In news which is disappointing but sadly not surprising to many, director David Yates has officially confirmed that Jude Law’s youthful Professor Dumbledore will be kept in the closet for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel. For those who were hoping that this might finally be a rare opportunity to see a major character in an even more major franchise be openly gay, this is sure to come as a bit of a blow.
Yates provided the usual response for these sorts of situations when asked, saying that Dumbledore’s sexuality won’t be dealt with “explicitly,” which means it won’t be dealt with at all. He claims it’s okay, though, because “all the fans” already know about Dumbledore being homosexual, and it’s not like his movies is going to say the character is not gay, so it’s all okay, right?
Gay characters in blockbuster films, of course, have been far and few between. Last year, Disney made headlines when it was announced that Le Fou would be gay in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake, and while Josh Gad’s version of the character was certainly a hit with audiences (not to mention more sympathetic than Gaston’s bumbling assistant was in the original animated classic), he was only overtly homosexual on screen for a grand total of about seven seconds. Similarly, the critically acclaimed Star Trek reboot franchise also made the news when it got out that Sulu would be seen with a life partner, but again, this was also displayed on screen extremely briefly (and made original Sulu actor George Takei oddly sour for some reason). Heck, the freaking Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins addressed the issue of homosexuality in a more straightforward manner than most major film tentpoles that attempt to do so do, introducing a same sex couple who were also–gasp–parents as well (granted, they were also dolls, but I digress).
The knee-jerk reaction in these circumstances that the best way to make a big deal about these things isn’t to make a big deal about it. In other words, it’s more respectful to not make an “announcement” about a character being gay because to do otherwise would be to suggest that them being homosexual is somehow controversial. The logic there is sound on paper, I suppose, yet representation matters, regardless of how many times it’s labeled by others as “pandering.” And I have a feeling there would’ve been many a gay viewer who would’ve been happen to walk into a movie theater, see a revered character like Dumbledore not be ashamed of his sexuality, and be able to happily say to themselves “he’s like me.”
Of course, Rowling herself took the “coward’s way out” with Dumbledore, by keeping the character in the closet before making a proclamation that the character was gay several months after the final book in her series was published. But that was also ten years ago, before same sex marriage was legal in the states, which gave her some form of an explanation for doing so, even if it wasn’t an excuse. And if audiences aren’t ready for an openly gay Dumbledore now, when exactly will they be?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 will open everywhere in a perfectly sexually ambiguous way this Thanksgiving.