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New Fantastic Beasts 2 Featurette Is Really Bad at Discussing Dumbledore’s Sexuality

At this point, I genuinely don't see how the movie could get any worse.

jude law as dumbledore

At this point, we’re about as tired of writing angry articles about representation in Fantastic Beasts as you all are reading them. We’ve gone from “oh, Dumbledore’s sexuality really isn’t in this one,” to hinting that even saying whether Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship would be portrayed onscreen would be telling too much about the plot, to David Yates finally backtracking and admitting that yes, I guess it’s in the sequel.

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Plus, hero-who-wrote-badly-enough-to-see-herself-become-the-villain J.K. Rowling doesn’t care that fans are angry about Dumbledore’s sexuality.

We’ve even bickered with Ezra Miller about it. None of us wants to bicker with Ezra Miller.

We’re about a week out from the movie’s wide release, and of course, the marketing campaign is in full gear. Warner Bros. has released a featurette about young, hot Dumbledore (played by Jude Law, which I guess was how the monkey’s paw curled to get us a veritable troll doll to play Grindelwald). Once more, we’re here to talk sexuality, because it’s painfully clear that even if there is a kiss onscreen or Dumbledore says the words “I’m gay,” this is going to be a hot mess on the representation front.

At the one-minute mark, the talk in the featurette switches to center on Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald. Rowling says that he has a dark past in which he “flirted with Grindelwald’s ideology,” and that “the relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore is key to making Dumbledore Dumbledore.” A clip plays of Dumbledore seeing himself and Grindelwald in the Mirror of Erised as an unknown character tells him, “You were as close as brothers.”

“We were closer than brothers,” Dumbledore replies.

Hold up. I understand that this film isn’t set at a particularly LGBTQ+-friendly time, so Dumbledore can’t be as open about his sexuality, but we’re ship-teasing by talking brotherhood between the two men? And that’s the big declaration? Listen, not to be rude, but that is a vague enough line that it can still be argued to be platonic by those who do not know the extra-textual fun fact that Dumbledore is gay.

Also, I don’t get why we had to use the word “brothers.” There’s nothing romantic in that exchange; it just feels like it was written by a straight person who thinks that’s how LGBTQ+ people would refer to their clandestine affairs.

Rowling then quotes her own book, saying, “The teenager then received a wound from which he never recovered … never recovered,” and then smiling at the camera, as if that’s a statement with meaning. That’s basic queerbaiting 101; all she needed to do next was wink at the camera. Making vague statements like that, without explicitly including a romantic relationship, is baiting.

That is not evidence. That is not positive representation. It’s just the writer deciding to tease the audience by pretending like everyone knows a fact she threw out after all was said and done, and then decided to sideline in the next series she wrote.

Just to add the cherry on top of the terrible sundae that this entire situation is, we then hear from none other than Johnny Depp, who continues to haunt the franchise with his awfulness. “I am positive that there was a mutual respect of one another’s abilities, and I’m sure, especially with Grindelwald, a jealousy, maybe a bitterness of him having such love and respect.”

After listening to that, I am not entirely convinced that Depp knows that Grindelwald was romantically involved with Dumbledore. I know it’s a twenty-second soundbite, but it doesn’t sound good—not in the slightest. I mean, this is the guy who nixed a female villain for his Pirates franchise because it would be “redundant,” so it also wouldn’t surprise me if he’s just ignoring this fact altogether.

I’m continuously baffled and let down by this entire saga, though I don’t know why I even bothered to have hope in the first place. No one talking about the characters seems to have any idea of how to properly talk about sexuality without baiting or being vague. Dumbledore’s sexuality and his relationship with Grindelwald haven’t been spoilers since 2007. A better marketing campaign would be to try to hype up the inclusion of gay characters, but this franchise doesn’t necessarily care about being inclusive. It never really has.

At this point, I find myself doubting that the rep will ever go beyond teases and baiting such as this. Rowling has never quite found it in herself to care about fan concerns within the series, so I see no reason why she’ll change going forward.

(via YouTube; image: Warner Bros)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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