I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald the other day. Despite my disgust over the behaviour and personality of one Johnny Depp (somebody I used to genuinely idolise), I went to see it because I love Harry Potter and I wanted to enjoy something I love and just ignore that disgust for a couple of hours. I was still trepidatious, however.
Johnny wasn’t the only reason I felt that way. There was also the worry over how they were going to handle the romantic subplot of the tragic love story of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindlewald. There were, of course, very public concerns and outrage, over the studio’s statement claiming it would not be “explicit”. That lead to people being incredibly rude to JK Rowling, the wonderful human who gave us the gift that is Harry Potter, over a movie that they hadn’t even seen.
I wasn’t someone who had a concern over that statement specifically (as I interpreted it and Rowling’s response differently to most people, I think) but I was worried simply because Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record when handling queer* characters and romances.
After watching the movie – and despite my issues with several continuity and timeline concerns and my lingering doubt over Jude Law and Johnny Depp actually have any chemistry when they eventually come face to face – I have determined one very true fact. As indicated by the title of this post: every single person who was horrible to JK Rowling about the Dumbledore/Grindlewald romance needs to apologise because they all threw fits over nothing.
Here’s the thing: I mentioned above I didn’t take the “explicit” statements the same way everybody else seemed to. I took them to mean that the romance would be treated as something subtle and implied. To me, that approach made sense. And, that is exactly what happened… only it was less subtle than I imagined it might be so guess whose queer* little heart was thrilled by this movie?
That’s right, this queer* aspiring author who writes fantasy novels with loads of queer* characters, and LGBTQ* romance novels.
Reasons why The Crimes of Grindlewald definitely didn’t ignore the tragic gay love story:
- “We were closer than brothers” – seriously, that’s not even subtle. He legit told members of the Ministry that he and Grindlewald were in love. The Ministry dudes came in implying they were good bros; they were basically that girl who posted a photo of a same-sex wedding with the caption “friendship goals, I want a double wedding”. It made me laugh so hard.
- THE BLOOD OATH WITH FINGER LACING AND HEART EYES! Dude, come on. No way that a blood oath requires intimate finger laced hand holding or gazing into each other’s eyes like they’re the only two people in the world. Nope, never. *whispers* gayyyyyyyyyyyyy.
- Adult Dumbledore seeing adult Grindlewald in the Mirror of Erised (Remember, this is the mirror of desires, the mirror that shows what you desire most in the world) right after it showed him a memory of a very intimate moment in their relationship. Dumbledore clearly wishes Grindlewald was still in his life the way he was when they were younger.
- That “I can’t” when explaining why he won’t go after Grindlewald was infused with a lot more than the knowledge of a blood oath. That “I can’t” was filled with heartbreak and agony over the idea of killing somebody he loved that deeply.
- Grindlewald, one TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS talking about how he is fighting for love and how he believes love shouldn’t be punished. Grindlewald isn’t exactly a liar, he doesn’t need to lie, he’s charismatic enough that the truth is all he needs. He’s obviously motivated, at least a little, by any lingering love for Dumbledore (remember, this is the guy who died rather than allow Voldemort to destroy Dumbledore’s tomb, there was definitely still a part of him that loved Dumbledore that day, so there had to still be in 1927).
It was subtle, but it was not subtextual. Subtext is infuriating, as any fan of most non-canon gay ships knows. All the subtext in the world doesn’t make something canon. But subtle and implied does. Subtle and implied is still fully present and therefore canonical.
Subtle WORKS in this situation. This movie is set in the 1920’s. In the Muggle world, homosexuality is illegal. Considering the stance of wizards against wizard/witch and muggle relationships, I would hazard a guess that they’re not particularly accommodating to same-sex relationships either (JK Rowling, can you inform me of the wizarding world’s attitudes towards homosexuality please?). So neither of them is likely to have been shouting it from the rooftops – especially Dumbledore who is a teacher. The outrage of the parents, can you imagine? And not only is he gay but he had a relationship with GELLERT GRINDLEWALD, AKA THE WIZARDING WORLD’S EQUIVALENT OF HITLER! Come on, why in Merlin’s name would it be something Albus would just admit out loud? It would have him ostracised at best, imprisoned at worst (probably, if not dead). Dumbledore didn’t even really speak about his past with Grindlewald until he told Harry about it in HP7, so it makes sense for things to be implied as opposed to stated outright. [And, I dunno, maybe I’m biased as a writer, but I’ve always preferred showing to telling, anyway.]
Therefore, the way FB:TCoG handled the introduction (and it was only an introduction considering this is the first real taste we’ve gotten of both Dumbledore and Grindlewald) to the sub-plot of their tragic love story, was actually kind of perfect. There were a few things about the movie I had an issue with, but this was not one of them. It was handled well, and I reiterate that everyone who was horrible to JK Rowling needs to apologise because you were wrong.
Also, as a final note: Jude Law is 45 and still a freaking babe. I love him. That is all. Thank you for attending my TED Talk.