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October 22, 2007

the wizard bear

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | JK Rowling outs Dumbledore as gay :: not sure how i feel about this. i have no problem with dumbledore being gay, but it feels strange that J.K. can make this proclamation without having had the courage to write about it in the series. Is the history of a character in a book the property of the author? i had to use quite a bit of imagination to make these books palatable. Feels a bit like she is encroaching on our shared understanding of the characters. By the way Professor McGonigle starred in a series of porn flicks before she became a teacher. "Where's My Wand?" was my favorite.

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Comments (23)

Posted by: ingrid at October 22, 2007 2:39 PM

We speculated on why author J.K. Rowling would out Dumbledore at this point in time and not earlier or later on our podcast, Feast of Fools.

Click here to listen to it.

For Rowling to make such a statement publicly is HUGE and can’t be underestimated as just an “outing” of a fictional character. But I agree with you Ze, why didn't she just work the gay relationship into the book? Why reveal that now?

Is she saying “gay people are a critically important part of my world.” but if that's the case, why not have a gay teenager at the dance? Why not have a gay romantic story in the book?

It's a sad reality is that in many places still in the United States, school districts (who adore the Potter Books and their ability to encourage children to read) will fire a teacher based on their sexual orientation. So hopefully this will at least make them rethink their position on the issue.

Posted by: Fausto Fernos at October 22, 2007 2:55 PM

Beyond the book!

I don't put my stories anywhere but the internet. Ms. R can tell them on stage if she likes. She just has an unusually large outside-the-book audience.

Besides she meant he's HAPPY. All the time.

Except when he's angry. She kinda skimmed over that part.

Posted by: Pachie at October 22, 2007 3:08 PM

One thing I liked about the series was the mystery around Dumbledore past, so I think it makes sense that it would be up to the reader to figure out certain things.

In addition, outing Dumbledore too eplicitely would also simply have everybody focused on that, to the detriment of the rest. This is unfortunately a reality of today's society that you take into account when writing a book. Her line of work is not in writing "scandalous" books to help sell them.

Posted by: charles at October 22, 2007 3:11 PM

I thought the very same about this. I figure post-publishing revelations like this are tantamount to fan-fiction. She's done the series, she's made that clear. She can't tack things on afterwards just to keep herself and the characters in the headlines.

Posted by: ElGouldo at October 22, 2007 3:45 PM

I wonder if it were a random comment she made to get a reaction. Perhaps the audience was a bit ho hum and she needed to jolt them into paying attention. Dumbledore's sexuality - where's the relevance? I agree, it's unusual to have a character change after you have read a book. I'm not rereading though.

Posted by: Joh at October 22, 2007 4:23 PM

i'm a bit ambivalent about this also.
part of the reason these books were so popular (i think) is that jk had obviously written a very detailed back story for all the characters. that said, perhaps she should qualify her statements like that by saying something like "IN MY MIND albus likes the wand" or "MY ORIGINAL PLAN WAS dumbledore is a man-fan". something like that.

Posted by: dave at October 22, 2007 5:22 PM

I was thinking:

On the one hand, maybe it's good that this might help try and normalize the idea of homosexuality in society.

On the other hand, perhaps this will create the idea in young children that all gay people are old men with magical powers.

Posted by: Yan at October 22, 2007 5:57 PM

Well, If I hadn't been so silly I would have realized. It's all there. I don't think the author was obligated to spell anything out to me, but I appreciate the tip which pulls all the pieces together. . . I think it was smart not to isolate gay sexuality as something that has to be specifically mentioned. Just sayin'

Posted by: Imagine at October 22, 2007 6:10 PM

Well, If I hadn't been so silly I would have realized. It's all there. I don't think the author was obligated to spell anything out to me, but I appreciate the tip which pulls all the pieces together. . . I think it was smart not to isolate gay sexuality as something that has to be specifically mentioned. Just sayin'

Posted by: Imagine at October 22, 2007 6:11 PM

"Is the history of a character in a book the property of the author?"

Sure it is. Especially if the author had that all in mind while writing. Lots of a character's character probably ends up on the cutting room floor, and lots more probably only exist in the writer's mind.

That being said, once you've read a completed work you should be able to decide for yourself anything that wasn't explicit. The history of any character can also be the property of the reader. You can always decide to disregard anything the author reveals about her characters post-publishing, and let the book(s) stand alone.

Posted by: loganck at October 22, 2007 6:42 PM


Posted by: feh at October 22, 2007 7:02 PM

I think it IS odd to add this after all the books are out, and to add it in as a FACT. I've done some writing and understand the importance of "knowing" the background of characters when you write them even if this background never comes out. It just adds a depth of intimacy between the author and character that allows the author to better understand what decisions the character might make and more clearly "voice" the character.

But to state these things as a FACT about the character without it being a part of the plot or character resolution IN the book is kind of ridiculous. But maybe we're just being picky about her not adding a "IMHO..." before her statement.

Posted by: Valerie at October 22, 2007 7:25 PM

I agree that if it was an important character point she should have worked it into the story, not sprung it on us later. It alters the way I read some of the books' plot. Do I care he's gay? not at all. but it changes things to think of his sexuality in that way.

Posted by: leslie at October 22, 2007 8:23 PM

I'm annoyed. I had a rant on my blog. I don't care if he's gay, but let me know up front - at least put it in book 1 so I can consider how to deal with it as I read it to my kids. Addressing sexuality - any sexuality is - is a sensitive issue for parents.
This smacks of an author who has made money now doesn't care.

Posted by: Cameron at October 22, 2007 8:27 PM

It is my opinion that Rowling was simply sticking her tongue out at the fundie christians.

Posted by: RoLoMemememe at October 22, 2007 8:56 PM

I think that Neil Gaiman does an excellent job explaining why she didn't need to write about it for Dumbledore to be gay.


Posted by: jodi at October 22, 2007 10:06 PM

I was there, in Carnegie Hall, when she announced it. What was interesting was that earlier, a member of the audience had asked her what she thought the central message of her books were, and Rowling said "tolerance." Then, a little later, when asked if Dumbledore had ever been in love, she replied, "Well, actually... I always thought of Dumbledore as... well, gay." The entire audience was completely silent for about five seconds, and then the crowd erupted into applause and whoops.
It was an amazing moment to witness (and to be among the first people to hear the news!), but I couldn't help wondering about the "publicity stunt status" of the announcement. Already, some conservative groups are bad-mouthing the series further (now they have even more fodder than witchcraft), but most of her loyal fans are excited to gain extra knowledge of her character's backgrounds - it makes them seem more real.

Posted by: Kattastic at October 22, 2007 10:34 PM

I have been giving this a lot of thought (too much I suspect) and came to the conclusion:

"It's fiction"

I'm just wondering to what extent we can actually establish rules of proper behavior as to the nature of the experience of reading & writing, both communal and individual, the authors ability to infringe on this right outside of the context of a book etc etc.

In the end, it is fiction. Good or bad it is an experience on both the part of the reader, the community and the author. As such, there will always be an "uncontrolled" element to it.

And that is good. It's about being human.

Any free speech gives way to free discussion (or heated, hair-ripping, sweaty argument), which is also good.

So feel free to disagree. :)

Posted by: ingrid at October 23, 2007 5:56 AM

I would have thought if anyone were gay it would have been Snape. Bitchy stereotypes aside, though, I don't know that Albus D's status/orientation lends a ton to the depth of the character.

Posted by: jbp at October 23, 2007 11:11 AM

She explained why she outed Dumbledore: Apparently, one of the Harry Potter movie scripts made a reference to a former girlfriend of Dumbledore, and she had to nix that.

She also explained that there were numerous clues in her last book: Dumbledore's relationship with a friend in his youth. The Daily Prophet hinting that the relationship between Potter and Dumbledore was "unnatural" and "sick".

Rowling was known to have extensive notes about all of her characters with some of their biographies running over a few hundred pages. It is very possible that this was of the many details in Dumbledore's biography that never quite made it into the book.

Still, it seems strange that this information came out only after the last book has been safely published and been a best seller.

Posted by: David W. at October 23, 2007 1:29 PM

"And a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall added: 'It's great that JK has said this. It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster.' "

Go gays!

Posted by: T_E_N at October 24, 2007 3:42 PM

what's something i like that's gay?

book number eight!

-jay was here!

Posted by: jay aoyama at October 25, 2007 7:04 PM

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