Podcast #14: Dumbledore's Coming Out Party

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It goes without saying that without Harry Potter there would be no show. What else would David have to bring up every single episode – relentlessly – without bringing up Rich’s brilliant (Or misguided?) claim that Harry Potter was a Christ figure?

Well, J. K. Rowling is clearly messing with our heads. A few weeks ago, she announced to the world, “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”

Okay… this is a good time for some awkward silence, and maybe a meticulous hindsight 20/20 montage…

Now that we’re done with that, what now? How do we respond to this as Christians who see homosexuality as sin? Can we still read this to our kids? Should we just give up altogether and acknowledge that we will never discover another Chronicles of Narnia? Is modern Children’s literature a lost cause?

We answer some of those questions on this episode of Christ and Pop Culture!
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Want to respond? Leave a message at 206-202-0507, email us at christandpopculture@gmail.com, or leave a comment below!

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  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Hm, if you have ‘em, you should think about one day transferring the comments from the DYL instances of these podcast announcements. If I remember, there were sometimes interesting conversations.

    Of course, I might not being remembering.

    The Danes last blog post..20080919

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    I’m pretty sure they’re lost. It’s a shame.

  • http://wizardswand.net Wizards Wand

    The title Voldemort is derived from the French words which also means “fly from death,”

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com Seth T. Hahne

    Show Notes recovered from the way back when:

    The Dane:

    Rich, you say that Rowling’s identiation of Dumbledore as gay affects your opinion of her. Why is that and how does it affect your opinion of her? Personally, it doesn’t change anything in my view of her. I’ll repeat what I said in my own commentary on the non-event of this revelation: I was completely baffled that this would be news. It’s not even nearly as interesting as coming to find that he had a sister.

    To me, it made perfect sense that Dumbledore would be gay and answered some of my own questions about him. Dumbledore just makes better sense to me as a gay character than as a straight one. So, I’m not certain why this character choice should bear any relevance on one’s opinion of the author.
    __________

    I found it amusing Rich that with as strongly as you dislike post-structuralism you would not care that Rowling says that she always thought of Dumbledore as gay – giving one of our few clear insights into her authorial intent. You have before quoted Rowling’s interpretation of things after the fact in support of your arguments, so it strikes as disingenuous that you would simply shrug this one off. It was also intriguing that you basically said, screw authorial intent if it disagrees with my Christ-figure theory.
    __________

    As far as tolerance themes in X-Men go, mutants were for about twenty-five/thirty years themed similarly with the civil rights movement for ethnic equality. It was kind of ham-handed, but it was what it was. In the late ’70s and ’80s, there were some specifically Jewish connections, what with the Holocaust. By the ’90s however, relevance to the civil rights movement was increasingly seen as an anachronism, so the language gradually evolved to by a sort of hybrid between ethnic tolerance and tolerance of sexual identity and orientation. As mentioned, this worked well with the story conceit that usually mutation was latent until puberty.
    __________

    Why do you have a problem with heroes who happen to be gay. Dumbledore is an obviously admirable person. And yet, he’s sinful too. Kinda like, well, everybody. I might argue that Harry’s problems with sin are as bad or worse than what we see in a gay Dumbledore. Dumbledore isn’t Jesus (that’s Harry, right?), nor should we expect him to have the rosiest of moral complexions. I mean look at a common hero. He’s a hussy, sleeping around all the way on his noble journey to return to his dearly missed wife. I don’t think anyone would doubt that he makes a good hero. He’s not perfect, but only boring characters are. We don’t need perfect Christ-figures in literature. We already have the real thing. What we get in literature, therefore, are flawed people who we can relate to in order to better see ourselves for who we are.
    __________

    As to why couldn’t she have revealed Dumbledore’s past homosexual interest in Hitler–er–Grindewald? She could have, but it makes far more sense not to have. As you’ve already said, the knowledge of his sexual orientation bears no necessary relevance upon the story. Including homosexual undertones through Skeeter articles would have done several things wrong. It would have introduced one more wholly unnecessary subplot. It would have caused more confusion than anything, pissing off both fundies and lgbts. And it would have been a too obvious way to deal with it (a.k.a. bad writing, as such a lack of subtlety would have been).

    I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would have a problem with Rowling not revealing Dumbledore’s orientation in the book. As you said, he’s largely viewed as asexual in his characterization, with no romantic tendencies in either direction. It makes much more sense for something like this to be revealed extra-canonically. Whether it should have been revealed to eight-year-olds is another matter – though what kind of horrible parent would give their eight-year-old the Harry potter series to read?

    Scott:

    Since I have no serious qualms with the jist of post-structuralism, I’ve no problems with Rich sketching out Harry as a Christ-figure. (In fact, I will always encourage it.) For this same reason, though, I really wish that Rowling would have kept her mouth shut. Not cause I think that her statement has overly significant bearing on Dumbledore’s sexuality, but because I think she stole something from HP fans. Really, coming out (no pun) and saying “BTW, Dumbledore is gay” was rather immature of her. It showed that she didn’t appreciate the value of her texts as literary texts.

    I do share in the Dane’s surprise though, Rich. There does seem to be a real tension here. Of course, I don’t think that the Dane has any room to complain about being “disingenuous.” ;-)

    The Dane

    Hah, Scott. If Rich had simply said something like, “Regardless of what the text really means, I still like seeing it as a Christ analogy,” I would have had no problem at all. I’m surprised you didn’t get that from the referenced post. Or maybe you did and the winky face was meant to convey that kind of playful ribbing.

    As far as whether Rowling was immature to out Double-D, I don’t know that I can answer that. She certainly stole something from those heavily invested in a particular reading of the text, but for those of us who weren’t as enamored with that reading, she actually gave something sensible to us. I was personally fine with the revelation and felt that it explained the character well. The way I see it, Rowling is one of these geeky Tolkien-types who creates this huge world and constantly has pieces of that world intruding into her waking thoughts (it’s part of why HP is so well-rounded). With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that she would know things like that Double-D is gay and Hagrid never marries – things that have nothing to do with the canon as so far established but are more than just her whimsical approach to books she was over and done with.

    Scott:

    Yes. Definitely some playful ribbing go on there.

    I’m not bothered by the content of her revelation either. I just think it worked to minimize the play the text would receive. It was always a question whether or not canon Dumbledore was gay, and now we’ve got no room to discuss that – at least, insofar as we let her commentary on the text control that fact.

    The Dane:

    I think if she was done with the books it would be a bigger cheat than it is. As it stands, she seems pretty certain to be headed toward her almanac summation of everything. Which will be canon.

    I suppose there’s room to argue whether books outside the Seven (e.g., Quidditch Through the Ages and this proposed encyclopedia) are apocryphal or not.

    I think I was more upset by some of her in-Seven choices than this. I would have been overjoyed had she left it unanswered what had happened with Hermione’s ill-advised romance with Ron, Ron, Ron Weasley. Instead, she robbed my of hope and the question of whether Hermione would come to her senses was answered with a resounding Nope.

    I suppose that if I apply my feeling for that revelation to the situation of those who felt betrayed by this revelation, I can at least sympathize.


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