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3 Reasons I Believe Dumbledore’s Sexuality Will NOT Be a Highlight of the Fantastic Beasts Movie Franchise

Recently, I was sharing with a friend my excitement about the upcoming November 16th release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. His response was very subdued, and when I queried him as to why, he responded, “I’m just not interested in seeing the whole Dumbledore-Grindelwald love story on screen.” I quickly assured him that I highly doubted that such a thing would happen, particularly since J.K. Rowling is the one writing the screenplay.

Although my comments seemed to mollify my friend enough that he was willing to go see the movie, his reaction caused me to reflect that perhaps other people might be having similar reservations.

The possibility that people may shy away from seeing the upcoming Crimes (and the subsequent three movies in the franchise) due to the concern that instead of these being “family movies” that focus upon the great struggle to decide what the proper interaction and treatment of all magical and non-magical beings and creatures in the wizarding world should be (and therein a commentary on our own world), that it will devolve instead into focusing upon the romantic interest of one of the most beloved characters of the Harry Potter world, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, prompted me to write this post.

The first reason I believe that Dumbledore’s sexuality will not be a focus is that the occasion on which Jo Rowling revealed Dumbledore’s sexuality was not a planned one, but rather was in response to a question about whether Dumbledore had ever fallen in love himself. Her response at the time in 2007 was:

“My truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] … Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that’s how I always saw Dumbledore.”

The fact that Jo Rowling intimates during an unplanned response that Dumbledore was “horribly, terribly let down by him” (Gellert Grindelwald) is indicative of my second reason why I don’t think Dumbledore’s sexuality is going to be a highlight of the Fantastic Beasts movie franchise.

And this is because of what Dumbledore himself has shared of himself throughout the Harry Potter series. He told Harry (and us) that his great “sin” was his lust for power, and that it was this desire improperly expressed that caused him to hold himself responsible for the death of his sister, Ariana. Additionally, Dumbledore recognized that it was his disordered desire for status and power that made him susceptible to Grindelwald’s charm and magnetism, and made him set aside his inner compass of what was good, right and just during that fateful summer when he met Grindelwald just after his graduation from Hogwarts.

Jo Rowling shared in an interview in February of 2010 this insight into Dumbledore’s personality:

so you can call it a fraternal bond (between DD and GG), but I think it makes it more tragic for Dumbledore. I also think it makes Dumbledore a little less culpable. I see him as fundamentally a very intellectual, brilliant and precocious person whose emotional life was absolutely subjugated to the life of the mind – by his choice – and then his first foray into the world of emotion is catastrophic and I think that would forevermore stunt that part of his life and leave it stultified and he would be, what he becomes. That’s what I saw as Dumbledore’s past. That’s always what I saw was in his past. And he keeps a distance between himself and others through humor, a certain detachment and a frivolity of manner. But he’s also isolated by his brain. He’s isolated by the fact he knows so much, guesses so much, guesses correctly.” [1]

It is this reality of Dumbledore’s own awareness and knowledge of his weakness to the temptation of Grindelwald, that I believe causes him to avoid interacting with this temptation at all costs–most probably to ensure that no one else dies because of his weakness, and is a fundamental cause for enlisting Newt’s help vs Dumbeldore’s concern that he is going to succumb to any possible sexual desires.

A third reason is that Jo Rowling is writing the Fantastic Beasts movie screenplays. Since Dumbeldore’s sexuality has never been a driving force for his character in the books, I highly doubt that Jo Rowling is going to adjust that aspect of how Dumbeldore expresses his sexuality, particularly in light of how she consistently has written Dumbledore (and other characters of the wizarding world) as struggling to become “right-ordered” where the physical always lies at service to the mind, will and heart.

Even when the characters are fundamentally flawed by their worldview, like Grindelwald’s or Voldemort’s belief that wizards should rule “lesser beings and creatures,” or Hagrid’s opposite spectrum of ungoverned curiosity and fascination with magical creatures that he deems to be so precious that he fails to consider that these same creatures must be respected and cared for in their own environments or they will endanger others—Jo Rowling’s focus has consistently been upon the flaw (or deadly sin in Christian parlance) and the consequences/effects/impact of that flaw in the life of the character, rather than the characteristics of the person (like their sexuality) being the root of that flaw.

It’s this very consistency of Jo Rowling’s properly “ordering” the lives of characters in the Harry Potter world, as well as Rowling’s own admission that the world has rules that govern it, that convinces me that Fantastic Beasts will be no different, and will not devolve into a social manifesto except for the continuous clarion call that we are called to be our better selves, and that we are not the sum of our mistakes, but have the capacity to choose  to become more as a result of self-sacrifice and love of the other.

A final note regarding my thoughts that Jo Rowling will not emphasize Dumbledore’s sexuality in the movie can be found in the words of the Crimes film director, David Yates, himself.

After the latest Crimes of Grindelwald movie trailer, a Youtube video was posted by Looper that addresses this issue. (As well as the controversy about the revelation of a woman called Nagini transforming into a snake. Whether this is Voldemort’s Nagini remains to be seen. But a link to this video is provided in the footnotes)

In that video, the following commentary is shared:

“…another subsection of fans complain about Rowling’s history of revealing or changing details of the Harry Potter universe years after the series wrapped up. Most famously three months after the final book came out in 2007, she announced that Dumbledore was gay and had been in love with Grindelwald. Many applauded Rowling for the announcement, but some felt she was trying to have her cake and eat it too by pandering to LGBTQ fans without truly taking the perceived risk of actually portraying Dumbledore as gay in either the books or films. The Dumbledore controversy gained new energy in January 2018 when director David Yates revealed  that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald won’t make it explicitly clear that the Dumbledore played by Jude Law is gay–despite the purported love of his life being at the center of the sequel story, but instead there seemed to be just vague hints for hardcore Harry Potter fans to decipher Dumbledore…” (italics mine) [2]

 It is this statement by David Yates, in addition to Jo Rowling’s own laser-like focus upon the essentials, rather than the details, of her characters’ motivations and their “right-ordered” approach to living, that assures me that the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movies will not be dwelling upon Dumbledore’s sexuality.

Rather I contend that the Fantastic Beasts movies will not only focus upon the larger issue of the great struggle to decide what the proper interaction and treatment of all magical and non-magical beings and creatures in the wizarding world should be, but will also showcase for us how Dumbledore struggles to come to terms with his guilt concerning the death of his sister, and his doubts concerning his own judgment and character, all in the face of the reality that Dumbledore was once enthralled and captivated by one of the most dangerous wizards of all time who is now intent on bringing war to both the wizarding and Muggle worlds.

My contention is that Dumbledore will finally accept that despite his flaws as a man, that it will be only the wizarding skills of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore that can defeat Gellert Grindelwald, the man and wizard whom Dumbledore not only dreamed a dream of making the wizarding and Muggle worlds far better places, but before the tragedy of Ariana’s death, the man whom Dumbledore had also once called his best friend.

Christina Semmens is a Roman Catholic missionary who can attest to the powerful nature of the Harry Potter stories for inspiring each of us to live lives of virtue while courageously reflecting love and mercy in a world that so desperately needs it. She currently lives in Fort Payne, Alabama.  

 

[1] https://www.snitchseeker.com/harry-potter-news/j-k-rowling-explains-grindelwald-and-dumbledores-relationship-dracos-wand-transfer-71142/

[2] https://youtu.be/GuSuVDZlAys?t=2m13s