Part of the reason fairy tales are so popular with children is because it lets them imagine themselves as someone else, even if only for a little while. The same thing for Christmas and Santa Claus, and all the other “characters” in our little ones’ lives that we allow because we know that it’s all pretend.
I guess that’s why this week’s announcement by JK Rowling that the character “Dumbledore” in her Harry Potter series of books is gay, has me a tad on the annoyed side. And it’s not because he’s gay, per-se, but more because by making this announcement, she’s crossed the line separating fiction from real-life. And for many children, I believe, this line is difficult enough to see as it is without blurring it even further.
I have a brother who is three years older than I am. He’s the only 100% true blood relative that I have alive (that I know of). That said, the boy was always a little “off.” He was always drawn towards the darker side of things, burying himself in Dungeons and Dragons and wilderness survival and whatnot. His life has taken a decidedly different turn from mine and it’s been speculated by many, that part of his problem stemmed from his inability to separate reality from the fictional characters and stories that he loved.
He and I both share a love of fantasy and sci-fi lore, but where I’ve always been able to put that part of my life aside and face reality head-on, he has not. To this day his very talented artistic skills lean towards the kind of thing you see on movies like Lord of the Rings—very dark and often disturbing.
I can’t imagine then, if someone back in the early 80s had come out and said of Star Wars’ Darth Vader that, in his spare time, Vader was really a cross-dressing transvestite hiding behind his mask of anonymity, that it wouldn’t have affected the way I (and he) viewed our beloved bad guy. Beyond the shock value, what would be the point? What could possibly be gained (beyond the PR buzz) by making an announcement about something like that, which is never discussed in the plotline and has no bearing whatsoever on how the story played out?
By making this announcement, Rowling has given her character validity and power in the real-world. In adult fiction, this is fine because most of us understand what’s going on, but here we’re talking about children (even if a fair amount of her readers are actually adults, the stories are supposedly aimed at our youth). There will be those who will cling to this announcement as a harbinger of freedom for gay rights, even absurd as it sounds. And by doing so, they bring the character of Dumbledore into the now, into reality. She has blurred the lines between a good wholesome story, and a power struggle in society that children shouldn’t be exposed to until they are old enough to understand what this announcement really is—a grandstanding attempt at garnering a few more $$ for her novels.
While I’ve never been an avid fan of the Harry Potter series, finding them to be exactly what they are—elementary level fantasy fiction—I’ll admit they are entertaining. That said however; JK Rowling, you really should be ashamed of yourself.