books i've been reading

Big Gay Dumbledore

So JKR has outed Albus Dumbledore, beloved Headmaster of Hogwarts. (Spoilers for Deathly Hallows below, by the way, for those behind on their reading.)

Hmm. Online reaction has been mixed (‘empowerment hurrah!’ versus ‘but you didn’t mention it in the books and also he’s dead and closeted and hang on, that’s not actually empowering at all’), and I feel similarly divided. Yes, it’s pleasing that it’s not only house elves who get a wave of the tolerance wand. Yes, it’s utterly marvellous that the audience of kids at New York’s Carnegie Hall responded to the news with delighted applause. And I do think, given that the final book turns on how little we know (and how little Harry ever bothered to find out, the div) about Dumbledore’s personal life, it’s in keeping that this too should be inexplicit.

But we’re still left with the clanging missed opportunity of Remus Lupin, whose secret existence as a werewolf seemed to have been expressly constructed as an elegant allegory for homosexuality – right up until he got married. Possibly JKR wanted to duck any suggestion that ‘the gay’ is something one catches, something grim to be concealed: when one’s work is as closely scrutinised as hers by readers and far-right nutters alike, I can see the logic behind that hesitation. But why, then, did all the teenage fumblings and smirky innuendoes of the later books need to be so emphatically straight? It’s unreasonable to ask a single series of books, no matter how far-reaching their influence, to broach every potential ‘issue’ in kidlit while also ducking accusations of tokenism. But now she’s raised it herself, it feels more like a conscious omission than before – especially in the presence of an online fandom which has embraced every possible pairing imaginable, especially the ‘slashy‘. In the absence of even a glimpse of Justin Finch-Fletchley furtively eyeing up George Weasley, we’re left with a resoundingly heterosexual Hogwarts, complete with an epilogue that suggests that neat and tidy wives and kiddies are what constitutes a happy ending. Isn’t standing up after the fact and promising she didn’t mean it to look that way only a step or two from ‘ but lots of my friends are gay…’?

The part that really makes my head spin, however, is Dumbly’s ex. I found the inclusion of Grindelwald as a ‘proper’ character in Book 7 quite startling, since all we’d known from previous books was that he was a Dark Wizard defeated by Dumbledore in 1945. I know I’m not the only reader to interpret that as a casual (if slightly tasteless) hint at how our ‘real’ Muggle history is littered with unseen wizard intervention. But does that mean ‘Hitler was Dumbledore’s boyfriend’ is now author-sanctioned Potter canon?

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The very wonderful gag about tapes left in the passenger footwell of a car (after two weeks they automatically transform into Queen’s Greatest Hits) is evidence of how late I am to this particular party: people have been telling me I’d like Pratchett forever, and Gaiman’s Coraline is categorically the most terrifying kids’ book I’ve ever read (and brilliant with it). I should listen to people’s advice more often: tis indeed a riot.

Nothing at all. Felt like a well-wrung dishcloth after last week’s editing, so I gave the creative brain the week off. This evening shall be spent with a glass of red wine and those last three pages, though.

Time-travel. That is, last night I went to the indie disco wearing some DMs, danced to Rage Against The Machine, and mocked the little indie boys who have still not registered that optimisitically dancing at someone is an ineffectual way of getting a snog. Most odd to wake up and realise that it’s not 1993 after all.

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7 thoughts on “Big Gay Dumbledore”

  1. I love the ‘dancing at’ someone thing. It’s so un-threatening, it’s OK for both genders and it isn’t humiliating when you get the brush off, unlike going and talking to someone. In fact that’s how I pulled my first proper boyfriend. In the eighties. Ahhh.

  2. Sadly my friend suffered from being danced at repeatedly by a succession of dullards, one of whom then broke the rules by being all conversational and a bit alarming. But I suppose in terms of nightclub-based chat-uppery, there are more intimidating techniques.They played Duran Duran’s Rio, so your 80sness would have been no crime. Although I may have been the only person there who knew all the words. And I was definitely the only person dancing to Birdhouse in your Soul, which is a travesty. I tsk at you, youth of today!

  3. Rio? Where was this? It definitely wasn’t really 1993, that’s for sure! It was in fact at a TMBG gig that said pullage took place. Dearie me. Thinking about your Dumbledore, have to agree with you there. Not much point having it all clear in her own mind that he was gay and then him being so far in the closet that there is nothing in the text to point to it, and no suggestion of any action apart from a rather intense adolescent relationship with an obvious psycho 50 years ago. Somehow that’s more annoying than just ignoring the issue altogether. (‘I did think about it, but just decided not to tell anyone.’ ?)I wouldn’t like to be gay in Potterworld. Even the werewolves have more fun.Didn’t understand the bit about muggle history though. Do you mean just that because they’re really young they think Grindelwald is just ‘history’ (a bit like Duran Duran) and are a bit shocked when he turns out to have been an actual person? Just like we’d be a bit shocked if Jack Straw turned out to actually have been Minister of Magic all along, or something.

  4. Good ole Transformation: still shite after all these years. (This was in the Trashy bit which is pop/cack, not the Old Git’s Indie bit, of course.)That was the TMBG gig I didn’t go to because I had a French test the next day. How rubbish of me.The Grindelwald thing isn’t the wee kiddies being confused, but me. Seemed a reasonable thing to assume that if she was consciously evoking a particular historical figure, she wouldn’t then turn them into a fictional figure who could have fictional things happening to them. Does that not make sense? Yes, there’s technically no reason why she couldn’t reveal that Jack Straw was Minister of Magic all along, but it would be quite unexpected…

  5. Um. Do you mean Grindelwald is meant to be Hitler? Hadn’t crossed my mind, to be honest. Does that make me really stupid?

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