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For those of you who have been living under a rock, Dumbledore is… - Sally's Journal
October 22nd, 2007
10:45 am

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For those of you who have been living under a rock, Dumbledore is gay

This is, it must be admitted, a good starting place for a lot of interesting discussion. How acceptable it is to have gay charactors in mainstream children's literature, does it make something canon if the author says it but doesn't put it in the books, what J K Rowling is trying to do by handling it in this way (I don't have the faintest idea. Maybe she was pressurised into keeping it from the books, and has finally snapped and just wants to tell people. She can't really need more sales or a higher profile. Maybe she got sick of the slashers writing long rants about how anti-gay she was. Anyway). And indeed, my friends list has had a fair few interesting discussions.

But there has been a distinct absence of discussion of the fact Dumbledore was in love with Grindlewald (that is, the HP universe's parallel to Hitler). Is that not, in a world so obsessed with Good and Bad, Dark and Light, far more interesting?

I mean, sheesh people, is it still more headline grabbing that a boy might be in love with a boy than that they are in love with the darkest, most evil, torturing, generally Not Very Nice person of their time? Which of these should be the headlines?

(Answer: Neither. It's a fictional book. It really shouldn't make the front page of the BBC news unless we're living in a World Gone Mad. Ah.)

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From:simont
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:03 am (UTC)
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It's a book containing fiction. Not quite the same thing as a fictional book! The latter would be something like, oh, I dunno, The Spy With No Trousers as mentioned in Wings. Or Tales of the Black Freighter as mentioned in Watchmen. (Both of which, dammit, I want to read. One of these days I will dream my way to Lucien's library.)
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From:pm215
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)
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There's a Stanislaw Lem book which has reviews of fictional books as well.
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From:randomchris
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
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To be fair, he was in love with Grindelwald before G became a total bastard.
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From:atreic
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:21 am (UTC)
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Well, it depends what you mean by total. All that "means justifies the end" stuff - and I think one of the things JK draws out is that her total bastards and good guys start young (cf Voldemort torturing his orphanage peers and Snape loving Lily when they were primary school age).

And he was clearly still in love with Grindelwald while Grindelwald was being a total bastard - hence the hanging around procrastinating and not killing him until after five years of doom.
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From:lnr
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:11 am (UTC)
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It's kinda hard to comment without reading any of the text, but I don't know if this is likely to contain spoilers for the last book or not - can you say in the cut tag too? Some of us still haven't read it yet. Notably because it's only out in French this week!
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From:angoel
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:16 am (UTC)
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It contains information that was only made available in the latest book, but this is background information with marginal plot significance.
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From:atreic
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:22 am (UTC)
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It contains to the best of my knowledge (although I will go and debate this with Sebby now) no information that was made available in the last book, but only information contained in a BBC news article on something JK Rowling said recently, which builds on backstory discussed in the last book. (eg if you know of the news article, there are no further spoilers)
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From:aiwendel
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:15 am (UTC)
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I like it. It had him having this intense relationship with him in the book, where they were both highly idealistic and wanted the best 'for the greater good' but they differed on what that was, and that sent G bad; but that can happen when ideals come before people, or life.... when things get too black and white and you can't see the grey. But I like the way D's in love with the ideals but realises that they are impossible and wrong due to life, but can't feel that strength of love for anything less than the ideal, even if it's wrong. It makes it more that he's in love with the ideal than him being in love with 'men' *shock horror* etc. It is a particular man who represents stuff rather than lust for anything with a cock or cunt, and that is rather fitting.
I'm suddenly thinking of religious wars, people do repeatedly commit attrocities for their ideals, but that doesn't stop their idealism being beautiful to some people, even though it's plain wrong and their interpretation is obviously bonkers.

hmmm anyway, the revelation made me smile :)

And I can't believe I'm writing about possible ideals of fictional characters ...hmmmm.....
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From:angoel
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:23 am (UTC)
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Is it still more headline grabbing that a boy might be in love with a boy than that they are in love with the darkest, most evil, torturing, generally Not Very Nice person of their time?

Probably the former - it more directly relates to people in their day-to-day lives. I know far more homosexuals than people I consider to be the darkest, most evil, torturing people of their time.

(For that matter, if you look at fiction, it's not particularly unusual for the hero(ine) to fall in love with the darkest, most evil, torturing people of their time; in fact, it's practically required. Nothing special to be seen here, folks, please move on.)
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From:atreic
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:26 am (UTC)
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Hmm... well, I see your point. The whole storyline reminds me a lot of Buffy season 2.
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From:aureo1e
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:26 am (UTC)
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In a death-of-the-author sort of way, though, the question is: who is JK Rowling to say that Dumbledore's gay? If it didn't come through in the books to the extent you have to spell (no pun intended) it out, then there's an argument to say it's left to the reader to decide.

I was going to echo the "not evil yet" line someone already has, then I realised - the HP books are incredibly light on redemption notions: most of the characters are born evil, then stay evil 'till the end.

Also - if you can, get hold of a copy of the Mitchell and Webb Sound "Welcome to Hufflepuff"
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From:atreic
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:33 am (UTC)
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Surely that means your books are more prescriptive the more intelligent your audience? For example, there was a bit in Buffy where I didn't get the nuances of what was going on until Matthew explained it to me. Does that mean that because I was dim, the charactors actions are up to me to decide, but because M was sharp he has to accept it as canon? (This is obviously less the case in this case, where it clearly is (AFAICT) completely unmentioned or even very hinted at in the books).

Still, I suppose I am a traditionalist. They're her books, so she gets the final say. She can decide Harry Potter's bedcoverings are purple, and if she honestly had that in her mind when she was writing the books then it kind of is true. (Like the everything-influencing-the-fairycake in hitchhikers)
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From:woodpijn
Date:October 22nd, 2007 10:53 am (UTC)
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I disagree - we already knew from book 7 that Dumbledore admired Grindelwald and loved him as a friend, and was therefore a bit slow to notice how evil Grindelwald was becoming and act accordingly. Goodie being in love with baddie is not that big a deal if we already knew goodie held baddie in such high esteem.

But I think it's a bit meaningless anyway for an author to make statements like that about her characters outside the medium of the books, when the statement is not made even implicitly within the books. Dumbledore "is" what is revealed about him in the books (and maybe the films). I think she can say "In hindsight I should have made Dumbledore gay", or "Personally I like to imagine Dumbledore as gay", but not "Dumbledore IS gay". Unless she's planning further sequels, I guess...
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From:simont
Date:October 22nd, 2007 11:21 am (UTC)
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I thought the point was that although unstated, it's supposed to have formed part of the basis on which she wrote Dumbledore's character, and in particular that she therefore had to inform the filmmakers of it to ensure they continued to make their vision of Dumbledore consistent with hers?
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:October 22nd, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
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I tried to say something about that in my following post, fwiw.
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:October 22nd, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)

It really shouldn't make the front page of the BBC news

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Well, yes. I guess there's a few key facts:

* Dumbledore was best friends with Root of All Evil.
* Actually they were also in love
* Actually, they were also gay

The first two are (hopefully) more important. But otoh, very popular books have explored those concepts, and everyone's got used to it. Whereas the last is (apparently) news -- certainly my friendslist, whatever they thought about it, had an awful lot to say :)

In fact, does that justify it being on the BBC? News sources should have news -- ie. important and relevant (and normally new) information. But if they're going to have information people want to read, "dumbledore gay" might be more interesting to most people than "thing happens on other side of country" or "celebrity does thing". For that matter, it even does have some importance, the incidence of gay characters in fiction touches on tolerance.
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From:jane_somebody
Date:October 22nd, 2007 11:51 am (UTC)
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I see what you are saying, but the thing is, it is already common knowledge for the zillions of people who have read the books that Dumbledore was extremely close friends with "the darkest, most evil, torturing, generally Not Very Nice person of their time?" So, really, going from love as bestest friends to love romantically isn't much of a change in terms of Dumbledore's characterisation. (In fact, one could argue, though I *wouldn't*, that the romantic love element, when it is a trope that romantic love blurs reason and makes one act out-of-character, gives D. *more* of an 'excuse' than if he had been 'just' friends with a man he should rationally have known was evil. As I say, personally I don't think it does/should work like that, but I know some people do.)

Dumbledore being gay, on the other hand, *is* news, in the sense of 'something new', because it wasn't in the books (and I know some people say it was, but some people say Harry is in love with Hermione, or with Draco, so I don't think that really 'counts' - it's only in the books maybe if a majority of readers agree it is? I don't know literary theory, but that sounds plausible to me.)

Also, I note that it seems the way JKR presented the info, she herself thinks the 'important' newsworthy thing is D. being gay, with *who* he loved almost being brought in as an afterthought. So that may well have influenced the way the thing was reported and then discussed? I totally agree that someone's sexuality shouldn't still be the astonishing, headline-grabbing thing, but sadly, the reality of this world/society is that it is, and the best we can hope is that some of those headlines and discussions help with the whole becoming more mainstream and acceptable thing.

Personally, I am not really happy with the way JKR has gone about this - it seems like having her cake and eating it. She waits till *after* all her books are safely sold, so she doesn't lose sales from the parts of the US and elsewhere that aren't quite mad-'Christian' enough to boycott it because of the magic, but are still otherwise pretty intolerant; now she can generate publicity for the films/look cool and inclusive/whatever. I suppose it is technically possible that "Maybe she was pressurised into keeping it from the books, and has finally snapped and just wants to tell people", but I can't help feeling that she had pretty much the strongest author-power *anywhere, ever* and couldn't really have been pressurised by the time of the last few books if she didn't want to be. Maybe I am too cynical.

What really bothers me, though, is the way her one (token?) gay guy gets only one flawed and doomed relationship, safely relegated to ages in the past where no-one has to think about it if they don't want to. Where are the loving, stable, everyday relationships between people of the same sex? We thought we had something approximating that with Remus and Sirius (who sent Harry joint presents, after all), but then JKR seemed to go out of her way to say, no, look, Remus is het after all, don't worry. So from that point of view, your 'Grindelwald is evil' point is really significant, precisely because it is tied together inextricably with 'Dumbledore is gay.'

Phew. Thanks for letting me ramble. This was a bit of a compilation of thoughts and comments to various other people's posts on this matter, I appreciate the opportunity to put it all together, and hope it all makes some kind of sense! ;-)
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From:pozorvlak
Date:October 22nd, 2007 12:19 pm (UTC)
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I really didn't get any impression that Remus and Sirius were an item, but lots of people seem utterly convinced. Dammit, it looks like I'm going to have to re-read Prisoner of Azkhaban :-)
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From:phlebas
Date:October 22nd, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
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The bit that jumped out at me was the "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy". Seven books and she never noticed all those people scouring them in search of teh gay?
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From:r_e_mercia
Date:October 22nd, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps she is not an avid reader of slash fiction.... ;-) Though she would probably have to live in a hole not to know it was out there.
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From:ashfae
Date:October 22nd, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
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Er, the impression I got was that she didn't bother to put it into the book because it wasn't necessary.

Me, I go Eh.
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From:lisekit
Date:October 22nd, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
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More of a Faust than a Hitler, I'd say.
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From:l_j_b
Date:October 22nd, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
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Meh.
Considering some of the way book 7 was written, dealing with Dumbledore's relationship with Grindlewald, we already know he had a deep, emotional connection to the man. The betrayal and the conflict would still have been huge even if it was 'only' a deep friendship.

She said in the same interview that she thought of it as a kind of parallel to Bellatrix' obsession with Voldemort, the (once) charismatic, handsome Dark Lord #2. What would have happened if Ariana hadn't died? That's what shocked Dumbledore into thinking - even if it did take a long time - about the road he was going down. If Bella had had such an event in her past, something to open her eyes to what she was becoming, would she have turned out the same as she did?

I think the HP world has more than one reference to Hitler, and by the end of the second war, it's probably Voldemort who deserves the comparison more (same interview - she said the first war never reached the same heights as the second).

It's interesting from a 'love' theme too. The books have some big parallels in that - Merlope's lack of it at home, and her obsession with Tom which brought about Voldemort himself, mirrored in Snape's frankly obsessive love for Lily, which helped bring about the same Dark Lord's downfall. Love that drives some into action, to fight, and love that (as we see from Dumbledore and his 5year thumb-twiddle) holds some back against the same forces.

So, yeah. The fact he was gay is so much less relevant to the plot than his love for Grindlewald as a person, an equal, which we were shown anyway, just not in a romantic sense. It didn't need to be put in, so it wasn't. JKR will doubtless have all kinds of backstory for the characters that didn't make it into the book, but she'll know anyway. Now the series is finished, she can tell people if they ask without risking spoilers.

Since in the Potterverse everyone seems to have one True Love, period (which I'm not going to go into - that just seems to be how it works in her writing), it would rather have given some of book 7 away if she'd answered a 'did Dumbledore ever fall in love?' with 'yes, Grindlewald' beforehand. It's not like she's stated he was out having wild wizarding boyz-nights.
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From:teleute
Date:October 22nd, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
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FWIW: The only other close personal friend of Dumbledore's I recall from the books was Nicholas Flamel. Now, admittedly he was long-time married by the time we meet him in the books, but that could technically have been another of D's ex's or unrequited flames. Of course, there is also the point that most people typically have close friends who are the same sex they are.

More interesting to me is the fact that none of the professors are married or seem to be involved with anyone (although I only just noticed this). Is this a requirement for teaching? Or just a convenience - once people get married, teaching at a boarding school isn't a great job any more?

Plus I think she was ret-conning all the way through. *shrug* I loved the books, most of the plots were good, but the writing annoyed me often.
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