Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Outing of Albus

San Diego is burning, the US is getting closer to invading Iran, the World Series is about to start, scientists are now beginning to think that they can treat HIV, and of course there's still that pesky global warming. Sounds like we should have a lot to read about in the news right? Then why is the most talked about story this week about the sexuality of a fictional character?

Last weekend, J.K. Rowling made the startling revelation that Albus Dumbeldore, the late head of Hogwart's is in fact gay. This has caused a huge backlash in parts of the Evangelical Right, who already consider the fantasy series to be full of pagan references. This has inspired some Red Staters to claim that some like the late Jerry Falwell, who you may recall first claimed that Tinky-Winky was one of many "undisclosed gay characters" in children's entertainment, are vindicated.

Now I am not going to try and make an argument against the Falwellers, I feel that would be giving too much credit to a horribly ignorant view point. And you know what? They don't deserve my precious key strokes.

But what I do have issues with is Rowling's whole posthumous outing of Mr. Dumbledore. As a fan of the series, I find this deeply insulting, and not for reasons that any of the intolerant Bible-thumpers may.

Rowling herself has called the series a "prolonged argument for tolerance", and that has always been something that I totally respect about her work. From Harry the wizard in a mogul world, to Hermionie the mogul-born, to Hagrid the giant, to Snape the weirdo with a good heart, the main characters in this series are a host of misfits and oddballs who are able to overcome the prejudice both at the personal level (Malfoy) to an institutional level (The Ministry of Magic).

They are able to do this by overcoming any inherent differences they may have, accepting one another and then finally smiting evil in the end. That in itself is a great argument for tolerance, and it is a message that any reasonably intelligent reader/movie-goer should be able to gather. These lessons of accepting people for who they are can easily be extracted from the magical world to the real world we live in right here. Just change mogul-borns to lower socio-economic classes, giants to different races, Snape to emo-kids, and that creepy spider to homosexuals, and ta-da, there we are, a perfect lesson for kids and adults alike. Give people a chance to overcome your first impression and you too can kill Voldemort and excel at Quiddich!!!!

By revealing Dumbeldore's sexuality, Rowling is hitting us over the head with the moral of her story. It's completely unnecessary at this point. This would be equivalent to William Shakespeare showing up at the end of MacBeth to tell us "Don't get power hungry", or Steven Spielberg telling us "Don't kill Jews" after watching Schindler's List. It may be a great message, but they've already given it to us.

Secondly, I found this announcement to be offensive, because, frankly, Dumbledore's sexuality -no matter how fictitious - is Dumbeldore's business and none of mine. It is something that does not come up at all in the novels, so why bother bringing it up now? For all we know, the series could be full of gay characters. I mean, Crab and Goyle always were a little TOO close to one another, and one never really knew what to make out of Doby the House Elf, after Snape got rejected by Harry's mother, maybe he embraced a different kind of love, right? In fact, when you think about it, there are very few characters whose sexualities were ever really reveled. Sure Harry had a girlfriend, but maybe he was bisexual, who are we to know? More importantly, who are we to care?

I feel that by referencing Dumbeldore's sexuality outside of her novels, Rowling has unintentionally committed an act of intolerance herself. She made an issue out of someone's sexuality, when really it shouldn't be an issue at all. From the many conversations I have had with homosexual friends of mine, they have told me that they want to just be treated like everyone else. In her outing, Rowling, has treated the homosexual character differently than any other characters. To treat Dumbeldore fairly, she really should list every single character's sexuality, and that may take a while.

So while I applaud Rowling for her attempt at spreading such great values of tolerance around the world, I really don't feel that this was the best way to do it. Perhaps instead of talking about fictional characters sexuality, she should wave her magic wand and say "Homosexualis Toleroso" instead.

Until next time,



Steve said...

I actually agree with this entry! (I know, the world really is ending). The entire outing seemed contrived. I don't really care about his sexuality and to come out now and say it makes me feel uncomfortable (not for the sexuality of the character, just for the way it was done).

Anonymous said...

However, Rowling shouldn't be faulted for knowing who her characters are. It's not as if she decided on the spot during the Q&A in New York that Dumbledore is gay--it's something she decided long ago and, although she never blatantly wrote it in the novel, Dumbledore did have a relationship with Grindelwald. By not outing him in the book, she does do him the justice of treating him like all the other characters. She doesn't make his homosexuality an issue within the novel, which she should be applauded for. Dumbledore's homosexuality existed before the question was asked--she simply answered the question.