Feature

Harry Potter : The outing of a gay wizard

In mainstream fiction, TV shows, and movies, said Mark Harris in Entertainment Weekly, gay characters are almost nonexistent these days. Which is why most of us welcomed last week

In mainstream fiction, TV shows, and movies, said Mark Harris in Entertainment Weekly, gay characters are almost nonexistent these days. Which is why most of us welcomed last week’s announcement by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling that she had always imagined Professor Albus Dumbledore, one of her best-loved characters, as a gay man. Gay people would have preferred the kindly wizard to have come out of the closet in the actual story, of course, but we appreciate Rowling’s belated gesture. By telling us only now that a main character in one of the best-loved children’s series of all time is homosexual, she’s saying: It doesn’t matter, does it? That’s the subversive genius’’ in this revelation, said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald. Readers first got to know Dumbledore as a complex, fully fleshed-out individual. Now Rowling adds his homosexuality as just an extra detail.

It’s a detail that’s absolutely inappropriate,’’ said Barbara Kay in the Toronto National Post. Of what relevance is it whether Dumbledore is gay or straight? In children’s fiction, adults are defined by their relationship to the children. Their personal lives—and certainly their sex lives—simply do not exist. But you don’t get taken seriously writing children’s fiction, said Ben Shapiro in Townhall.com. Now that Rowling’s the richest author in the history of the written word—earning as much as $1 billion from the Potter series—all that’s left to do is legitimate herself as a deep thinker and a profound author. And there’s no more reliable way to be hailed as a genius by the left-wing cultural elites than to take a politically correct stand that earns you the enmity of Christian conservatives. Hence, the belated outing of Dumbledore.

Not so fast, Ms. Rowling,’’ said Stephan Benzkofer in the Chicago Tribune. Just because she happened to write the Harry Potter series doesn’t give her some special entitlement to go back and retroactively add details that are not in the 4,200 pages of text. That’s against the rules. Based on the text, said Jeffrey Weiss in The Dallas Morning News, we devoted readers can choose to imagine that Dumbledore once had a girlfriend, or was too devoted to the Hogwarts school to bother himself with romance and sex. Or we could imagine that he was secretly gay. Rowling gave up control over Dumbledore, and all the Potter characters, when she shipped the seventh and final book to the printers. Now they are ours,’’ and she should keep further intrusive revelations to herself.

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