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Albus, gay? Whatever
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saxifrage00
I'm really not sure what Rowling's point was in announcing that Albus Dumbledore was gay. On the one hand, it paints her nicely as a progressive while getting the conservative media in an uproar.

But on the other hand, it's a stupid move as a writer. A writer's works, released into the wild, stand on their own without their Mommy to explain, support, and justify them. A book has to be let go and be allowed to express itself, like a child must be let go by its parents. Anything additional is just trying to rewrite what's done. Albus' sexuality is immaterial to the books, and the character is defined by the printed word. Rowling can say all she wants about her characters, but if it ain't in the book, it ain't in the book.

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No, it's not in the book. I guess I don't quite understand why it's so very important that Albus's sexuality is not in the book.

It's a matter of writing integrity. If an author writes a book, and then needs to explain it, they've failed. Explaining themselves is what books do. This is a small addition to the books that she's making, but it's still a failure on her part.

So if it really was important that Albus was gay, it should have come out clearer in the text?

Uh. Sorry, disagreeing here. Just because not every single detail is in the books it means that people can just go and ignore everything she says. When I write a story, I don't "let it free" by closing it - stuff that is valid for my characters is still valid, even if I didn't write that person x' favourite food is banana pudding.

This "it's not in the book so it ain't true" has spawned so many ship-wars and fangirl-dramas - and not only about Dumbledore - you wouldn't believe it. Also, it's not as if she randomly stood up and announced it, somebody asked her about it - she actually wondered why nobody did before.

Maybe no one asked her earlier because it is not obvious in the books and therefor either poorly presented, or obfuscated so much as to be useless.

I don't know if you read the book or not, but that "nobody asked Dumbledore" is actually a pretty big theme there, Harry regrets it deeply that he didn't show more interest when Dumbledore was still alive (not about his sexuality of course, but about other stuff, such as family) ;) So he is by all means a very obfuscated character - on purpose, because a lot of plot twists and secrets relied on him. He is after all still a side character, the main focus is on the kids. And why should it be obvious in the books? He's Harry's mentor, the books are from Harry's POV and his private life was really nothing of Harry's business, IMHO.

I have not read any of the books for two unrelated reasons.

I just agree with Monsieur McFrage that information about characters told to a magazine publisher outside the actual writings of the books is not really part of the story, but more part of the marketing and the authors mental legend of the book.

I may not care that Harrison Ford says Decker is a replicant ... although I would care if the author said so. It still wouldn't change the ambigious nature of the story. The story remains the same regardless of any goings on oustide its covers.

I think I agree a little with chili_das_schaf; just because a piece of information isn't stated overtly in a book, doesn't mean it isn't relevant. Many writers write novels, or even a series of novels, and then once it's finished go back and write more books, prequels, sequels, whatever, to explain everything that was going on in the background at the time. It wasn't integral to the original novels, they stand alone without it, but it helps to add a certain level of detail and background to the entire story rather than the little piece of it they showed originally.

Harry Potter is filled with little holes, at least from my understanding. There are so many things about it that bother me, little niggling things that aren't logical or little holes I kind of groan at when they aren't explained. They're excellent books, and they stand alone quite well, but I think they could have benefited from a couple "behind the scenes" little novellas, or something similar. Questions like, why the Ministry of Magic never used their large stock of Time Turners to perhaps go back and witness who exactly committed a crime? If it was because of the inherant risks involved with time-travel, then why the hell did they give one to a stupid student in order to get her homework done on time? It doesn't make any sense to me, and I'd love to hear J.K.R.'s opinions.

People will be clamouring for more information on the characters, the history, the mechanics of magic, and other things about the world for years and years to come. Her books just aren't tight enough to have everything explained, and people are hungry for more. And seeing as how J.K.R. has stated that she won't write anymore books in the series, she has a lot of explaining to do before people are fully satisfied.

She said at some point that she may publish an encyclopedia or something like that.

Oh, really? Now that's interesting! Thank you. =)

Yeah, but this is unfortunately nothing solid. I wish it was, because I feel the same - there are so many things left that I want to know about!

*rofl* Sax writes all kinds of interesting stuff on here with little to no response, and then he writes about 'OMG Dumbledore is gay!' and there's a relative firestorm within minutes. You people amuse the hell out of me!

Just for the record, I also disagree with my sweetie on this point, because I am a contemporary English Lit nerd and therefore I'm all about the subtext. I just find rabid HP fans hilarious, much as I love the books myself. If he had made exactly the same point about, for example, Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids/Hybrids/Humans series (OMG the Neanderthal is gay!), nobody would have said a thing.

Rowling's just trying to stay in the popular consciousness, now that the books are done and we're between movies. It's a marketing thing. So *pbbbbt*.

I'm not entirely sure it's a marketing thing. I think it was just something that took a while to come out, not because she was hiding it or waiting for some perfect time to release it, but just because no one bothered to ask.

And this is one of the few posts that Sax has made that I find I have a degree of opinion on, or at least a fair amount of background and previous thought in it so I may present my own opinion. I apologize if it makes me look like a rabid HP fan, or someone willing to jump on the bandwagon of a particular silly news story in order to be a part of the controversy. It just happens to be about something I'm mildly interested in. =)

It just happens to be about something I'm mildly interested in. =)

Which is exactly my point!

I wasn't meaning to point out or attack anyone in particular - I just found the phenomenon in general amusing :) Not *surprising* - but funny!

To be honest, I didn't know much about this until today. I saw the headline in Fark, but had assumed it was a doctored magazine page.

Sax writes all kinds of interesting stuff on here with little to no response, and then he writes about 'OMG Dumbledore is gay!' and there's a relative firestorm within minutes.

Hey, I actually do comment on his other stuff now and then :P And can't claim myself that I drown in the comments he leaves on my blog ;)

Wasn't commenting on any one individual in particular - just the general phenomenon!

I just find rabid HP fans hilarious, much as I love the books myself. If he had made exactly the same point about, for example, Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids/Hybrids/Humans series (OMG the Neanderthal is gay!), nobody would have said a thing.

Well, I was one of the three people commenting here, so you may understand that I did felt adressed a tiny bit ;) But yes, the phenomenon IS amusing. I can write long, thoughtful posts until my fingers are sore with hardly anybody saying a thing, but stuff like this lets the comments fly!

I am a contemporary English Lit nerd and therefore I'm all about the subtext.

But this isn't subtext. It's extra-text. Unless we all missed something.

I'm allowing for the possibility that it's very subtle. It doesn't seem implausible; nothing's contradicted it. There can be many levels of subtext, and they're subject to interpretation.

By subtle, I mean: every writer has stuff about their characters that never makes it explicitly into the book - that doesn't mean it isn't true. They've had to construct a whole person, and you can't put a whole person in a book, or seven books, no matter how detailed, rich, or just plain long they are.

(Here I am talking about Harry Potter like it's Michael Ondaatje.)

Yeah, but Ondaatje will never affect 1/10th as many people as Rowling has. We're not discussing the merits of the author, but the reader-centric phenomenon of interpretation.

Even so, we get into extremely tricky territory here. I would argue that we're in Wittgenstein territory here: the question, as put, has no meaning.


1) Dumbledore is interesting as an archetype, but for the same reason, he's not much of a character.

So, Dumbledore just doesn't HAVE a sexuality. Just because there's something called a "literary character" that can be said to have arms and legs and a head, doesn't mean it has all the attributes of a human being.


2) A standard like "the text doesn't contradict it" lets almost anything in.

I read something interesting the other day; that in the original Star Trek, the evil alternate-universe Federation was the real one, and the TV series is the propaganda they made to show how great they were.

This doesn't contradict anything in Star Trek either. But as fun as that interpretation is, it is in no way justified by the text.


3) Who cares what J.K. Rowling thinks? Umberto Eco resolved this paradox with the notion of the "the intention of the text" which is separate from the author. If you think about it, this is an obvious point; if words were always a perfect vessel of the artist's thought, one would not have to develop any skill to tell a story.

Eco's argument is sort of vague because it has to invoke notions like "reasonable interpretations" which can only be defined by a community of readers. But I think you can see where he's getting at.

Dumbledore, as depicted, doesn't have any reason to be gay. But neither, I suppose, are we justified in thinking him straight (heteronormative assumptions are also part of this). I fall back on my first point; it's basically a non-argument.

I agree completely.

With the Ondaatje comment, I was just meaning to acknowledge that I may well have been attributing far more subtlety than the author intended in this case :)

Thanks for tolerating my geek-out...

That's funny, I always just assumed he was. British school headmaster, very private, no known partners past or present... that just said "gay" to me, and since it wasn't relevant to the story, I never really thought any further about it.

But then I've been reading a lot of books by gay Englishmen in the past couple of years, so my perspective may be a little skewed.

[I]f it ain't in the book, it ain't in the book.

I couldn't agree more. Rowling's been guilty of this sort of thing all along, and as she's gained in stature she's shown an increasing inability to let her books stand on their own merits.

This is something I have to teach my Composition students every semester--once the text's out of your hands, it has to stand on its own. You don't get to stand over the reader's shoulder saying, "No, you're reading it wrong."

I'm getting all worked up about this now--I think I'll go write an entry of my own about it.

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