Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gay Dumbledore Enhances Potter Series

Having grown up in an abusive family, I've always been moved by the "paternal" dimension of the Harry Potter series. Protagonist Harry Potter grew up in the abusive household of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley, but Rowling created a web of paternity around Harry to help him grow up as he gradually came to confront the threat of Voldemort. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was the primary paternal figure but there was also his godfather Sirius Black, teacher Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley, the images of biological father James Potter's family in the Mirror of Erised, and the patronus figure that came to his aid against dementors. Even the phoenix Fawkes had some key paternal moments although the healing, encouraging baum of phoenix song and phoenix tears could also be seen as an extension of Dumbledore's care.

The collective fathering of Harry Potter came into focus in the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Dumbledore, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin all (along with Harry's mother) reached from beyond the grave to provide Harry with final instruction, guidance, and encouragement.

Once again, Dumbledore was the key figure, the wisest man despite (or perhaps because of) his limitations and mistakes, the person who helped Harry the most, the one with whom Harry had to reconcile.

But the other father figures were just as necessary even if they were more limited.

It was all that assistance and love that allowed Harry to confront Voldemort and confront him alone when the time came.

Yesterday, J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay. I think the revelation of Dumbledore's gayness enhances the whole series. Being gay adds another dimension to the humanity of the Dumbledore character and helps explain his enthusiasm for Gellert Grindelwald and his lack of heterosexual involvement. What adds to the series is that a gay man could take up the burden of providing fatherly guidance for a young boy facing enormous difficulties and be constantly animated by "the greater good" of the boy's welfare.

Much as African-Americans are still associated with stereotypes from slavery, gay people (and especially gay men) are still stereotyped as selfish, immature, inherently pedophilic, and obsessed with sex to the exclusion of everything else. Rowling's Dumbledore certainly had weaknesses, but Rowling portrays Dumbledore's youthful selfishness, ambition, and vanity and his mature errors of judgment as broadly human and shows Dumbledore doing his difficult duty to Harry and the whole wizarding world by taking Harry under his wing.

The fact that he was gay adds a further dimension of humanity to Dumbledore's heroism.


Todd Mayo said...

I cannot comment upon the Harry Potter stories or their characters. I can say that it is high time that a gay character be portrayed as something other than a mincing characature, over-emotional, self-centered, etc.

So Kudos to J. K. Rowling for having the guts and the sensitivity to portray a gay man as a normal person rather than a burlesque show. I wonder what the "rapture-right" will do with this. If the teletubbies are in-the-closet gay, then what will Robertson, et all, say about Dumbledore??

Something I won't want to hear no doubt.

Ric Caric said...

Hey Todd. Maybe the right will appreciate Dumbledore's determination to stay in the closet.

Todd Mayo said...

If they make another movie I think this Dumbledore ought to come out. That'll separate the REAL fans from the posers don't you think? LOL

tim said...

They would only appreciate his abstinence, Dr. Caric. You know that. I forgot to ask my wife what she thought of that. She's the Potter fan in my house.