Many have read and enjoyed the Harry Potter book series. They were a delightful and uncomplicated means of escape from the burdens of our own lives, however great or small those burdens may have been, and allowed us to sojourn for a while a world in which the most onerous things could be managed with magic. These books were written by JK Rowling, whose personal success story suggests that a good bit of magic, or divine grace, was involved.
About ten years ago, she made a startling revelation: Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft And Wizardry, was gay. She said, ‘It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men.’ The news was caught up by the global media: a fictional character was gay!
Well actually, it is a bit of a big deal. I don’t know why the author would want us to think that Dumbledore was a pederast, but the implication is there. Rowling has quite correctly pointed out that her characters can be anything she wants them to be—this is the prerogative of the author. Perhaps she has forgotten that too much fact can obscure a story as well as too little. When creating characters, there are features that help an author know a character and portray him/her with greater scope, but aren’t necessary for the public. If Dumbledore’s sexuality had to be mentioned, then it should have played a visible role in the tales. The inclusion of this detail added nothing to the books and it was entirely unnecessary to mention, especially after the final book had been published (but it did increase post-publication interest in the books, a sly marketing ploy).
In the decade since, Rowling has been called upon to explain or defend that revelation again and again. I thought it unfortunate; one thing I enjoyed about the Harry Potter books was the lack of sexual complication. Many contemporary books and films have been marred by pointless scenes of fumbling in the bedroom and the details of whom and what a character likes to engage on a physical level. They add nothing to the tale, they only satisfied public prurience. How many classics in literature and film succeeded without semi-pornographic interludes?
Rowling may have made a positive impression by responding to a fan who couldn’t see Dumbledore as gay: ‘….because gay people just look like…people?’ However, she’s also seems to have implied that in order for a (wo)man to love another (wo)man, sexuality must be an element. Why does sexuality have to come into it at all?
A gay friend complained that in high school, he had difficulty in making friends with other men because they assumed that if he liked them, he wanted to bed them as well. His response was, ‘you like women; do you want to sleep with every woman you like?’ He was an immensely talented dancer, choreographer and wit, but because of one characteristic unrelated to everyday association, many refused him friendship.
Such a rejection is more commonplace than we’d like to think. How many friendships, homo- and hetero-sexual, have been denied because of the immature conviction that all relationships must result in sex? Shall we accept that the only reason two people can be friends is carnality? On one hand, the presumption speaks to individual fear; on another, individual conceit. It screams insecurity and naiveté. We have numerous examples of ‘homosexual’ interaction in a ‘heterosexual’ population—two buddies going to the pub for a pint after work for example, or two ladies who are business partners. By extension, when a group of friends decides to go to a concert or a game together, does that mean group sex will follow?
Heaven help the man or woman out walking the dog!
Rowling’s announcement those many years ago was a good way to stir up her audience, and increase interest in her books and the films that followed. Concerning the stories themselves (about which we perhaps have forgotten by now), I have to ask:
Was it important? Did it add anything artistically to the saga? Is it genuinely newsworthy?
I’m much more interested, and much more uplifted, when someone points out that Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinz Jr have been happily married for thirteen years!
These days, that’s newsworthy!
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