David Yates and Jo Rowling are disappointing me, but more importantly, they’re letting down a community who knew a hero represented them and that has now been snatched away. Representation matters.
When Rowling told us in 2007 that Dumbledore was gay, it was important. Dumbledore, the father figure, the most powerful wizard, he who created the most devious plans, truster of no one, protector of children, brilliant adversary, best of friend to the unusual and the original…was gay! Knowing Dumbledore was gay amazingly never changed the story but allowed a deeper understanding of the character. That’s important.
The Harry Potter series was, and is, one of the most prevalent stories in entertainment, it has had a huge cultural impact. Studies show that children who read the books and watch the movies are more accepting and understanding of people who are different from them. That is, of course, one of the core theses of the tale. We come from different backgrounds, but even if we’re not pure blooded it won’t stop us from being the very best.
A child today who grew up with two moms or dads rarely ever sees their family on a screen. A child who is struggling with their identity might never see a depiction of their own trials. Children die by their own hand every day because they don’t know how to deal with their feelings, they fear rejection from their family or community, and can’t find a place for themselves in the world. We owe it to them to show them they have a place.
Women reacted to Wonder Woman’s emergence as a hero on the big screen with ecstasy and tears. A release to see a powerful, badass woman stride into the fray and say, “I got this.” Black audiences are simultaneously thrilled and terrified of Black Panther, what if it’s terrible? What if it’s flawed? What if it’s boring? What if it has nothing to say? (Luckily, it seems there is nothing to fear!) But a black child can grow up now knowing that they too could be a hero, a warrior, a king. It’s that little bit of inspiration that stories well told can give us, that frees us to be our best selves. That’s why myths resonate with us. We can be heroes!
So where is our gay hero? Our LGBTQ heroine? There are a few among the X-Men, and the Arrowverse supports a diverse cast of great characters…but we have the chance to validate the spirits of children and families who loved Harry Potter and Dumbledore on the biggest stage yet…and they’re fumbling it. This isn’t about sex, it’s about people and love and relationships, and loving the wrong person sometimes, and learning from mistakes…and letting everyone know they’re a part of this community.
Rowling continues to attempt to reassure her fans, there are more films to come, there’s time to address this. But why wait?
Sci fi and fantasy simultaneously manages to push expectations and be yolked by its worst common denominators. Representation matters. Let Dumbledore be gay.