If this were a tabloid newspaper from the heady days of screaming red tops, a headline dedicated to this story might read The HATE CRIMES Of Grindelwald, with an article inviting outrage at the very idea that a movie could erase a character’s identity out of fear of offense. In fact, even though it’s 2018 and there’s nothing to suggest that the assumptions around Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald’s plans for Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality are wholly correct, there’s a good bit of teeth gnashing out there already.
This all stems from an interview with director David Yates, who directly addressed the question that has hung around the film ever since it was revealed that both Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald were to be included. He was asked by EW.com whether the upcoming sequel would deal with JK Rowling’s revelation that the pair were gay and in love in their youth.
His response has upset a lot of people:
“Not explicitly. But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.”
Yates also revealed a little more of the film’s portrayal of the character:
“He’s a maverick and a rebel and he’s an inspiring teacher at Hogwarts. He’s witty and has a bit of edge. He’s not this elder statesman. He’s a really kinetic guy. And opposite Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, they make an incredible pairing.”
All of that pales into insignificance next to the key missing detail, particularly as this would have offered an opportunity for a mainstream family movie to make a positive strike for representation. Sure, there’s an argument to say that normalisation of his sexuality means it doesn’t need to be explored explicitly, but the reality is that the romantic dynamic between the two – which should predate their clash in this movie (unless Dumbledore is somehow seduced by the repugnant war crimes of a magical Hitler) – adds to the story in a hugely poignant way.
So why avoid talking about it? It doesn’t matter if “everyone knows” or not. Everyone knows Dumbledore is a wizard too, but that wouldn’t justify leaving it out: it’s JUST as definitive as his sexuality to a story about his clash with an evil wizard. The idea of good versus evil is compelling, but it’s not as compelling as the clash between good and evil when the two bloody LOVE each other, is it?
And though JK Rowling has waded in to offer her thoughts on the reaction to Yates’ interview (following up her claims that this five part story will reveal details slowly), it’s still not right.
The problem, though, is that drip-feeding this story contradicts how Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay and in love with Grindelwald:
“I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.”
Those are the key words: “when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was”. In the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Grindelwald has ALREADY shown what he is, he’s already evil and he’s already on the path to being the supervillain Dumbledore is forced to take down. So by Rowling’s own logic, Dumbledore is already in love with him (which makes sense, because AGAIN, he wouldn’t fall in love with a despotic murderer), and though he could be closeted, the fact that she chose to reveal his homosexuality before telling this story means the very act of closeting him is redundant.
He can hide his identity from other characters (though that would suggest that the magical community is just as bigoted as the real world, which would be a ruinous revelation), but he can’t hide it from an audience who already knows. So why bother?
That’s exactly the foundation for people questioning the film’s motives in hiding the detail. There’s no call at all for the abuse Rowling and Yates are getting and will continue to, but the frustration – and the accusation of cowardice – isn’t misplaced.
Let’s just hope there’s actually a good reason.