21 October 2007

Harry Potter Week Revealed

I'd been saving up some comments on the Harry Potter series for the future, but J. K. Rowling's recent comments on Prof. Dumbledore have prompted me to toss my vague schedule and bring Harry Potter Week out of the closet.

The Associated Press offered the highlights of Rowling's appearance in New York on Friday, but the Leaky Cauldron had the most comprehensive report, naturally. Here's the exchange that everyone's talking about:

Q: Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?

JKR: 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. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair... [laughter] I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter: "Dumbledore's gay!" [laughter] If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!
Many fans are pleased; some fans and critics are dismayed, for different reasons. I think Gail Gauthier at Original Content has, as so often, gotten to the heart of the matter:
To me what was interesting about J.K. Rowling's announcement last night that Dumbledore is gay is not that he is gay but that she had to tell us that he is. Does that suggest to anyone else that she didn't show us in the books?
Indeed, Rowling had to tell the screenwriter for the next movie, Steve Kloves, about how she conceived of Dumbledore--and he's written four previous Harry Potter screenplays. If after turning those books inside out he hadn't picked up any clues that Dumbledore wouldn't have gotten dreamy over a girl, then perhaps those clues weren't really there.

For the next few days I expect to muse on what this revelation says about the Harry Potter series. How does Dumbledore's sexual orientation play into the seven-book saga? Does the late revelation reveal ambivalence on Rowling's part, or difficulty in managing all she hoped to accomplish? Has the nature of storytelling in an internet age gone beyond books to authors' remarks and supplemental writings? How does Dumbledore's love life relate to the history and cultural stereotypes of gay men? And, of course, that other Harry Potter stuff I've been saving.


Monica Edinger said...

I'm wondering if in some way this is a retro thing. That is, what about story pre-text? Much as I personally love books, I've always argued that there are many other ways to get knowledge, information, and, yes, story. So that Rowling is breaking the rules of text doesn't bother me. And my kids are completely not interested.

I think you are so right that there is this other super-world of the story that is very Star Wars like and has almost nothing to do with the books (other than that they originated the story).

J. L. Bell said...

I suspect that the "world" approach also applies to pre-textual stories, such as the sprawling Greco-Roman mythology. But it's so hard to analyze that sort of storytelling except through the texts.