Diversity Aboveground: Fantastic Gays and Where to Find Them
The past twelve months have been extremely eventful for the LGBTQUIA+ community. For once, positive representation has been found in films garnering critical acclaim and success at the box office. It’s time to recap a few and find out what this could mean for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Sequel.
While stealing the Best Picture Oscar away from La La Land is now its most memorable trait, Moonlight was well deserving of that accolade. Three segments take Chiron from a young child to a teenager to a young man. He struggles with his mother being a drug addict, his classmates beating him up for being different and an inclination to just let things happen instead of going after what he wants. Part of the facets of his character is knowing from a young age that he’s homosexual but not wanting to admit it until an old friend prompts him to act on it. However, there are positive responses to homosexuality in each segment instead of just focusing on homophobia as has often been done in the past.
Part of what also makes Moonlight so unique is that the cast and crew are almost entirely African-American or Black. Moonlight is based off an unproduced play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The director, Barry Jenkins, and McCraney both added their personal memories of growing up in Miami although McCraney knew first-hand what it’s like to be gay.
Beauty and the Beast
This remake of the classic Disney film was banned in Kuwait, Malaysia and a drive-in in Alabama. The main complaint was LeFou (Josh Gad). In the original animated film, not all film-goers thought the character had more than brotherly affection for his employer. The live action version makes it explicit that LeFou is in love with Gaston (Luke Evans). There is also a genderqueer character, Stanley (Alexis Loizon). At the end, LeFou and Stanley are shown dancing together at a ball. It may not seem like much but considering all the countries that banned it or placed an adult age restriction on it, like Russia, it’s important to note that it’s made 1.3 BILLION dollars worldwide.
Many audience members assumed Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to be a lesbian. Director Paul Feig told The Daily Beast
“I hate to be coy about it. But when you’re dealing with the studios and that kind of thing…You know, Kate [McKinnon] is who she is and I love the relationship between Kate and Melissa [McCarthy]’s characters. I think it’s a very interesting, close relationship. If you know Kate at all she’s this kind of pansexual beast where it’s just like everybody who’s around her falls in love with her and she’s so loving to everybody she’s around. I wanted to let that come out in this character.”
In real life, McKinnon is a lesbian. Her character does have many qualities associated with “butch” lesbians like short hair and pant suits with ties. However, did the stereotypes get in the way? Feig makes a point of linking McKinnon’s character with McCarthy’s character, Abby Yates. While humanity tends to set heterosexual as a default setting for everyone until proven otherwise, Yates never clearly defines her sexual orientation. In fact, none of the new Ghostbusters except Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) confirmed their preferred bed partner. Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) could have easily mentioned an ex-boyfriend but only mentions male relatives. All ogle at Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) but it doesn’t take sexual attraction to appreciate a superior specimen of the human form. While the film underperformed st the box office, it was never blamed on not having enough heterosexuality. This October brings a 5 issue IDW miniseries that’s written by Kelly Thompson, whose comics, like Jem & the Holograms, have always included LGBTQUIA+ representation.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Now that it’s been established that having LGBTQUIA+ representation isn’t likely to affect ratings or box office, will Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 address Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) sexuality in upcoming films?
In J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter novels, Dumbledore was never explicitly homosexual. However, Bathilda Bagshot discusses Dumbledore’s meeting Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in his youth:
The boys took to each other at once….Yes, even after they’d spent all day in discussion – both such brilliant young boys, they got on like a cauldron on fire – I’d sometimes hear an owl tapping at Gellert’s bedroom window, delivering a letter from Albus! An idea would have struck him, and he had to let Gellert know immediately!’
Yes, it could be a completely innocent meeting of the minds but it also sounds like two boys with their first love. Dumbledore is incapable of thinking Grindelwald could do any wrong. Grindelwald is concerned by the pain that Albus’ sister’s torture by Muggles caused the family and how that could be prevented. It’s her untimely death that causes the two to separate forever. For months, readers argued over whether Dumbledore and Grindelwald were in a romantic relationship and then, in October 2007, Rowling confirmed that Dumbledore was homosexual.
Rowling revealed “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald…he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows implies that boys had feelings for each other. Harry, although his assumptions in the books are often wrong, suggests that Grindelwald that he lied to Voldemort to keep him from breaking into Dumbledore’s tomb. However, Rowling further described Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship in 2010 to be one-sided.
In an interview with The Leaky Cauldron, Rowling describes Grindelwald as “I think he was a user and a narcissist and I think someone like that would use it, would use the infatuation. I don’t think that he would reciprocate in that way, although he would be as dazzled by Dumbledore as Dumbledore was by him, because he would see in Dumbledore, ‘My God, I never knew there was someone as brilliant as me, as talented as me, as powerful as me. Together, we are unstoppable!’ So I think he would take anything from Dumbledore to have him on his side.”
The description of Grindelwald as someone merely using someone’s affections for his own gain does sound a lot like how Grindelwald used Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) in the 2016 film. Rowling won’t say whether the sequel will have Dumbledore as openly homosexual but casting has included teenage versions of Albus and Gellert that suggest their past will be established. However, Rowling has also said that Grindelwald being Dumbledore’s first love stunted his relationships forever after that, possibly not dating at all.
There seem to be three choices for Dumbledore’s dating life in the future films. The most likely scenario is to have Dumbledore being used as Credence was. It could be part of the point of Credence to show how Grindelwald uses people and bring up the idea of an Obscuro, which is likely how Ariana Dumbledore really died. Perhaps knowing how Dumbledore loved him but Grindelwald couldn’t love him back would make Dumbledore more sympathetic. As the first readers of the book series have grown up, it’s more evident how problematic Dumbledore could be in behavior. The play, The Cursed Child, takes place when Harry is grown with children of his own and finally confronts Dumbledore about his childhood.
HARRY: “Love blinds us”? Do you even know what that means? Do you even know how bad that advice was? My son is-my son is fighting battles for us just as I had to for you. And I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me. Leaving him in places he felt unloved-growing in him resentments he’ll take years to understand-
DUMBLEDORE: If you’re referring to Privet Drive, then-
HARRY: Years-years I spent there alone, without knowing what I was, or why I was there, without knowing that anybody cared!
Dumbledore had been told by Minerva McGonagall that Harry’s relatives were “the worst sort of Muggles imaginable” and had Arabella Figg reporting to him about Harry’s abuse by his guardians. In the play, he claims that the main reason he kept Harry away from him was that “I am no fit person to love…I have never loved without causing harm.”
To finally have that backstory of exactly why Albus has such self loathing would help make him more empathetic but it also seems to explain why his homosexuality was so nonexistent in the books. He had given up on dating.
Was there another boyfriend other than Grindelwald? A second possible choice for his love life is to have another boyfriend during the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them era. However, in order to fit his line and further explain his swearing off dating, they would have to tragically die. On one hand, films need more heroes who aren’t just heterosexual. On the other hand, that’s feeding right into the “Bury your gays” trope which is far too prevalent. It’s now more of a surprise if the happy LGBT couple remains alive throughout the full franchise or series.
Maybe Rowling should reconsider her characterization of Grindelwald? The third and final choice for Dumbledore dating is to allow him and Grindelwald to be happy. In various media, it’s quite common to have heterosexual couples who are blissfully in love until power replaces those affections. Some examples would include Ebenezer Scrooge and Clara, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala or Tom Nook and Sable. Again, there are good and bad elements to that. It still feeds into the myth that homosexuals can’t have healthy relationships but it would make Grindelwald into a more well-rounded villain. Otherwise, if he never loved at all, he sounds like another asexual psychopath and we really don’t need more of those.
To have Dumbledore open with his sexuality but not flirting or acting on his desires would be a disservice to the LGBTQUIA+ community. It’s like a film company wanting a participation medal for the least you could possibly do. To keep Grindelwald as a user without sexual feelings is a horrible example for the Asexual community.
Moonlight made more than half its 65 million dollars overseas. It doesn’t sound like much but the film did contain a physical sexual act between two men. Beauty and the Beast had dancing between two men with the implication of more to come between them. Considering the Harry Potter film franchise has made 8.5 billion dollars, doesn’t that leave room for a little experimentation? Or did they already waste all their money gambling on Johnny Depp? Until Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Depp hadn’t appeared in more than a cameo for a film making 100 million dollars or more since 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Why was it so necessary to have an American actor portray an Eastern European wizard?
Still, all fingers are crossed for a continued positive LGBTQUIA+ presence in the future and a more visible presence at that.
Doctor Who will have a female in the title character next year. Before now, Jodie Whittaker was best known for Broadchurch, Attack the Block and Return to Cranford. The last Doctor to be a woman was in a skit that Steven Moffat wrote for charity in 1999. For 1 minute, 25 seconds, Joanna Lumley played the Doctor in The Curse of the Fatal Death.
Now, who will Whittaker’s companion be? Will Bill (Pearl Mackie) return?
Next column will take a look By the Numbers about how diverse the upcoming television season is and how well those Oscars really turned out.