Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why Outing Dumbledore Troubles Me

I try to keep this blog focused on television writing mostly, but today I'm changing it up a bit.

So Dumbledore's gay. Rowling said so.

I know this is probably old news to you all, but I just heard about it today.

The sexual preference of Dumbledore bothers me not at all. Gay, straight, bi, asexual, even into this: ))<>((

I don't really care.

I should clarify, though. If Dumbledore's sexuality played a part in the books (I'm sure some may argue that it did, based upon comments from Rowling, but I'll get to that) or even was mentioned at some point in the story, that wouldn't bother me either. Just another interesting facet to an already interesting character. In fact, kudos for putting an awesome gay character into what is largely a story for children. I think it's great that kids get to see a gay character being kickass and grow up seeing non-heteros as normal people.

But Rowling outing him now bothers me for two reasons:

1) The books are out there and they belong to the world now. Providing us with new authorial insights is unfair and kind of disrespectful to an audience. I hated it when Ridley Scott gave a definitive answer about Decker in Blade Runner (I won't link to it. Find it yourself if you want.) and I hate it here. Just a personal preference, but I like being able to come to my own conclusions rather than having them handed to me. This is an argument that Rebecca Traister makes very well on the second page of the above Salon article, so I won't belabor it.

2) If you read the article I linked to above, the "evidence" Rowling gives to show how clear it should be that Dumbledore is gay kind of disturbs me:

"But a close reading would reveal that 'The Deathly Hallows' was shot through with intimations about the headmaster's sexuality, and not just in reference to his love for Grindelwald, which Rowling describes as a teenage passion that makes the otherwise responsible young wizard forget his family and go uncharacteristically batty. The book kicks off with an obituary by Dumbledore's school chum Elphias Doge, who describes his first meeting with the teenaged Dumbledore as a moment of 'mutual attraction' and who later tells Harry that he knew the wizard 'as well as anyone.' Then there is the lurid language of a scurrilous postmortem biography of Dumbledore, in which writer Rita Skeeter wonders about the close relationship between the headmaster and his young pupil: 'It's been called unhealthy, even sinister ... there is no question that Dumbledore took an unnatural interest in Potter.' Here Rowling is aping the leering, speculative tone of news stories about gay priests, Cub Scout leaders, and teachers accused of inappropriate relationships with their charges.

When she gets to the Grindelwald relationship, Rowling is clear from the moment Harry spots a photo of young Dumbledore with a 'handsome companion.' In the shot, the boys are 'laughing immoderately with their arms around each other's shoulders.' A neighbor describes the relationship between Albus and Gellert: 'The boys took to each other at once ... even after they'd spent all day in discussion -- both such brilliant young boys, they got on like a cauldron on fire -- I'd sometimes hear an owl tapping at Gellert's bedroom window, delivering a letter from Albus.'

And then there is the publication of an original letter from Dumbledore to Grindelwald, in which the wizard chides his friend for getting kicked out of his foreign school, concluding, 'But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.' When Harry has a chance to chat with the deceased headmaster toward the end of the book, Dumbledore tells him his version of the story: 'Then, of course, he came ... Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me ... Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes.'"

(I added the bolding)

What upsets me about the above passage is not her insistence that these things point to Dumbledore being gay. In this case, since she's told us his sexuality, they are clearly valid indicators. I'm annoyed because I'm afraid these things will be taken as indicators for homosexuality in general because of her insistence about how obvious they were.

This reminds me of a story I heard on NPR a few years back that made me sad. They were interviewing an American soldier who said that it was good they were there in Iraq because they could teach things to the Iraqis. His example: when he first arrived, sometimes the Iraqi men would hold hands in public. Horrified at this display between men--heterosexual men, mind you--he told them that it was improper and that men didn't act that way.

That's kind of how I feel about a lot of the above "evidence." How dare two young men laugh and have their arms around each others' shoulders? How dare they send each other letters and get excited by each other's ideas?

Really, I guess this is more a rant about social mores than anything else. (Apparently I have a lot of rants lately.) It pisses me off that these are the indicators. Obviously, it's nowhere near as bad as pointing out that Dumbledore likes musicals or fashion or shops a lot or something, but it still bothers me. It tells me that there's an acceptable way for men and boys to act, and a way that will be frowned upon. And if you cross this line, however innocently, you will be branded a certain way. I'm not surprised by this knowledge in a general societal way. It sucks, but anyone could tell you that that's just where we are as a culture right now. I just wish that someone as influential and obviously smart as Rowling had a bit more care.

End of rant. Back to your regularly scheduled lives.

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