it comes with this morning’s news that Rowling has “outed” Dumbledore, the venerable headmaster of Hogwarts, as gay.
Great. And here I am about to play that character this afternoon for my daughter’s birthday party.
Well, apart from all the moral issues of introducing such a theme into children’s literature (something that seems more and more acceptable, if Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” is anything to go by), there is a literary critical point that needs to be made.
1. The book series is finished. In that book, there is no indication of Dumbledore’s sexuality. His sexuality does not once enter the arena.
2. Rowling is (was?) the author of the Potter series. We are the readers. Her idea about what she meant when she wrote the novels has no bearing at all on our freedom as readers to make our own interpretations. (That’s called “reader response theory” folks, and, while we generally reject it in the case of Holy Writ, we are completely free to adopt it if it serves our own selfish purposes in relation to the interpretation of other texts).
So who on earth does Rowling think she is? A painter cannot go back to his painting once it is hanging in a museum and say “I just want to add a bit of paint up in that top corner…”.
The novels are finished. Yes. But what about the memory of poor old Richard Harris (R.I.P.) who played Dumbledore in the early films, who was, by all accounts, a red-blooded male?
And what about poor old Michael Gambon who now has to play the “gay” Dumbledore in the final movie with his “lover” Gellert Grindelwald.?
And what about poor old me, who has to go through a whole afternoon as (gulp) a gay man at a children’s party? (I just hope the kids haven’t read the newspaper this morning…)