J.K. Rowling was one of the most influential people of my childhood.
The Harry Potter books shaped my life. I was obsessed, and I still am at 21. But I am mature enough to realize there are problematic aspects. And most importantly, I am mature enough to understand that while I owe J.K. Rowling a lot, I don’t owe her my unconditional love.
Or my integrity.
I disagree with many of her choices and I don’t support many of the things she has said and done in the past ten years.
In October 2007, three months after the last book in the series came out, Rowling revealed during the American press tour of The Deathly Hallows that Albus Dumbledore, the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay. This revelation came a little too late, unfortunately, as the character was already deceased.
JKR said she always knew in her mind that Dumbledore was homosexual and in love with his friend-turned-rival Gellert Grindelwald and that it was the “great tragedy” of his life. This came as a shock to most people, as there had been no indication in the books to support this claim.
Many thought she made it up for publicity. Many others found it a great step for the normalization of LGBTQ+, especially in 2007, when there wasn’t a lot of representation. More conservative people condemned JKR altogether for even daring to mention that one of her characters might have been homosexual, despite the fact that this was of no consequence in the books.
Rowling later stated that Dumbledore never loved anybody else after Grindelwald and lived the rest of his “celibate and bookish life” – the remaining 100+ years – as asexual.
This kind of sounded like a justification of her previous claim. As if to say, “yes, he was gay, but he only had feelings. He didn’t actually engage in sexual activities with anyone. Don’t worry, children at Hogwarts were safe from a would-be older gay predator.”
Again, this was certainly well before the LGBTQ+ community was more universally accepted, let alone respected. It was a bold move for her to out Dumbledore, but it was simply too little and too late. She chose to play it safe, only saying it after the book’s release and after the character’s death.
I don’t know if JKR actually planned for Dumbledore to be gay all along or if she came up with it last minute. I understand that it might have been her publisher’s order to erase it from the narrative.
I personally don’t think that was the case.
Dear old J.K. was never a paladin for the oppressed. She has always played it safe. She chose to use her initials instead of her full name because this way, ‘people’ wouldn’t know she was a woman right away. She also claims that she has played with the idea of writing the books from Hermione’s perspective, but then didn’t because ‘people’ wouldn’t be interested in reading about a girl having adventures.
She often blames others for her choices.
In the same way, “it’s a book for children” is not a valid excuse for not including a gay character. Homosexuality should not be taboo or something that needs to be censored. By the time the later books were published, some of the films were also out and Harry Potter was a global phenomenon. She probably had the power to stand up to whatever ‘people’ pressured her not to include gay Dumbledore.
This debate recently sparked up again when it was announced that a younger Dumbledore would have a big role in the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans were anticipating to see potential hints at the relationship between Dumbledore/Grindelwald or, at least, Dumbledore’s feelings.
But director David Yates crushed their hopes when he stated in an interview that Dumbledore would not be explicitly gay in the upcoming film. LGBTQ+ fans and allies were enraged to hear about this and the backlash fell on JK Rowling since she is obviously the owner of the material and also serves as the screenwriter. She had a pretty good response to the hate she was receiving on Twitter:
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 31, 2018
It’s not over. Feminists across the world were infuriated when JKR defended Johnny Depp and supported his casting in Fantastic Beasts, despite the domestic violence allegations against him.
A lot of longtime HP fans also lost their faith in the author when the script for Cursed Child, the 8th story in the saga, came out. Most people were disappointed by the lack of consistency and bad characterization, not to mention the plot holes.
I no longer think of J.K. Rowling as one of my idols, and it’s okay.
It doesn’t mean I have to stop liking the books that helped make me the person I am. I can still respect her as a person, and I certainly do not send her hate on social media.
I actually unfollowed her and simply distanced myself. I’ve stopped supporting her and I won’t buy her next book or pay to see the next movie.
It’s as simple as that.