Monday, August 31, 2009

Cop Out

OK, I know this is old news but it has become one of the sticking points of my marriage, Dumbledore the made up wizard character in the Harry Potter series was "outed" by author J.K. Rowling about two years ago. My wife was thrilled. Every gay rights minded Harry Potter fan I know was thrilled. I was not. Honestly I see it as a stunt. First off Dumbledore's sexuality is in no way germane to the books. It simply doesn't enter in to it. second why "out" him now? What's the point? This is no great symbol for gay rights or anything else. It's complete BS.

Rowling went on to say, "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!" I doubt that very much. Cynically I think she was looking for a secondary boost in sales or publicity. If we can posthumously out Dumbledore and have people cheer why not other pretend people? Why not Captain Ahab? Hey, Atticus finch was gay. Does that do anything for ya? It doesn't matter if Dumbledore or Snape or Moaning Myrtle were gay. It's not a win for social justice. It's nothing. If it were going to be a win for anything important it would have been revealed in the books. I think the following quote sums it up nicely.

Ross Douthat of The Atlantic Monthly:

"It seems like a case of J.K. Rowling trying to retroactively bestow a level of adult complexity on her characters that they don’t possess on the printed page. A writer confident in her powers wouldn’t feel the need to announce details like this after the fact."

In an interview with Harry Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron GLAAD spokesman Sean Lund sees the Dumbledore revelation as a good thing. You can read the interview but I'm not convinced.

Having openly gay characters in books and other media is important for gay rights. Hopefully having visible gay characters helps normalize homosexuality for the audience. But "outing" a fictional person after the character has been killed off after the final volume of the series has been released is baloney. It's a meaningless gesture signifying nothing.

Blah! to you J.K. Rowling. You're no pioneer, no activist.


  1. Did it ever occur to you that the character's sexuality might have been bowdlerized by the publishers (the same ones who refused to let Rowling use her full name on the grounds that little boys wouldn't want to read an adventure book written by "Joanne")? You want to bemoan cynicism, go right ahead, but I think it's quite NAIVE to believe she really had the final say on details like that, and whether they were considered germane or not. In all seriousness, read Deathly Hallows first and then decide whether it might have been a relevant detail.

  2. That's an interesting idea. I think when Jo-Ro was an unknown the publishers could do things to her like make her switch up her name. I think once she became one of the most well known writers of her generation who had made more money for more people than welfare and tax evasion combined she could pretty much do what she wanted.

    I was trying to read Deathly Hallows but my wife took it from me. I need to wait for her to finish it so I can get it back.