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J.K. Rowling on Dumbledore-Grindelwald Gay Relationship Causes Controversy
Even though the Harry Potter books came to a close when the seventh entry in the series was published in 2007, that hasn’t stopped author J.K. Rowling from adding to the larger lore of her wizarding world. With an Olivier and Tony-winning play that will probably live on the West End and Broadway for all eternity, and the Fantastic Beasts franchise chugging right along, Rowling has figured out how to mine her fantastical brain for content better than any blogger ever could. (How does she do it? I am so tired.)
But despite being a genius at world-building, Rowling is notorious for retroactively adding details to her published stories, causing controversy both within the Harry Potter fanbase and the outside world of casual fans. The most notorious example, of course, would be the sexuality of Albus Dumbledore. In a 2007 interview, Rowling claimed that the head of Hogwarts, who serves as a mentor to the titular character and tragically perishes in the penultimate novel, was deeply in love with the dark wizard Gallert Grindelwald.
“Dumbledore is gay,” Rowling said in response to a fan who asked if the Hogwarts headmaster ever found true love. She reiterated that this was the “great tragedy” of his life. (Potter superfans know that Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in battle decades before the Harry Potter series began.)
While that announcement was controversial at the time (Bill O’Reilly accused Rowling of participating in some sort of gay agenda; I had a very stupid blow-out fight with my boyfriend in which I called Rowling “lazy as hell” for not depicting Dumbledore as anything beyond sexless old man in the actual books), Rowling has forced us all to revisit it again nearly 12 years later. According to Mashable, the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald includes a feature in which Rowling waxes poetic on the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (played in that film by Jude Law and Johnny Depp, respectively).
Their relationship was incredibly intense. It was passionate, and it was a love relationship. But as happens in any relationship, gay or straight or whatever label we want to put on it, one never knows, really, what the other person is feeling. You can’t know, you can believe you know. So I’m less interested in the sexual side—though I believe there is a sexual dimension to this relationship—than I am in the sense of the emotions they felt for each other, which ultimately is the most fascinating thing about all human relationships.
Hmm, OK, sure. I’m glad Dumbledore was boning, although I am not the only one who would say he could probably do better than bleached-blond Johnny Depp.
It’s worth noting, of course, that the film—part in a larger series of children’s stories—does not include any sex scenes between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Any dry humping? Nope! Do they kiss? Nah. These two apparently had an intensely queer relationship that included them shooting lasers out of wands at each other (I presume), but they never got naked or anything. How do I know this? Because in 2008, Rowling herself expounded on this presumed relationship in another interview in which she touched on Dumbledore’s sexuality:
The issue is love. It’s not about sex. So that’s what I knew about Dumbledore. And it’s relevant only in so much as he fell in love and was made an utter fool of by love. He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrusting of his own judgement in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and a bookish life.
So Dumbledore, in Rowling’s eyes, was an asexual homosexual who had an intensely sexless relationship with a bad wizard who was more horny for evil than he was for Dumbledore. This is, sadly, the first time I have actually related to this man, as this scenario perfectly describes my dating life in my mid-20s. And while it’s nice to see my specifically stupid romantic history represented in a fantasy series for children, I am not sure it’s quite earned considering it’s not actually depicted in the series itself, but rather just empty talking points from an author who isn’t bold enough to make her gay wizards be gay with one another.