In Jo’s Defense: Regarding Dumbledore’s Sexuality in “The Crimes of Grindelwald”
David Yates should probably stop giving interviews, for a while at least. It seems like every time he opens his mouth, he causes a PR nightmare. Having previously angered a lot of Harry Potter fans by claiming that the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s casting in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was “a dead issue,” the Fantastic Beasts director, according to Entertainment Weekly, has also stated that Dumbledore’s sexuality will not be “explicitly” addressed in the Fantastic Beasts sequel. Unsurprisingly, Yates’s comments were met with widespread condemnation on Twitter.
“Not explicitly,” Yates replied when asked if the film makes it clear that Dumbledore is gay. “But I think all the fans are aware of that."
IT'S 2018 LMAO GET IT TOGETHER
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) January 31, 2018
this franchise is so fucking smug about how ~inclusive~ and ~progressive~ it is while routinely shutting out anyone who isn't a cishet white person.
— Angie J. Han (@ajhan) January 31, 2018
Let’s all just agree that you don’t get brownie points for saying a character you wrote or filmed is gay if they’re not actually, you know, gay in any way.
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) January 31, 2018
If I ever had any interest in Fantastic Beasts 2 it's long since vanished now.
— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) January 31, 2018
J.K. Rowling, doing little to dissipate the situation, appeared to dismiss fans’ concerns regarding the portrayal or lack thereof of Dumbledore’s sexuality in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 31, 2018
Rowling’s revelation in 2007 that she had always pictured Dumbledore as a gay character was met with mixed reception. Some considered Rowling’s outing of Dumbledore as a progressive decision, while others criticized her for not making that aspect of the character directly apparent in the books. Still, others wondered whether she was trying to score points with the LGBTQ+ community.
At the time, Rowling joked, “Just imagine the fan fiction now.” Nine years on, the depiction of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy’s relationship in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was perceived to be guilty of queerbaiting. During this time, Rowling was also accused of culturally appropriating Native American folklore in “History of Magic in North America” on Pottermore. Many in the Harry Potter fandom had begun to express their discontent that Rowling’s wizarding world, a universe that promotes diversity and inclusivity, was not as progressive as it could be.
When Rowling announced that the Fantastic Beasts series would delve into the history between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, many fans were excited that the subtext surrounding Dumbledore’s sexuality would be brought to the surface. Addressing Dumbledore’s sexuality directly was seen as an opportunity for Rowling to practice what she had preached. The frustration of some Harry Potter fans is understandable – most of them have waited their entire lives to see themselves represented in this universe, and Rowling herself once tweeted that “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should live in a closet.”
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014
With that being said, however, I feel that some people are being premature with their reactions to Yates’s statement. Since we’ve yet to see a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and know very little about its plot, it’s impossible for us to ascertain how prominent Dumbledore’s role will be in this installment of the franchise. Yates’s use of the word “explicitly” is quite ambiguous. Also, despite being the film’s director, he doesn’t come across as the most reliable person in the Entertainment Weekly article. In a throwaway line, he adds that Dumbledore and Grindelwald “ fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other,” contradicting Rowling’s previous claim that Dumbledore’s feelings toward Grindelwald were unrequited.
Dumbledore’s sexuality not being explicitly addressed in Crimes of Grindelwald does not necessarily suggest that his sexuality will not be explored at all – their relationship could be visually alluded to. Nor does Yates’s statement suggest that his sexuality won’t be explicitly addressed in future installments of this film series. And as much as it may offend a lot of fans, I can understand why Rowling would want to treat Dumbledore’s sexuality subtlely, in Crimes of Grindelwald at least. Consider everything that we know about Dumbledore thus far. He’s an extremely private person who was so ashamed of his pure-blood supremacist past that he tried to make an amends for it by dedicating his entire life to promoting equality among Muggles, Muggle-borns, pure-bloods, and nonhuman beings. Dumbledore spent most of his life avoiding any confrontation with Grindelwald, and it seems that not even Rita Skeeter was able to uncover the extent of his feelings for Grindelwald. It would not be out of character for Dumbledore to conceal this aspect of his past from Newt. After all, he did the same with Harry.
Although Rowling hasn’t handled the controversy regarding Dumbledore’s sexuality as well as she could have, at this point, I’m still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that she’ll able to do justice to her beloved character.