It’s official: Despite being canonically gay, Harry Potter fans won’t see Dumbledore’s sexuality in the next Fantastic Beasts movie. And that’s a problem.
Jude Law, who’s playing a young version of the character in coming films, recently addressed the sexuality matter.
‘We’re not going to reveal everything all at once,’ he said to Entertainment Weekly. He went on to remind people this movie is only the next one in a larger series.
‘You’re just getting to know Albus in this film, and there’s obviously a lot more to come,’ he continued. ‘But as with humans, your sexuality doesn’t necessarily define you; he’s multifaceted.’
Law’s comments come after director David Yates saying Dumbledore wouldn’t be ‘explicitly’ gay.
These attitudes highlight numerous problems within Hollywood about representation.
First there needs to be more queer characters
It’s all good and well for Law to talk about multifaceted characters. The last thing audiences want, least of all LGBTQ people, are queer characters reduced only to stereotypes and nothing more.
It’s why something like Will & Grace, despite breaking ground, faces legitimate criticisms of how it portrays gay men and other people in the community.
The problem is that for there to be multifaceted queer characters, there first needs to be queer characters.
Representation is a long and arduous process. Audiences are seeing positive steps forward, especially when it comes to television, but movies continue to lag behind.
GLAAD found that last year only 14 movies released by the seven major studios had LGBTQ-identifying characters — out of 109 movies overall. That’s 12.8% and a drop from 2016’s 18.4%.
Let that sink in.
The dearth of queer representation in Hollywood is palpable. Whenever I go to the movies, I never go in expecting to see myself represented. On the rare occasions that I am, it’s a pleasant surprise — until, of course, it’s not.
I have grown up learning not to expect progress or representation on screen, but just the opposite, in fact. I grew up understanding media objectifying women, leaning into harmful stereotypes and outdated ideas, and having well-rounded queer characters only in my head. And this is coming from someone who studied film in college and loves it deeply.
Law also revealed he shot no scenes with Johnny Depp in the upcoming movie. Depp is playing Dumbledore’s enemy and former love interest, Gellert Grindelwald.
Of course, whether or not we want to see him portray a queer relationship with Depp is another conversation entirely.
Privilege and ignorance
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole situation is that it’s straight people making these decisions, and they’re coming from a place of privilege and ignorance.
They don’t get to call themselves allies, or say they support LGBTQ people and characters, unless they actually walk the walk. Harry Potter author JK Rowling originally made this mistake when she told fans Dumbledore was gay, following the final publication of the series, and not actually showing them.
Movies show straight romances and characters all the time. They’re in plenty of stories, or at least constantly assumed to be the default. They’re usually depicted in traditional ways as well — cisgender and not falling anywhere on the ace or aro spectrums.
Writers awkwardly shove heterosexual romance plots into movies, just to check off a box for movie-goers (ahem, Captain America: Civil War), while LGBTQ characters are often sidelined and rarely shown to be sexually active or in possessions of their own independent lives, dreams, and motivations.
Meanwhile, a major facet of Dumbledore’s character and motivations come from his relationship with Grindelwald. What first started as a friendship (and eventually, presumably, romance) morphed into an obsession over ideology and eventually a split between them that could never be undone.
The relationship between them had consequences not only for each of them individually, but for the Wizarding World at large.
Our voices matter
Hand-waving fans’ concerns for representation is incredibly dismissive on the parts of Rowling, Law, and Warner Bros.
Harry Potter is a defining story for an entire generation and wanting to see yourself in it is understandable. It’s why a black Hermione in the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was — and is — such a big deal. After all, we’re the generation who takes serious pride in our Hogwarts House (Gryffindor, by the way, and don’t you forget it).
If these creators aren’t going to even have the decency of listening to and respecting our voices, people with lived and authentic experiences and identities, maybe they shouldn’t get to depict Dumbledore at all.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out on 16 November in the US.