Dumbledore is Gay, Harry has Webbed Toes

October 20, 2007 | 1 book mentioned 6

coverThe boy wizard isn’t gay, but apparently his beloved professor is. J.K. Rowling “outed” Dumbledore at a Carnegie Hall reading, inspiring “gasps and applause” as well as wire stories. Over the years, Rowling hasn’t been particularly aggressive about being a self-promoter; she hasn’t had to as the Harry Potter books have made her rich and famous without her having to occupy too much of the spotlight. Still, this seems like an all too easy way to gin up a little controversy and keep Harry Potter in the headlines now that the series is over.

Now I won’t deny that it makes plenty of sense for writers to flesh out the lives of their characters in their minds. Many writers take this a step further and put these fictional biographies on paper. And it’s quite probable that in writing Dumbledore over the years, Rowling decided that he was gay.

As the creator of perhaps the most beloved set of characters in literary history, Rowling has a tremendous amount of power. This sort of power can be easily abused. Knowing they will get no more books from Rowling, fans will take each new tidbit about Harry and the gang like the starving might savor a crumb. Meanwhile, each of these out-of-thin-air details will be folded neatly into the growing pantheon of Potter companion literature.

To me, though, there’s something terribly spare and arbitrary about these post-publication revelations. What are we as readers supposed to do with these out of context details? Can we ignore them? Should we?

As a side note, have there been other examples of similar, post-publication, extra-textual revelations related to famous books? I tried to think of some, but came up empty.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

6 comments:

  1. I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, so I don't know if there are any textual clues about this character's sexuality–has there been speculation about this for some time? Rowling's new information isn't more valuable than anyone else's unless her additions are supported by the text. Didn't we all learn in college that the author is dead? And if not, we definitely learned that you your argument is nothing without examples from the book!

  2. I do know that my friends and I had suspicions, especially in the last book when we read the back story on Dumbledore and Grindelwad. However, her reason for revealing this now does not seem so strange — they're in the process of filming Book 6 and she had to make an edit a part of the script when the writer had Dumbledore reminiscing about past female light o' loves. Something like that.

    This is probably the only post-series revelation that hasn't urged me to stab at the screen with my mechanical pencil. They get tiring after a while.

    Tolkien, in his letters to fans, has revealed extra bits about Middle-earth, but that's not really on the same publicity level as Rowling's endless public droppings.

  3. Seems like I remember something about homo-eroticism in Huck Finn related to his dressing as a girl…My college professor said that some literary critic had posited this idea.

  4. I've read the books and don't see where it comes to play. As far as Grindlewald goes, it is a bit of a reach to say that he had a friend for one summer who was male and so that makes him gay. Nothing else in the books even hint at Dumbledore's sexuality. I'm wondering why she chooses to release this little bit of controversy at this point. It would be much better to reveal something that makes you go, "Ah! I thought so," or "That's why!"

  5. All of the extra attention is really the fault of the news media. She was just answering questions, as ever. If the question had never been asked, it wouldn't have come up. (Or at least, not for a while.)

    But the media finds it "sensational" and so now it's everywhere, annoying even those of us who liked the books.

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