SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains mild spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Proceed at your own risk.
Since JK Rowling outed Albus Dumbledore, fans have been clamouring for the Wizarding World to explore his sexuality in greater depth. Not only did the Harry Potter author tell an audience of students during a Q&A session at New York’s Carnegie Hall that she’d always thought of the Hogwarts headmaster as gay, but she also unveiled the object of his affections. Namely, Gellert Grindelwald – a dark wizard with powers to match Dumbledore’s and a limited if significant presence in the Harry Potter books and films.
Rowling made the revelation back in 2007, and since then we’ve not heard much more about Dumbledore’s love life. That’s despite the majestic spellcaster believing in the “prevailing power of love”, as the student put it who first asked Rowling the question that led to her disclosure.
Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun? pic.twitter.com/Rj6Zr8aKUk
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 31, 2018
It’s the lack (to date) of openly showing the depth and true nature of the Dumbledore-Grindelwald relationship that irks audiences, in particular the LGBTQ fanbase which, by and large, wants to see more LGBTQ stories front and centre in mainstream media. And what better place to do that than within one of the most popular franchises in the world?
Yep, a big portion of the Harry Potter fanbase has been angered by the apparent insistence on keeping Albus’s sexuality off the screen and off the page. And since the Fantastic Beasts films too — so far – have seemed insistent on skirting around the topic, fans have (unsurprisingly) been especially vocal.
With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald about to hit screens, we take a look at how the relationship is portrayed in the film, and why the films are crying out for the ship we’re calling ‘Albert’ (‘Dumbgrin’?) to be brought centre stage. We also got the cast to weigh in with their own thoughts around the topic too, for good measure.
Delving Deeper… But Is It Deep Enough?
The Fantastic Beasts film franchise, which kicked off in 2016 with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, rewinds to the 1920s, picking up Grindelwald’s story. The sequel delivering a subtitle — The Crimes of Grindelwald — that promises to delve deeper into the character second time out.
But while the film hints at a deep bond between Dumbledore and Grindelwald – with the Mirror of Erised revealing Gellert’s image to Albus when he looks into it, amid Dumbledore’s revelations that the two were not only “closer than brothers” but had also made a blood pact – it fails to make anything explicit. And that’s despite director David Yates recently going on record as saying Dumbledore’s sexuality will be made “clear” in the film.
He told Empire Magazine: “This part of this huge narrative that Jo [Rowling] is creating doesn’t focus on his sexuality, but we’re not airbrushing or hiding it… the story [of the romantic relationship] isn’t there in this particular movie but it’s clear in what you see… that he is gay.”
Yates added: “A couple of scenes we shot are very sensual moments of him and the young Grindelwald.” Well, that actually depends on your definition of sensual, and your reading of each character’s motivations in the scenes in question.
A Deleted Scene
Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander in the franchise, agrees with Yates that the approach to depicting Dumbledore’s love story is transparent in the film.
“For me, the intimacy of the bits that you see, the moments of flashback that you see between him and Grindelwald, there is clearly extraordinary love there… or complicated love,” he says.
He references another scene in the film where he credits Jude Law for bringing the love story to life for him: “There’s a beautiful way in which Jude as Dumbledore is asked about his relationship with Grindelwald when he was younger. This character, Travers, says, ‘You were like brothers’, and the way Jude goes, ‘No, no, no, we were closer than brothers’, it’s like you see heartbreak in his eyes. And I thought that was beautiful.”
But while the film’s star and director might think it’s clear, it’s all implicit and there’s actually nothing overt. Katherine Waterston, who plays Newt’s would-be paramour Tina Goldstein, says: “Because it’s not set in the period where they had their… what we know of their relationship — their romantic relationship or whatever that connection was — we’re yet to learn it, really, in great detail. It seems right, it doesn’t feel conspicuous to me that it’s not in our film because we’re in a different period.”
Dan Fogel, meanwhile — who plays No-Maj Jacob Kowalski in the franchise — questions what fans actually want to see: “What do they want, like a kiss or something?” adding that Newt and Tina haven’t even kissed yet after a slow-burn romance that’s straddled two films to date, and Jacob and his significant other, Queenie “hardly” have either.
Callum Turner, whose character Theseus Scamander is engaged to Zoe Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange in The Crimes of Grindelwald, similarly asserts that “it’s not that kind of movie, actually,” before revealing, that “there was a scene with Leta and Theseus in which there was, like, an intimate moment, and that didn’t make it – and it didn’t make it because it’s not that kind of movie.”
Though all offer valid reasoning for why Dumbledore’s love story has so far been kept off screen, there’s still plenty of opportunity and reason to show it, rather than keep references to it oblique. Particularly since the whole affair is shaping up to be a pretty major cog in the five-film series.
Dumbledore Deserves It
With Jude Law hinting alongside both Yates and Rowling herself that Dumbledore’s sexuality and his relationship with Grindelwald could be explored further in the five-movie series, there’s certainly time and hope for a more candid peek to emerge, if not a commitment on the part of the decision makers to saying it’s definitely happening. The fact remains, not only do LGBTQ audiences deserve it, but Dumbledore does too.
We know Dumbledore as an old man, first introduced to us as the wise, elderly wizard headmaster helping to protect Harry Potter from the evil Lord Voldemort. We’ve historically known little about his life, save snatches about his background. But the picture painted is a tragic one. Albus Dumbledore is one of the most loved characters by both fans and characters in the ‘Rowlingverse’. All would like to see Albus happy in the throes of an on-screen exploration of his love affair – whether that be depicted as it occurs in a spin-off or via flashback in Fantastic Beasts. Even if it is destined to end painfully.
Always the Bridesmaid
As if to magnify the lack of love and sexual attraction we’ve witnessed in his life, throughout the films, Dumbledore has always been a spectator as love affairs happen all around him. To a degree, there’s an air of the Emma Woodhouse about him – like the Jane Austen heroine, does he consider himself above such dalliances? Redmayne even has Albus pegged as a matchmaker like his famous literary counterpart.
“At the beginning of the film, you realise Newt’s questioning Dumbledore basically [about] having set up Newt going to New York in the last film. The whole thing was a manipulation to take the Thunderbird back, and I was wondering to Katherine – and I don’t know this – but whether he even knew about Tina. Did he know that Newt would find something with [her]? There’s so much puppeteering going on here,” says Redmayne.
Waterston adds, “He probably has bigger fish to fry than do a little matchmaking. But who knows?”
Whatever, it seems that Dumbledore is full of regret. While the Harry Potter-era Hogwarts students are navigating the choppy waters of young love – prompting these words from Dumbledore: “Oh to be young and feel love’s keen sting” — the adults are also finding love. Hagrid hooks up with Madame Maxime while Lupin and Tonks marry. It can’t be easy to watch when, as we’ve been led to believe, the man has loved and lost in a star-crossed relationship upended by most likely circumstance or betrayal. Albus even vocalises his sorrow in The Crimes of Grindelwald when he says to Leta: “Regret is my constant companion; don’t let it be yours.”
Was It Really Mutual?
Throughout his life, Albus would have presumably had opportunities for romance, and it makes sense that he would have explored his sexuality. Not least because, as we now know from Jude Law’s portrayal in The Crimes of Grindelwald, he was attractive, nattily dressed and charismatic. And yet we’ve only had Rowling’s word for it, and indirect hints on screen, that a relationship with Grindelwald – let alone anyone else — occurred.
In exploring their relationship in depth, knowing what Gellert Grindelwald became, and how manipulative he is, we’d learn how invested he actually was in their pairing, and how much was calculated. Something that both Waterston and Redmayne have also questioned.
“We’re always speculating about that sort of thing, like, who knows who? Who really had an eye on who and what was happening?” says Waterston.
“And was he playing a long-term game?” adds Redmayne.
Relationships Are Integral to the Franchise
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is all about relationships. Not only are families and past love affairs and hook-ups critical to the story, but romantic entanglements are central to most of the characters’ arcs. Newt, who was once romantically linked with Leta Lestrange is now traversing the tricky landscape of love with Tina Goldstein.
Jacob Kowalski, meanwhile, finds himself in troubled waters with Tina’s sister Queenie after reuniting sometime between the end of the first film and the start of the second. And then there’s Newt’s brother, Theseus, in a relationship with Leta at the start of the film; as well as Credence and Nagini, between whom we see the kernels of a new, special connection. Not to mention all the intrigue around the Lestrange and Dumbledore family trees.
With an increasing significance placed on romantic entanglements and sexual relationships in the saga, we should be able to expect Dumbledore’s own love story candidly told. Callum Turner wants more, that’s for sure: “I want to see their history and what they mean to each other,” he says of the Albus-Gellert relationship, despite questioning whether the franchise is the place for the more demonstrative side of love.
Dan Fogel adds, “I think there’s room for magical kisses. It’s a fairytale, you know? And these two, they are these guys who have a great love for each other and have this blood pact that makes them connected in a very powerful way. So they are, they’re in love man.”
So come on, Ms Rowling and Mr Yates – let’s place the focus firmly on Albus Dumbledore’s love story and give the fans, and Dumbledore, what they deserve.