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Monday, October 22, 2007

Dumbledore Outed?

J.K. Rowling let drop a surprising bit of news during one of the stops on her international "Save Face" tour: Dumbledore was gay1. (Spoiler warning below for anyone who happens to care.)

Perhaps this explains all those intense, private conversations with Harry at the end of each book. I suppose that's also why Dumbledore had a Phoenix as a pet. Authors never can get in enough "flaming" jokes, you know. At least she didn't make his favourite food mince pie.

Now, let's get one thing straight, if you'll pardon the expression. Obviously an author can have a gay character(s) in a book series if they so choose. Regardless of the divergent feelings and beliefs many people have about homosexuality, and how in-depth one might plumb the subject (FYI - that was not a direct reference to Headmaster Dumbledore), if J.K. Rowling decided that Albus Dumbledore was gay, that's up to her and her underused editors.

However, it's a pity she declined to mention that little detail in the bloody books. There were so many myraid others, why leave this eyebrow-raising factoid out? Why violate that little age-old writing rule about putting important facts about your characters in the actual work of literature in question? What's one more page out of the several thousand written?

She said that Dumbledore "fell in love" with the evil wizard Grindelwald. This must have been during the friendship described very generally in 'Deathly Hallows. That's also odd, because I thought mates could only be mates (in the strictly British sense, of course) in Rowling's books... you know, like Harry and Hermione... sibling love and all that, no matter how obviously committed and emotionally intimate they appear to anyone over the age of 13. Maybe there's something to those Harry/Ron fan fictions I keep hearing about after all?

Really though, the sense one gathers from these kinds of post-novelisation announcements is that of an author desperately pandering to a general audience too smitten with the author to realise that not only did Rowling not have a single openly gay character in her series2, but that the fate of the only one she's identified was to fall off a tall building after being horribly poisoned. I'm sure many intelligent members of the gay community are thinking to themselves, "Charming, that."

This is what happens when you leave several thousand plot holes in your writing. You spend the rest of your days trying to patch them up with unrelated details and appeals to members of your reading public that you may have overlooked. It's like trying to patch up the Titanic from the sea floor. It only calls attention to itself by its futility.3

What's next? Was Hagrid was a Rastafarian? Madam Hooch a secret naturist? Lupin an avid philatelist?

Well, she's very rich now, so I suppose she has the leisure time.

1. I say was because, well... by now you've all read the sixth book or the latter part of this post.
2. All right, there was Gilderoy Lockhart too, I'll give you that.
3. To ironically cement this critical view, Stephen King actually compares Rowling to Martin Amis (among others! He also quotes Shakespeare in his review of the series). That's rather like Lou Costello comparing the Ritz Brothers to Harold Lloyd. One can almost hear Rowling pleading "Just shut your gob and say you liked the book, Stephen!"

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