Dumbledore and the Dark Arts of Queer-Baiting

On June 11th 2019, the cast members of Harry Potter re-united at the Universal Studios Resort in Orlando while fans, including myself, experienced a nostalgic trip down memory lane, reflecting upon the past and future of these beloved films.

Whilst reflecting, a specific topic inevitably stands out, that must be discussed in order to begin painting a picture of the direction in which this franchise is hopefully headed, and that topic is queer representation. Whether you’ve grown up with these powerful wizards, following each of their steps closely through the years, or have casually enjoyed the magical stories during your Christmas holiday, cosied up by the fireplace, it is an undeniable statement that the Harry Potter stories have become an inseparable part of today’s culture and media. So, when in 2007 during a press event, the author and impeccable genius behind this magical world J.K.Rowling casually announced to the world that Albus Dumbledore, the mightiest wizard in history, is gay, the fandom and the world quietly gasped in amazement. 

It was an important occurrence – not only to be the first character of queer representation in the franchise, but also because of the immensely high status this text possesses on a cultural level, and therefore the sizeable effect this would have.

Professor Albus Dumbledore, a figure of so much power, wisdom and respect, part of one of the most treasured pieces of fiction, to also happen to be queer – it was absolutely a monumental step in the right direction for LGBT representation.

The news became even better when the release of Fantastic Beasts was announced: a 6-part prequel story line to the original Harry Potter universe, where the inner turmoil of Albus Dumbledore and the tragic love of his life Gellert Grindelwald would play a crucial role in the plot line. However, we still have yet to see that fully unfold on the big screen.

Instead, what we are experiencing currently with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is a lot of ambiguity and unclear symbolism on the big screen and a lot of theorising and speculation off screen and social media. J.K. Rowling, along with the producers, screenwriters and directors of these films, promised the fans and viewers LGBT representation and hinted towards specific plot moments, however, we never actually see any of that in the final product.

It can be argued that this is yet another example of queer-baiting: empty promises of LGBT representation to only give false hope to fans and attract them to see the movie, without ever giving them what was promised. With three more movies remaining in the Fantastic Beasts franchise and fans already expressing their disappointment with the evident queer-baiting, the hope remains that these errors will be fixed and will we finally see LGBT representation in Albus Dumbledore’s character and an accurate depiction of a queer love-story (even if tragic).

© Warner Bros. Pictures

But why is this character being part of the queer community so important to the fandom and society in general? Why do we need to see LGBT figures on screen? The answer is quite simple: in order for sexual and gender equality to be achieved, the different shades of the spectrum have to be completely normalised first. And since the media is one of the main pillars of today’s culture and one of the main factors in constructing societal norms and beliefs, depicting LGBT characters and queer love stories has an immensely positive effect on shaping the attitudes towards the queer community. Furthermore, it has an even larger effect on the viewers who can relate to and can recognise themselves within these characters and stories.

The more regularly the audience is exposed to fictional depictions of queer love and characters, the more accepting and open-minded it will become. In order for ideologies to shift, the media needs to start straying away from hetero-normativity and instead include more and more queer voices that yearn to be heard.

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