The next film in the new Fantastic Beasts franchise, The Crimes of Grindelwald is pulling a magic trick of its own by making Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality disappear.
Director David Yates told Entertainment Weekly that the upcoming film will not directly show any evidence that future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, played here by Jude Law, is a gay man. About 10 years ago, author J.K. Rowling revealed that she’d always pictured Dumbledore as a gay man while writing the books, but there was no evidence of his sexuality in the actual Harry Potter books. Crimes of Grindlewald, which stars Law and Johnny Depp as the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, seemed like it might change that, as Dumbledore had fallen in love with Grindelwald.
Will we see this in the movie though?
“Not explicitly,” Yates told EW. “But, I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.”
This is a huge cop-out. When it comes to showing diversity on the page or on the screen, extra-curricular knowledge just isn’t enough. It’s why Rowling gets criticized for retroactively making Dumbledore gay rather than showing it in any way over the course of seven books. Yates’s explanation that “the fans are aware of that” is the coward’s way out.
It’s almost worse, in a way, than last year’s trend, which saw several Hollywood make a big hullabaloo about having gay characters and reap positive news coverage, only to make the actual expression of that identity so slight as to be non-existent. Valkyrie is supposedly bisexual in Thor: Ragnarok, but would you know that if I hadn’t mentioned it just now? The Power Rangers movie proudly toted the Yellow Ranger as the first gay superhero on the big screen, but her coming out moment was a nothingburger, same as the live action Beauty and the Beast’s “exclusively gay moment.”
Sure, Rowling previously hinted that we might someday see Dumbledore’s sexuality depicted in an official Harry Potter story. “As far as his sexuality is concerned … watch this space,” she said, according to EW.
But, how long do we need to watch this space for somebody to magically summon a modicum of courage? At what point will Hollywood feel comfortable showing queer identities? When can Dumbledore come out of the closet? If even having a hint of the romantic nature of his relationship with another man isn’t going to be part of the movie about that relationship, what is the point of all this?
Leaving all the hard and valuable work of showing diversity to the fans, who are “are aware of that,” is absurd. When people can see themselves in the heroes the watch on screen, that’s a good thing. Look at how Black Panther and Black Lightning are striking such a joyous chord among fans who are used to seeing white superhero after white superhero. Why not let Dumbledore do that, in some small way, for Harry Potter’s gay fans?
It’s not like anyone wants Grimes of Grindlewald to be sexy, or even a romantic drama. It’s just that it’s getting really old to hear the Harry Potter creators say that this is a part of who one of the most iconic literary characters in recent memory is, and then never, ever show it.
It doesn’t help that Johnny Depp, an alleged domestic abuser, is Law’s co-star in Crimes of Grindlewald, which certainly is developing a reputation for itself ahead of its November 16 release date.