So this article pops up in front of me today. Why Dumbledore must not be the token gay person in Fantastic Beasts.
Must not. Interesting choice of words, isn’t it?
If I am forced to be honest, I am one of those nerds who will happily spend hours creating whole universes, or trying to figure out the real-world implications of a change in history, society or culture. The question of how homosexuals fit into wizard society is an interesting one, well worthy of a reasoned debate. Do they have full civil rights, such as they are in a society that isn’t big on granting civil rights to anyone? Are they tolerated, as long as they produce children? Or are they regarded as traitors for removing themselves from the gene pool rather than helping to expand the population?
But what does this matter?
JK Rowling is a fantasy writer, not a writer of erotic fiction. And she is writing for children, not adults. (Come on – do you think kids won’t demand to go see Fantastic Beasts?) Sex and sexuality was never a very big part of Harry Potter because they were children’s stories, not adult stories. The handful of kisses exchanged during the series is about as far as JKR could reasonably go. Why should JKR focus on such matters when it has nothing to do with the series?
But there’s a more serious point here that needs to be addressed.
JKR is not a slave. Nor are the producers of Captain America: Civil War or Frozen II. Why in the name of all that’s holy do people think they can make demands on them? Why must Sirius Black be gay? Why must the next Fantastic Beasts include a homosexual relationship? Why should Steve Rogers get a boyfriend? Why should Queen Elsa get a girlfriend?
What sort of sense of entitlement allows people to make such demands?
Mrs Rowling gets this a lot, it seems. People complained about cultural appropriation and the absence of Native Americans, then whined that the American Magical Society is apparently an unpleasant place. Such people seem to ignore the simple fact that such appropriation may make perfect sense in-universe, or – for that matter – that British Magical Society is not the sort of place anyone would realistically want to live. Or the racial balance at Hogwarts, even though JKR’s racial balance in the books makes a great deal of sense.
And then people complain about Sirius Black not being gay, having quietly forgotten that there was a perfectly good reason everyone was quite happy to accept the official story of his treachery. You want role models? What sort of role model is a bullying braggart who commits an attempted double-murder at fifteen because he thought it would be funny?
It is a great deal easier to carp and criticise than it is to actually write a book, direct a movie, figure out what sells or build an acting (or whatever) career. What is it that makes the critics think they own the people who do? That they have a right to dictate their actions? Why don’t the critics try to write themselves?
JKR does not have a monopoly on wizard school stories. The first such story dates all the way back to 1953. (TV Tropes has a list of such stories.) If the critics want to write a wizard school story set in America, why don’t they try? Or they could write something more in line with Native American traditions – perhaps a young man, descended from a Native American tribe, is invited to study with his great-grandfather. Why not blend together Native American mythology and Western stories? You could include Native Americans or African-Americans to your heart’s content. Your main character could be homosexual, if you wish. Or bi …
Hell, you could just write a fan fiction. God alone knows how many slash stories there are out there, or stories set in other countries, or stories in different eras, or …
But you have to learn how to tell a story.
There are so many plot holes in Harry Potter that the entire cast of characters could fly their broomsticks through them. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that JKR crafted a story specifically designed to appeal to its audience – young children – that also managed to reach out and touch adults. That’s the true magic of writing. Ticking off boxes on the diversity checklist is not writing. Making your characters one-dimensional, focused on a single trait, is not writing. Writing is creating compelling characters and making readers, just for a while, enter your world.
Harry Potter does not belong to the critics. It belongs to JK Rowling. The idea that JKR has a ‘second chance’ (one assumes to create something more in line with what this critic wants) is absurd. This is her chance to create something she wants …
… And if the critics don’t like it, perhaps they should try to do better.