Has there ever been a franchise as retroactively despised quite like Harry Potter? At its prime, J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series of fantasy novels ignited the imaginations of readers, fueled the resurgence of young-adult literature, and inspired a blockbuster film franchise. But in the decade since the conclusion of the series with its seventh novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there’s been a growing reevaluation of the wizarding world.
The Fantastic Beasts franchise, an intended five-film series set prior to the release of the books, has found itself in hot water from minute one. First came the news of Johnny Depp as the villain Gellert Grindelwald, a casting decision coming right around the time of the actor’s domestic abuse allegations, and one the studio and Rowling doubled-down on by building the entire second film around his character. Now director David Yates has confirmed that the young version of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, played in the upcoming sequel by Jude Law, won’t have any scenes where his being gay is explicitly addressed.
Dumbledore’s homosexuality was already a divisive topic. Rather than offer any indication in the novels that he was indeed queer, Rowling reserved that revelation for a 2007 book tour in support of the release of Deathly Hallows. Some were supportive, others against it, but it’s become widely agreed that it’s disappointing the author didn’t choose to actually depict Harry Potter’s mentor as gay. Even in the original films, three of which were produced after the release of the final book, his sexuality is full ignored. The hope was that with Fantastic Beasts prominently featuring both a young Dumbledore and Grindewald, the dark wizard he fell for, there would be something to confirm his queerness. Damn the Depp casting, damn the horrible implications of a tragic gay romance, many fans simply wanted what previously had been denied to them.
Instead, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will reportedly just feature teasing hints at the character’s homosexuality, not unlike what happened with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok or Becky G’s Trini in Power Rangers. Whatever faults that those two films had in regard to the depiction of their queer characters, they at the very least tried to talk the talk as best they could: Tessa Thomspon openly stated that she played the character like she was bisexual, and Power Rangers briefly mentions Trini being into girls and gives the idea that she and Kimberly are into each other. They’re scraps, no doubt about it, but at the very least, they genuinely come off as regretful of the omissions that were likely handed down to them from corporate. Sadly, Power Rangers will likely never really have the ability to follow up on Trini’s sexuality due to the film’s disappointing box office performance, but a version of MCU Valkyrie is coming to the Marvel’s Exiles comic, where she’s been specifically said to be queer.
Meanwhile, Yates, Rowling and the Fantastic Beasts screenwriters are straight up queerbaiting Harry Potter fans in a way that’s so insidious and manipulative that even last year’s Beauty & the Beast would deem a step too far. Even if you want to ignore just how retroactive this whole thing has been from the start, it’s truly insulting and teasing to even feature Law as Dumbledore in the film itself and then just go, “Eh, maybe it’ll be addressed in one of the other three sequels we plan to make.”
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