?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Why I Am Not Amused By Gay Dumbledore - Mo's Journal
October 20th, 2007
07:45 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Why I Am Not Amused By Gay Dumbledore
- In seven long books, chock full of characters of all stripes, the only gay character is one who is never identified as such.

- JKR told the director of Half-Blood Prince not to put a romance in Dumbledore's past. Why? Because he's gay.

- He remains celibate, apparently, all his long life.

- The only "relationship" he ever has is unrequited love for a Bad Guy.

- He's a lonely old man who dies without anyone to love.

- Her message seems to be that doomed love, lack of sexual fulfillment and being a weird loner are the natural consequences of being gay. And even with that, that he's in love with a man is something too awful to put in the book.

Way to put a positive gay role model into children's books. Not.

ETA: I do recognize that there are positives to JKR's announcement. Dumbledore is a good guy, one of the heroes of the book. In many ways he is a positive role model, even if I can't see him as a positive *gay* role model. And, as minisinoo points out, JKR hasn't said that much yet and was just responding to a question, so perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt, and if it sounds like she's saying he didn't find love *because* he's gay, then that may just be an artifact of how the question was phrased and answered. I was mostly reacting in this post to what seemed like mindless squeeing at a gay Dumbledore without thinking about implications. As time has gone on, I've seen a lot more thoughtful analysis that sees something positive in the announcement, and I'm learning from the people who are thus analyzing. I love mindful squeeing.

(22 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:kosiah
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
(Link)
Wait, okay I never post on your lj. but I don't see that way at all. I don't see why not seeing Dumbledore's sex life makes him gay. Maybe it just makes it not part of the Harry Potter story?
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh I thought everyone had heard by now. JKR announced that Dumbledore is gay and that he was in love with Grindelwald (sp?).
[User Picture]
From:kosiah
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
Eh, who was Grindelwald?
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:47 am (UTC)
(Link)
I probably spelled it wrong or misremember the name. The dark wizard who had started off as Dumbledore's best friend but he ends up having a famous duel against. Definitely starts with a G. Anyway, if you Google Dumbledore Gay on the news setting you'll get all the details.
[User Picture]
From:hominysnark
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
(Link)
Since when are gay people defined exclusively by their relationships? I personally don't care if Dumbledore is gay or not, no more than I care about McGonagall's preferences, or Snape's, etc., because it's nothing I need to know. It's Harry's story, not theirs.

Dumbledore is a highly respected wizard and headmaster who time and again demonstrates wisdom, compassion, humor and love for both his students and his colleagues--even the ones no one else trusts or believes in. Sounds like a positive role model to me.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:October 21st, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
I don't think gay people are defined exclusively by their relationships. OTOH, I think when you have only *one* gay character and you can't even show him in a relationship for his whole long life, it says something. And not something good. It's a really common trope - a common homophobic trope. It's called the Gay Eunuch. See Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet or plenty of queer lit crit. Everyone pairs off but the lone gay man - emphasizing that being gay inevitably results in a miserable life.
[User Picture]
From:hominysnark
Date:October 21st, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think when you have only *one* gay character and you can't even show him in a relationship for his whole long life, it says something.

Yeah, I think it says "I already have 700+ pages in this book and this is an irrelevant detail so I'm leaving it out."

I have seen The Celluloid Closet (hey, if it's a movie, I've probably seen it) and I'm familiar with the Gay Eunuch trope--Stephen King is especially guilty of it. I don't think it applies in this case, because the revelation that Rowling always thought of Dumbledore as gay is a postscript, not part of the actual novels. Dumbledore's orientation has no bearing whatsoever on the plot, or even the subplot. It's just something that was in the back of the author's mind as she wrote.

Everyone pairs off but the lone gay man - emphasizing that being gay inevitably results in a miserable life.

No, everyone doesn't pair off, at least not in the series under discussion. And he doesn't have a miserable life. Your statement implies that being single = miserable, which leads us back to being defined by one's relationships.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:October 21st, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
(Link)

So I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, I suppose.


And that's very good of you.
[User Picture]
From:lilacsigil
Date:October 21st, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
I was sad it wasn't mentioned in the books, but unfortunately, I place the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship firmly into JKR's rather odd pantheon of "one true highschool love for everybody". If something happens to your highschool sweetheart, that's it for you! It also fits nicely into the British school story tradition - all teachers are single and celibate, though some might have a Mysterious Lost Love in their past, usually lost to war.

So yes, I think it's a pity it wasn't in the books, but it's nice to see a totally heterosexual story tradition turned on its head.
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:October 21st, 2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
(Link)
JKR's rather odd pantheon of "one true highschool love for everybody"

Thank you. If everybody gave up after a painful high school breakup, there wouldn't be any relationships on the planet.
[User Picture]
From:rae_1985
Date:October 21st, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
I still think that it was a publicity stunt on her part. Why tell us now? She was just pushing the popularity up a notch now that all the books are out.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 21st, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
I agree with a lot of what ur saying... but my main problem is just that gay Dumbledore in love with Grindelwald just makes the whole Dumbledore backstory really cliched... its like the Lily/Petunia thing... the big surprise about why Petunia hates the wizarding world is that she couldn't be a witch like her sister and she really wanted to... its like okay JKR, you really are buying into Freudian psychology 101

If she had to make somebody gay, it should have been someone like Harry or Malfoy (maybe Harry and Malfoy, lol).... I mean the whole Harry/Ginny thing is yet another cliche... how much more interesting it could have been...
[User Picture]
From:realpestilence
Date:October 21st, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
(Link)
Exactly what I was thinking when I first saw the comments appearing on my flist. The frequent remarks about how eccentric and nutty he is don't help much, imo, either.

Plus, I just find Dumbledore a problematical character. He's supposedly so powerful and wise, yet lets the kids run around doing all these dangerous things they shouldn't be doing. Not to mention he lets Snape abuse them (and yes, I do consider how he treats the children to be abusive in the extreme).


I don't demand *all* gay characters be good and wonderful people; that's as unrealistic as the old cliche of *all* of them being literary or cinematical villains or victims. But a more balanced portrayal would be nice. I definitely get the feeling she just tossed this in at the last minute so she'd be, y'know, trendy or something. *shrugs*



Pesti
From:renegadepathos
Date:October 21st, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)

You said it.

(Link)
Dumbledore's sexuality ISN'T an irrelevant detail. Those of us who are gay understand the serious challenge of living with dignity and integrity in a brutally heteronormative world. The struggle to be self actualized in a world that hates and fears us is of the deepest importance. And understanding how that struggle impacted Dumbledore's life journey is also very important. And yet, as you say, Rowling couldn't even write that into the text of the novel. That's terribly disappointing. She was so intentional to have people of color, women in positions of authority, people speaking other languages, but she couldn't tell the truth about Dumbledore in the book. And that's precisely why the detail IS important. We have no heroes and role models in pop culture, literature, and mythology, who show us what it means to be healthy, happy, empowered, AND out of the closet. And alas, Dumbledore was outed by his author after his untimely death and the end of the series - not while he had the opportunity to speak his truth with courage and integrity. Which still leaves me feeling like I'm lacking a gay hero.
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:October 21st, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)

Re: You said it.

(Link)
Hmm, big egaliarian JKR? Everyone central to the story is pure Anglo. Shacklebolt, Cho, Parvati are around but second or third tier.

I'm shit-disturbing here a bit...
[User Picture]
From:foxomatic
Date:October 21st, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
Um, you don't know me, but I totally found this post on Google. Anyway, I think it's great that it never came up. Why? Because it wouldn't - Dumbledore hid a lot of his personal life from Harry, and Harry never would have seen it. He wouldn't have seen it if Dumbledore liked girls, either. I like that even though he was written as gay, he was also written as consistent and professional. His character was about his character, not his sexuality, even though it was still there in the background, and indeed, informed a rather vital chunk of his decision making when he was young. As it would. And as far as I know, his thing with Grindelwald was mutual - it seems like it is.

I just like that above all, he's human. If you want positive gay role models, look to penguins; primarily human gay role models are harder to come by in literature.
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:October 21st, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
There's something else here that bugs me and I'm not sure I can articulate it...

There is a weird urge in our culture to sexualize all intense relationships. Grindelwald was Dumbledore's best friend and the only one with whom he was an equal as a wizard at that time of his life. They had megalomania of powerful young men but Dumbledore outgrew that.

Sexualizing the relationship doesn't exactly cheapen it for me, but it dilutes its literary power. It is completely unnecesseary. The fact that it was some kind of "proof" for JKR that Dumbledore was gay makes me question how well she understands her own writing. If that sounds odd, it is a charge I've levelled at others including George Bernard Shaw who didn't realize he was more of a humanist than a socialist.

Also, from a fic POV, anything she says now has NO bearing on canon, IMO.
[User Picture]
From:ringthebells
Date:October 25th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
(Link)
I want to respond to this, but I'm not sure exactly what it is that I want to say! Because on the one hand, I think I agree with you. In mainstream books/movies/TV I find it totally annoying that opposite-sex friendships almost inevitably end up played for romance. It doesn't so often happen with same-sex friendships, obviously, because mainstream books/movies/TV mostly prefer to pretend that same-sex romantic attraction doesn't exist.

Then there's fandom, in which every intense friendship gets inevitably slashed. That doesn't really bother me, because fanfic is, among other things, a giant game of "what if?" (Every intense enemyship also gets inevitably slashed, of course, and my personal opinion of that is: hot.)

I do think there's a difference between saying "Hm, the friendship that those characters have would make a great basis for a relationship; I think I'll write a story where that happens!" and saying "Those guys (or chicks) are such close friends; they must have sexual feelings for each other!" And I'm on board for the first, not so much for the second. I insist that platonic relationships can and do exist.

On the other hand ... intense friendships do often have a component of sexual or romantic attraction at some point, in my experience! Especially for teenagers, which is the age at which Dumbledore and Grindelwald's friendship started up (if I'm remembering correctly? I don't have a copy of the book on me). Looking back at my own teenage years and early twenties, anyway, this was true. (Hey, you know snowmit, right? Case in point: he was my best friend in high school, and then I fell for him so hard. Unrequitedly, yet.) So Dumbledore/Grindelwald felt very realistic to me.

Oh, and one last thing:

The fact that it was some kind of "proof" for JKR that Dumbledore was gay makes me question how well she understands her own writing.

I'm not sure you're being fair there in assigning cause and effect. For those of us reading the books, it's certainly the close friendship that either does or doesn't ping us as potentially sexual, but JKR wrote the books, and she says she always thought of Dumbledore as gay; I think that probably the Grindelwald relationship didn't so much inform her view of Dumbledore's sexuality as vice versa.

Anyway, those are my thoughts! I'm not actually active in Harry Potter fandom, so my apologies if I'm going over well-trodden ground here or something.
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:October 25th, 2007 02:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
Hmm, I've changed my mind a bit and now I think I was reacting a little bit snarkily to all the hype.

Someone (Minisinoo?) was pointing out how long it took Dumbledore to go after Grindelwald and thought that the (amourous) love made that seem more believeable.

I think you have a good point about how we do romanticize and, thus, sexualize young friendships. Maybe not only young ones! I think I have always felt a degree of attraction anytime I meet an important new friend. Often, this fades when other aspects of the friendship come to the fore.

Oh, and Snowmit, I've seen so many people fall for him! But I digress.

I'm not in HP fandom either and don't really want to pursue this line of thought much farther. I come at it more from the POV of someone who's interested in queer culture and the mainstream media.

What are your fandoms? I think I knew but I can't see them listed in your profile.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:October 25th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
I just want to say I'm pleased to see a couple of my favorite Canadians talking to each other and finding you have friends in common.
[User Picture]
From:ringthebells
Date:October 25th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC)
(Link)
See, that thing about how all Canadians know each other? It's actually true. :-)
[User Picture]
From:ringthebells
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
(Link)
My fandoms aren't listed in my profile because I keep a separate fannish journal; in this case I responded using my RL journal just because (oddly enough) it's the one where I have a HP-related icon loaded. (Thanks, obviously, to our mutual friend mentalmakeup!)

Anyway, my main fandom right now for reading and only one for writing is Buffy the Vampire Slayer; before that I was sort of serially fan-monogamous with That '70s Show (briefly!) and Once A Thief. I started out with Due South before any of those, but I was only a lurker there.

I've actually started reading HP fic just recently (like, literally a week ago; I don't quite know how it happened but the timing was kind of amusing in retrospect, coming as it did right before the Dumbledore revelation).
Mofic Powered by LiveJournal.com