After being dormant for so long, the beloved “Harry Potter” fandom is now experiencing a turmoil of emotions as recent developments regarding the franchise have left fans confused and shocked. Not only are they dealing with the whole Johnny Depp fiasco and the backlash of his recent accusations, they are now also being faced with discontent for a completely different reason: misrepresentation in Dumbledore.
Potterheads are in a tiff over the latest statement David Yates, director of the “Fantastic Beasts” films, has made in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. Yates replied with “Not explicitly,” when asked if Dumbledore’s sexuality is going to be addressed in the upcoming films. “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other,” he said.
This didn’t sit well with fans as Rowling herself had “explicitly” stated that Dumbledore was gay back in 2007 after the book series had been finished. She had mentioned that Dumbledore had, in fact, fallen in love with Grindelwald himself, which ended in horror when he realized what Grindelwald became, namely evil.
The fact that Dumbledore was gay was never shown in the original series and it only came to light after the whole adventure had been finished, which explained why fans were not that disappointed with the lack of representation in the books and movies. With this new series featuring a young Dumbledore’s origin story, however, both the filmmakers and Rowling now have a chance to address his sexuality with a fresh viewpoint, except that they seem to be avoiding the whole issue altogether. The decision not to bring up Dumbledore’s sexuality in the coming series, though grating to some fans, will be confusing to others given Rowling’s previous statement that Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald before he became evil, which he’s already becoming in the next film.
Dumbledore is by no means a perfect character, and it depends on the fans to decide what they make of him, but whether they see him as a legend, a hero, a villain or a misunderstood genius, acknowledgement of his homosexuality is an encouraging nod to those who are struggling with living true to their sexuality and gender. One of the key teachings of Harry Potter is fighting and rising against discrimination, which is what audiences of all ages love the franchise alike. The inclusion of diversity in sexuality among the represented subjects will, therefore, only add to the fans’ appreciation.
Rowling would be lying to the millions of fans in the franchise if Dumbledore’s sexuality stays an untouched subject in the films, not to mention the message it will send to the LGBT+ community about equal representation. “Forgetting” to mention Dumbledore’s sexuality in the series after making such a claim spells nothing but a PR stunt: raising a controversial matter to attract attention, and then making a politically correct statement on the matter without holding any genuine care for the subject.
The way Rowling is responding to the backlash isn’t very reassuring either: she took to muting her Twitter in order to avoid fans’ demands for an explanation. Granted, some of those people were probably overbearing and deserved being excluded from conversations, but her overall silence only reassured Potterheads of the worst explanation possible: she was using Dumbledore’s sexuality as a marketing device.
Yet it could be that fans are simply overreacting to this bit of news. The “Fantastic Beasts” series has been planned out to be a five-part story, in which case Dumbledore’s sexuality might come to be addressed later on. There is no official statement yet that it won’t be acknowledged at all. While it is too soon to tell whether or not the filmmakers are going to make anything of it, fans are only going by one small statement made by the director in an interview.
Since Rowling announced in 2007 that Dumbledore was gay, she never once denied it either, and though the statement that caused this ruckus does involve that announcement, it wasn’t actually her who said it. To add to that, Yates never officially denied their focus on the character’s sexual orientation, he merely stated that it wouldn’t be too present in this upcoming film. The fact that there was so much backlash to that one comment probably comes from the agitation, confuse and slightly defensive posture of many Potterheads after Johny Depp’s scandal.
Having representation and being inclusive is important for anybody — not just the LGBT+ community — and it would be a big moment and great opportunity to have Dumbledore be able to represent them. Seeing their favorite characters going through similar struggles means the world to some people, especially those who are different from social expectations, which explains the attention and passion fans have devoted to the issue so far.
There are many possibilities of how Dumbledore’s sexuality will be explored, or ignored, in the upcoming series, but it is still too soon to tell. Making assumptions as well as getting angry only creates unnecessary tension and problems within the franchise.
If they do manage to ignore or dismiss the fact that Dumbledore is gay, then the fans’ right to be angry stands. After all, fans only want what was promised to them, and as long as it is delivered, they will still be the passionate Potterheads celebrating “19 years later” at the King Cross Station.