Dumbledore [shouldn’t have] Emerged from the Closet!

There has been a recent ruckus about J.K. Rowling’s recent declaration that Dumbledore, beloved headmaster of Hogwarts, is, in fact, gay. Or at least, in Rowling’s mind he is. As many, many people have pointed out, it seems to be somewhat from left field.

Some people have approved. Others have disapproved. Others still have pointed out that it’s kind of frivolous. One of the best POVs I’ve come across thus far was in Albert Mohler’s most recent podcast.

As Mohler is prone to doing, he tangents a bit at the beginning of the show. While it is technically on the Death Penalty, he gets into Harry Potter a couple minutes in. Here’s an excerpt that I found particularly compelling:

You know, what this particular culture critic comes back to say is that, if true, this is still unimportant. And I think that, from a literary source as authoritative as the New York Times — indeed, the front page of the Arts section of the New York Times today — is the worst indictment that is likely to be feared by J.K. Rowling.

But it’s just a reminder to us that, these days, the issue of homosexuality is not just something that is seen as a moral issue. I want you to notice closely that what this means is that homosexuality is a marketing issue. That indeed, what J.K. Rowling is doing here, after her books have long been finished and published and released, is that she’s coming up with a new market, hoping for new readers, and new appreciation for her books.

We can only be glad that William Shakespeare did not live long enough to come back and tell us that Hamlet was gay, or that Henry V was a transsexual, or that Romeo was really involved in a deep pathos over sexual orientation, thinking that indeed, perhaps, Juliette was a cross-dressing male.  Now that’s the kind of nonsense, by the way, that if you write a dissertation about such stuff, is likely to get you tenured in one of the Ivy League universities. It’s about morality, yes. That’s what’s of central concern to us. It’s about marketing to some, and it’s also about the chaos about a postmodern culture the more you look at it.

It really is a pity how these things become more about the marketing than the morality. I think that homosexuality is getting to the level of feminism — for a while it was a genuine concern, but as more and more people are accepting it, it’s becoming mainstream.

Before you go bonkers on me, don’t think I said that it’s at an ideal level. I would argue that feminism is not, either. My girlfriend once gave me a great quote from one of her teacher’s conferences, and while I cannot remember the exact wording, what it came to was that real equality for women would come when guys have female bosses and don’t think anything about it. Instead, as it stands, women are praised and the source of awe when they are in leadership positions, or are political candidates, etc.. The fact that the media is beginning to hinge on homosexuality as a selling point may [will] end up undermining the ability of these people to go about their lives as any straight person would. And that’s not equality, that’s an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your personal slant on the situation.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 11:54:17

    One of the bibliobloggers I sometimes reads offers his literary opinion:

    “Revealing such details about characters outside of the books cheapens the books themselves. The questions raised by a book should largely be left unanswered and the desire to settle all such ambiguities is characteristic of the excesses of fan fiction. … One of the things that I most love about a good book is the manner in which it creates a space within which our imaginations can play, the ambiguities giving us the option of reading the book in many different ways. When an author settles ambiguities like this I feel cheated. It is Rowling’s task to write and it is our task to read; I wish that she wouldn’t do our part for us.”

    That’s from the opening paragraph of a lengthy commentary on Rowling’s decision to reveal this bit of information to us. A pretty insightful bit of literary criticism, I think.

    FWIW, I don’t think this is a marketing decision: I doubt Rowling needs to work at selling more copies of these books.

    I’m guessing, but I think it was probably motivated by a desire to take a stand on the issue of gay people’s place in society. She’s saying that gay people are out there, and most of the time we’re not even aware of their sexual orientation. They are contributing members of society, who ought not to be despised or marginalized. (Some people still need to hear that message!)

    If I’m right, and that’s her objective, your parallel to feminism is a good one. It may be true that feminists will have “won” when a female boss (or President or whatever) ceases to be noticed at all — it is completely unremarkable. But you have to start from where we are, and move the yardsticks down the line toward the end zone. And that may involve a period of militancy: even if, ultimately, we’d all prefer to drop the topic and move on.

    What I’m saying is, I think this announcement is Rowling’s little bit of militancy on behalf of gays. If so, I respect her decision to speak up.

    By the way, the biblioblogger I quoted wasn’t surprised by Rowling’s news, he just didn’t like it:

    “Regarding Dumbledore’s sexuality, I did wonder about it myself when reading the books. There were a few suggestive hints here and there. There is also the fact that there are clear parallels to homophobia and ‘coming out’ stories at various points in the books (and Dumbledore would hardly be the first homosexual English headmaster, would he?). For this reason the content of the revelation did not surprise me, even if the fact that Rowling would reveal such details outside of the books disappointed me.”

    Reply

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