Sorry. I didn’t mean to just come right out of the gate swinging like that. Let’s back up a second. Yesterday, director David Yates said in an Entertainment Weekly interview that Dumbledore’s sexuality won’t be “explicitly” addressed in the forthcoming sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. His exact words:
“Not explicitly,” Yates replied when asked if the film makes it clear that Dumbledore is gay. “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.”
For just a moment, let’s ignore the fact that Dumbledore is the only canonically gay character in the entire seven-book series. Let’s ignore the fact that omitting his sexuality only serves to uphold a troubling status quo. Let’s ignore the fact that this is a multi-million dollar franchise, a guaranteed slam dunk at the box office with nothing to lose. Instead, let’s unpack some of the hypothetical reasons why one might try to justify the decision not to “explicitly” address Dumbledore’s gayness.
1. Because this is a kids movie! Think of the kids! Counterpoint: homosexuality is not bad or wrong. It’s 2018. Besides, in the first film, Credence Barebone is physically and emotionally abused onscreen, Grindelwald is a mass murderer who leaves trails of bodies in his wake, and the Magical Congress gives Newt and Tina the death penalty AND IT’S ACTUALLY EXTREMELY DISTURBING, so you might want to take a step back and consider the idea that maybe you just have really weird ideas about what’s appropriate for kids.
2. Because there’s just no place for that sort of thing here! There was a place for every other couple in the entire franchise, so I bet we can make room.
3. Because Dumbledore’s love life isn’t relevant to the story! Oh, but it is! In fact, the story makes the most sense (and is VASTLY MORE INTERESTING) when you factor in Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald! Why do you think Dumbledore became obsessed with Grindelwald when they were teens? Why do you think Dumbledore was so determined to ignore the increasingly obvious signs that the super smart, super hot guy who lived next door was actually wizard Hitler? Why do you think it took adult!Dumbledore ALMOST 50 YEARS to confront Grindelwald and bring him to justice? Look, I’ve been dumb and in love before. One time a guy I had a crush on told me he liked the Fast & Furious movies, so I lied and told him I also liked them, and then I had to watch all the Fast & Furious movies. I think I know a fledgling starry-eyed romantic when I see one.
J.K. Rowling, who wrote the script, has responded to the controversy:
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn’t involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that’s only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what’s even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
I get it! I do! None of us have seen the movie or read the script, and even if Dumbledore’s sexuality goes unaddressed in Fantastic Beasts 2, we have three more films to make it happen.
But let me just say this: I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan. So is my girlfriend. And like all the other queer HP fans, we’ve had to carve out our own spaces to see ourselves represented. It’s the reason why so many people ship Sirius and Lupin, Seamus and Dean, Ginny and Luna. When we looked at this thing we loved, we didn’t see relationships that we could relate to, so we made them ourselves. And that’s fine! Great, even! It’s a transformative way of engaging with media, and it’s awesome!
It is also, however, a little sad when you consider why it’s necessary. Dumbledore is the only character with the “JK ROWLING SAID IT, CONFIRMED” stamp of approval, and the possibility that his sexuality might be glossed over in a film series in which his character plays such a vital role is pretty disheartening.
Representation is so important. Here’s hoping (however tentatively) that the hearts and minds behind Fantastic Beasts ultimately get it right.