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« "Bella" will be opening in select theaters on October 26th... | Main | What can we learn from the "new atheists" »

Saturday, October 20, 2007

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Mark Brumley

This is unfortunate but it is also something I suspected might turn out to be the case. Certainly, things in the final book are consistent with the conclusion, although they by no means demand it.

It is a sign of our troubled times that homosexuality must be a topic associated with Harry Potter stories. Yes, people afflicted--and it is an affliction--with same-sex attraction need to be seen as persons, with an inherent dignity. We can, if we like, call the social recognition of their inherent human dignity "tolerance". However, we should no more approve of homosexual activity because some people are afflicted with same-sex attraction than we should applaud as morally good compulsive theft by cleptomaniacs or alcohol abuse by alcoholics.

If J.K. Rowling wants to tell us that heterosexuals should not assault homosexual persons and should seek to understand their affliction, then I say more power to her, so long as she is clear that this is an affliction and not simply a "difference" or an alternate lifestyle to be approved of. If, on the other hand, those of us who espouse traditional sexual morality must accept homosexual activity and same-sex unions as good or neutral in themselves in order to be "tolerated" by others, then this is wickedness plain and simple. It is the dictatorship of relativism. It is a perversion of the good of sexual love and ultimately destructive of it, as the sexual revolution has shown us.

LJ

What's better than fantasy? Politically correct fantasy.

Cristina A. Montes

What gets me is that JKR is trying to please all audiences. First, she says that she put Christian themes in the series. Then, she says that Dumbledore is gay.

Mark Brumley

Cristina, you may be right that she is trying to please many audiences. It is also possible that she sees considerable overlap in those audiences. That one of her characters would have been "outed" is not a problem for certain kinds of liberal Christianity. Indeed, they would find it problematic if none of the characters in the popular Potter series were homosexually inclined.

We see something similar when certain liberal Catholics say the only problem with the Sisters of Perpoetual Indulgence's manner of dress is that they over accessorize. Such people see no tension between professing Christianity and espousing the value of same-sex activities. I do not know how far Rowling travels down that road but her recent remarks suggest she has traveled some of the way.

Sandra Miesel

In the context of the full transcript of Rowling's talk, there's no reason to think she revealed Dumbledore's identity as a publicity gimmick. Here's what I said about the issue over at www.hogwartsprofessor.com which has an excellent discussion going:

One more little thing. . . Notice Rowling's exactly words: "I always thought he was gay." She doesn't say "I wrote him as gay" or "I intended him as gay." Writers of fiction--and I speak from experience--often discover that characters take on a life of their own and do/become things beyond the author's conscious intent. Perhaps Dumbledore's sexual orientation is something that emerged from the role that Rowling wanted him to play in her story rather than a feature she had mapped out for him in a character list. It could have happened either way.

Given the historic prevalence of homosexuality in British boarding schools and academe, it shows restraint on Rowlings' part not to have shown more of that element.

Given that Dumbledore seems to have been chaste all his long adult life, what's the problem? Surely we all have run across or heard of Christians in that situation? Some people have reacted as if this means Dumbledore is routinely frolicking in leather bars or whatever.

Cristina A. Montes

My problem is that, based on another article I've read, the question which elicited JKR's "I've always thought he was gay" response is on whether Dumbledore ever found true love. Also, I simply cannot understand (although maybe it's just because I haven't read the 7th book) how Dumbledore's "gay-ness" would be necessary for the plot, or what could have made JKR conclude that Dumbledore is gay as his character unfolded himself to her. The mere fact that he's a bachelor? Or that he has a particularly close friendship with another male? What made JKR assume that Dumbledore's affection for Grindelwald was sexual?

Carl: as to the controversy on whether Dumbledore died or not -- if you plan to read the series you may not want to read this comment further, but anyway...

SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT!

.... as of Book 6 (I haven't read Book 7 although I've had some spoilers and I really don't mind having any more), the controversy is whether Snape's murder of Dumbledore was treachery on Snape's part or due to a pre-arranged agreement between Snape and Dumbledore (sort of a euthanasia-cum-Gospel-of-Judas scenario).

Laura

Honestly, I don't even know why this is even news. I just think that all news outlets have sunk when they report this. I'm excluding this report because I feel you guys are reporting more on the response, rather than on the revolation itself. I mean... it's a character in a book for goodness sake! He's not even real! Wow... just, wow.

Spirit of Vatican II

"Yes, people afflicted--and it is an affliction--with same-sex attraction need to be seen as persons, with an inherent dignity. We can, if we like, call the social recognition of their inherent human dignity "tolerance". However, we should no more approve of homosexual activity because some people are afflicted with same-sex attraction than we should applaud as morally good compulsive theft by cleptomaniacs or alcohol abuse by alcoholics."

It's kleptomaniacs, and your words will be read as an assault on gays, just as if you spoke of Jews as god-killers or blacks as racially underprivileged. Same-sex attraction is part of the god-given texture of sexuality, observed throughout creation, and to call it an "affliction" savors of manicheanism.

Nick Milne

Also, I simply cannot understand (although maybe it's just because I haven't read the 7th book) how Dumbledore's "gay-ness" would be necessary for the plot, or what could have made JKR conclude that Dumbledore is gay as his character unfolded himself to her.

Dumbledore's "gay-ness" was not necessary for the plot. This is why, for example, it was neither mentioned nor alluded to in the books themselves.

As to why JKR felt it necessary for Dumbledore to be a homosexual, it's very possible that she felt no such thing. As Sandra Miesel has suggested, many writers will tell you, and if you're a writer yourself you'll already know, that characters can take on a life of their own whether the author likes it or not. Things suggest themselves; personality quirks spring up unbidden. Perhaps this is one such thing.

I'm with Sandra and John Granger on this one. However surprising this revelation may have been, it wasn't that surprising, and is certainly only as problematic as we want it to be.

Mark Brumley

Same-sex attraction is part of the god-given texture of sexuality, observed throughout creation, and to call it an "affliction" savors of manicheanism.

Gratuitously asserted; gratuitously denied.

It's kleptomaniacs, and your words will be read as an assault on gays, just as if you spoke of Jews as god-killers or blacks as racially underprivileged.

Sorry I misspelled "kleptomaniac". If it makes you feel better to correct me, I am happy to make you happy.

You say that my words will be read as an assault on gays, just as if you spoke of Jews as god-killers or blacks as racially underprivileged. Of course there are people who will choose to interpret what I said in such an absurd way. That has nothing to do with the meaning of the words I wrote. If you would attend to that, the discussion might progress. If we must discuss how hypersensitive or otherwise extremist people, with a vested interest in misunderstanding, are likely to misinterpret reasonable statements, we will get nowhere as far as the truth is concerned.

Mark Brumley

Given the historic prevalence of homosexuality in British boarding schools and academe, it shows restraint on Rowlings' part not to have shown more of that element.

True. And how refreshing.

Given that Dumbledore seems to have been chaste all his long adult life, what's the problem? Surely we all have run across or heard of Christians in that situation? Some people have reacted as if this means Dumbledore is routinely frolicking in leather bars or whatever.

Rowling creates a problem by shaping the way lots of people will now read her character--not simply sexualized, but homosexualized. And while we may know people with same-sex attraction who are chaste, Rowling's speaking of Dumbledore as "gay", without qualification, in the contemporary context certainly does not imply chastity.

I do not think it's the end of the world that Rowling has done this. It's just unfortunate to introduce the whole homosexuality business into Harry Potter.

padraighh

Dear SOVII,

Please remember to eat all your vegatables and get plenty of
sleep before writing nasty notes and thinly veiled
ad hominum attacks on the black board.

padraighh

Oh, yes, and please eat your vegetables as well.
This will save you having to correct spelling online

Sandra Miesel

I doubt Rowling is aware of distinctions in terminology between homosexual orientation and homosexual actions. She's lumping the spectrum together as "gay." Of course the media is playing it only one way.

There is subtle support in the text for Dumbledore having the orientation but none in the text that he acted on it since his disasterous infatuation at 17, and possibly not even during that infatuation.

Mark Brumley

There is subtle support in the text for Dumbledore having the orientation but none in the text that he acted on it since his disasterous infatuation at 17, and possibly not even during that infatuation.

I agree.

It would be helpful, but not entirely reparative, if Rowling told us that Dumbledore remained uninvolved as a result of his affliction. I doubt seriously that this will happen but it would be helpful.

Cristina A. Montes

Another problem I have is that the same article I mentioned JKR saying that the point of her books is to encourage readers to question authority.

Of course, I'm open to the possibility that JKR could have been misquoted; we know how the media are.

Nick Milne

Christina:

She was not misquoted (she really did say that) but rather selectively quoted. The "question authority" recommendation came in the specific context of being suspicious of the state and the press, rather than in a general sense, though few of the members of this latter group have seen fit to report this.

Mark Brumley

Just who says we should question authority, anyway?

Anonymous

Just who says we should question authority, anyway?

After Hillary Clinton is sworn in as president I am certain Mark Brumley will say that.

LJ

"Oh, yes, and please eat your vegetables as well."


Remember as well that,

you can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat.


All in all, it's just another brick in the wall . . .

Fr Alvin Kimel

Rowling's revelation raises some interesting questions about novelists and their relationship to their published work. See the two-part reflection by John Mark Reynolds: part 1 and part 2.

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