Thursday, October 25, 2007
Put Dumbledore Back in the Closet (OPINION)
By JOHN CLOUD
When J.K. Rowling announced at Carnegie Hall that Albus Dumbdledore—her Aslan, her Gandalf, her Yoda—was gay, the crowd apparently sat in silence for a few seconds and then burst into wild applause. I'm still sitting in silence. Dumbledore himself never saw fit to come out of the closet before dying in book six. And I feel a bit like I did when we learned too much about Mark Foley and Larry Craig: You are not quite the role model I'd hoped for as a gay man.
I'm not defending the closet, a perilous and sad place. But I don't see how Rowling's outing of Dumbledore strikes a blow for gay equality so great that even Carnegie Hall—cathedral of the arts, cynosure of homosexuals—should erupt in joy.
Yes, it's nice that gays finally got a major character in the sci-fi/fantasy universe. Until now, we had been shut out of all the major franchises. Tolkien, a conservative Catholic, wrote a rich supply of homoeroticism into The Lord of the Rings—all those Men and Hobbits and Elves singing to each other during long, woman-less quests. The books and their film versions feature tender scenes between Frodo and Samwise. But in the end Sam marries Rose Cotton and fathers 13 children. Thirteen! You'd think he had something to prove.
Other fantasy worlds have presented gay (or at least gay-seeming) characters, but usually they are, literally, inhuman. George Lucas gave us the epicene C-3PO and the little butch R2-D2, and their Felix-Oscar dialogue suggests the banter of a couple of old queens who have been keeping intergalactic house for millennia. But their implied homosexuality is quite safe. There is no real flesh that could actually entangle, just some electrical wiring. Similarly, there was a complicated girl-on-girl plot in 1995 on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but let me spare you a fanboy's geeked-out summary by noting merely that the two girls weren't really girls—they were gender-complex aliens called Trills—and all they did was kiss.
So along comes Rowling with Dumbledore—a human being, a wizard even, an indisputable hero and one of the most beloved figures in children's literature. Shouldn't I be happy to learn he's gay?
For the rest of this TIME article, go here.
For more on this topic:
Harry Potter‘s Last Adventure
Rowling Reveals Harry Potter Secrets
J.K. Rowling Hogwarts And All
Love Potions and Tragic Magic