10.25.2007

Should J.K. Rowling have told us Dumbledore is gay?












J.K. Rowling’s admission that Dumbledore is gay has ignited controversy. Many people are excited to have such an example in this loveable character, and many others are concerned about immorality and protecting children. Let me say from the beginning, so that I am not misunderstood: I could care less if Dumbledore is gay. The fact that he’s gay does not diminish his character in my mind. This being said, however, I wonder if J.K. Rowling was right to provide this information at all.

J.K. Rowling’s novels are full of dense characterization, yet there is no mention of Dumbledore’s love life. Why mention it now? To say that it shouldn’t matter is in a political sense true; it doesn’t matter if anyone is gay, but it matters for the reading experience. My interpretation of Dumbledore is different now. I love him just as much as I did before, but I now have insights into his character that can aid me in my analysis of his actions. Now I can ask this question, which I could not ask before: If Dumbledore had not loved Grindelwald, would he have done something differently? This question now changes the way I view Dumbledore’s final actions. What if Dumbledore had been in love with Dolores Umbridge in his early life, or he and Mrs. Weasley had almost made a go for it before she met Arthur? This information would have altered the way readers see Dumbledore, and the fact that Dumbledore loved Grindelwald will also change our perceptions. A character is now emotionally involved with another character, and as we know from life, emotional involvement can change a landscape; it can change perception, motives, desires, and opinions. In short, it can change a lot.

If this were important, which I believe that it is, then J.K. Rowling should have provided this information in the text. Afterall, no one understand the power of formative experiences like Dumbledore. Look at his continued and devoted study of Voldemort's early life. Dumbledore knows that past experiences shape the present. If we were to ask his opinion, I"m sure he would say "Spill."

And if you were wondering if J.K. Rowling did put any clues in the book, which I don't believe she did, the L.A. Times has found someone to drudge these clearly significant points from the bottom of the barrel...

Below Andrew Slack, of the Harry Potter Alliance, gives Deborah Netburn seven textual "clues" that Dumbledore was gay. (Quoted from L.A. Times)

"1. His pet. "Fawkes, the many-colored phoenix, is 'flaming.'"

2. His name. "While the anagram to 'Tom Marvolo Riddle' is 'I am Lord Voldemort,' as my good friend pointed out, 'Albus Dumbledore' becomes 'Male bods rule, bud!'"

3. His fashion sense. "Whether it's his 'purple cloak and high-heeled boots,' a 'flamboyantly cut suit of plum velvet,' a flowered bonnet at Christmas or his fascination with knitting patterns, Dumbledore defies the fashion standards of normative masculinity and, of course, this gives him a flair like no other. It's no wonder that even the uppity portrait of former headmaster Phineas Nigellus announced, 'You cannot deny he's got style.'"

4. His sensitivity. "Leaders like Cornelius Fudge, Rufus Scrimgeour and Dolores Umbridge (yes, even a woman) who are limited by the standards of normative masculinity could not fully embrace where Voldemort was weakest: in his capacity to love. Dumbledore understood that it's tougher to be vulnerable, to express one's feelings, and that one's undying love for friends and for life itself is a more powerful weapon than fear. Even his most selfish moments in pursuing the Deathly Hallows were motivated either by his feelings for Grindelwald or his wish to apologize to his late sister."

5. His openness. "After she outed Dumbledore, Rowling said that she viewed the whole series as a prolonged treatise on tolerance. Dumbledore is the personification of this. Like the LGBT community that has time and again used its own oppression to fight for the equality of others, Dumbledore was a champion for the rights of werewolves, giants, house elves, muggle-borns, centaurs, merpeople -- even alternative marriage. When it came time to decide whether the marriage between Lupin the werewolf and Tonks the full-blooded witch could be considered natural, Professor Minerva McGonagall said, 'Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world.'"

6. His historical parallel. "If Dumbledore were like any one in history, it would have to be Leonardo DaVinci. They both were considered eccentric geniuses ('He's a genius! Best wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes'); both added a great deal to our body of knowledge (after all, Dumbledore did discover the 12 uses of dragon's blood!); both were solitary, both were considered warm, loving and incredibly calm; both dwelt in mysterious mystical realms; both spent a lot of time with their journals (Leonardo wrote his backwards while Dumbledore was constantly diving into his pensieve); both even had long hair! And, of course, a popular thought among many scholars is that the maestro Leonardo was gay."

7. The fact that so few of us realized he was gay. "No matter how many 'clues' I can put down that Dumbledore was gay, no matter how many millions of people have read these books again and again, Rowling surprised even the most die-hard fans with the announcement that Dumbledore was gay. And in the end, the fact that we never would have guessed is what makes Dumbledore being gay so real. So many times I have encountered friends who are gay that I never would have predicted. It has shown me that one's sexual orientation is not some obvious 'lifestyle choice,' it's a precious facet of our multi-faceted personalities. And in the end whatever the differences between our personalities are, it is time that our world heeds Dumbledore's advice: 'Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.' Today as I write this, I believe that it's time for our aims to be loyal to what the greatest wizard in the world would have wanted them to be: love.'"

Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 23, 2007

4 comments:

  1. I was a bit surprised by the news too. The thought that Dumbledore was gay had briefly flitted across my mind in the final book when he was telling about Grindelwald. It doesn't matter that Dumbledore is gay, it actually makes things a bit more interesting. the LA Times article made me laugh, especially number one!

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  2. I could care less whether or not Dumbledore is gay, but I do think Rowling likes to be a bit provocative. Remember all the angst created by her comments regarding whether or not Harry would live? I'm surprised she would say something like this after the fact. It will change how some readers view him, like it or not, and that seems unfair to the character. The LA Times list was a hoot (no offense to Hedwig!)

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  3. I found an interesting survey that discusses Rowling outing Dumbledore, its definitely worth a look.

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