Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the obligatory Dumbledore rant

He's dead.

He's gay.

So what.

After being caught up in conferences and meetings, and real life for over a week, I'm finally getting around to the obligatory rant, mostly because I am just now reading what was said. I have to admit that like many people, I too, find JKR's declaration a bit suspect. Why now? Why at all? I don't think it necessarily helps "a gay political agenda" nor does it shed any light on the character himself.

Going back to deconstruct the series is a bit foolish, and I find the points highlighting his gay characteristics to be grasping at straws, with the possible exception that Dumbledore strove for tolerance of all marginalized folks. And yet, that isn't exclusively a "gay" character trait, unless we want to accept stereotypes.

We can't condemn stereotypes, and then use them when they are convenient.

In my opinion, JKR has spoiled an aspect of the series by interjecting a piece of information after the fact, and retroactively causing it to be a part of the canon. It's too bad because if her intent had really always been to show a gay character as a heroic figure, she could have done it in the series. Instead, she cowardly left it out, and now that it is commercially successful, etc., she springs it on us. I am disappointed in her artistically, but moreso because it all seems trendy, contrived, and manipulative.

To be fair, I did wonder if Dumbledore might be gay, and I did wonder at the relationship, given that JKR let little nuggets of info out that he had loved someone. Yet, I think the speculation made the character far more interesting. It gave him a side that was dark and unknown and conflictive. It made him tragic and flawed, not because he was gay, but because something in his past plagued him, and that makes for great literature. In short, it gave Dumbledore complexity, and we wondered if he had ever loved, or been loved. JKR's politically timed statement has taken away the potential for literary analysis--she answered any question that could have been debated, argued, and supported or destroyed.

Instead, it is reduced to something that JKR has brought up after the fact, and for those of us who are cynical, we observe that she revealed it after she has garnered about as much money as possible from book sales to a target audience, just in time to cater to another. It comes across as pandering, and I'm not fond of anyone pandering to me.

Because of that, I don't see how gay people could possibly welcome her declaration as anything other than promoting that it is best for homosexuals to suppress their nature and live in the closet. That is, until it becomes advantageous to "out" someone. How about that? She "outed" a character that she claimed to have loved. At any rate, I think this is very damaging on many levels.

It feeds into some of the meanest stereotypes of homosexuals in society--the purple cloak, the stylish air, the sensitivity--his interest in a young boy. Yes, that last one particularly bugs me. And well it should.

I'm annoyed that she has tainted the series with a contemporary political agenda (when literature is best used as a political voice through more subtle means). I'm annoyed that it will introduce a new round of criticism for what I consider to be a delightful and provocative series (in spite of the terrible decision to have an epilogue reminiscent of the equally lame and trite ending to Return of the Jedi). I'm annoyed (in advance) that people will misinterpret my objections as a form of homophobia or hate speech, instead of listening carefully that I think JKR violated some kind of unwritten writer's ethics not to mess with the work after it's completed.

I am sad.

That's all.

Well, there's more //smile//

JKR is working on an encyclopedia of backstories, so I suppose this, and who knows what else, will indeed become part of the canon. Interesting.


gill030815 said...

Geez, I didn't know that it bothered you that much! For the life of me, I can't figure it out either. I still don't why somebody had to even ask the question. I guess that's why I'll never write a best-seller.

Bego said...

Meh, I wouldn't say bothered so much as compelled to call her out for a cheap shot that she doesn't need for publicity, notoriety, or any other kind of attention.

So that discernable reason.

Makes me wanna scratch my head.

Lisa, sfo said...

Exceedingly well said, Maria. My sentiments exactly, only you expressed them much better than I could ever have.