Sexualized Saturdays: Dumbledore

So Dumbledore’s gay. Enough said, right? Yeah, not really. J. K. Rowling’s proclamation has been met with mixed reactions. There are those that love it, those that hate it, and those who refuse to see it as canon regardless of love or hate. The best I can figure about the canon thing is that some people, like this guy here, believe that since the story is completed, anything J. K. Rowling says about the characters is not fact within the universe, unless it was stated before the release of the last book. One argument behind this is fanfiction. But I digress, as this post isn’t about the validity of J. K. Rowling’s words or not; it is about Dumbledore and his sexuality, but it’s also about the reactions to it.

It should come as no surprise that the outrage of certain groups—mostly Christian ones—made itself heard after Dumbledore’s outing. I’ve even heard people around me say that they wouldn’t mind Dumbledore being gay if it didn’t make his relationship with Harry weird, as if a homosexual man can’t possibly have a fatherly relationship with a child without pedophilia being involved somehow. Because as we all know everywhere, not being heterosexual makes people attracted to minors. I’m sure there’s some underlining stereotype cemented into the sub-consciousness of massive amounts of people everywhere fueling this collective thought.

And being someone who has been accused of pedophilia for being something other than straight, yeah, I have some issues with this mindset.

So many things just don’t add up when calling someone a pedophile for being gay, especially because -philias and sexualities are two very separate things that do not impact each other. By this logic, a straight woman shouldn’t be allowed around her male children because she might touch them. And we shouldn’t have male coaches for middle-school girls’ basketball teams.

J. K. Rowling actually called attention to this in Deathly Hallows during Rita Skeeter’s articles. The point of that was to show how ridiculous it was.

…This post is slowly turning into a rant.

Also surrounding this controversy is the religion behind it. So many Christians have come out saying they wished J. K. Rowling never said that because it’s damaging, or that they’re happy she said it because it further proves that the books are against God. Here’s a quote I found on Wikipedia by a Berit Kjos:

“My first response was, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ because this helps us show others that these books should not be used in the churches to illustrate Christianity. Because Dumbledore has been revealed as a homosexual, it helps me communicate my message. It helps Christians who are concerned about the use of Harry Potter books in churches, because it makes it very clear that these books are not intended to be Christian, that Rowling isn’t speaking as a Christian. She has introduced values that are contrary to the Biblical message.”

Apparently now the very act of being gay is wrong. Reading the books, I can’t seem to find one single moment in which Dumbledore acted out on his attractions to other men or engaged in anything sexual. He’s a pretty chaste guy. Arguments like this enforce the idea that gay people shouldn’t even exist, because by existing they’re a bad influence, regardless of whether or not they engage their desires.

A John Granger commented this:

“The media presentation of the event as Ms. Rowling’s endorsement of homosexuality and an anti-faith agenda was straight from Rita Skeeter’s notebook and part of their endless campaign to convince the public that Ms. Rowling is the enemy of their enemy, namely, the Church; the anguished and disappointed response of many Christian readers to these reports was also according to Culture War formula and in keeping with a hyper-extended understanding of the word gay. ‘Dumbledore is gay’ no more makes the books an invitation to homosexuality or contrary to orthodox Christian belief than Sorcerer’s Stone made them a ‘gateway to the occult.’”

Other Christians were also quick to argue that Dumbledore being gay kept in line with Christian doctrine, because the relationship between him and Grindlewald had bad results.

If J. K. Rowling had come out and said that she always thought of McGonagall as straight, I assure you, no one would say anything, because to too many people being straight is normal. No one questions the other professors’ involvement with the students based on their sexuality, so it makes no sense for them to question Dumbledore’s.

This kind of outrage and reaction just makes me wish for more homosexual characters in fiction. I personally never really liked Dumbledore to begin with, but yeah, fiction is heavily dominated by heterosexual protagonists, and for such a long time gay characters were simply stereotypes. What makes me love Dumbledore in this regard is that he was written first and foremost as a person, because that’s what everyone is despite their sexuality.

Fanfiction Fridays: Kiss or Kill by Mortalus

Yes, the world of fanfiction certainly has a lot to offer, once one finally succeeds in finding a good fic. But every once in a while, a surprisingly genius one rears its head. Kiss or Killby Mortalus is good all the way around, from the dialogue to subtle humor to plot and character development. In many ways, it does a better job of that than the books it’s based upon. I have very little negative to say about this one, so thus I am reduced to giving it my undying praise.

Mortalus posted Kiss or Kill seven years ago, sometime after the release of the fifth book, and finished updating the story just over a month later. Twenty-seven chapters long, and clocking in over one-hundred thousand words, it gives quite a lot to discuss. Kiss or Kill is about the blossoming romance between one Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. Now, since I know some of you immediately thought of the age difference the moment you read that, don’t worry. The fic takes place during Harry’s sixth year, and I am pleased to inform you that Tom is also sixteen in this. How, you may ask. Well, the answer is simple: time travel.

It may surprise many of you to know that I am not a fan of time travel stories, simply because I find that most don’t have a good explanation for what’s happening and instead creates a paradox. This is the same for actual movies, TV shows, books, etc., but most time travel fanfiction is just as bad, if not worse in explaining. One that thing that I notice fanfiction lacks more often than not are the characters giving an emotional response to what has happened outside of:

Then, following that reaction, they continue on their merry way.

Kiss or Kill doesn’t do this. The whole story centers on the time travel aspect, instead of using it as a contrived convenience to make the characters closer in age, and a large portion of the story is sacrificed to hiding the main character’s identity and coming to terms with his new reality.

Another thing that sets Mortalus’s work apart from other Harry Potter time travel fics is that Harry does not get sent back to the past. Off the top of my head, I can name half a dozen fics involving Harry going back in time, seducing Tom, and subsequently making him good. In Kiss or Kill, Tom comes to the future, and he doesn’t become good, so much as he stops going down the path of evil. There is even a scene where Tom tells Harry that he’s never going to stop studying the Dark Arts, to which Harry responds that he’ll just make sure Tom doesn’t drown himself in it. And Tom is not a good person in this fic. By this point in his life, he’s already opened the chamber of secrets and committed murder, but at the story’s end, he’s definitely not a bad person either.

I’m not really a fan of reading about Harry in Harry Potter fics, but this one got me. The building relationship between Tom and Harry is slow and believable, starting with them being friends before moving onto lovers. And hell if these two don’t have obstacles they need to overcome in order to make this relationship work.

Furthermore, returning to the whole paradox-time-travel issue that arises, Mortalus gives a pretty good explanation. Because Tom’s coming to the future would inevitably change the course of history, time rights itself by splitting Tom in two, or more accurately, making a copy of Tom. One Tom stays in the past and grows up to be Lord Voldemort, and the other gets sent to the future.

Upon Tom’s arrival in the present, Dumbledore is none too pleased, but he eventually makes the decision to keep Tom at Hogwarts, knowing that Tom will willingly stay due to everything Hogwarts has to offer. It’s almost like an invisible cage. Dumbledore does this as much for everyone’s safety as well as Tom’s. Since Voldemort’s survival doesn’t depend on Tom’s, Tom would have no use to him outside a means to become even more powerful, which is something Voldemort won’t hesitate to do, even if it means killing him.

And this is also her angry face.

Thus, Dumbledore tries to keep his identity hidden, and the only people who know who Tom really is beside him are Harry, Ginny, McGongagall, and Hagrid. Harry is of course instructed by Dumbledore to keep an eye on Tom, and Tom in turn to keep Harry safe, as Dumbledore makes it clear that he’ll turn Tom over to the Dementors should something happen to Harry. And from here on, our relationship and shenanigans ensue.

One aspect that I found in Kiss or Kill that I never have in any other time travel story is the culture difference. Tom is from the forties, and he has the mindset of someone from the forties. His lack of knowledge pertaining to things that we knew in the nineties and simple changes in culture result is some good humor. The first time Tom walks through the halls with Dumbledore, he sees a girl wearing a backpack and pants, and this exchange occurs between the two:

“That girl is wearing trousers!” Tom exclaimed loudly, stopping and pointing. The girl looked at him in astonishment. “And what is that thing on her back?” he asked, indicating the large bag she had strapped over both shoulders. At this point, Dumbledore grabbed Tom’s arm to drag him along and tipped his wizard’s hat to the girl as they walked quickly by, Tom staring at her until she hastily turned the corner, looking back at him in alarm.

“Please try to refrain from pointing and speaking until we reach my office.”

“Yes, sir, but—”

“Hush.” Ch. 6

I particularly love when Tom pulls out a cigarette in front of Hermione and she gives him a lecture on the dangers of smoking. Tom, who had been unaware that cigarettes can kill, becomes very concerned for his health. It’s also things like these that start to tip people off to him not being who he says he is.

But the parts between Tom and Dumbledore are some of the best, and they do a remarkably good job of making Dumbledore a more likeable character who doesn’t unjustly favor the Gryffindors over the Slytherins. It really develops the relationship between the two, and in the end, Dumbledore is almost like a father figure to him.

There isn’t too much more I can talk about without giving anything else away. So if you want to know the story, check it out here.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2… kinda.

Well, the day has finally come. The last of the Harry Potter movies has been made, and with its release in theaters all the hardcore fans can enjoy the epicness of witnessing the conclusion of such a beloved story while simultaneously crying that it’s over. Harry Potter has been a huge part of my life for years now. I was about twelve when I read the first three books, and now ten years later, sitting in the theater for the final movie, I feel as though my childhood has come to an end with the franchise. Harry Potter is someone I grew up with, and he’s been such a huge part of my life, so this was also a depressing day for me. I know it sounds sad, but I have to wonder what I’m going to do with my life now that this is over… well, there’s always PotterMore and fanfiction.

So I went to see the movie with my good friend Tsunderin two days after the release. Normally, I go to the midnight showings, but something about me has always procrastinated anything involving Deathly Hallows. I’m the kind of person who can read all the books in the course of two or three days, but it took me a week and a half to read the last one my first time through. The obnoxious spoilers I had shoved on me beforehand didn’t help. Mostly, even though I suspected it was going to happen since Goblet of Fire, I didn’t want to see Snape die. That was the first chapter I read in the last book, because I refused to believe it to be true, and when I went back and read normally, I had to keep telling myself that the words on the page would change and Snape would live in order to make it to the very end.

But alas, this review is about the movie and not my broken heart for my all-time favorite character. But as Snape is so plot essential, I guess I’ll get to talk about him for a bit too in this review.

So this movie picks up right where Part 1 left off. Voldemort has the Elder Wand and Harry has just buried Dobby. Thus, he and his two mates continue on to find the last remaining Horcruxes and destroy them.

All in all, this movie was pretty epic. I do not, however, think it can stand by itself as a movie. It’s called Part 2 for a reason, and I would have enjoyed it much better had I watched the first half again before going to the theater. Pretty much, Deathly Hallows ended up being five hours long, so they just decided to slice it right down the middle. Part 1 doesn’t really end, and Part 2 doesn’t really start, if that makes sense.

I’m not calling them bad movies, not by any stretch. Deathly Hallows would have suffered immensely had it been any shorter, and sitting in a theater for both halves at once would have been too much. All I’m saying is that each half absolutely needs the other.

Part 2 is fairly fast paced once our favorite trio makes it back to Hogwarts, though I wouldn’t call what happened beforehand slow. They return, and then they battle… and that’s pretty much it. It’s like watching a two hour long climax. I was reminded of the battle in the last Lord of the Rings movie. You know, the one that never ended, kind of like the Dark of the Moon fight now that I think about it. The difference being that the Deathly Hallow’s battle seemed more broken up and didn’t run like one great big scene. Many things divided it, as it needed to be divided to allow the audience a moment’s rest, such as Snape’s memories and the Ghost of Ravenclaw.

You know, I’m not really sure where I should go with this post. You see, I feel as though I do better talking about things I hate. That said, I can find something to hate in anything. I loved Thor, but all I did was rant at that movie. This isn’t really the case with Deathly Hallows. I’m pretty content with how everything turned out. If there’s one thing that bothered me—other than Snape dying, but I’d have been pissed if he lived, so that’s a moot point—I would say Bellatrix’s duel with Mrs. Weasley. Julie Walters and Helen Bonham Carter are superb, but I expected more from their fight. In the book, it was so epic that even Voldemort stopped killing people to watch. Everyone stared as Mrs. Weasley ripped into Bellatrix and screamed in all the rage caps lock can muster, “YOU BITCH!” In the movie, it’s kind of like, “oh, time to kill Bella.” It still earned a round of applause from the audience, but still…

Oh, side note, I liked how Lupin was not the unlikable douchebag he becomes in the book. It made his death much more saddening. I’ve never really supported Lupin and Tonks, but I really liked the whole hand thing the director did with them. Unfortunately, Lupin’s, Tonk’s, and so many other deaths happened right after Snape’s. So much time was spent with Snape, and he’s the one that matters the most out of all the dead people, that when the movie cuts away to show everyone else, the audience doesn’t really get an appropriate amount of time to mourn him. I suppose when we see his memories that would be a great time to burst into tears, but his death overrode everyone else’s. So I was sitting there like, “Don’t care about Fred even though I did in the book. I only care about Snape at this point.”

Another thing with Snape, Harry doesn’t use his true loyalty to mock Voldemort as he does in the book. That’s not really important; I just liked that scene. And speaking of things that were cut out, Kreacher didn’t lead a house-elf rebellion in the name of Regulus Black. Oh, well. The movies are long enough as it is, and we can’t have everything. Though at the very least, they could’ve let Harry repair his original wand.

By the way, Harry, yes, you coming back to life was just as retarded on screen as it was in prose. But unlike many authors who pull this tripe, J. K. Rowling at least took the time to allow it to make sense with the rest of the story. Basically, there’s a reason for it other than Harry is just special.

The ending is a really big letdown, but it was in the book, too. I thought Albus Severus Potter was cute, but the whole future scene just doesn’t seem to work. And it came across even poorer on screen than it did in the book. I thought that it was more like a pretty bow wrapping up the story in a Happily-Ever-After than it was an epilogue (well, they do deserve a happy ending, considering everything else they went through). At the very least, they could have tried to make the characters look older, and they did to a small extent, but not nineteen years older. Not old enough to have children already at Hogwarts.

Oh, I know something that pissed me off to no end in this movie that I can rage at. This is something that pissed me off in the books, too, and while the movies on occasion lessoned my rage, they enhanced it in other parts.

The treatment of the Slytherin House.

Before anyone rolls their eyes, thinking that I identify as Slytherin or that I just love it because I secretly want to bone Snape and Draco and kick puppies on my spare time, let me just say that I’m a Hufflepuff. And I could rant on Hufflepuff’s portrayal as well, but I’ll do that later.

Throughout the books and movies, the Slytherin House has been constantly demonized. People who go into it are automatically dismissed as evil little Death Eaters for no other reason than what a talking hat said. Granted, there are founded reasons to the preconception, but even the good Slytherin’s are also ostracized and do something bad at some point in their lives. Slytherin is a House where people “make their true friends,” but such a thing is never shown. I actually loved the scene in the sixth movie between Pansy Parkinson and Draco on the train. Because her asking him with genuine concern whether or not he was all right finally made a Slytherin relatable on a small level and showed that they are also capable of being people.

But no one else sees them as people. They see them as evil blemishes on the world. When McGonagall orders the Slytherins to be locked in the dungeon and the other houses cheer? Bitch please. Yeah, let’s lock all the Slytherins up because Pansy Parkinson said something stupid and predictable. Sorry, first and second years, you dared to not only get an education, but to exist as well! Shame on you!

Is it any wonder why they all grow up to be Death Eaters, besides parental ties? I mean, there’s certainly nothing for them on the side of light but scorn. One could even argue that this is one of the reasons that prompted Snape originally to join Voldemort. He was a Slytherin who liked the Dark Arts. Does either of those things make a person evil? Well, apparently it does to the rest of the population. Not only was Snape picked on for being Lily’s friend, he’s was scorned for having interests of his own that did not fit into cultural norms. The world of Harry Potter seems divided into two sides, good people who study defense of dark magic, and evil people who cast dark magic. There’s no social middle ground for people who simply like learning about dark magic. They’re evil. Plain and simple.

And if one can argue that the Slytherins are written off as disgraceful, they can certainly claim that Gryffindor is shoved up on a pedestal and praised more than it deserves to be. Now, Gryffindor does provide our protagonists, and Slytherin the antagonists, so to an extent, yes, we should side with more with the Gryffindors—you know, this is turning more into a review of the series as a whole, which I feel is appropriate now that it’s at its end, but I doubt I’ll be able to talk about everything I want to regardless, because there’s just so much—but it’s just so poorly executed that I can’t help getting upset. Why are the Gryffindors good? Well, they’re brave and they wear red. Why are the Slytherins so bad? Because they just are.

Again, I think this ties back to social stipulations. The Wizarding World is by far a more biased and bigoted place than our own. At the very least, more racist. I mean, think of the goblins. And even those who stand for Muggle rights still think that they’re better than the Muggles (let’s just mind-rape them all! Obliviate!) So the Slytherin House producing the vast majority of bad wizards the world has ever seen and being shunned as a House of evil makes sense within the context of the story. The problem here arises when we, the audience, are meant to scorn Slytherin for everything despite the circumstances and worship Gryffindor. Tell me, does Neville really earn those ten extra points in Philosopher’s Stone, or is it just a potshot so Gryffindor can win the House Cup? Is Dumbledore justified in not expelling Sirius Black when Snape almost gets eaten by a werewolf? Does Snape deserve to be threatened with expulsion for being the victim of such a horrible prank while Sirius doesn’t suffer any consequences to speak of? I mean, the only time Dumbledore gives a shit about Draco is when Dumbledore’s about to die.

This sort of opinionated mindset applies to all four Houses. Ravenclaw is nonexistent with the exception of Luna Lovegood, Cho Chang, and a quickly tacked on Horcrux. Hagrid calls Hufflepuff a House of dunderheads in Philosopher’s Stone and the idea sticks throughout the remainder of the series. Well, we have a good and an evil House, so I guess we need a smart and a dumb House to show diversity.

I have to wonder why the Hufflepuffs and the Slytherins aren’t the world’s biggest BBFs. They certainly have a lot in common, and it wouldn’t be hard for the students to connect with each other on an emotional level, considering the negativity they have to put up with from the rest of society. Like Slytherins, who are never shown as “true friends,” the Hufflepuffs are never shown as the hardworking, just, and loyal people the Sorting Hat says they are. So the basis of a friendship is there—but no! The Hufflepuffs are always eagerly lining up behind Gryffindor and Ravenclaw to applaud widely whenever something awful befalls the Slytherin House.

And “lining up behind” is exactly what they do, both Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Even in the movies, both these Houses are shunted behind the other two. They exist so Hogwarts can have four Houses. No other reason. It’s a shame that they’re never properly explored. And this doesn’t just apply to the books and movies, but to any and all merchandise as well. Hell, even my Harry Potter Lego set—which is awesome, by the way—only has Gryffindor and Slytherin.

This seems like a bad marketing strategy, since a lot of people identify as Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. I myself have a lot of pride for my House, despite Hufflepuff not being real.

The obvious imbalance between the four Houses is what detracts from the series the most. Yes, Gryffindor needs more time with the audience, because that’s where Harry is, but to the exclusion of the other Houses? This is such an intricate world, and we want to explore it.

With the introduction of Luna, or even Cho Chang, we could’ve learned so much more about Ravenclaw than we did. With the introduction of Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire, and the consequences of his death in Order of the Phoenix, we could’ve learned so much more about Hufflepuff. And this one infuriates me quite a bit. Harry was not Cedric’s friend, or at the very least not a close friend. They were acquaintances. Cedric was the kind of character to get along with a lot of people, so it would make sense that he was close to someone other than Cho. Then, in Order of the Phoenix, Harry starts bitching that his fellow students only want to know what happened because they’re curious, and that’s how everyone else is described. Curious. I just wanted a Hufflepuff to punch Harry in the face. I’m sure witnessing a murder is tragic, but the people Cedric was close to deserve to know the truth.

Imagine that your friend is murdered, and someone else who wasn’t close to him or her knew how everything went down and refused to tell you anything. Was it painful? Was it quick? Did your friend suffer? You wouldn’t know. Neither do the Hufflepuffs, and we get nothing from them regarding Cedric’s death.

I could go on for hours on this topic alone, so let’s move on.

Harry Potter offers a wide variety of characters, but for the length of the books, it only really explores those in Gryffindor. I maintain that the biggest problems arise from a lack of development in Slytherin. An audience doesn’t need to agree with the antagonists, but it still needs to understand their drives.

Draco Malfoy, for instance, remains a two-dimensional bully until Half Blood Prince, when finally the Malfoys are given an identifiable motivation—that being an overwhelming love for their family. Narcissa was just as excellent in the movies as she was in the books, and surprisingly we see more of it in the movies. In the film adaptation of Deathly Hallows, she gets her son and she gets out—by the way, I love the Voldemort hug and the look or pure misery on Draco’s face during it—and it shows that the Malfoys are more loyal to family than they are to the Death Eaters. This makes them a wildcard, since they’ll help whichever side they need to, light or dark, in order to keep their son safe, which makes me wonder why the hell Lucius Malfoy looks back on the final battle longingly in the movie. That did not happen in the book. He was not torn between Voldemort and his son. The moment Draco fell into danger, he wanted out. The Malfoys are an interesting group. It just took so long to get to them. The payoff in this case, however, was well worth it.

If only the payoff with Voldemort could have been just as good…

He’s the main antagonist, but he’s a flat, clichéd villain. He’s not compelling in the slightest, up to the very end, and the movies showed no more insight into him than the books did. What’s his motivation? I guess it’s to be a Mudblood-hating, murderous douchebag who wants to live forever, just like every other villain in every other story. Nothing sets him apart as unique in his personality. Nothing. J. K. Rowling even stated that he was always evil.

And thus shattered the suspension of disbelief.

People aren’t born evil. They’re not, and the majority of the fanbase cannot connect to Voldemort on the mere grounds that he’s a psychopath (or a sociopath, not sure what the difference is). Having a psychopathic villain is not a crime when writing a novel, let me make that clear. The problem in this instant is that Voldemort had so much background and potential to be a well-rounded character, and he’s not. He grows up in a Muggle orphanage, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s abused or neglected there, and on top of that he has this magical power that he cannot control. Moreover, he doesn’t have the mentality to control it or use it wisely. He’s arguably such a powerful wizard because he withdrew into himself as a child and focused on harnessing this power and letting it grow. Then Dumbledore comes along and gives him this hope that he’s not alone, that there’s a wonderful world out there for people like him, and Voldemort opens up to Dumbledore. He doesn’t trust anyone before Dumbledore comes, and then in a moment of excitement he spills his soul out to a man he hardly knows, and Dumbledore betrays that trust. He treats Voldemort as an evil burden who needs to be watched, rather than as a child with severe problems who needs help.

In a way, Dumbledore is just as responsible for the rise of Voldemort as he is for Grindlewald. Unfortunately, we’re not supposed to sympathize with Voldemort on any level despite the above, because he’s presented as someone who’s simply evil.

Like I said, there’s so much more to talk about, but this review’s long enough as it is, and my hands hurt. In the end, I think I’m just disappointed. Lock the Slytherins in the dungeon, indeed.