dumbledores sexuality censored
Following the news that Dumbledore isn’t going to be ‘explicitly’ gay in the anticipated Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, I was at first a little confused. If this news had come twenty years ago, it wouldn’t have been a surprise. But how can a director in 2018, seeing the success of Call Me By Your Name, the beauty of Moonlight, the hype over Love, Simon, believe that a gay story is not worth telling? Plus, what did they mean by that carefully chosen word ‘explicit’? Will it be hidden altogether, or would we have to watch attentively for the signs and behaviour that we know and recognise?
For too long, LGBTQ+ characters within TV and film have been shrouded in subtext. Gay viewers have had to watch for miniscule hints that their favourites might not be straight after all, in an attempt to better relate to something they love and see themselves represented on TV. Representation of LGBGQ+ people has steadily been improving; the GLAAD annual reports indicate increases each year in queer characters, with 2017 being the first year that openly asexual characters were onscreen, so this is a shocking step back.
What is most hurtful about this news is that one of the central themes in Harry Potter is love. It is his mother’s love that saves Harry as a baby; Snape’s love for Lily makes him protect Harry over the years; Harry is repeatedly told that it is his ability to love that makes him so great. Dumbledore champions time and again that love is the most powerful force – stronger than magic, and unbreakable, so it’s bewildering that the character who is the greatest believer in love is being denied his own love story.
Furthermore, Harry Potter preaches tolerance. The racism implicit in the pureblood/mudblood discourse has been widely commented upon, as has even been proven in studies to improve tolerance in readers and reduce prejudice. At a time when discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is on the rise and acceptance has declined, thanks no doubt to harmful political rhetoric, showing a much beloved and well-known character exploring his feelings for another man would have been much welcomed and could have helped to combat these dismaying statistics.
More than that, the Fantastic Beasts films are the perfect opportunity to explore sexuality within the magical universe at a point in history where it was not accepted in the real world. It would have been fascinating to see Dumbledore’s struggle with both his inner demons and the expectations of society, and this decision removes the crux of the story.
It’s frustrating that, in a world where viewers happily suspend their disbelief to accept that magic is real and people can turn into animals, the very normal, day-to-day existence of LGBTQ+ people is something that is still not accepted. The beauty of Harry Potter is that it feels like anything can happen, and yet LGBTQ+ people are still being denied agency in this world. If an owl can carry my post, then a man can love another man. Releasing this information just before LGBTQ+ pride month is frankly distasteful.
It’s important to bear in mind that this is the second release in a five film instalment. This news does not necessarily mean that Dumbledore’s sexuality will be erased across the entire franchise, and Rowling has hinted that there is more to be addressed in the future films. She has already dismissed fans’ reactions, tweeting:
Whilst it’s true that people – myself included – are reacting in anger without knowing the full facts, it does not deny the fact that we are right to be angry. For a film whose plot is a young man struggling with his sexuality, chasing down the man he has feelings for and knowing he has to stop him, not to be ‘explicitly’ gay is outrageous. Even if the next three films do explore Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald, to not recognise the harmful impact that these kind of headlines and interviews have on the LGBTQ+ community in the short term is irresponsible. Queer fans have already been done a disservice through no representation within the novels themselves – announcing afterwards that Dumbledore was gay could well have been a move made purely to silence critics who highlighted the lack of diversity. The revelation that the most successful fiction series of our time is still, twenty years after it was first published, suppressing queer narratives has certainly disenchanted this Harry Potter fan.
As a writer, I’m confused that they’ve taken out a key motivation point for Dumbledore’s behaviour towards Grindelwald; the plot will not work as well without it. As a fan, I’m highly disappointed that they’ve decided not to delve properly into the backstory of one of the most mysterious and intriguing characters. As an LGBTQ+ person, I’m gutted that our stories are being silenced once more.
In the immortal words of Dumbledore himself, we must choose between what is easy and what is right. Yates and his team have made the choice that is easy – for the backlash of parents who don’t want their children to see LGBTQ+ content would have been loud and persistent – and certainly not the choice that is right.
author: laura hOMER