And a *shrug* is in order here

(Picture property of I Can Has Cheezburger)

Unless you’re a lit-geek or a giant homophobe looking for more evidence that teh gayz are taking over the universe, the Dumbledore outing was a pretty much a non-story. If I wasn’t a lit-geek, I probably wouldn’t be addressing it on my blog. There are more hot pictures to put up, frankly – Ingrid Bergman, Nicole Kidman, Gina Gershon, et al.

Nevertheless,

What’s sad about this non-story is that the text itself seems to be of little consequence, it’s the politics of the thing that count. One the (excellent) forum over at the Barrowdowns, I used to participate in fierce discussions involving issues of supremacy within the interpretation of text – how much weight should a reader’s interpretation carry? When the writer issued a strong statement such as, for example Tolkien talking about how he “consciously” revised The Lord of the Rings into somewhat of a Christian text – does this require the reader to view the book as a Christian work? How much room do we make for ourselves when we pick up a particular book and struggle to interpret it?

Questions in a similar vein are really the only ones worth asking now that Dumbledore has been “outed” by J.K. Rowling. For me, at least. The new stories, meanwhile, are just empty buzz – fodder for Bill Donohue, various “concerned mothers,” and so on. (Naive?) People have claimed that this is some sort of advancement of gay rights, and while I do hope that Rowling’s revelation may inspire some people to re-think the issue of homosexuality as some sort of terrible, taboo subject only to be spoken about in a screeching voice with Beethoven’s 5th playing ominously in the background, I somehow doubt it.

The fact that a fictional character’s personal life can be a headline on the BBC really does make Dumbledore come alive in a way that’s rare for literature in general. Dumbledore is a presence as immediate for us as, oh, I don’t know – Britney Spears (with better grammar and fashion sense). Once again, good news for lit-geeks everywhere (and please, don’t inundate me with shrill cries that “but Harry Potter is not LITERATURRR!” – I don’t care), but not exactly the cause célèbre it’s been made out to be.

As for J.K. Rowling’s motives – I’m sure she means well. In fact, I know it. But, and this simply needs to be said – the control she is trying to exercise over her text and, by extension, the reading public is a little too intense for my tastes. Can’t we, the Potter readers, dream a little too?

P.S. Lookie lookie, Rebecca Traister pretty much just said everything I did.

7 thoughts on “And a *shrug* is in order here

  1. oh, c’mon, she was just making the subtext text. like we didn’t all know what was going on with Grindelwald. too bad she couldn’t have spelled it out in the actual y’know book, but well i suppose the screaming would’ve really never ended then…

  2. I don’t know – maybe she could have done it in the text. She was already no friend to the religious right.

    Of course, this is all just speculation – we work with what we have.

    But the fact that Dumbledore is gay is a revelation in a long series of similar revelations, made after the last book was published.

  3. I don’t think there is any escaping that LORD OF THE RINGS is a Christian text (and I am a Christian, of sorts, well, a Catholic as Tolkien was), but like Walker Percy’s fiction (another Catholic), the authors were trying to liberate the ideas of redemption from the people (read: Calvinists) who had “ruined” them for the masses. That is why they are so compelling. They are Christian concepts in another context. Their popularity proves to me that Christianity is relevant, when taken out of the hands of emotional fascists.

    Likewise, I hope people go HUHHHH? Because she has left NO ROOM for guesswork here, she has SAID he is definitely gay! The people who love Dumbledore will have to reckon with his character and the fact that yes, as when grandpa or great-uncle come out (and they rarely do, it’s left to family rumor), you now have the knowledge in your soul that you loved a gay person/character and now, what moral responsibility do you have?

    I could just kiss her. I don’t care what anybody says! 🙂

  4. call me a cynic (i like to) but this statement my la rowling reeks of a cheap publicity stunt by p.r. types shit scared that the potter mystique might wear off, now that the anti-climactic denouement is out of the bag.

  5. It *would* be a publicity stunt, had Rowling not already been busy talking about the lives of the characters beyond the books, a sort of “painting that goes outside the frame,” if you will. I also hear that she will be coming with a kind of “encyclopedia” of all things Harry Potter soon. Naturally, Dumbledore’s elusive personal life (my boyfriend was convinced he was gay by the time he found out about Gellert Grindelwald, and had suspected as much before – I was completely unaware of any hints, really) would probably figure into it. Hence, I suppose it makes sense for a writer to talk about it now.

  6. I suspected Dumbledore might be gay for awhile, although pre-Grindelwald, I can’t put my finger on precisely why.

    I do like that Rowling is willing to talk about her characters beyond the books. I’m sure she’s developed a lot of backstory that never really got referenced, and sometimes it’s fun to reveal that stuff. I do see the concerns about defining too much stuff outside the books, but I don’t know that it’ll turn out to be that much of a problem.

    I do wish that it had been explicit in the text. This is where someone usually pops up to demand that anyone who says this rewrite the books to allow for an explicit declaration because “the gay” only allows for extremes, and not nuances.

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