoid. It makes the one she did avoid discussing openly that much more obvious, but it doesn't detract from the main message so much that I value the books less for it. It is a step forward, even if it's not as far forward as many of us would like to see.

Subtext does have a place, still. A lot of people are now in a position of reconciling Dumbledore's sexuality with their admiration of him as a character. Some are already rejecting him and the stories altogether, or rejecting Rowling's revelation as untrue. I imagine some people, particularly kids, are finding themselves with a feeling of acquaintance with a fictional gay person for the first time in their lives, and are still figuring out what to do with the new information. He is so very likeable and decent, and despite people's jokes to the contrary, he undermines what many kids are told about gay men-- he's not a pedophile. That kind of subversion is sometimes best accomplished by subtext. I'm still grateful for Dumbledore, even if I am disappointed that his orientation remained subtextual to the end.
posted by Tehanu at 11:05 AM on October 21, 2007 [15 favorites]


It's definitely implied in the text. When I first read DH last summer, I realized Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald. It wasn't super-explicit, no. But it didn't need to be.

Agreed. It's kind of insulting to have the author point things out like this. "Look, aren't I clever?" Well, yes, Ms. Rowling, but so are we. You can shut up now.

The only reason to bring it up at all is to keep people talking about Harry Potter, and to get more people to buy the books out of the interest this revelation generates. It's a bit crass, really.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:19 AM on October 21, 2007


What Tehanu said.

Would it have been a stronger point if she'd stated Dumbledore's sexuality explicitly in the text? Yes, but hey, she didn't have to say it at all, in print or otherwise. It doesn't relly impact the text, and that's kind of the point. The fact is that she - casually, with the clear implication that it's no big deal - told millions of little kids (who believe me, are listening) that someone they admire is gay. That's an amazing thing in today's world. A lot of really bigoted people are forced to confront their prejudices when they discover a close friend or family member is gay, and on a (much) smaller level, Rowling has asked a lot of kids to do that. Sure, some people will write it off, some will freak out, more parents won't let their kids read the books. But a whole lot of the next generation is going to come to terms with the fact that a fictional but nonetheless wholly positive role model who influenced them at a formative time in their lives is gay, that that doesn't really change who he is or what he did. Hopefully, that'll impact their attitudes for the rest of their lives.

I'm going to just go ahead and be happy about that, instead of worrying about what was written versus what was said.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:13 PM on October 21, 2007 [7 favorites]


Would it have been a stronger point if she'd stated Dumbledore's sexuality explicitly in the text? Yes, but hey, she didn't have to say it at all, in print or otherwise. It doesn't relly impact the text, and that's kind of the point. The fact is that she - casually, with the clear implication that it's no big deal - told millions of little kids (who believe me, are listening) that someone they admire is gay.
I'm thrilled about it, but know she could have slid it in casually (some mementos in his office, or a picture of them on his desk or something--or have some enemies use it as an insult, etc)--especially since she thought it was important enough to tell a director of the movies.

On the other hand, she created a almost-entirely sexless world, so maybe it would have stuck out.
posted by amberglow at 12:35 PM on October 21, 2007


CrossOverMan: "Ignorance is no excuse."

LA LA LA LA Hermione ain't jailbait LA LA LA LA

Ignorance is bliss! =)
posted by ZachsMind at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2007


And she knows all her gay and lesbian fans have always read it as the story of difference and coming out and being yourself it is.
posted by amberglow at 12:39 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Boston Phoenix, 03--There’s something about Harry:
Evangelicals who are all worked up about Harry Potter's celebration of magic and the occult are on to something. The kid may just be queer, in the broadest sense. -- ... The interplay between the world of magic and the world of Muggles in the Potter books is identical to how queer historians and sociologists describe the interplay between the closeted gay world and the mainstream world, particularly in the days before the gay-liberation movement. Homosexuals were everywhere, yet heterosexuals usually could not see them. Gay bars looked just like straight bars from the outside. Gay people invented elaborate codes, often in language, dress, and deportment, so they could recognize one another but not be seen as abnormal by the heterosexual — Muggle — world. ...

posted by amberglow at 12:48 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Agreed. It's kind of insulting to have the author point things out like this. "Look, aren't I clever?" Well, yes, Ms. Rowling, but so are we. You can shut up now.

The only reason to bring it up at all is to keep people talking about Harry Potter, and to get more people to buy the books out of the interest this revelation generates. It's a bit crass, really.


That's not what I meant at all. Nor is it true.

Rowling didn't announce this as a stand-alone statement. It was a response to a reader's question. Readers are constantly asking to know more about the characters, and she generally obliges them. The only reason it's news this time is the answer touches on a controversial issue.
posted by neko at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2007


Also, it's weird that thruout the books she was thoroughly and wholly open and direct about the racism, slavery, sexism, muggle/wizard societal problems, and everything else, really--but not sexuality--and all this in what is essentially a coming-of-age story.
posted by amberglow at 12:57 PM on October 21, 2007


Well, on the one hand, I think fanwanks are interesting. On the other hand. I do think that some of the anger towards Rowling is somewhat justified. It's not as if the subject of gay characters has not been explicitly explored in juvenile fiction by other writers including juvenile genre fiction.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2007


but know [Rowling] could have slid it in casually (some mementos in his office, or a picture of them on his desk or something--or have some enemies use it as an insult

She does! Rita Skeeter's nasty biography of Dumbledore, mentioned in Book 7, can be read as full of slurs on Dumbledore's character, including his sexuality. Rita definitely tries to hint that Dumbledore's mentor-like relationship with Harry was suspect.

Also, as other people have mentioned up-thread, I can't believe that some fans are upset about a sort-of-canonical gay character in the series when Albus' brother Aberforth is a canonical and textual goat-fucker (with a goat Patronus to boot). Now, that's being open-minded.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


AP: Dumbledore’s outing gives text new meaning -- "There may have been more than friendship between wizard, Grindelwald."
posted by ericb at 2:52 PM on October 21, 2007


Aspara, the whole series is about being true to yourself--this omission goes against all of that. It's cowardly, and since the book already had tons of elements that caused it to be challenged and even removed from school libraries all over, etc, it's weird that Rowling would even inadvertently perpetuate the closeting of Dumbledore. I haven't read the last book yet, but if the only thing close is a smear job on him with him being gay used as an insult, then what does that say too? If Rowling always thought of him as gay, why not mention it? How could it not be relevant in a series like this? All sorts of divisions and bigotry are fully covered, all sorts of backstory on other major characters are fully gone into, all sorts of social issues are tackled--but not this. It doesn't make sense.
posted by amberglow at 4:14 PM on October 21, 2007


These Premises Are Alarmed, what a wonderfully told anecdote.
posted by nickyskye at 4:18 PM on October 21, 2007


Does it really matter wheher or not Dumbledore is gay? He's a character in a book that is full of messages to children to let them know that being different is from everyone else is not necessarily a bad thing. If JKR sees fit to say that one of her main characters is gay then i think everyone would have to accept it as she did write the books so the story line is her choice and not that of other people.
posted by Neotala at 5:30 PM on October 21, 2007


Neotala: Does it really matter whether or not Dumbledore is gay?

It doesn't so much matter whether Dumbledore is gay. It does matter a bit how Dumbledore's gayness is presented and developed in the books. One of the key forms of discrimination that LGB people have faced historically is the way they have been closeted in literature, or mentioned using only codes like "confirmed bachelor."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:07 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


mentioned using only codes like "confirmed bachelor."

Which is not a term Rowling used.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:37 PM on October 21, 2007


Thank God Douglas Adams never admitted publically that Ford Prefect was "a confirmed bachelor."

I always wondered who he played those drinking games with. The ones with the "biologically obscene" forfeits that he played to lose. Now we'll never know.

Also, it's weird that thruout the books she was thoroughly and wholly open and direct about the racism, slavery, sexism, muggle/wizard societal problems, and everything else, really--but not sexuality--and all this in what is essentially a coming-of-age story.

Her sexual references and jokes with a possible sexual interpretation are usually rather multilayered (such as the reference to Aberforth's goat charming). Sexual actions are usually indirectly stated: student couples giggling in the bushes at the Yule Ball; Fred and George disappearing with Veela cousins at Bill and Fleur's wedding; Harry and Ginny spending a lot of time together out on the grounds; inquiries about Harry having a tattoo; Hermione's disheveled and breathless appearance when she's hiding from McLaggen at the party. What exactly happens in all those scenes is open to the reader's interpretation. Things are very suggestive but not explicit.

It's like a lot of literature written for kids and young adults-- kids want to read about sex, and parents are terrified of just that. So you write it with layers. Some kids will get the second meanings to the jokes, and some won't. Adults will read things between the lines that some kids won't know they're missing. Some kids will read things between the lines that most adults think they're not sophisticated enough to understand.

So I think it does make sense for a coming of age book. That said, I do wish the parts about Grindelwald in the last book were stated more like the other sexual content, though-- it only takes a bit of rewording to make it clearer that the middle of the night letter exchanges were possibly romantic from Dumbledore's perspective. And most importantly, it makes his defeat of Grindelwald more painful and his delay more understandable. If you don't interpret his feelings as romantic, it's harder to sympathize with his egregiously bad judgment.
posted by Tehanu at 6:47 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's like a lot of literature written for kids and young adults-- kids want to read about sex, and parents are terrified of just that. So you write it with layers.

Kids, yes. Young adults, not really. Young adults are dealing with issues of sex, personal responsibility, drugs, etc in their own lives and YA literature these days should and does reflect that.

The Potter stuff isn't YA, it's for kids. There's nothing wrong with that but it doesn't deal with adult or young adult issues on any sort of a level necessary for it to be a YA novel.
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on October 21, 2007


Yeah, but it's getting read by a lot of young adults. Which is why stuff like the goat joke is in there, I think. It keeps it interesting. And sometimes I see stuff marked YA that is really "nothing to see here, move along!" in terms of sex. But I confess it's not a distinction I know all that well, in terms of book marketing. And I think even between the U.S. and the UK, there are differences in whether the books are considered to be for kids or not, in terms of placement in the bookstores. Or so I've heard.
posted by Tehanu at 7:24 PM on October 21, 2007


AmberGlow: "Also, it's weird that thruout the books she was thoroughly and wholly open and direct about the racism, slavery, sexism, muggle/wizard societal problems, and everything else, really--but not sexuality--and all this in what is essentially a coming-of-age story."

Okay I think I might have a reasonably serious answer to that one.

There is a reason why many writers choose to go into genre fiction. If this was just a straightforward coming of age story, there would have been no need for Rowling to put the story in a world of magic. She coulda just put Harry in a conventional school in the real world and gone from there. Genre often replaces for the author themes and issues that s/he wishes to address but cannot for reasons of propriety or even sometimes fear of censorship.

If Rowling was wanting to address the issues of racism and bigotry and artificial superiority, but she wanted to talk to an audience that would be offended by a frontal assault on their opinions, then she would rightly utilize something that doesn't have the trappings of bigotry and hatred in the eyes of her audience.

I enjoyed it when Joss Whedon used vampirism as such a metaphor with Angel and Spike, or even witchcraft with Willow as a metaphor for sociological struggles (then around seas. Roddenberry dealt with similar themes forty years ago in the original Star Trek episode "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield." He did so painfully melodramatically, but this is nothing new.

However, Rowling knew that a little sugar helps make the medicine go down. If this was secretly her intent with the Harry Potter series, that is SO not what I got from the movies. I might think twice about just not reading the books.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:59 PM on October 21, 2007


OK, I'm not going to attempt to persuade you people to spend less time in the school library, but would you perhaps consider expending your exegeses over some worthier object?
posted by Phanx at 1:47 AM on October 22, 2007


Also, Harry Potter is thinly-veiled homosexual propaganda.

(Sort-of self link, but I didn't write it)
posted by rusty at 8:01 AM on October 22, 2007


Genre often replaces for the author themes and issues that s/he wishes to address but cannot for reasons of propriety or even sometimes fear of censorship.

Of course--and that makes this absence even more inexplicable. Why did all other issues get treated openly within the world she created, yet this had to remain hidden? Speaking of "propriety" makes the closeting of him even worse, and she knew that the Witch/Wizard thing ensured censorship and problems here in the US (but also massive publicity), if not in other countries.

This is not the 1950s, and Judy Blume and others have been dealing with "difficult" issues openly for decades. Children's books are not all straight anymore and YA books neither. And--the mere size and tone and style of all of the books ensured an older audience than just little kids. These are not "children's books" in the classic sense (like OZ, or Beverly Cleary's, or even Roald Dahl's, etc) but entirely tween/YA books.
posted by amberglow at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2007


Also--there's always been something really weird/echoing about the whole "he who must not be named" thing--the explicit parallels for some of us to "the love that dare not speak its name" etc, and the closet in general. That there was someone/something so utterly wrong that you couldn't even talk of it in public or even among your own kind--ever. That such a strong social taboo about it existed in this magical world. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:35 AM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, along those lines--the clear flamboyance/otherness/characterizations of all of Voldemort's followers, and how they read, compared to the "good" characters. And if Dumbledore's love was gay and evil, did that play into how she portrayed evil in the entire series? And how she portrayed the entire community's dealings with evil?

It's like she totally and blatantly took society and us as the model for her portrayal of wizard society and Voldemort and his followers, if you think about it. From denial that it exists to infiltration of the Ministry to hiding true natures and closeting to the taboos on even speaking about it to the fear and loathing...
posted by amberglow at 9:48 AM on October 22, 2007


Roland Barthes and I urge caution.
posted by kosem at 12:50 PM on October 22, 2007


If Rowling always thought of him as gay, why not mention it? How could it not be relevant in a series like this? All sorts of divisions and bigotry are fully covered, all sorts of backstory on other major characters are fully gone into, all sorts of social issues are tackled--but not this.

People seem to talk about Rowling as though she were some kind of omnicient, virtuous super-being, rather than a human being who made a choice (belatedly outing Dumbledore) with which you may or may not agree. We could make up altruistic motives as easily as greedy ones, to suit whichever case we fancy. In truth, who's to say she even agrees with herself about her motives? Perhaps she simply didn't understand the issue enough to tackle it in an effective way.

Dumbledore is or had been the best-loved, most powerful wizard in the world, with influence over entire generations, and looked to for hope and guidance and approval, even after death. He's also a calculating, lying, manipulative bastard who played all his cards close to the chest, even with people he trusted absolutely. He was also very, very good at fooling people into thinking he was not any of the things he actually was, but a dotty old man with a candy addiction. To me, Rowling's revelation just glues together a few more pieces of a complicated character.
posted by zennie at 12:56 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


it's just really sad that yet more generations have to grow up without visible gay characters in beloved books--like i and everyone before me had to.

terribly sad--a shame. And her only revealing it now and not in the books is shameful. If it was important enough to mention in a talk, it should have been important enough to put into at least one book out of the series-- in a way that's not a slur or used as a weapon against him. If the books weren't about all these societal issues, it wouldn't matter as much-- but they all are-- and this is glaring.
posted by amberglow at 2:17 PM on October 22, 2007


You're right that Rowling missed a huge opportunity with this issue, but I'm not convinced outing Dumbledore earlier would have been an improvement.

I know someone mentioned that it was used as a slur in Rita Skeeter's biography of Dumbledore, but I don't feel that's accurate. I remember her saying the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore "unhealthy" and "sinister." I'm on the edge of agreement, given the other revelations in Deathly Hallows. Rita probably meant something else, but we don't even know if Rita knew that Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald, only that she knew they conspired together.
posted by zennie at 3:35 PM on October 22, 2007


zennie, but we knew Rowling had always seen him as gay--what Skeeter means or not is exactly what the author thought she would likely use as a weapon, no? So then you ask why that? "unhealthy" and "sinister" are typical slurs, along with the very widespread slur that we go for kids. (i haven't read the last one tho yet, so don't totally spoil)

That Rowling is willing to make a character attack that way, and never show any positive at all in terms of Dumbledore's actual sexuality, is a choice she made. Why? Not even a portrait of him in his office or some memento of their love--nothing. In books chock-full of portent symbols and other objects with/of power, and the power of love and memory in general we see thruout. Dumbledore wouldn't have had to tell Harry or any student--but his relations with the other staff and Ministry, etc, are another matter entirely--how could they all not know? And if it's so invisible in their society--a taboo--why wasn't it used against him in all the machinations concerning him thruout all the books? Think of how often they all tried to get rid of him.
posted by amberglow at 5:40 PM on October 22, 2007


...The books, she said, were "a plea for an end to hatred, to bigotry" ....
posted by amberglow at 6:06 PM on October 22, 2007


And, ok, let's take the attention away from Rowling. There is no lack of media out there that hints at the queer sexual orientation of the characters involved, and treats them horribly as a plot development. I ended up watching three Anime series that hints, hints, hints that these two characters are gay, and then rather brutally kills them on the road to the climax. (The worst was Gankutsou, The Count of Monte Cristo which delivers its most explicit gore for the two men who stand in the way of the protagonist's heterosexual partnership.) What really disappoints me is that Rowling is being applauded for explicitly admitting to writing a cliche.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:39 PM on October 22, 2007


but that's just it--she didn't write a cliche--she thought it but didn't at all put it in. Even a bad portrayal in a series like this would have actually been an improvement over what's there now.

... This scenario is even clearer with Rowling, who does not have a utopic science fictional world to pose as a hypothetical. It’s neat that Rowling has a homosexual character, but could we have seen this in your series, please? Could we have seen Dumbledore with a real, living lover? Or, failing that — if he spent his life pining — why couldn’t we have learned about that? We got to learn about the long flaming heterosexual torches, including much more twee whining about Snape and Lily than I was interested in.

Yes, I know Rowling has to deal with the reality of her audience, just as I said Scalzi does. And of course, writing for children means accepting certain boundaries. I can understand that she didn’t want to ask for more textual trouble from Christian conservatives than she’s already got. As the interview relates: “Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to Christian groups that have alleged the books promote witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she said, will give them one more reason.”

Of course, that leads me to say: they hate you anyway. So, why pander to them?

Most texts only appear as themselves. Books are a finished form. We, as writers, are often told we have to send them into the world without our excuses, without our explanations. When we go to workshops where other people critique our manuscripts, writers are entreated to stay silent. Because our justifications don’t matter — the text becomes what the reader makes of it, a combination of their experiences and the tools you give them.

Neither Rowling nor Scalzi gave their readers the tools that they needed in order to pry this information from the text. It’s an afterthought, left to discussion by only the most devoted fans, only the people who happen to read the blog. Why should it have to be the non-white characters and the homosexual characters whose marginal lives are illuminated not even in the marginalia of the text, but in the essays and justifications afterward?

posted by amberglow at 7:22 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


a bad portrayal can be countered and protested against---erasure can't be.
posted by amberglow at 7:26 PM on October 22, 2007


erasure can't be.

What about a Little Respect? How about some love?
posted by ericb at 8:52 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


amberglow, explaining why I don't flinch at "unhealthy" and "sinister" would contain too many spoilers. But just because Rowling knows something doesn't mean her characters know it. In the glimpse we get, Rita seems to see scandal in the idea that Dumbledore avoided stopping Grindelwald's massacres because of their history together, although I think the number of times she calls the relationship "friendship" casts doubt on what she actually knew. She also implies that the two caused someone's death.

The staff may not know because it doesn't appear that Dumbledore was close to anyone. Those who don't hate him seem to be in awe of him or look to him for instruction. Plus, I think he grew up in the Victorian era. How many trusted characters were born before 1950?

a bad portrayal can be countered and protested against---erasure can't be.

True, but that leaves the author between the rock and the hard place, doesn't it? There is no way Rowling could have introduced a central role model character as gay without guaranteeing her larger message would never reach many of the people she wanted it to reach.
posted by zennie at 8:54 PM on October 22, 2007


a bad portrayal can be countered and protested against---erasure can't be.

there's only one way to make sure that a book expresses the things you would like to be expressed

write one yourself
posted by pyramid termite at 10:39 PM on October 22, 2007


There is no way Rowling could have introduced a central role model character as gay without guaranteeing her larger message would never reach many of the people she wanted it to reach.
That's totally untrue--especially for the later books, which were all ensured success no matter what. And as Rowling herself talked about, she's had people fighting her books from the beginning anyway because of the witchcraft. The notion that a gay character would be poison to her success or her readership totals itself perpetuates and reinforces the idea that it's something that needs to be hidden.
posted by amberglow at 8:19 AM on October 23, 2007


zennie: Ok, if you choose to develop a gay character but write him in the closet, you become part of a grand old English language literary tradition of heterosexist bias. And if you feel that is absolutely necessary for your art, go ahead.

But you shouldn't expect to get a cookie or a pat on the head for it. Which is what is really frustrating here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:30 AM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm two thirds done with the first book (first time through), and I have some questions:
  1. If Snape kills Dumbledore (as this tshirt says) was it a hate crime?
  2. What page does the gay sex start on for those wanting to skip it (or skip to it).
  3. When does the Brokeback Dumbledore YouTube mashup get posted?
Thanks!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:34 AM on October 23, 2007


1. nope
2. on none of them
3. probably already is

; >

(the 2nd and 4th books are the best, i've found so far)
posted by amberglow at 9:32 AM on October 23, 2007


amberglow, I don't want to go on the defensive, but I think you misread me. You are setting a zero-sum game; I'm not playing.
posted by zennie at 9:33 AM on October 23, 2007


zennie, it's already a zero-sum game, i think--the books are done. Rowling made it zero-sum but good for herself anyway when she omitted all mention in all the books, but after the fact thought it worth telling fans and the media at a giant event in Carnegie Hall (where she was introduced by Keith Olbermann of MSNBC News, ensuring coverage)
posted by amberglow at 1:23 PM on October 23, 2007


She really did make it zero-sum. She played it that way to begin with--as she reveals now, when it's too late to affect anything--and not even meant to affect anything in the books. So she reminds each director of the movies if it comes up--keeping him sexless and neuter--they won't last like the series will, anyway.
posted by amberglow at 1:27 PM on October 23, 2007


Conservatives Attack Gay Dumbledore; Claim Vindication For Jerry Falwell’s Homophobia
posted by amberglow at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2007


Poor Dumbledore. He gets all the media stigma that comes with being gay and living openly without the benefits. He fills in a blank that people are getting a little weary of filling with "marriage" alone.

Conservatives attack gay _____ .

Conservatives claim gay _____ vindicates homophobia.

Conservative bloggers post their opinions about gay _____ .

Newspapers report blog comments about gay _____ as news.

Conservatives argue that the popularity of gay _____ as a subject proves the media are part of the Gay Agenda.

Conservatives equate gay _____ with pedophilia.

Conservatives point to gay _____ as a symptom of the deterioration of society.

Some localities ban books featuring gay _____ .

Conservatives argue that gay _____ will lead young, impressionable minds down the slippery slope to a complete lack of morals.

Conservatives win a lot of campaign money and votes by demonizing gay ______ .

In 2004, conservatives pointed to gay ______ as a super secret plan for gay global domination by normalizing "gay values."

In 2016, conservatives will point to gay ______ as a super secret plan for gay global domination that will involve an army of undead dinosaur zombies equipped with lasers* (OMG LASERS!).

Today's answer: wizard. Be sure to play again tomorrow! Maybe a purple puppet will be on tv or something.

In the meantime, an internationally bestselling gay wizard loved by millions of children is a two-for-one deal that comes around once in a lifetime. Even though he is gay only between the lines and is not in some ways the hero that people actually need. (PSSST please write a better Dumbledore prequel!).

* Not just on their heads. Oh, no!
posted by Tehanu at 4:19 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this, as this debate continues on in my recent activity page. I totally understand and share amberglow's disappointment that she waited didn't take advantage of her opportunity to show a positive gay character in the most famous books of our lifetime. I hate when books for kids ignore the fact that gay people (and many, many other things) exist, and when they don't ignore it but manage to keep it cliche'd. I really, really hate that.

I've been trying to reconcile that with the fact that from a storytelling and character point of view, I think she made the right choice not making Harry and by extension the reader explicitly aware of this character trait.

Here's what I've come up with: Dumbledore's closeting (and subsequent post-textual outing) would have been fine, if there were other gay characters in the books. In books with a cast of dozens upon dozens, the lack of a single out gay character is conspicuous, annoying, and just plain not that believable. According to the gravestones, Harry and I were born in the same year, and I knew gay people by the time I was 18 even in homogeneous, repressed Maine. (Then that number was 10x as high by the time I was 20, probably). I think Dumbledore as this stereotypical jilted, closeted, celibate old queen would make much more sense and be much more palatable and believable if he had been one of at least a few gay characters with some diversity between them.
posted by lampoil at 6:37 PM on October 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think Dumbledore as this stereotypical jilted, closeted, celibate old queen would make much more sense and be much more palatable and believable if he had been one of at least a few gay characters with some diversity between them.

Unfortunately, all the characters that could have easily been read as queer, were made canonically straight by the end of Book 7. Even Harry himself, who started out the series literally living in a closet hooked up with a girl... without Rowling making a convincing reason for why they ended up together, except that she went on a heterosexual pairing spree in Book 6.

But the basic problem is that she wrote only one character as gay and kept him in the closet. I wouldn't have missed him if he'd stayed in there, but now she's outed him, I feel like we've all missed out on something major. I don't need a whole lot of minor gay characters, but one this significant would have been amazing.

Too late.
posted by crossoverman at 8:05 PM on October 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is really relevant , i think, about Uhura on Star Trek and the power even minor characters have just by existing in popular works: ... One of the many positive stories I've heard of 'Star Trek' inspiring successful careers comes from Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura in the original 60's show. In interviews she's talked about this little girl who was nine years old when Star Trek first came on and what happened when she saw her character. She went screaming through the house for her mom to come quick because, "there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!" She knew right then and there she could be anything she wanted to be. That little girl grew up to be Whoopi Goldberg. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:16 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


People Parody via digg.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:47 AM on October 24, 2007


Bill O’Reilly: J.K. Rowling Is A ‘Provocateur’ For ‘The Gay Agenda’ Of ‘Indoctrination’
posted by ericb at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2007


Neil Gaiman posted about this on his blog a couple days ago.
posted by zixyer at 5:37 PM on October 24, 2007


I've also heard that Nichelle Nichols wanted to quite Star Trek, but was convinced not to by MLK. FWIW
posted by edgeways at 8:53 PM on October 24, 2007


quit... QUIT... feel like Dan Quail now, extraneous "e" and all.
posted by edgeways at 8:54 PM on October 24, 2007


Thanks for that link, zixyer. It's an interesting read.
posted by Tehanu at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2007


Were I not a mudblood, what would have been in store?
I'm certain that I wouldn't be in Gryffindor.
No, the Sorting Hat would know
To place me 'neath my beau —
The only Hogwarts student in House Dumbledore.

(cross-posted in MetaChat)
posted by rob511 at 5:50 PM on October 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


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