The kidlit world is all a tremble today over the news that Albus Dumbledore is gay.
I don't care a whole lot about his sexual orientation in large part because I'm not sure it has anything to do with anything as far as the Harry Potter stories are concerned. Does it support anything that happens in the book? Is it a crucial plot point? Does it reveal anything about Dumbledore or anyone else that must be revealed in order for Harry's story to be told?
But, then, I've always been mystified and put off by the glory that is Dumbledore. The Harry Potter books are children's books. With children's books, it's supposed to be about the kids. Dumbledore has always had way too much power in those books for my taste. (I'm sure I've said that here before.) I've always felt he overshadowed Harry. That may be why adults like him so much. They like feeling there's an adult in there really controlling things just as they like pretending adults control things in the real world.
To me what was interesting about J.K. Rowling's announcement last night that Dumbledore is gay is not that he is gay but that she had to tell us that he is. Does that suggest to anyone else that she didn't show us in the books? I may be wrong because I am not a Potter authority by a long shot, but, except for the last book where we learn about Dumbledore's relationship with Gellert Grindelwald, the friend of his youth who went bad, was there ever any evidence that Dumbledore was either gay or straight? Anything at all? And was that early friendship and the suffering it caused Dumbledore enough to show us that he is gay? No heterosexual has ever had a close same sex friend?
I know that fans enjoy the concept of a universe behind the books in many series, not just Harry Potter. But, nonetheless, we are talking about books, completed worlds, final documents. Whatever we may enjoy believing about our favorite characters, they are what they are in the books. Remember, Dumbledore is not a real person. He can only be what Rowling wanted him to be when she wrote him. If she wanted him to be gay, she had to write him that way, she had to show that he was gay in the books. And certainly if his being gay was all that essential to the books, it had to be shown there.
To tell this information well after the work has been completed may be a great stunt and make for a great headline, but it suggests we're not talking about great writing here.
UPDATE: That last paragraph was way too harsh. To be fair to Rowling, she outed Dumbledore in response to a question from her audience. It wasn't a planned stunt or an attempt to seek headlines. She doesn't need stunts or headlines. I'm also wondering if it isn't overwhelming or even frightening to have such an enormous, uncontrollable fan following that an impromptu remark you make on Friday night becomes major news by Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless, unless she has already written Dumbledore as gay, to say he is now is, in effect, continuing to write books that have already been completed and published. Unfortunately, print on paper is a whole lot like carving in stone.