The new movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” takes the step that its 2018 predecessor, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” didn’t. In the very first scene, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) tells Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) that he used to be in love with him. The moment is a long time coming. At the end of the seventh “Harry Potter” book, “The Deathly Hallows,” Dumbledore reveals to Harry that he and Grindelwald — the dark wizard he defeated in 1945, cementing his own legacy as one of the greatest wizards of all time — were childhood friends, with deadly consequences. Shortly after the book’s release, JK Rowling was asked why no character in the books is gay. She responded that actually someone is — Dumbledore, and that he was in love with Grindelwald.
In “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the powerful wizard is explicit that he was in love with Grindelwald, the first canonical acknowledgment of their relationship. One after another, these moments kept falling flat. First off, Grindelwald doesn’t act like this information is particularly interesting, important, or moving. Their former romantic relationship doesn’t inform how they relate to each other, outside of a magic blood bond they created that keeps them from hurting each other physically. But second, and most importantly, Dumbledore’s gayness feels like a cover for Rowling’s hateful views about trans people.
Let’s back up. In 2020, Rowling published a series of transphobic tweets and followed them up with a lengthy blog post. She was roundly criticized by transgender people and their allies, including Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne. Rowling never apologized, instead deciding to double down. Transgender people are a constant topic on her Twitter account of her, often cloaked in concern for the false idea that kids are being forced to transition. She spent the weekend of April 1 — two weeks before “The Secrets of Dumbledore” hits theaters — sending over a dozen tweets on the topic. Rowling is not embarrassed by her beliefs about her — she’s said that she believes most people support her, including LGBTQ+ people.
It’s hard to interpret the sudden and halfhearted inclusion of Dumbledore’s sexuality as anything but a diversion from Rowling’s hateful views.
Rowling has tweeted to number of times that actually she is speaking out for the many lesbian and gay people who feel that gay rights organizations that are protrans are actually antiwoman. There’s of course no proof that this is a large group of people, and gay and lesbian people who are transphobic don’t prove that being transphobic is correct. And of course lots of transgender people are also members of other parts of the LGBTQ+ community, but Rowling doesn’t seem to be concerned about them.
So back to the movie, which Rowling cowrote with Steve Kloves, who also served as a screenwriter for most of the original Harry Potter films. It’s hard to interpret the sudden and halfhearted inclusion of Dumbledore’s sexuality as anything but a diversion from Rowling’s hateful views of her. This way, Rowling can point to the movie and “prove” how much she supports gay people. Dumbledore is gay! Ella she’s such an ally! It’s an attempt to divide the LGBTQ+ community.
The film itself displays the same lack of empathy for its characters and world that Rowling’s antitrans views embody in real life. In the previous film, viewers learned that Grindelwald predicted World War II, and he thinks wizards should rule over Muggles to try to stop it. If all the wizards and witches in the world know that WWII is coming, why aren’t they trying to stop it? The new movie takes place largely in Germany in the 1930s and clearly borrows the aesthetics of Nazi Germany in its presentation of Grindelwald, but none of the wizards — who, again, know what’s coming — take any steps to try to prevent the Holocaust or save any Muggles. We never even see any Muggles in the Germany scenes. Why set something at that historic moment without at all addressing what’s going on?
There’s another scene in which Newt Scamander (Redmayne) heads to a secret German wizard prison to try to rescue his brother Theseus (Callum Turner). Again, it’s 1930 and we’re talking about secret German prisons without addressing any of the current historical context. Of course, it’s an illegal magical prison where the incarcerated people are tied upside down around a giant pit. Inside the pit is a horrifying magical creature that chooses someone to eat at random. Using his magizoologist knowledge from him, Newt saves his brother from him and gets out of there. But what about all the other people who are still trapped in the secret, illegal prison who are going to definitely be eaten by this giant monster? The movie wants you to completely forget about them.
It’s not the only thing “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is asking you to forget. It wants you to forget that your ticket money is going into the pocket of a woman who has no problems spreading transphobia, who takes the fact that you bought that ticket at all as support of her behavior and views of her. And then the box office totals will be used to justify more movies, and spinoff series, and reunion specials, all of it growing her influence and her legacy. No amount of gay characters could fix the hate that now lives at the center of the Harry Potter universe.