Sunday, November 11, 2007

November 2007

Hi Poppets! Here's a confession: the article you are currently reading is not the one I'd written for this month. That article was on the holidays. That article will have to wait. And what is the news that changed this month's column?

Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, from the Harry Potter series, is gay.

J.K. Rowling, author of the books, outed him in October. Apparently, in the script for the next movie, there was a reference to a woman from his past and Rowling couldn't let it slide. How cool is that? Seriously. No mention of is ever made of any of the intimate relationship the adults in the book may – or may not - have so no one would have known if she had let it slide. But she didn't. Instead, she slipped a note to the director explaining the situation and then went public.

So what's the big deal? He's a fictional character. Why am I so pleased? First, as a writer, I appreciate and respect Rowling standing by her character. Again, since Dumbledore's relationships are never mentioned, it wouldn't have been noticed. Except that characters become real people t those of us who write them. For her, allowing Dumbledore to be a straight man when she knew he wasn't probably would have felt like a betrayal of him. I know it would feel that way t me if he were one of my characters. It wouldn't matter if anyone else knew the truth. I would know. And in some weird writer way, my character would know I had betrayed him (most writers are notoriously eccentric people, I admit it.)

Second, if characters are written well – and Rowling's most definitely are – they become real to the readers. Millions of people, children and adults, know, love and are devoted to Dumbledore. His humor, wisdom and strength have touched and guided many. And now...he's gay, too.

Third, I'm pleased because we didn't know. And it's not because Rowling was hiding it or keeping him in the closet. It just hadn't come up. We didn't know about any of the adults' personal lives so why should we know this about him? It would have been easy for Rowling to make him The Gay Character but it would have done him a disservice. It's similar to calling James Earl Jones or Denzel Washington great black actors. Folks, those men are great actors. Period. And Dumbledore is a great character. Period.

Think I'm giving fictional characters too much credit? Think again. Mulan, Jasmine and Pocahontas were all heralded when Disney put out their respective movies because they gave non-white girls role models. Superman, Batman and Spiderman have been used to teach morals for generations. And I've read about a teacher in the mid-west who changed his teaching style in order to reflect a fictional character's teaching style – Albus Dumbledore's to be exact.

So now we have a great character. One who already touches many people. One whom many people already try to emulate. One whom parents would trust with their children and children could trust with their innocence. One who is well-respected, admired and loved – and oh yeah, he's gay, too. How cool is that? Seriously. For this, I don't mind putting off a holiday article. Not at all.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.

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