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Thursday 25 October 2007

The Dumbledore Closet [Lurks]

I don't really much like the Harry Potter books. JK Rowling spins a decent enough yarn but I prefer adult writing when it comes to my valuable reading time. I have, however, enjoyed the movies quite a bit. I mention this so I'm not putting myself across as a Harry Potter expert by any means. However when JK Rowling outed Professor Dumbledore as being gay, this raised a number of issues.

One interesting reaction was the Christian nutjob who come along and claimed Rowling is wrong, Dumbledore isn't gay. Which is a pretty startling position to take being as, you know, she wrote the stuff but then again these guys having read and enjoyed all of Rowling's works do tend to claim it's because of the built-in Christian themes, but then they tend to say that about anything they like. I think we can all agree that's a fairly ridiculous position to take.

However it did raise a point I thought had some merrit. Just why is it relevant or even, in a sense, true if after 800,000 words it was never deemed to have been worthy to mention. This is a bit of a can of worms. It was suggested by one person at least that this is because they're children's books. I don't quite understand why the subject of homosexuality has to be a something one needs to be an adult to learn about.

We're not talking about rampant cock sucking here, we're talking about one man's love of another. Why the hell shouldn't children learn this. Interestingly ever-liberal BBC doesn't seem to have a problem relaying the news on the children's BBC web site. Of course that's not to say that vast swaythes of the world would not have a problem. So it comes down to the reality that it was probably an expedient decision in aid of selling a lot more books.

I do think it demonstrates a lack of bravery though. To use this sort of revisionism to make a point about sexual liberation in this way. Rowling skillfully didn't just show up on a podium and say "I have an announcement to make", she did wait until actually asked about Dumbledore's past but I'd ask readers to be understanding of the circumstances of the Rowling empire. A suitable opportunity in the form of a question was going to come up and you're damn right she was ready with this particular answer.

As a dabler in the art of fiction myself, I think it's pretty poor form to come in after the fact and explain away anything that isn't there in text. Works of fiction ought to be, in my opinion, treated like pictures where it's not necessary for the author to explain what you cannot see before you. If you interpret it in a different way than that which it was necessarily thought of (I avoid the use of the word intended), then what you are doing is gently moulding a story into your world view in order to assimilate it. And that's a good thing.

If you feel you're making an actual point about the matter concerned, it should have been in the books.

About the best analysis I've subsequently read is by Times journalist John Cloud. Cloud makes two particularly salient points. The first of which is that Dumbledor's lurking in the proverbial closet ends up betraying a kind of integrity which would appear to be out of character. Secondly, there's many out there saying this strikes a blow for gay pride but does it, does it really?

Here you have a character who basically remained in the closet, loveless, romance unrequited for his entire 115 years before shuffling off his mortal coil. That's a pretty sad thing really, any which way you look at it. It's hardly a moving fan-fare for the heroic life and times of a gay man, fiction or otherwise.

I don't think it really makes the kind of point which I assume Rowling was trying to make with the announcement in the first place but really betrays of her a rather backward and tragic view of homosexuality combined with almost a cynical lack of courage of conviction. It feels a bit like your grannie saying she's not racist, really, but the darkies ought to put down their spears.

Better, I think, to agree with Cloud's final proclamation:

" would have been better if she had just left the old girl to rest in peace."

Well let's just hope that heaven has a special place for gay men with plenty of cock sucking and bumming going on so Dumbledore can finally learn what he missed in life :)


  1. I think it's testament to how far society still has to go in eliminating idiotic biggotry that this is still an issue. If Rowling had instead told the audience "Dumbledore's favourite colour was blue", do you think there would have been such an outraged reaction? As far as I know, the issue of his colour preference was never discussed in the books either. His preference of sexual partner is absolutely no different.

    Is it really necessary that all gay characters need to be declared in fiction?


  2. Well that's just nonsense. You're talking about something as fundamental as what sex they are versus their preference for a colour. If you cannot see how it underpins the very emotional nature of a human being then there's not a lot of point in engaging in the subject.


  3. Rubbish, it's just a property of a person. It also wasn't mentioned that he was heterosexual, so would we react in the same way if she comes out and says he liked women?


  4. Oh behave. It's not that it's some side note in this character's toolbox of triviality, this man was 115 years old having never loved another human being except for his arch rival in his younger days. I mean jesus, this is completely central to who Dumbledore is. How many gay people do you know? You honestly telling me the fact they're gay has as much bearing as what colour they like the most? Do you even know what colour they like the most? Of course you fucking don't. But you know they're gay.

    Granted Rowling decided not to write about this but I stand by it, it's such a powerful point about this character that I think it's worthy of being mentioned and she copped out about it. I mean it could have been properly trivial in passing but it was never mentioned, not once. Not for no reason, I guess, because the whole fondness of an adolescent boy would have become real uncomfortable for a lot of people.

    The idiotic biggotry is not that being gay is irrelevant, it's that being gay has some sort of ramifications for the job you do and who you are (such as the head teacher at a school) and that's where Rowling copped out.