Monday, October 29, 2007

On Dumbledore & Homosexuality

It's articles like this one that make me want to be a critic and a PhD student at the same time, and yet simultaneously feel like I couldn't really be either. It's a pretty good read, and I agree with most of it (I think it's weird to see JK Rowling spouting random apocrypha about the books - it's not really necessary, the books are self-contained, and it just ends up feeling like a DVD extra or, worse, like when I used to write stories and spent more time elaborately charting my characters' minutia than I spent writing stories). What impresses me most is this:

In her outing of Dumbledore, Ms. Rowling seemed to be confirming the smarmy kiss-and-tell insinuations of her gossip-mongering character Rita Skeeter, whose lurid biography of the apparently saintly headmaster — titled “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore” — is described in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

“Coming next week,” a newspaper article on Skeeter promises, “the shocking story of the flawed genius considered by many to be the greatest wizard of his generation.” Skeeter drops teasing hints about Dumbledore’s “murky past,” about his not being “exactly broad-minded” and suggests that in his mentoring of Harry there is an “unnatural interest,” something “unhealthy, even sinister.” As for the idea that Ms. Rowling suggested — that as a teenage prodigy, Dumbledore had a homoerotic infatuation with another prodigious young wizard, Grindelwald (who later went over to what in “Star Wars” is called the Dark Side) — Skeeter hints at this in coded allusions.

She proposes that when the two friends had a falling out in a dramatic duel, Grindelwald did not fight but “conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and” — the passage then gives way to an obvious (in retrospect) sexual double entendre.

Such homoerotic imagery, at any rate, suggests a strong mischievous streak, not just among these dueling wizards but in Ms. Rowling herself, their contemporary chronicler in the world of Muggles (which is, of course, how the wizards refer to those of us lacking wands or the magic to use them).

What a read, huh? It makes me vaguely proud of JK Rowling for hinting without saying (usually not her strongest suit), and it reminds me of when I failed to realize that Billy Budd was an allegory for Christ. My analytical skills as an English major, are, I fear, lacking. Or were.

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