Like many, I’ve been following the reaction to Rowling’s “outing” of Albus Dumbledore with bemusement and some wonder. It seems to be a social event of some signficance and one worth thinking about from many angles. I expect I’ll be doing that for the next little while, because I can’t possibly contain the various tracks in a single blog post. A lot of questions arise from this event: the role of the author, ethics, education, parenting responsibilites, values, etc.
Maybe the best place to begin would be to make as clear as possible my understanding of what actually happened. Here’s how Publishers Weekly described it:
In answering a query about whether Professor Dumbledore had ever fallen in love, she said, “I always saw Dumbledore as gay,” causing screams and a standing ovation. Noting the reaction, she added, “If I had known it would make you so happy, I’d have announced it years ago.”
The setting was New York’s Carnegie Hall at the end of a week long book tour in the United States.
So is it a big deal? Even those who deny that it is seem to think it is. “Calm down!” is the excited imperio of frequent commentors on blogs where the issue is being discussed. Here’s a posting from The Lede, in the UK I believe:
Imperio! Everyone- Just calm down.
Rowling was asked a question; she answered. Writers develop full lives for their characters…not everything makes it onto the printed page. Don’t want to know that Arthur and Molly Weasley are into rubber? Don’t ask.
As far as “uncomfortable conversations” are concerned, if this small revelation causes a bustle in your hedgerow, buckle up for the future. Flip the situation. Parents can use Dumbledore as a perfect example of discretion and good behavior in the Romantic Arts.
— Posted by Loam
A bit preachy for someone who wants us to neutralize. Then Loam goes on to show precisely why some people think this is such a big deal.
Whether it provokes an emotional explosion in everybody’s chest, there seems to be no question but that people recognize that something significant took place. At least in terms of peoples hopes and fears.
Andrew Sullivan was ecstatic. It was a glory day for gays. Dumbledore is gay! Dumbledore is gay!
On the other hand, people who hold to what are sometimes derisively called traditional values are suffering angst.
Why? There seems to be a sense that a cultural barrier was breached, that a taboo was broken. Christians have argued for, what, ten years? about whether Potter is wholesome fare. We were wondering primarily about Rowling’s use of witchcraft, which I have felt was naive on Rowling’s part, maybe foolish, but, I thought, not sinister. Many Christians defended Rowling from the attacks of their naive brethren, arguing that she had been presenting the Christian worldview in her writings.
On the surface, at least, that argument would seem to be in tatters. Only in the Anglican communion (I don’t know how the Church of Scotland, of which Rowling was a member last I heard, relates to the Anglican communion) can one call oneself a traditional Christian and still support and defend homosexuality. Christianity has always made sexual purity and fidelity a central pillar of their ethical system. To engage in sex outside of the marriage covenant has always been forbidden by Christian teachings. So, it should be pointed out, has withholding sex inside the marriage covenant.
So the multitudes who hold to the Christian ethical tradition, especially the many, many Christians who defended Rowling, may well feel betrayed. The muultitudes of tolerators regard these Christians as hopelessly naive.
On the other hand, a growing number of global citizens believe that an individual should be able to do whatever he wants sexuality, usually as long as the partner consents. Christians regard this notion as hopelessly naive and the means to a cultural meltdown. They don’t want their children left unprotected in a world that lives that way, feeling that they will be placed in horrible positions.
In a preceding blog, I wrote about grammar and the war between nature and convention. Grammar is an intellectual area where this war occurs. The conflict over homosexuality is the crucial moral area. If sexuality is defined only by conventions, then nobody has the right to deny the rights of homosexuals. On the other hand, if sexuality is defined by nature, then nature itself may well deny them these rights.
Rowling has come down determinedly and decisively on the side of what she calls tolerance.
This is a very big deal.