Why does it matter to me what JK Rowling says about Dumbledore and his sexual orientation? After all, if you read all the books as I have, you will find no hint of his sexual orientation. Its only after this announcement that Dumbledore's pre-occupation with another character becomes suspect. (That's Grindlewald for fans, not Harry...though I guess anything goes now.)
The fact is that evangelicals are driven in their interpretation by the "Author's Intent." When we read the Bible and other texts, we aren't so concerned with simply finding out we think a text means, we want to know what the author meant for the text to mean. The author ultimately assigns the meaning, and if we miss their meaning, then we miss the entire point.
We are taught to be skeptical of our own interpretations. And that, by the way, is very sound evangelical advice. This is why your pastor has multiple commentaries lining his bookshelves in his office on a single epistle (I sure hope he does, anyway.) And this is why he is diligent in the original languages. He's not trying to "reader response" what the author said, he's trying to understand the original point.
So, when an evangelical hears and author say, "Oh, by the way, this character is gay." We can't, with Stanley Fish, say, "Well, the text doesn't mean this to me. Therefore, he is absolutely not gay, no matter what Rowling says." We respect intent, and so as ugly as the truth is, we read Dumbledore as gay as per the author's wishes. Thus, the story is tainted for us.
If Rowling had come out and said, "You know, Dumbledore dealt with sin like everyone else. In fact, he was attracted to other men, an issue with which he struggled his entire life. Indeed, this explains why he so threw himself into teaching and the study of magic." Not only would I have applauded that, my respect for Dumbledore would have risen.
This is not how the author told us this information, however. We are told, smugly, that he is gay. And it was even given with a jab to "evangelical" types, the very ones who take authors the most seriously in their works. This is why a serious evangelical can't just "overlook" this part of the story due to scant evidence in the text themselves. We have a living author saying, "This is how he is, and he's not sorry." So, we have to grudgingly change our opinion out of respect. Amazingly, a more liberal reader could pretty much blow-off anything an author says anyway because they make texts mean what they want without recourse to any opinion but their own. Just look at what they do to the Bible!
So, needless to say, I am disappointed, and if I ever read Harry Potter's series again, I will read Dumbledore as a homosexual as per Rowling's wishes. But his character is diminished in my sight, and I think that beauty of the story is lessened by Rowling's irresponsible addition to an otherwise noble character.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago