Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007
Dumbledore: that father-absence thing is a killer

Most of what I would want to say on this has already been said by me and others in the comments underneath my two most recent Potter posts (one on HP and the Christian theme, and one on the name "Pius Thicknesse"), but b/c people may be looking here for a post directly on the "Dumbledore is gay" thing (and that's why I just wrote it out: hello, search engines!), I thought I'd pull together some comments and links here, to express some views that are "for the editors," as they say.

1. My good friend Publius commented (and I trust implicitly in his memory of the past content of JK's web site):
Personally, I've taken what she says extra-canonically with a huge helping of salt since she totally reversed herself on what happens when a Secret Keeper dies. On her website she said (and it was a really big deal) that the secret dies with the keeper, i.e., that knowledge of it is limited to those already told and no one else can ever learn of it. In DH, of course, that is totally blown out of the water with everyone knowing the secret becoming Secret Keepers.
2. Elinor says:
Dumbledore is not homosexual, although he may, like many people, suffer from SSA to a certain degree. (He is English, after all.) The intense friendship with Grindelwald is no evidence at all of even emotional inversion. Why are people so ready to accept the homosexual lobby's assertion that any affection between men indicates an erotic attraction? Boys have dedicated friendships the same as girls have, although boys seem to demand less time and confidence from their friends than girls do, and consequently have fewer quarrels and hurt feelings.
To which I would only add: not only are there dedicated friendships that are non-erotic (and more so among boys); there may also be friendships that are eros-tinted but nonetheless free from penetration and consummation. I assume the idea is now rattling around the planet that Dumbledore and Grindelwald would routinely unwind with a little sodomy after a tough day of planning a wizard dictatorship over muggles. At the rate this is going, that may be JK's press conference tomorrow; but as of today, the operative (though post-canonical) word about the D/G relationship is "smitten," and"smitten" does not, of itself, go beyond "puppy love" or the Shakespearian "greensickness."

Put it this way. If the only "straights" among us are those who reached age 20 or so without so much as a brief and innocent fixation on a co-genderist, then, well, it's a big, big "Easter parade" out there, that's all I've got to say.

3. I myself wrote (and I endorse my views w/o reservation):
[T]he theory of D/G as British schoolboy crush makes perfect sense, esp. given D's vulnerability due to his mother's death. Anyway, in later life he can hardly be said to view that relationship as any sort of wonderful, sentiment-worthy thing, can he? Nor did he ever (within the canon) pursue any other "gay" relationships....

Like many, I too have long viewed Voldy as a flamer. Fwiw, every one of my teenage sons, in succession, has cringed at young Riddle in the CoS movie.

Grindelwald, otoh, was apparently repentant, at least of his tyrannical ways. He accepts the "political" penance of incarceration in the prison he built for others, and (so we may now read it) the "gay" penance of old age and ugliness. Thus accoutered, he eventually defies Voldemort -- "There is so much you don't understand!" -- and dies, manfully.
4. Have a look at this story from ABC News. Now granted, people aren't necessarily at their smartest when a microphone is suddenly shoved in their face. This applies to J.K. Rowling, and as far as we know it may also apply to "Potter fan Patrick Ross, of Rutherford, N.J." We do not know how "Potter fan Patrick Ross, of Rutherford, N.J." was chosen for this interview. Perhaps, like "Warlock D. J. Prod of Didsbury," he was simply willing to endorse the product. Perhaps it was a random choice. Perhaps he's the reporter's steady. We just don't know.

Whatever the explanation, how thick (in the head, I mean) do you have to be to say, in the context of Albus Dumbledore, that "a gay character in the most popular series in the world is a big step for Jo Rowling and for gay rights"? One would think a self-described Potter fan would notice, even if others don't, that the relationship with Grindelwald, which according both to the canon and to Rowling's recent comments is the only instance of gay "smitten-ness" in Dumbledore's life, is regarded -- by him, and by us, unless we're partisans of Dark Wizards -- as the moral nadir of his life? That his delay in combatting Grindelwald -- caused, we are now asked to believe, by lingering affection for the pretty blond dictator -- is a source of lifelong shame and regret to Dumbledore?

Grindelwald? What was I thinking of?

But perhaps I'm being too subtle. Perhaps the argument is a simple application of the transitivity principle to cultural warfare: Dumbledore = good, Dumbledore = gay, therefore gay = good.

But the first of those equations has been under assault by the books themselves since somewhere in the middle of the cycle. Oh to be sure, he's the leader of the anti-Voldemort forces, and his is the party to stick with in a conflict. But he's not Gandalf, and never was. He makes mistakes, and usually but not always realizes them and 'fesses up to them. His last grand stratagem -- what has aptly been called "magician-assisted suicide" -- is morally inadmissible. (So were some things done by the Allies in World War II -- yet I do not therefore wish the other side had won.)

Even more to the point, Dumbledore knows where he is vulnerable to temptation, and generally avoids the near occasions of sin. One of those vulnerabilities is power, so he declined to become Minister of Magic. That one we're told about. How about the other -- namely, Harry?

In light of the new theory (and that's all I'll concede it to be, since I don't believe an author's opinions about her characters, once the canon is closed, have any more force than anyone else's; even her statements about what she "meant" can have only as much validity as can be proved from the canon), perhaps D's unwillingness to confide adequately in Harry (for which he reproaches himself at the end of OoTP) is part of a general effort to avoid getting too close to Harry, if you follow me.

Only in HBP does D start to take H into his confidence in a way that brings them together for large chunks of time. And that's after D is already dying, because of his horcrux-induced hand injury. And even so, all of his long journeys away from Hogwarts that year are without Harry, except for the last, the one to the "Birdbath from Hell."

So: our new poster-boy for "gay rights" is a man whose one known experience with gay "smitten"-ness was a moral catastrophe; who practiced celibacy ever after (so far as the canon shows, and nothing else counts), and who exercised extreme, even excessive, caution with regard to the only other boy he may be said to have, in some sense, "loved."

Doesn't sound like "gay rights" to me; sounds like Courage.