The Revolution will now be cannibalized—and it appears J. K. Rowling is its latest victim.
This comes recently from The New Statesman’s Quick-Quotes Quills:
“I strongly dislike her,” Alice (who does not wish to disclose her surname) says. “I just think she wrote many beautiful things in Harry Potter, but she doesn’t live up to them in real life.”
What’s this about? Like too many issues in the last few decades: it’s all about sex. Again.
In 2007, Rowling announced that one of her main characters, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, was gay. Fans initially rejoiced at the news, but many became disillusioned after the character’s sexuality was never mentioned in seven books, nine films, and a two-part play. When the director of Rowling’s latest film franchise, Fantastic Beasts, announced at the start of February that Dumbledore would not be “explicitly” gay in the upcoming film about his youth, fans tweeted their anger at Rowling. She responded by muting them and insinuating that Dumbledore would eventually come out in one of the other three remaining Fantastic Beasts films.
As Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, summarizes:
Later in the article one young person said, and I quote, “When the news broke that Dumbledore’s sexuality would once again be kept out of the canon,” that is out of the books and out of the movies, “I was furious.” This young person said, “This is a series I’ve dedicated years of my life to, and one that continually let me down.” Her young liberal fans are also throwing back at her a line she put into the voice of Dumbledore. This is the line, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” But now this newly liberalized generation of J. K. Rowling readers in Great Britain is saying, “She doesn’t make the hard choice. She tries to have it both ways.”
Now I, as a longtime Harry Potter fan, feel very divided about all this.
On one hand, Rowling has an absolute right to free speech. (A right that Rowling has rightfully defended, even on behalf of people she strongly disagrees with.) She ought to be able to talk about her own stories. She can create technically off-canon fanfiction about them, such as the “Dumbledore is gay” subplot. It’s not wrong to draw comparisons between her themes and current events—however tacky this often looks.
On the other hand, this kind of behavior is not only tacky, but ultimately weakens Rowling’s position even as an influencer for Progressivism.1
Rowling’s fans are already quite capable of drawing the, ahem, in-depth comparisons between Voldemort and the latest he’s-just-like-Hitler political leader du jour. Her fans can already strike a posture as a real-life version of “Dumbledore’s Army” (e.g. “the resistance” from another fantasy franchise). Her fans can already adopt the authorized fanfiction of Dumbledore as sexual-revolution hero.2
In other words, they don’t need her help.
But when Rowling steps before the stage as if to say, “It’s all JUST PRETEND, and here’s the REAL LIFE,” she weakens her role. And her stories lose their greatest power—to reach past the head and into the reader’s imaginative heart.
Now, in the face of Rowling’s seeming weakness, her fans have spotted apparent “holes” in her confession of religious Progressivism. Because of other factors—such as the needs of the story, with international film restrictions and other market factors—she’s not making “Gay Dumbledore” the rallying theme of the new Fantastic Beasts films.
Plot twist: even for Rowling, socio-political movements can rank second to other needs. Such as: creating a new series of onscreen stories set in her whimsical wizarding world, in which Newt Scamander finds fantastic beasts and Harry Potter backstory.
But what about soldiers in the “army” Rowling has raised? Does this group of souls, many of whom may be naturally convinced of their own rightness on the side of history, agree?
Based on this news story, no. Too many of these fans seem to view stories in a way that too many misinformed Christians view stories: as mere tools. As mere carriers of More Important Things: truths, doctrines, ideas, moral teachings. As the disposable bodily “shell” that holds the more important element inside: the “soul” of truth.
This makes a lot of sense if you’re a particular kind of religious person. After all, if you view the world in a religious framework—an original or perfect paradise, a “fall” from this state, a law and/or process of redemption, a villain to defeat, and a future utopia—why should we get sidetracked by other things? Ultimately, art becomes a means to this end: the end of that future paradise, in which (if you’re a Christian) everyone is holy and worshiping God, or (if you’re a Progressivist) everyone is diverse but united in absolute sexual liberty.
Of course, biblical Christians view (or ought to view) stories and art very differently. In our origin story, God the creator wants us to make creative culture (Gen. 1:28). In seeking to reflect his creativity, in truthful and beautiful stories, we glorify him in our worship. That’s part of the paradise he made us for, and which (in Jesus) we’re destined to rejoin.
Apart from this worldview, every appeal to stories’ value can only logically devolve into the hijacking of stories for alternate ends, such as politics, social causes, or sexual revolutions.3
And for fans who don’t know the ultimate purpose of stories, they can’t help hijacking the stories to serve their religion. And they can’t help feeling frustrated when their leader turns out to have different priorities than constant sexual-revolution classroom teaching, 24/7, without room even for Quidditch practice or recreation in the common room.
What do you think of J. K. Rowling’s political uses of her own fiction? What would you say if you met a Harry Potter fan who felt frustrated with Rowling’s Progressivism “failures”?
- I capitalize the term Progressivism to note that it functions exactly as a kind of religion, only a religion whose followers usually don’t want to admit they are religious. ↩
- These fans perhaps forget Rowling’s in-canon loophole: that Dumbledore is never seen acting on his same-sex attraction, and that his initial SSA was toward Gellert Grindelwald, a wicked predecessor of Lord Voldemort, whom Dumbledore was eventually forced to confront in a duel. (Viewers of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also witnessed Grindelwald creepily lavishing and manipulating the affections of Credence, a young man bullied by his abusive mother without any other father figure in sight.) Since that fateful duel, for all Harry Potter fans know, Dumbledore has led a celibate life. ↩
- This may also explain why many very talented, creative actors and musicians end up using their platforms to promote these kinds of religious causes. Imagine rising to the “top” without knowing the purpose of making these stories for human recreation, and being led to wonder, really, what good all this is for anyway. Of course, many Christian entertainers seem to reflect the same impulse—acting, singing, or writing as if the only value in their creative works is the “content” of the work, not the work itself. ↩