Do authors really have the right to gossip about their characters behind their backs?

There’s a lovely pix here of a suitably mystified Dumbledore asking the above question.

And I am mystified. Just what is the big deal?

As one indignant reader said on another forum:

Is it ok for a children’s author to bring up a potentially age inappropriate issue, after the fact (and after the receipts are in), for no apparent reason (except perhaps a bit of grandstanding)? Doesn’t this constitute a breach of trust toward parents of young children who bought the book for their kids (the primary market for the books)?

To be quite honest, I am puzzled that the appropriateness of an author making a comment about their own book should ever be questioned. (Free speech anyone?) But quite apart from that, the book is exactly the same as it ever was. You buy the printed word, not the author’s right to voice her thoughts, or to answer a question. A “breach of trust”? How? The book did not change. You bought the book, not what people say about it after the fact.

And what is “age inappropriate” about the words “Dumbledore is gay” anyway?
It is hardly a pornographic statement. How is it different to saying “Cinderella married the prince”?

If a child then asks you: “What does married mean?” do you blush and curse Hans Christian Andersen, or whoever wrote the fairytale? No, you make an age appropriate remark to explain the word to their level of readiness.

For the life of me, I can’t understand the problem.

People are weird. Or is it me?


Do authors really have the right to gossip about their characters behind their backs? — 6 Comments

  1. Authors ALWAYS know more about their characters than makes it into a book. Well, they should, anyway. That is hardly the point here.

    And I couldn’t care less if Dumbledore was into men, women, or cats. That’s between him and the men, women or cats… and his creatrix.

    What I don’t get is the relevance of this in the greater scheme of things. So Rowling knows D is gay. Is it relevant in the book? WOuld Harry, whose POV we’re mostly in, know this or is directly affected by this or CARE? (And if so why isn’t it in the books themselves?)

    Whatever you might say about Rowling as a writer, I think she’s a marketing genius. This is precisely the kind of thing that makes the buzz continue to swirl around the books, and JUST as we’re coming down off the high of that endless Potter Summer that we had what with BOok 7 and Movie 5 all hitting the public consciousness at once and you couldn’t spit without hitting something Potterish somewhere. But summer’s over, autumn is here, the Potter-frenzy was starting to die down a little… until the author announces that the beloved headmaster of Hogwarts is gay.

    Yes, it was apparently spontaneous in response to a question at her signing. Call me a cynic but hey – she didn’t HAVE to say it. The thing might well have been built into her world, but unless it’s relevant to the story…why push such an inflammatory announcement (and she KNEW it was going to be inflammatory, she lives in the same world as the rest of us do) out there, now, after the books are all said and done and it’s “safe” and she won’t be required to actually stand behind it in terms of character development or aything like that…


    Back to your regularly scheduled entertainment now.

  2. Some people don’t think sexuality has any place in children’s fiction. Some people don’t feel positive towards homosexuality. Some people would prefer that they be the ones to control what level of sexual information is given to their children, and when.

    Just because these particular people aren’t on board with the PC crowd on these issues doesn’t mean that their concerns aren’t legitimate or they don’t have the right to feel them.

    Obviously the whole Dumbledore is gay thing is, at the most, very very subtext in the novels. A lot of kids reading it will never pick up on it, and once the flap and doodle is past they may never hear about it.

    I’d have preferred Rowling had kept her mouth shut. She didn’t have the guts to put the homosexuality into the books to start with, so why go on about it now?

    What I find sad, and damaging about this, is the insistence among subsections of the reading public/fandom (across a wide spectrum of fandoms) that any male/male friendship MUST contain a sexual element. That men can’t be true and proper friends without them being sexually involved. And that insults hetero men, who have every right to friendships, and role models of friendships, that do not include a sexual element.

    Some men are gay and they have sexualised relationships with men. Fine. Then write them like that from the get go.

    I’m really disappointed in Rowling.

  3. I completely agree with KE Mills, re Rowling revealing this now, rather than in her books. I also find it strange that people will object to having a very subtly gay character in a series of novels full of murder, prejudice, violence and abuse.

    The sexual orientation of Dumbledore had no impact on the story, as we’ve seen, reading the novels all this time without knowing.

    One thing that stood out to me was that Rowling’s did not actually answer the question. I believe it was along the lines of “Dumblebore believed so much in the power of love, did he ever find it himself?”. Be he hetro or gay or whatever, shouldn’t the answer have been either “Yes” or “No”? Not, “He’s gay.” By saying “He’s gay”, is Rowling saying that being gay somehow excludes you from finding true love?? I think she would have been much better served by saying “Yes, he found it with Grindleward, who ended up betraying him. But, he continued to believe in love and that is where his true strength came from.” A much more satisfying answer than “He’s gay.” At least, to me…

    But then, most folk consider me one of the ‘wierdos’ out there. 😉

    Cheers, Lisa.

  4. I think you make a great point there, Lisa. That hadn’t occurred to me and you’re absolutely spot on.

    And the other thing is, getting back to Glenda’s first point, is that yes, an author has the right to talk about whatever he or she wants to talk about. I don’t even think that’s an issue. For me, the issue is:

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  5. I’m neutral about Dumbledore being gay, which should be the way society react to this news – nothing major. Dumbledore will always still be Dumbledore, his sexual orientation is irrelevant.

  6. Anon – I agree, in this case the character’s orientation was not really relevant, which is presumably why it wasn’t in the book in the first place – at least not overtly. But what she says afterwards is up to her. And paradoxically, I regard her remark as one more blow in the fight to have people regard sexual orientation as a matter for irrelevance and not something that is in fact inflammatory. So I am glad she said it out loud. She has made a much loved character gay perhaps as a way of saying: look, what does it matter? It doesn’t make him less of a good chap, does it?

    K.E. – I am not sure why you think that this is an indication of the inability for male relationships to be portrayed as asexual.

    Lisa – yeah, I thought her wording was deliberately provocative too.

    Alex, exactly.

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