“We said we wouldn’t do that!”
August 16, 2016 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Harry Potter and the Possible Queerbaiting: [The Guardian] JK Rowling’s Cursed Child has drawn fire over its story of male friendship, which some readers feel flirts coyly with gay romance – but it is a change from the usual stereotypes.
“In the case of Harry Potter and the Possible Example of Queerbaiting [wiki], the accusation stems from the play’s portrayal of male friendship. Albus and Scorpius become very close friends from the beginning of their first year at Hogwarts. Both shy and shunned and neither much like their famous fathers, their friendship becomes critical. Albus and Scorpius make a fuss out of hugging (“We said we wouldn’t do that!”) in a manner resembling the common trope “Hot Gay Hugging”: a hilarious title for the less-than-funny absence of casual intimacy allowed between homosexual characters. Hetero couples get to kiss, the gays are limited to a (hot gay) hug. And Albus and Scorpius do go for it, with all the awkwardness you’d expect from two English lads.”
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Quidditch skills aside, Scorpius is everything Draco fans wanted Draco to be.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:08 PM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

posted by jeather at 1:13 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

SPOILERS The plot is time turner heavy, so clearly the answer this question is going to be different depending at what point you ask, since as everyone knows from Ronbledore time turners reverse sexuality.
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on August 16, 2016 [24 favorites]

Oh man, just reading a review linked off of the link above makes it really clear that what they are doing is fanbaiting, on all sides. Teasing the fans who hate Hermione + Ron by offering alternate timelines in which they aren't together, and then doubling down by being like "and they're miserable, until they're together again!" Offering "Time Turner To The Past" (a super common trope in fanfic) but making it time turn to Harry's time, and every change they make being terrible just reads to me kind of like a "Fuck You" to fanfic - like, "You think you can do it better but everything would be terrible!" In that line, Scorbus-teasing, followed by "But then they get girlfriends!" reads kind of like a "You think you know better than me, but I WILL SHOW YOU."
posted by corb at 1:13 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure it can be a fuck you to fanfic when it is basically the most fan fiction thing evah.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on August 16, 2016 [11 favorites]

This is a real damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't thing. I am all for seeing more gay relationships in popular media. But I'm also all for seeing boys whose friendships amount to more than "We get in scrapes together!" and/or "We're targeted by the same bullies!" and/or "We harass the same girls!" One of the few things I actually liked about Cursed Child was that Albus and Scorpius actually had feelings and talked about them. I'll admit that it crossed my mind that their unusual level of emotional fluency made me think they were setting them up to kiss in a climactic scene of some kind, and it was actually a little refreshing for me that they didn't. Not every narrative has to be about romance, especially between eleven-year-olds, and not every pair of people that's emotionally compatible has to make out at the end of the book. Frankly, I remember being eleven, and I remember what the boys were like, and most of them were not interested in hugging or kissing anyone, male or female.

But I do get that this is frustrating for fans who really want to see queer stories in canon, because there aren't very many of those either. And this canon in particular has a History to contend with, and this fandom is particularly huge, vocal, and diverse.

But yes, corb, that is basically it. This is a text that is intensely aware of the fandom gaze, and not always friendly to it. I don't have a particular favorite slash pairing in HP, but I am a Ron/Hermione hater and Snapefan and even though Ron and Hermione were unhappy apart, I was grinning ear to ear that there was a canon alternate reality in which that marriage didn't happen AND Snape lived. AND Hermione was black! More fanfiction from that one, please.
posted by the marble index at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2016 [37 favorites]

Not every narrative has to be about romance, especially between eleven-year-olds

a) this narrative ended in romance, just not the one the rest was about
b) they were 15 or so when the play ended
posted by jeather at 1:30 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

I clearly was so annoyed by the play at that point that I've totally forgotten the actual ending, jeather. Wow.

Well, it's definitely a better play if you forget the random shit they tacked on at the end. Um much like book 7 really
posted by the marble index at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

After the shameless after-the-fact "Oh actually Dumbledore was gay all along." I have trouble believing anything Rowling et al do in this space is sincere.
posted by rokusan at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

After the shameless after-the-fact "Oh actually Dumbledore was gay all along." I have trouble believing anything Rowling et al do in this space is sincere.

Except for the fact that the book totally reads like Dumbledore was gay all along. I mean when you heard that, wasn't your reaction...Yes, i knew there was something there and I couldn't put my finger on it...of course that's it?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:39 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

This play does make interesting changes to how you read the epilogue, though. But I am happy to consider neither canon.
posted by jeather at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2016

Artw, that was wonderful.
posted by timdiggerm at 1:56 PM on August 16, 2016

Troublingly I think they take a different number of trips each and I am not sure if they both end up on odd or even.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on August 16, 2016

After the shameless after-the-fact "Oh actually Dumbledore was gay all along." I have trouble believing anything Rowling et al do in this space is sincere.


Rowling was randomly asked at some event whether Dumbledore had ever fallen in love, and she responded that he had in fact.

What exactly is so shameless about what Rowling did?
posted by Dalby at 2:01 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

On the subject of Dumbledore being gay, this comment Weebot made in the previous thread specifically about Dumbledore is worth sharing again:
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 Fizz at 2:29 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Part of the frustration is the larger context of genre fandom and coy announcements well off the stage, screen, or page that yes, we can read LGBTQ into that textual (broadly defined) ambiguity. This week, it's Feig saying that Holzman really is dropping all of that lesbian code on the screen but they offered plausible deniability due to studio concerns. Hamill, Isaac, and Johnson endorse LGBTQ Star Wars safely through the informal channels of twitter and conference appearances, as does Menzel for Frozen. There's a whole other frustration of bi erasure with three shows with bi female lead characters that have inexplicably avoided the word "bisexual" in spite of using 21st century English.

Meanwhile, the rest of SFF (including SFF for younger audiences) has moved on and gotten better. Although my personal beef is that fandom habitually prefers to jump on ambiguity rather than support actual representation.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'll forever be mad at Nickelodeon that they didn't have that final scene of Season 3 of Legend of Korra end with a kiss. But, I do have hope, Nickelodeon has revealed a cartoon that has two gay dads. It's good to see this in more media, it should be more normalized and less of a shocking or scandalous thing.
posted by Fizz at 2:49 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty sure Grindelwald and Dumbledore are doing it from the books, for whatever that's worth.

(I'd also guess that Albus and Scorpious are NOT doing it, without ruling out the possibility of them doing it later, since we're speculating on fictional characters boinking or not.)
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Rowling was randomly asked at some event whether Dumbledore had ever fallen in love, and she responded that he had in fact.

What exactly is so shameless about what Rowling did?

If you didn't read Dumbledore as gay, it felt an awful lot like she was thinking "Oh shit, someone's noticed the complete lack of queer characters in this universe. Whose love life do we know nothing about? Dumbledore? Guess he's gay then if anyone ever asks."

My boyfriend was baffled that I didn't read Dumbledore as gay and I'm equally baffled that he did.
posted by hoyland at 3:01 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I didn't read Dumbledore as gay but afterwards it makes a lot of sense, where Dumbledore's accounting of his Grindelwald experience is basically "I was in love and foolish." Prior to hearing the "Dumbledore is gay" revelation I admit I pegged him as age appropriate asexual.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:11 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

My boyfriend was baffled that I didn't read Dumbledore as gay and I'm equally baffled that he did.

I also didn't read him as gay, but then I was so much more focused on the main protagonists and their struggles. That being said, I didn't mind it that he was gay because as hoyland mentions up above, it does seem a bit weird to reflect that this universe doesn't have any openly explicit homosexual relationships.

I've sort of mashed up the films and the books into this giant hodge-podge of fantasy. They both inform and influence my own enjoyment of this universe.
posted by Fizz at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

It says something about the state of fan entitlement today, that my immediate concern was not whatever was going on with the text as much as it was "Oh fuck, what are you guys planning to do to Rowling?"

I mean, I don't think they can chase her off social media because the characters weren't written exactly to their specifications. Maybe.
posted by happyroach at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dumbledore wasn't exactly living in a period of time where everyone was all, "It's okay to be gay!" I don't really have any judgments on the hiding of this. I thought while reading that yeah, it sounded like they were gay (as someone else said, essentially he said he was in love and foolish), and confirmation is confirmation. But I also assumed her publishers probably weren't super thrilled at the idea of having anyone out of the closet in "kids books."
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:14 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fandom has jaded me as this just sounds like the whiny demands of Harry/Draco shippers rather than actual concerns as no one seems to care that [SPOILERS FOR CURSED CHILD]:

- The story is about Albus Severus, Scorpius, Harry, Draco, Snape and Dumbledore. Draco's wife is fridged so he and his son can have manpain and we know nothing about her beyond her name and her fondness for Muggles. Compare that to how much we knew about Lily.

And no, it's not okay they skipped over that. Scorpius is pretty much the hero of the play, if the writers couldn't be bothered to sketch out his one lesser known parent then why bother?

- Lily Luna is barely mentioned and Ginny is reduced to chasing after Harry while he goes through one meltdown after the other. This story is about a son and father and Harry's relationship to the men who shaped him - Snape and Dumbledore. There is literally nothing for Ginny to do but be the dull voice of reason. Ginny Fucking Weasley is reduced to boring mom character.

- They do hint at a romance between Rose Weasley and Scorpius. As Rose is black, I would think that would be as progressive as having two cis white dudes as love interests. Black women generally aren't the hero's love interest to understate things. And that critics of the Scorpius/Rose framing tend to ignore that makes me think they're more interested in getting some version of Harry/Draco as canon than actually taking on representation issues.

(Like I've said, I've spent enough time in fandom to be cynical about the use of social justice to prop up shipping wars. It takes more than dropping a few buzzwords to convince me.)

- That said Rose is reduced to a love interest in the play. All that sturm und drang about casting black actresses for Hermione and her daughter and Rose isn't even in the trio. This is a play about white men and their relationships with other white men. Women are supporting characters, accessories at worst.

- Not to go too far into the spoilers but there is a female who does have a major role. She's the villain.


- Hermione, awesome Hermione, is a minor character. Like Ron she gets pushed to the side in favor of Draco. This is like every bad H/D fic I read between 2005-2008 except there isn't even a sex scene.

It's just really, painfully obvious a dude wrote this.

So yeah, would it be nice if Rowling put her money where her mouth is on gay representation? Sure. The way she handled Dumbledore left a lot to be desired and it doesn't look like the new movie will be any better. I'd rather the play were about Rose with Al and Scorpius as het bickering lovebird sidekicks, if given the choice, but no one asked me.

And where's the outrage over the way the TWO PoC characters have little to do? Where are the thinkpieces about the disappointing treatment of female characters in this people. Every female character is motivated by her feelings for/relationship to a man. Every one. Probaby because all the main characters are male but that's not an improvement.

But two cis white dudes, who are more like dweebier versions of Harry and Ron, are alost ad devoted to each other as Harry and Ron were in the books while being seemingly straight. Ok, fandom.
posted by asteria at 9:09 PM on August 16, 2016 [14 favorites]

I thought there was the opportunity for Albus and Scorpius to be a canon LGBTQ couple and I would have been thrilled if that had happened. I can live with the fact that it didn't happen (hell, that's what fanfic is for). I will be pissed if it's an after-the-fact tweet or interview answer that "oh, yeah, they're gay and end up together" because having a canonically gay couple or even just a couple of characters would have been awesome.
posted by toomanycurls at 9:55 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I get tired of "entitlement" being thrown around over LGBTQ representation, and yes, earlier this week I saw that term thrown out over Hidden Figures for fuck's sake. Why a movie about African-American women "computers" working for NASA over Von Braun and Glenn? The privilege of crying "entitlement" over the lack of a NASA white dudebro movie is a meta level of entitlement. And I thank the metafilter staff for giving me the entitlement to type this.

I went to the movies this weekend and saw potentially a billion dollars worth of entitlement. I saw a Jack Reacher trailer which was nothing but darkly comic, hyper-masculine, one-line jokes using the sounds of violence as a rim-shot. I saw a Bridget Jones trailer that followed much of the the same formula (Two dads in a love triangle is so gay! It's funny, see, because we stage it as funny!). I saw a Star Wars trailer that still lives in the shadow of McQuarrie's art design, and that decision is likely as much about Coke-style branding as about the brilliance of McQuarrie's work. I saw a Kubo trailer that adapted a Beatles song by George Harrison for earworm fuel. (It works. Shaddup and take my money already.)

And then, I saw a Star Trek movie where half the dialogue was tuned for maximum nostalgia, including Public Enemy and Beastie Boys. (I liked it, but have few illusions about exactly what was happening on-screen.)

So I'm getting a bit wary when "entitlement" is trotted out over requests for more representation and better (honest and forthright) representation from creators in billion-dollar franchises. The creative output of those franchises are driven by things that actually are entitlement: hypermasculinity (Jack Reacher), heterosexism (Bridget Jones), multi-generational marketing and capitalism (Star Wars and Star Trek).
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:10 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd be happy to talk about the fridging of Astoria, the sidelining of Rose, the barely there character of Delphi, and the overall dudeness of the play, but this was a post about queerbaiting and I didn't want to take it over.

A story about Rose and Scorpius would have been a great story, but it needed to be different from start to finish.
posted by jeather at 6:58 AM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm just more annoyed that this is the issue being discussed in articles and not the fact that when a white actress was playing Hermione she nearly took over the movies but when a black actress plays her, she's a secondary character behind Draco. But it's hard to say she was singled out since all the female characters get the short-end of the stick.

It's just frustrating and typical the only pushback I've seen about Cursed Child has been Harry/Draco shippers whining. It's like they're determined to take the silver medal for Craziest HP fans from the Harry/Hermione shippers.

(The Snape Wives on the Astral Plane will always be gold, however.)

If I were Rowling I would continue my trolling by making Albus Severus gay and have him marry one of Luna's sons.
posted by asteria at 12:16 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Let memesplain Harambe   |   Simon and Garfunkel: two voices, one guitar, live... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments