Autodidact: self-taught


Depression, Misogyny and Albus Dumbledore

by V. L. Craven

People like being bummed. It’s the only guess I have for why my really depressing posts get the most traffic. That can’t be right, though…

Anyway, I’ve been reading more of the Cerebus series by Dave Sim. I’ve done Church and State I & II , Melmoth , and Flights . I’ve also given myself something of a coronary in reading he’s diatribe about feminism, homosexuality and race tangents

Well, the first two parts of it. I had to take a break there. If you get through all of it, let me know what you think.

I’m enjoying Cerebus on the whole and I agree with Sim on some of his assertions about certain portions of feminism (I just wish he wouldn’t paint all women with the same brush). And I find that RS Stephen sums up how I feel much better than I do in her essay “Masculinity’s Last Hope, or, Creepily Paranoid Misogynist”. This bit in particular: “Despite the fact that you champion reason, your writing lacks the factual and intellectual rigor required by even an undergrad English essay, and your arguments aren’t all that logical.”

Melmoth is in interlude about Oscar Wilde, of all people, and is incredibly well-rendered.

As the storyline of Cerebus goes along it gets more complex and interesting, which is only to be expected, and even knowing that he and I wouldn’t be able to have an intellectual discussion over dinner doesn’t ruin that, though it does alter my reading of the text somewhat. It’s a train wreck situation. Where you wish you didn’t know it existed, but once you do, you just have to look. I simply had to know how he felt about women. So I read Tangents. And it altered the way I read his work.

This brings me to something else that’s in the literary news lately–J.K. Rowling commenting off-handedly that Dumbledore is gay. (If you don’t know who J.K. Rowling or Dumbledore are, please return to your rock for the rest of this post.)

Since she outed him there’s been several sides to the conversation. The two most predictable are: ‘What a big pedo! That’s why he liked Harry so much!’ and ‘She should have said it explicitly, Dumbledore was in the closet!!!’

Does knowing he was always gay change the way a person would read the books now? It shouldn’t, as it has no bearing on the majority of the books. But it will to some people. The people who only see the word ‘gay’, no matter if it’s in front of “the gay man who cured cancer”. In The Celluloid Closet Quentin Crisp said, “When you say heterosexual, people focus on the ‘hetero’ but when you say, ‘homosexual’, people focus on the sex.”

I’m a lesbian and a writer and I fully understand why Rowling handled the character as she did. A writer knows all sorts of things about her characters that she doesn’t tell the audience because it’s not pertinent to the story. It wouldn’t have made one bit of difference if Albus (I can call him that because we ride the same bus) had been explicitly gay or not. Who he loved didn’t matter much in terms of the story. And in a kids’ book, what is he supposed to say? If Rowling wanted to be sure everyone knew, at what point was Albus supposed to say he wanted to make the buttsecks with Grindelwald? You don’t address sex in kids’ books in that way. He said he loved Grindelwald. How much more do you want?

At the same time, she handled it beautifully. She said (when the revelation occurred in Carnagie Hall in New York) that if she’d known it would’ve made everyone so happy she would have told them sooner. The way to de-demonize homosexuality is to let people like the gay person first and then say, “Ta-da! I was a big ol’ queer the whole time!” It’s like Suzanne Westenhoefer, a marginally known but always out, lesbian comedienne and Ellen DeGeneres, a closeted until popular comedienne. Now she’s everywhere with her partner and people are cool with it. Sometimes you have to sneak under the radar before you can throw off the invisibility cloak.

[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 24 October 2007]

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