Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So. Dumbledore is gay huh?

So, Albus Dumbledore is gay. My initial reaction was, so what? It really doesn’t make a difference to me, but the more I thought about it, the more disturbed I’ve become to the point that it now bothers me immensely. You see, I don’t care about the sexual preference of the character, but I am upset that the author, Jo Rowling, didn’t have the courage to out him in the pages of her books.

This past weekend, in response to a question about Dumbledore’s love life, Rowling was quoted as saying that she’s always seen Dumbledore as being gay. A liberal New York audience, after a moment of shocked silence, erupted into applause. A conservative religious right has been trying to pick its panties out of it’s collective ass ever since.

Simply put, this revelation makes a difference to a lot of people. It makes a difference to people who revel in the fact that a character that they consider to be one of the all time great sages, esteemed with the likes of Yoda and Gandalf turns out to be gay. It makes a difference to those who believe that children should not be exposed to homosexuality, that it is a sin and evil by nature.

It makes a difference.

It is my contention that revealing traits of a character which have such far reaching effects outside of the actual pages of the book themselves is irresponsible and amateurish.

I’ll stop here for a moment to point out that I enjoyed the entire series of Harry Potter books. I’ve read them each at least twice a piece. I admire Rowling as a storyteller. While she has her critics in the world of literary elitist and has endured much snobbish ridicule over her works, I think that her talent for storytelling is undeniable. I am a fan.

However, I’m compelled to side with those who say Rowling is amateurish on this issue. A good author says all he or she has to say in the pages of his or her work. What is left to the imagination should stay there—in the reader’s imagination. Property of the reader to play with in the realm of imagination for all of time. To continually add on to the characters, to give them lives and traits which were not introduced in the pages themselves, is a shame. It rings false.

Had Dumbledore’s sexuality been addressed in the books themselves, then it is part of the lore and the character. The reader is free to make any judgments they may wish to make. Whether those judgments are right or wrong, at least the author has the courage to stand up to them. By announcing to the world only now, after her series is done, that one of her central characters is gay, she fails her audience, her character and herself as a writer.

Rowlingites and Potterphiles seem to be unanimously in support of Jo Rowling’s decision. I’ve read several accounts praising her for portraying Dumbledore as she would any other character and never mentioning he was gay until after the series had concluded, as some sort of lesson to the intolerant that we are all the same. I’m afraid there was no such depth in this outing though. There wasn’t a lesson here about how we’re all the same, because we’re simply not. Everyone is different. Each of us have things about us that make us different from the next person. It is the collection of these things that make us who we are and it is the responsibility of the author to draw for her readership, the character as cleanly unblurred as possible.

It’s even more disturbing that Book Seven was in many ways, a Dumbledore expose’. It is in this book, after his death in the previous book that we really get a feel for man behind the curtain. This book is Dumbledore revealed. In previous books, he had always been something of an enigma. Not so in the series finale. Dumbledore is revealed to us. How can it be inconsequential and irrelevant that a man who preaches about the power and magic of love, chooses to keep his own love secret?

Anyone who’s ever taken any kind of creative writing class can tell you that writing is about making decisions. Being ambiguous only gets you so far, and is a special effect in the world of literature. A writer must make decisions. Rowling chose to not decide until the words had been printed, the money was in the bank and the praises had been spoken. She chose to alter what she wrote by what she said, thus depriving people of the experience of which they thought they had been a part.

Changing a character after a book has been written, changes the perspective of that character and his/her place in the world around them. To change things now, changes everything. If she’d had the courage to out this character’s sexuality, along with all of the other discoveries we made about him in Book Seven, I would applaud her. I am not ignorant. Dumbledore’s sexuality does not threaten me. An author, who can’t seem to let go, who can’t stop telling the story, who refuses to allow the readers to play in their own imaginations with the words she’s written, does bother me though.

I’m less a fan today than I was a week ago. Not because a beloved character is gay, but because a beloved author refuses to let go.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Pulling wool

Will someone please explain to me what the abortion issue has to do with electing our next president? This never fails to completely confuse me. The news today is all about how an arch bishop said he’d refuse holy communion to any of the candidates who supported abortion rights. And bam-smack-whirl, we’re in the middle of the whole abortion issue in the political arena again.

Before you tar and feather me, let me say that I do understand it’s the president who nominates the justices to the Supreme Court and that they in turn, can rule on abortion rights issues.
Still though, I have to say that abortion is about the last issue I’d ever weigh a potential candidate's vote on. And before I get too deep into this quagmire, I want to acknowledge my understanding of abortion as a serious issue and one well worth thought, discussion and action. I want to say that my stance against abortion as a major political issue has very little to do with the issue itself, but rather it’s place in the larger picture.

It seems that since Ronald Regan left office, many people have cast their vote for president based on the candidate’s views on abortion. I submit that perhaps we ought to be giving other issues our attention in terms of politics. I believe that perhaps a person’s views on abortion don’t make them either fit, or unfit to run a country. I think that, actually, it’s a pretty poor way to judge a person. In fact, I think its an extremely poor way to judge a person.

I think, if you’re a reasonable person, with reasonable intellect, regardless of which side of this issue you may fall upon, that you can at least look to the other side, though you may disagree with them to the core of your being, and still see that there is intelligence, even if you view it as flawed, behind their reasoning. So many people, so passionate about an issue almost demands that each side have an intelligent argument to put forth.

If we accept that fact, we accept that regardless of our own point of view, our own conviction, our own knowledge that our views are right, that those who disagree with us do so with equal verve and conviction that they are just as right and do so for reasons which they feel are every bit as valid as our own, then we can take the step back and realize that perhaps the arena of law and politics is not the place for this difference of opinion to work itself out. The issue is too heavily divided for there to ever be anything but stalemate on the political front.

And politicians will use the issue to enrage us. They will wield it about as a talisman against an opponent if it is beneficial to them, but I have to ask, what have any of them ever done about it once in office?

I think that abortion is a fake issue in the world of politics. I believe politicians and political parties use is as a manipulator of hearts and minds knowing full well that they can do nothing, will do nothing, as matters currently stand.

I submit that they do this because the real issues of a presidential election are much more tricky. Abortion is an easy issue. Pick a side and claim the moral high ground over that choice. In doing so, they cement a certain portion of the population who believe as they do.

Health care is not so cut and dry. It requires a plan that can be enacted. Withdrawl from Iraq is not so cut and dry. It’s easy to say either stay or go, but explaining how to go about each is much more difficult and anyone who thinks it’s as simple as making a decision is very sadly mistaken. The economy is not so easy an issue. Assuring Americans of jobs opportunities, low poverty rates, low unemployment, these things require a plan of action as well. Immigration is not an easy issue. Regardless of what you believe, steps must be taken. We cannot continue to keep the status quo. Action, one way or another must be taken and a comprehensive plan that really works for both sides of the issue is needed to make things work.

And there are other issues, of course, that will challenge the next president of our country. Domestic policy, foreign policy, the next president will have their hands very full. Regardless of who becomes our next president, you are fooling yourself if you think that the abortion issue will take precedent. You should be ashamed of yourself if you want it to take precedent.

Again, I don’t say this because I believe abortion isn’t an important issue, I say it because I believe it isn’t an important issue in contrast with the things that need to be done in the business or running a government. This country will not stand or fall on the basis of its abortion policies. The other issues I’ve mentioned, and others too, will have a direct effect on the business of running a government though.

I don’t care what a politician’s particular stance on abortion might be. It has no effect on the way this country is run. I don’t believe politicians will ever control abortion. If it were ever made illegal, it would become like the drug industry, making more money, under the table, from people who don’t have it to give. Making laws about abortion will not change what people do, just how they go about doing it. And if that minor victory is important to you, then you are unjust in your cause.

This is not an issue for politicians. It is an issue for minds and hearts. Take your fight to the place it belongs and force these politicians to start talking about how they will run the government. And then, perhaps, we can separate the wheat from the chaff.