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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is Dumbledore gay simply because Rowling says he is?

J.K. Rowling recently announced that Albus Dumbledore, the head of the  Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, is gay. Apparently she believes that Dumbledore's qualities are under her control. I disagree. True, she is the author of the books in which Dumbledore is a character. But at this point it is not fully under her control what qualities Dumbledore has. She could say (or even publish a book in which) Dumbledore was actually a robot controlled by the CIA. But it would remain false that Dumbledore is  a robot controlled by the CIA.

Dumbledore can be gay only if this is narratively compatible with what Rowling has said about Dumbledore in the past. [In my original post I claimed that there was no narrative compatibility here, but I've been convinced otherwise. Why the mistake? Was it heterocentrism? Maybe. Was it that I haven't read book 7? Definitely. But am I the only one who finds Rowling's apparent view - that she can simply announce who's gay or who marries whom - problematic?]

Posted by Michael S. Green on October 20, 2007 at 09:27 AM | Permalink


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This discussion puts me in mind of an interview with Ian McKellen not long after he came out. He referred to a woman who expressed her disappointment at the revelation because it ruined her fantasies of him. Evidently she didn't feel that her powers of fantasy were strong enough to overcome this stated truth about him. He told her that she could continue to fantasize about him anyway. Now, of course, Sir Ian is a real person, but this woman's chance of hooking up with an even straight Ian McKellen surely approached the realm of fiction. It's the same reason that people don't want contemporary gay actors to come out of the closet, or to find out that beloved actors of yesteryear were actually gay. It wreaks havoc with a fantasy life.
As I said in an earlier post, folks are mad because Rowling, the creator of these characters, will be accepted as an authority, and their personal way of experiencing them(like the woman who had a crush on McKellen) won't be able to withstand her honest statement. It's just astonishing: why should an author refrain from answering a question about how she conceived these characters in order to preserve someone's private fantasy? Plus, it's interesting to see how important it appears to be to make the case that we don't HAVE to believe he's gay, as if that brings some sort of relief.

Posted by: vox | Oct 24, 2007 3:22:01 PM

To "Legallyaretard", thanks for that bit of truth in choosing your name.

It doesn't matter to me whether Dumbledore is gay or not - his sexuality was not part of the story. What bothers me is the dishonesty of the writer. If, for some reason, you WANT a character to be gay - that is fine, create and show him that way. She went through a lot of effort to plan ahead with her twists, but she was unable to reveal, through her writings, what she felt was an important trait?? There will always be the conspiracy theorists that will claim that they knew (or suspected) all along, but the vast majority of the readers will probably say they had no idea about his sexuality - therefore, she did not portray (or chose to hide) his sexuality. Again, why?? It is the author's responsibility to CREATE his/her characters, it is pretty pathetic to assign attributes outside of the writings. Did she hide his sexuality because she feared a loss in sales? Is she outing him now because of some agenda? Either way, sad. Very sad.
BTW, I have read quotes from GAY people who are very upset that, if it was her vision for him to be gay, she didn't create or portray him that way. I guess they are "haters" also.
I am not a professional author, but I am pretty positive that somewhere in 5,000 pages I could reveal someone's sexuality if it was necessary for background or character development.

Oh today, in a news conference she revealed that Snapes was really Harry Potters dad. It seems his father slept with another woman after drinking too much, so his mother had an affair to get back at him. Snapes was always angry, because Harry loved his worthless father instead of him (Snapes).

Posted by: Mike | Oct 25, 2007 6:51:07 AM

Dumbledore has been gay since we first meet him in the first novel, to shed some light on the subject read this (written a year ago): http://petsaur.blogspot.com/2006/12/gender-in-harry-potter.html

Posted by: Victor Benitez | Oct 25, 2007 1:47:27 PM

I can't really see Dumbledore as gay. I mean he's been nice throughout all of the books but Rowling can't just go and say " Oh yeah by the way I forgot to mention the Dumbledore's gay"! If she really wanted it to be made known then she could have put it in the books!!!!!! It's retarded though 'cause even though Dumbledore never got married who was he gay to? Like what guy caught is interest? Please make this know!!!!

Posted by: googlegirl | Oct 25, 2007 8:02:56 PM

I think the only reason Rowling sys he is gay is so she could get more publicity. Since she isnt making any more bokks not that many people are talking agout the Harry Potter books anymore.Right????

Posted by: christina | Oct 26, 2007 9:53:21 PM

Who cares its a kids book. i cant believe you arguing about this ITS NOT REAL you sad people

Posted by: Knives | Oct 27, 2007 6:08:47 AM

It's strange when people write something as you've done and you innocently think that you're not being prejudiced. Leonardo da Vinci was gay and so was Michelangelo. Do they have to exhibit "gayness" 24x7 for you to feel that they're being consistent with their own personal sexual orientation?

Posted by: Michael Blankenship | Oct 27, 2007 3:23:57 PM

This video previewed the revelation.

Play find the Dumbledore:


The more obvious answer:

Posted by: W. Mushkin | Oct 27, 2007 6:43:46 PM

So----post script the author decides a character is gay. I think that there is more to this than a person that does not exist being gay in a world that does not exist. Next we will learn that Mickey Mouse is gay and Minnie had a sex change surgery. What about professor McGonagall,professor Sprout or Peeves. What is their sexual preference? Now in real life, Michael Gambon(Dumbledore of screen) is rumored to be gay. So then, does this make Gandalf gay? What does homophobia mean? Does this have roots in Latin or Greek and if so, then two different meanings. Just about as confusing as making a statement about a character after the final book has been penned. So there, just another opinion and confused thoughts.

Posted by: Sunshine | Oct 30, 2007 10:51:24 PM

In response to googlegirl: I think the only reason Rowling sys he is gay is so she could get more publicity. Since she isnt making any more bokks not that many people are talking agout the Harry Potter books anymore.Right????

That's absolutely absurd! She said he is gay because a fan asked her a question and she answered it honestly. To think that the richest author in the entire world wants or needs more publicity is, quite frankly, ridiculous. The women never has to pick up a pen again in her life if she doesn't wish to and what does she care if people stop paying attention to her? She drives a mini-van, lives in a very modest home in the highlands and essentially has a normal life outside of the fact that she's a billionaire.

Also, there's no point in wondering why she's "assigned" a sexual preference to him as EVERYONE has a sexual preference. He's her character and I believe that just as Harry has been heterosexual throughout the entire series in her mind, Dumbledore has been homosexual throughout the entire series as far as she was concerned.

It may come as a surprise to some people but an Authors first perception of a character is not always what they turn out to be. After a while characters tend to form their own personalities and preferences the more the author writes them. I know this first hand. She may make the executive decisions in the end but the small bits, and I consider Dumbledore's sexuality to be a very small bit, create themselves.

Posted by: Pygmee | Oct 31, 2007 12:07:50 PM

I did enjoy the HP series but am going to have a hard time rereading them knowing I am going to look for clues that Dumbledore is gay. I defended the series regarding its use of witches/wizards/magic as fantastical fairytale magic and not true spiritual witchcraft to some of my Christian acquaintances' criticisims because I strongly believe that to be true. But I am going to have nothing to stand on with the homosexuality issue introduced after the story was so successfully told. I must say I do not find anything in Dumbledore's written character, actions or speech to suggest his gayness. It just doesn't fit. I will have next to no chance of defending this to my Christian friends now.

Posted by: kc | Nov 2, 2007 1:14:08 AM

This revelation was actually previewed in this video.

Dumbledore is in there- Can you find him?


Posted by: W. Mushkin | Nov 3, 2007 6:08:55 PM

I think that even if Dumbledore was gay JKR shouldn't have told us because it ruins the way a lot of people looked at Dumbledore. She should have just left well enough alone. Dumbledore still remains awesome gay or not!

Posted by: Patsy | Nov 4, 2007 8:24:31 PM

Oh, and also, I agree with you kc. I have no arguments left now on the argument that HP really isn't that bad and is a symbol of good verses evil to my christian friends. I will never see Dumbledore the same even though I still will like him. I don't think I'll ever be able to picture him as gay.

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