I’m feeling pretty conflicted about the news that author J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, has outed Albus Dumbledore during a recent event at Carnegie Hall. On the one hand, it’s not altogether surprising news and it does add a certain something to the character. But on a deeper level, especially the side of me that appreciates a good story, I can’t help but feel this is really just a cheap, pointless revelation on her part.
Face it, if Rowling was actually a talented writer there might have been more nuance to her tale to shed some light on Dumbledore. Rowling has some fantastic ideas, and the Harry Potter series is an engrossing read on a number of levels, but I’d never call her a literary legend or anything. Compared to writers like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Clive Barker, J.R.R. Tolkien, or even Terry Pratchett, Rowling is actually a relative amateur and this news just seems to hammer that home a bit more.
Her skills aside, I also just can’t understand the timing of this information. Why bother revealing this now? If it was important to her somehow, enough that she had thought of it on various occasions, why not reveal it sooner and bring some meaning to the information. As it is, this just feels like a strange attempt to remind people that the last book is still for sale.
Whatever her reasons are, I would have found them far more compelling if they were included somehow within the pages of the books. If you have to explain your characters to your audience after the books have been published, then you’re probably not a very good writer, or else you’re not daring enough. Some parents would probably have flipped out if they discovered this in the books, but it’s relevant enough that it deserved to be addressed in context and not during some sappy reading series.
But now that I think of it more, I guess I’ve had my full revelation – why does it matter if Dumbledore was gay or not? Dumbledore is a fantastic character with so many interesting layers that it doesn’t matter if he was straight, gay, or bisexual for that matter. It would be the same as asking whether he was Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, or Buddhist – does it matter, or affect the character’s story? The art of a truly great story is distilling events and people down to their core elements and this just feels like unnecessary fodder. In the context of Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald it’s interesting but ultimately utterly pointless.
UPDATE: Had to add this link to a fantastic article in Time by John Cloud.
One more – especially an awesome link for the inclusion of the late, great Douglas Adams:
Harry Potter and the author who wouldn’t shut up
* Commentary is encouraged, but you can keep any truly hateful comments to yourself – I won’t let them stay here.