So, J.K. Rowling came out this weekend at a fan convention and stated that Albus Dumbledore was gay.
Dave, over at BadArt has a good post on the subject.
I have a couple of thoughts on the subject:
1. I think it's debatable. Sure, she's the writer, and she created him, so it's largely her call. But she didn't include it in the text, so as the reader, I can make up whatever I want. I made this point over at Badart, if J.D. Salinger came out today and said Holden Caulfield's problems came from him being a closeted homosexual, I think that would be debated.
I've disagreed with artists on their own work before. George Lucas altered a moment in Star Wars 'A New Hope,' when, in the re-release, he had Han Solo firing second, in response to Greedo firing first, in the cantina scene. The original has Solo firing first, under the table, killing Greedo before he has a chance to fire. He stated that he never thought Solo would fire first, that was to cold-blooded for a character like Han Solo. First, Lucas contradicts himself within the movie. Han Solo plans to shoot down a Tie-Fight later, when the pilot has not fired on him. Second, he diminishes Solo's journey from scoundrel pirate to self sacrificing hero, betraying himself as an artist who may not understand his own work.
2. The actor playing Dumbledore has only now been given this information.
"In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair... [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, "Dumbledore's gay!"An actor can waste alot of time trying to figure out what history a writer was thinking about for the character they are playing. I say waste because you can often never know. The actor must choose for themselves, and the best actors create a strong back story for themselves. What the writer intended may not always elicite the strongest performance from an actor. They change it to suit their performance. Sometimes this is called, personalizing your character. If Dumbledore being gay helps? Great, use it. If not, throw it out. At this point, other than specific script stuff, I'm not sure it matters at all to the actor who will play him.
3. If Dumbledore being gay is important, than why leave it out? Obviously, it would hurt books sales. Or, probably it wouldn't. But it would have created controversy, and maybe she just didn't want to deal with it. Anyway, she left it out, despite it's seeming importance. She has avoided a controversy, but she has also avoided the potential for making a rather significant, positive cultural impact. I fear that this indicates a weakness in her writing.
I believe that Sci-Fi and Fantasy can inform, influence, describe and positively affect us, just as any art form can. I'm pretty sure, the first interracial television kiss was on Star Trek. This had an impact, forcing viewers to think about the subject. The recent Marvel Comics story line, Civil War, which some of you may have heard of, led to the death of Captain America and the permanent unmasking of Spiderman. What I found most exciting , and enjoyed best, about the series is it examination of our post 9/11 world.
(Quickly, a fight between super people leads to an explosion and the death of over 600, normal men, women and children. This begins a movement to get superpeople to register with the government or be classified as illegal vigilantes, thrown in a prison outside the U.S., without trial.)
Civil War wasn't a unique idea, but given my description above and moments like Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) placing an elongated hand on Iron Man shoulder and imploring him to, 'Stay the course,' it's comparisons and similarities to our current situation here and abroad is undeniable. And you know who is reading these comics, besides 33 year-old guys like me? Kids. Kids of all ages. Civil War takes a real, horrifying thing like 9/11 and the war in Iraq and places it into a form a child can access. Think about. Judge. Explore.
A book series as wildly popular as Harry Potter, creating and examining an openly gay character, could have introduced millions of children to the possibility that homosexuality isn't the plague it is sometimes made out to be. Those millions of kids would pass the book onto their children, as I will, and they would be given the opportunity to explore this subject.
It's to bad really. She's takes on classism, racism, death, murder, adolescence, adolescent sexuality, betrayal, the afterlife, school, the power of love and a few other worthy topics. Giving her young readers alot to mull over in their heads and chew on. It's unfortunate that she avoids this subject till it's to late to benefit them.
She may have sold less books, or gotten more crap from the extremists, but she also might have made an even bigger, more positive, difference by being brave enough to bring it up.