Saturday, October 20, 2007

He's Here, He's Queer, He's a Wizard???

To a packed house at Carnegie Hall, JK Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series) announced to everyone that Albus Dumbledore, the revered headmaster of Hogwarts (and uber-wizard) is gay. The outing came in response to a question from the audience of whether Dumbledore ever finds "true love" to which Rowling replied "He's gay."

Now, this seems not to answer the question at all, because of course he can find true love AND be gay--it's not as if the two are mutually exclusive conditions.

What's interesting is that Rowling invented this whole "off-page" past romance for Dumbledore (stuff that never comes up in any of the books and isn't really hinted at, although you could analyze and deonstruct the language to believe that he's gay--apparently that's what has happened with the "fan fiction" that has sprung up around the series--that the lack of Rowling mentioning any female intimacies caused fans to speculate (and others to openly pen) their belief that Dumbledore is queer.) I won't go into the specifics in order not to ruin it or confuse those who have not read the books, but it is an intriguing backstory, and helps, in part, to explain Dumbledore's motivations for some of his actions.

Apparently her parting words at Carnegie were that she believed the Harry Potter series to have an ultimate message about tolerance--and that she wanted everyone to walk away with the inspiration to "question authority." I do think that is a strain that runs throughout the books--that the issue of purity and blood, between wizards and non-wizards, those who can do magic and those who cannot, is the major plot device on which the series pivots. So I wonder, will the Harry Potter readers of the world be able to transfer the message of tolerance for non-magic people into tolerance for any group in the real world who are oppressed and marginalized? Does reading Harry Potter make you more likely to take up an anti-racist agenda? To be queer friendly?


Cipher said...

Can I say that I wish JK Rowling never revealed this information? It makes me feel like she's a coward for revealing it after the fact that she'd finished the series, way after the fall-out from it wouldn't have marred her sales or her bottom line. I would have had far more respect for this woman had she gone out after the first book and said, yep, Dumbledore's gay and if you have a problem relaying that to your child because you are a homophobe and bigot, well then, don't buy my book.

Jennifer said...

I'm wondering about the impact of Rowling weaving in the storyline that she had revealed at the Carnegie reading into the last installment (again, don't want to give it away both because if you never followed the series it'd be confusing and if you are in the midst of reading it, I don't want to spoil anything). Honestly, I think she could have easily edited out some stuff from the last behemouth edition and then added in the romance that she had concocted for the Carnegie audience into the last novel (since that's where a bunch of big revelations happen anyway). It would have forced people to TRULY question the limits of their tolerance--and from a plot and character point-of-view would have actually strengthened the motivations of Dumbeldore and its relation to Harry. And truthfully, it wouldn't have hurt her sales in the slightest--in fact, can't you imagine all of the Christian right being up in arms and starting to burn her book and then others would be forced to read it (and possibly the whole series) in order to denounce it. From a marketing perspective she certainly lost out on a lot of free publicity. But less crassly, she clearly lost out because if she wanted to make her point about queer lifestyles, she should have done it earlier rather than after the fact.

Jennifer said...

I should also add that she lost out on opening up an audience and a space for parents who do want their kids to read about queer love and relationships and positive gay rolemodels, because Dumbeldore as the uber-wizard is certainly a clear rolemodel. And of course there's Ian McKellan as a wizard in that other seris (LOR) and Sir Ian is clearly a very positive gay rolemodel.