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Peter T Chattaway

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Peter, I was caught up in the "Harry Potter" debates back when I worked for Crosswalk and the first film in the series was released, but I tended to be skeptical of both fans and critics of the books, and of those who told me Rowling must be religious, or must be evil, etc. What I heard of the books made me uneasy, but people in my family spoke highly of them, so I tried to reserve judgment.

Since then, I haven't explored these issues. I've kept up with the additional book and film releases as cultural phenomena, but that's all. So this "news" came as a big surprise to me, and I'm sure it would be Big News for others as well, if they ever hear about it.

Edited by Christian

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J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character

Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall. . . .

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. "Falling in love can blind us to an extent," Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding that Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down." . . .

Associated Press, October 19

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Tony Watkins wrote:

: Why on earth did she have to say this? Why muddy the waters in this way?

Well, it WAS in response to a question from a fan. And if she really did recently "correct" the script for Harry Potter 6 to reflect the idea that Dumbledore was not heterosexual, then I guess it was on her brain.

Personally, the only time I ever picked up a gay subtext ANYwhere in Rowling's books was in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, where the entry on Werewolves includes a footnote, I think, advising the reader to be compassionate and to read a book by a werewolf describing his experiences. I recall this affecting my take on the Lupin character when I saw the film version of Prisoner of Azkaban, but the analogy hadn't come to mind at all when I read the original book (which was a year or so before Fantastic Beasts... came out).

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My guess? Ever since the 7th book came out, and interpreted as a "Christian" at some level, by some folks, there has been increasing pressure on JKR to say something to prove she is not some kind of fundamentalist...:)

I find this a bizarre turn of events. And disappointing. Why must EVERYTHING be sexualized?

B

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My guess? Ever since the 7th book came out, and interpreted as a "Christian" at some level, by some folks, there has been increasing pressure on JKR to say something to prove she is not some kind of fundamentalist...:)

I find this a bizarre turn of events. And disappointing. Why must EVERYTHING be sexualized?

B

Oh come on. Giving a character a sexual orientation does not mean the story is "sexualized" any more than when the books tell of Harry's growing interest in girls.

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Well, that totally sinks my Dumbledore/McGonagall ship.

While, judging from the tenor of her statements, I doubt Rowling sees anything particularly wrong in Dumbledore's homosexuality as such, I find it interesting that she nonetheless chose not to make it a part of the actual text, and that, in light of this revelation, the only known example of a homosexual relationship (although I guess there's no implication that it was ever requited) in the Potter world is a profoundly destructive one.

I also think the timing is interesting. I know it's in response to a fan question, but it's only, what, a couple days after the above-linked interview discussing the way her faith informs her writing? And suddenly there's a whole new fuel to the flames of the old arguments.

At any rate, it's actually a shame that the "Dumbledore is Gay" announcement will undoubtedly overshadow anything else from that rather interesting interview, such as why she wanted Mrs. Weasley to take out Bellatrix, a little more on Petunia Dursley, and what Rowling considers Harry's big coming of age moment. Harry, oddly, comes of age not by going forth and taking what is rightfully his, but, essentially, by refusing to do so. So I guess all of the recklessness that people complain about in Harry's character is critically questioned within the text itself. I like that arc, now that I think about it.

Edited by N.K. Carter

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Given what I've know about slash fan-fic (which is much more than I want to know), I wish she had told the fan(s) to "bring their own subtext," but this blogger's more thoughtful, less knee-jerk, reading puts the whole question into a different light. The comments are worth reading as well.

And also includes a summary of the less incendiary revelations from Rowling's Carnegie Hall event.

Edited by BethR

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My guess? Ever since the 7th book came out, and interpreted as a "Christian" at some level, by some folks, there has been increasing pressure on JKR to say something to prove she is not some kind of fundamentalist...:)

I find this a bizarre turn of events. And disappointing. Why must EVERYTHING be sexualized?

B

Oh come on. Giving a character a sexual orientation does not mean the story is "sexualized" any more than when the books tell of Harry's growing interest in girls.

Well, I wasn't to keen on that emphasis as the stories progressed either. :)

But seriously, "giving a character a sexual orientation" outside of the course of the story certainly does sexualize an aspect of the story that was not sexual perviously. In this case, the portion of the book 7 that dealt with Dumbledore's and Grindlewald's relationship will now be read and interpreted in a different light. The first read = "two good friends get drunk on power and make some bad decisions as a result". The second read = "a star-crossed love affair between two powerful wizards goes bad." The first read is non-sexual, the second is sexual.

And, so, my complaint (though over-dramatic, with all the CAPS and everything), is valid.

B

PS - Thanks for the link, BethR - some good thoughts and reading there.

Edited by Bill Moore

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FWIW, I find almost nothing to disagree with in John Granger's response to this brouhaha.

Book 7 went out of its way to humanize and demystify Dumbledore, to make him fallible. The revelation that he felt a same-sex attraction to a wizard who turned out to be evil -- and that he put off confronting this evil wizard because of the bond that had developed between them -- fits perfectly with what Book 7 has revealed to us of this character. And, I might add, the connection between Dumbledore's sexuality and the revelations of Book 7 does not exactly make Dumbledore the hero, the champion, the positive role model for the gay-pride cause that some might want.

I also like Granger's comment that Dumbledore's (apparently celibate) sexuality might have moved him to become more open to the marginalized and outsiders in his community. His brokenness made him more compassionate, as it were.

N.K. Carter wrote:

: I also think the timing is interesting. I know it's in response to a fan question, but it's only, what, a couple days after the above-linked interview discussing the way her faith informs her writing? And suddenly there's a whole new fuel to the flames of the old arguments.

And the fact that the media jumped all over one statement while virtually ignoring the other is VERY telling.

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FWIW, I find almost nothing to disagree with in John Granger's response to this brouhaha.

. . .

And the fact that the media jumped all over one statement while virtually ignoring the other is VERY telling.

Granger, as usual, is well worth reading on all things HP. I was particularly interested to learn more about the inquiring fan, who turns out to have been a 19-year-old woman. One never knows, of course, but I suspect JKR might have answered a child in a gathering of (mostly) children somewhat differently. Or maybe not.

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Here is a comment from Father Stephen Freeman on this, that expresses some of what I was trying to say earlier:

Thus, I personally found it unfortunate that with a single slip of the tonge [sic] J.K.Rowling chose to declare one of her major characters in her children

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Dumbledore revelation 'a positive thing,' says J.K. Rowling

Author J.K. Rowling said she found it "freeing" to have revealed that a key character in her blockbuster Harry Potter series is gay, but she grew impatient with repeated questions about the issue during a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday morning.

Rowling spoke to reporters prior to a reading for hundreds of fans as part of Toronto's International Festival of Authors. . . .

"I know that it was a positive thing that I said it for at least one person because one man 'came out' at Carnegie Hall," Rowling told reporters in Toronto Tuesday morning.

Her revelation came because she "was asked a very direct question" by a young fan, Rowling added. . . .

CBC News, October 23

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I am no more disturbed by Dumbledore being gay than I am when I found out the same about Henri Nouwen.

:D

I may have to put that on my Facebook list of favorite quotes.

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I may have to put that on my Facebook list of favorite quotes.

You have my permission. I don't know why this is even an issue. As far as I can tell, Dumbledore is celibate. From the viewpoint of American Evangelism, isn't that the ideal?

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N.K. Carter wrote:

: I also think the timing is interesting. I know it's in response to a fan question, but it's only, what, a couple days after the above-linked interview discussing the way her faith informs her writing? And suddenly there's a whole new fuel to the flames of the old arguments.

And the fact that the media jumped all over one statement while virtually ignoring the other is VERY telling.

You know, I read the MTV story on Rowling's Christian themes when it came out, but I figured the interview would trickle down into other outlets. Now that I look for it, though, almost nothing else professional comes up when googling any of the quotes from the article. A couple London papers, maybe.

That's it? You'd think it would factor somewhere into the much-beloved "Christians vs. Harry Potter" narrative.

Edited by N.K. Carter

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Rex Murphy:

Ms. Rowling is pioneering here, fleshing out her characters off-page and after their story has ended. Dumbledore is gay is real People magazine stuff, and now we can look forward to updates on Hermione's party schedule. I think this is a really great thing. Limiting what we really know, or can reasonably speculate about, a fictional character to the words on the pages of the book that contains him, and the already told story of which he is a part, is so old-fashioned and bookish. . . .

I would far rather learn what Hamlet was "really" like from some chat-show author interview after the play was written (slept with Gertrude till he was 9, joined a pack of minstrels and wandered around Denmark during his early teens, fervently anti-globalist, despised Claudius even before the murder, for his exploitation of the serfs -- that kind of stuff) if such a thing were possible with poor dead Shakespeare. The play itself, with all those words and speeches and images, is so ... constricting. Who wants those golden soliloquies when we can have buzz or gossip?

Now, with living authors, this kind of thing is not only possible -- as Ms. Rowling's example demonstrates, with the great news of Dumbledore's authorial "outing" -- it presents unlimited opportunities to "fix" the weak characters, or connect to the trendy issues of the day without ever so much as having to (so to speak) put pen to paper or warm up the tired laptop. Isn't Dumbledore more interesting, more mod, now that he's been released from the casket of the author's own prose? . . .

Literature is so much more elastic, so much more liberating, when it is unshackled from the actual business of writing. Prose is a prison. Interviews, post-publication, are the wave of the storytelling future.

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Huh. That's exactly what my reservation about this whole thing is. I've not read the Potter books, but I question what value an author's words outside the text have in the business of interpreting the text itself. It's too much like the author trying to read the text for us.

All the same, when I finally get around to actually reading the series, this will be in mind (so that interesting questions are raised--is reading an author's own reading of the text equivalent to reading critics to "know what to look for"--et cetera?).

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NBooth wrote:

: It's too much like the author trying to read the text for us.

I think Murphy's point goes a bit further than that; I think he's saying that the text itself is no longer so important to us, that we would rather "gossip" about the characters than pay attention to what the text is saying.

And FWIW, the problem does not necessarily begin with Rowling. After all, Rowling "outed" Dumbledore only after one of her fans asked if Dumbledore had ever found "true love". The books simply never say. But the fans treat these characters as though they live independently of the stories in which they appear. And they treat Rowling as the person who knows authoritatively what goes on in the lives of these characters even when the books give us no clue. And so the question was asked. And so Rowling answered.

I find myself thinking of Philip Pullman here. The His Dark Materials trilogy makes no reference to Jesus -- not as a character in his story or back-story -- but Pullman has told more than one interviewer that he actually DID figure out a place for Jesus in his universe (or multiverse?) before he wrote his books, and he has even said that he will deal with this in a follow-up book. On the other hand, when people ask if Will and Lyra have sex during a certain scene in the book, Pullman's response, IIRC, has been to say something like: "I don't know. They seem too young to me for that. Sometimes a kiss is enough." But he leaves it kind of vague, open to interpretation. He is willing to say he doesn't know about certain things like that.

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I just had a thought: How different is Rowling's post-narrative or extra-narrative announcement from the appendices that J.R.R. Tolkien attached to the final volume of The Lord of the Rings? I mean, in regard to Rex Murphy's observations. We find out who married, who didn't, who had children, who didn't, etc. Right?

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I just had a thought: How different is Rowling's post-narrative or extra-narrative announcement from the appendices that J.R.R. Tolkien attached to the final volume of The Lord of the Rings? I mean, in regard to Rex Murphy's observations. We find out who married, who didn't, who had children, who didn't, etc. Right?

That was my first question. I thought (1) well, at least he wrote it down, (2) well, at least he wasn't answering teenybopper questions and (3) well, he was trying to create an entire mythic culture, more ambitiously so than Rowling. Also, Tolkein's information was almost geneological, not gossippy at all.

And, a bit to Rowling's defense, she is, IIRC, working on another volume that would serve as a companion/encyclopedia to the HP works.

Agreed--Tolkien's appendices are meant to be somewhat organic to the work, and to clarify the mythology. A better comparison might be Tolkien's letters. As I recall, the older he got, the more exasperated he got with certain interpretations of his work, and the more he tried to clarify exactly what he did mean. I can't remember, though, this clarification included an element of "gossip"--didn't he go into further detail on Sam's post-novel life at one point?

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