Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald should mark the first time Albus Dumbledore gets to explore his romantic feelings for his childhood friend, the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
Director David Yates told Entertainment Weekly that the film won’t explicitly address Dumbledore’s sexual orientation, adding that he thought fans were aware of the character’s sexuality. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling followed up Yates’ response on Twitter, noting that The Crimes of Grindelwald was just the second entry in a five-film franchise. Rowling’s implication that Dumbledore’s sexuality could be explored in another movie restored some fans’ optimism, but also raised some more questions.
Why isn’t Dumbledore’s sexuality being addressed in this movie? After more than a decade of understanding that Dumbledore was canonically gay, and fell in love with his longtime friend, it’s time to demonstrate that relationship in the films. Rowling announcing that Dumbledore was gay became a watershed moment for the series, which up until then didn’t have any explicitly LGBTQ characters.
Whether or not Rowling always intended for Dumbledore to be gay is less of a concern than Hollywood’s inability to show the character’s sexual orientation.
Don’t just talk about it
There’s a big difference between just talking about someone’s sexuality and actually embracing it.
Author Gail Simone summed it up best on Twitter: “It would suck if there was just no LGBTQ [representation] in the books and that was the end of it. But her saying Hogwarts Gandalf was absolutely gay, then dodging it deliberately, that is a different level of stink.”
This is an issue that online comics publication The Nib handled perfectly. The Nib’s comic, which imagines the process of baking a “J.K. Rowling cake,” compares Rowling’s incorporation of Dumbledore’s sexuality into the mainstream film series to a baker telling customers she’ll use strawberries next time.
“When you make the cake again, just let people know that there won’t be any fruit in this one, but they can imagine that it’s there,” the comic reads.
Rowling can’t keep telling people that Dumbledore is a gay wizard without embracing that side of who he is — especially if he’s going to be spending time with Grindelwald in this movie, the man he’s hopelessly in love with. Queer representation, which fans went without in both the original Harry Potter books and the eight films based on them, isn’t something that Rowling can just tease. Queer characters deserve better than just being something fans can imagine; they deserve to be seen.
Not letting Dumbledore live as an openly gay wizard in the movie, after Rowling made it clear that he was infatuated with Grindelwald, is also hypocritical. In 2014, Rowling responded to a fan on Twitter with a meme saying, “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should live in a closet.”
Rowling is clearly very much in support of Dumbledore’s sexuality, having created an entire backstory for his romantic interest in Grindelwald. That’s why so many fans are confused over Yates and Rowling’s decision to not incorporate it explicitly into the film. In this, the year that Call Me By Your Name is up for numerous Oscars, why are studios still shying away from gay relationships on screen?
Critics of the decision are saying there’s no more excuses for it.
“There’s no excuse for taking the cookies for saying a character is LGBTQ and then daintily avoiding any fucking reference to it where it COUNTS, in the STORIES,” Simone tweeted.
Jill Pantozzi, managing editor at io9, noted that although Dumbledore’s sexuality doesn’t define his entire character, it is absolutely a part of who he is. To ignore that would be a disservice to a character that people love very much.
“Considering the two characters have this very intense history, it seems odd to not reference it,” Pantozzi said. “I have hope it will be addressed but this was a bad quote from the director.”
That’s the lingering question. If The Crimes of Grindelwald is not going to explicitly reference Dumbledore’s sexuality, then will Yates and Rowling at least make an attempt to ensure queer representation?
What happens next?
Considering the overtly negative attention that Rowling’s and Yates’ comments have garnered from fans, there’s a chance that Warner Bros. could address the concern through reshoots.
The studio may add scenes the movie to ensure there is some reference to Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald, but it won’t be anything groundbreaking. That’s okay — if the goal is to have Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship build over the subsequent three films. The issue is that neither Yates or Rowling can promise that right now, and that doesn’t leave fans feeling very confident in the franchise’s direction. If that’s using surreptitious glances and longing from Dumbledore for Grindelwald, then that’s a start.
If this were a heterosexual couple, their longing for each other wouldn’t just be included; it would become a focal point of the movie. Think of Call Me By Your Name. The film spent most of its time building up the relationship through nonverbal cues, but we still got the message. Warner Bros., Yates and Rowling could include these types of references into Crimes of Grindelwald, and I hope they do. But my frustration over their lack of commitment to one of Harry Potter’s most important relationships is concerning and disappointing.
It may not be a simple conversation for studio executives, but it is an easy decision for Yates and Rowling, especially Rowling. Like Simone said, Rowling could have just left Harry Potter without any gay characters and, although that would have sucked, there’d be no hope among fans that queer representation would be included in future movies or books. By making Dumbledore canonically gay, and continuing to work on Harry Potter, Rowling is committed to that aspect of his character.
It’s no longer enough to just hint at his sexual orientation or confirm he’s gay while talking to fans at an event. It’s time for Dumbledore’s sexuality to be embraced, on film, and in a canonical way. We deserve that after so many years.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will be released on Nov. 16.