NYT cultural critic Edward Rothstein finally catches up to J.K. Rowling‘s revelations about Dumbledore’s sexuality, and authorial intentions be damned: “It is possible that Ms. Rowling may be mistaken about her own character,” Rothstein argues. “There seems to be no compelling reason within the books for her after-the-fact assertion. Of course it would not be inconsistent for Dumbledore to be gay, but the books’ accounts certainly don’t make it necessary.”
If you’ll recall, the first option in our poll about the news was “I don’t care what Rowling says—not Albus!” And that’s pretty much what we’re dealing with here:
“Ms. Rowling quite consciously makes Dumbledore a flawed, more human wizard than [Merlin or Gandalf],” Rothstein argues, “but now goes too far. There is something alien about the idea of a mature Dumbledore being called gay or, for that matter, being in love at all.”
“Alien” in this context sure seems a lot like a synonym for “icky.” I mean, I’ll give some credit to the argument that the tragedy that drives Dumbledore’s adult life isn’t falling in love with a boy who turned out to be the wizard equivalent of a fascist, but falling in love with the wizard equivalent of fascism, but to suggest that Dumbledore’s reaction was implausible if this were really about sex? As others have pointed out over the last week, Dumbledore’s adult life—minus the cosmic battle of good and evil, of course—fits perfectly within an all-too-conventional stereotype of the “doomed homosexual” who spends his life denying himself because he was caught out in one tentative relationship in his youth and/or it ended badly.
Frankly, it would all be a lot more interesting if Grindelwald and Dumbledore had been more explicitly cast in the mold of Leopold and Loeb, and that was the tragedy Albus regretted all his life.