Yesterday, the cast of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald appeared on the Today Show to share the first full-length trailer for the J.K. Rowling-penned movie, which featured a “gay” moment — if you can call it that.
In 2007, Rowling insisted that Dumbledore’s character is and has always been gay, despite citing zero evidence from the books to support her claim. And even though the character is set to return to the wizarding world in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie, director David Yates said Dumbledore wouldn’t be “explicitly gay.” Naturally, queer fans of the Harry Potter series were riled, as the franchise has never seen an LGBTQ character on-screen in 17 years.
The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer offers a glimpse of young Dumbledore looking longingly into the Mirror of Erised —a bewitched mirror from Harry Potter that is meant to show one’s deepest desire — and touching hands with a young Grindelwald. If that moment was meant to sate fans demanding more of a queer presence in Fantastic Beasts — I’m sorry, but it’s not enough. I’m sick and tired of major studio movies dangling carrots in front of queer people’s faces, expecting us to be satisfied with the most infinitesimal slivers of representation. But this happens all the time.
Last year, Bill Condon, director of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, teased that Le Fou would have an “exclusively gay” moment ahead of the movie’s release. However, the moment ended up being nothing more than a quick shot of Le Fou dancing with another man just before the credits rolled. The LGBTQ community is used to being queer-baited, only to be let down — but this instance seemed completely unfair. We were promised a gay moment and a gay character, and Disney didn’t deliver on its word.
If you’re going to say a character is queer, then make them fucking queer. In 2018, LGBTQ people should be able to see themselves on-screen, yet we are still vastly underrepresented — nearly invisible — in major studio movies. And when we are visible, most times, the queerness is completely inconsequential, if mentioned at all. It’s as if studios are giving us trivial moments to temporarily mollify us—but queer people shouldn’t have to beg for scraps. We deserve to see ourselves on-screen being the heroes and villains and love interests and best friends—things that heterosexual people take for granted, because for them, it’s normal.
Which brings me to Fantastic Beasts. I would never judge a movie by the trailer alone, so I can’t say for sure if Dumbledore’s yearning moment in front of the Mirror of Erised will be his only queer moment in The Crimes of Grindelwald. But based on the director’s previous comments, I think it’s safe to assume that Dumbledore’s sexuality will not be touched upon in this movie. But why not? What’s the big deal?
Jude Law, who plays Dumbledore in the upcoming wizarding movie, recently defended the choice to not discuss his character’s sexuality in The Crimes of Grindelwald, saying, “But as with humans, your sexuality doesn’t necessarily define you; [Dumbledore’s] multifaceted.” I’m not sure I agree. Sexuality doesn’t necessarily define a person, but LGBTQ stories have been historically, purposefully, and consistently buried in mainstream movies and television, and that’s a decision being made from a place of discriminatory views and homophobia.
LGBTQ people aren’t stupid — the reason major studio movies, the highest grossing movies, aren’t centering queer narratives isn’t because “sexuality doesn’t define” characters, and thus comes second to their driving storylines. They’re doing it because across the nation, and all around the world, homophobia still runs rampant. And the constant exclusion of queer characters sends a message that our stories are controversial, something meant to be kept secret or looked down upon. So no, sexuality doesn’t define a person, but it absolutely is worth talking about, because for LGBTQ people, being queer does define a massive chunk of our lives—and do you want to know why? Because people like the studio executives who choose to bury our stories are repeatedly telling us that queerness does define us, so much so that we deserve to be excluded because of it.
In 2007, when Rowling declared that Dumbledore, a universally beloved voice-of-reason character, was gay, she got queer people’s hopes up, and she should’ve followed through by making him openly gay in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I don’t want a single glimpse into a mystical mirror — I want a gay character with gay storylines.
Similarly, after Frozen fans created an online campaign to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in 2016, Elsa herself, Idina Menzel, expressed her support for the campaign. Jennifer Lee, the movies’ writer and co-director, neither confirmed nor denied whether Elsa would be queer in the upcoming movie, but rather said, “We’ll see where we go.” But again, I don’t want a maybe-queer Elsa, or for the movies’ stars and creators to voice their support of the “idea.” I want openly queer protagonists in mainstream, major studio movies with appropriately queer storylines. All this teasing and dancing around the subject makes me nauseous. It makes me feel othered, and I’m disgusted by it.
Some studios are slowly but surely — emphasis on slowly — blazing the trail toward true LGBTQ representation on-screen, mainly through comedies. In 2017, the Scarlett Johansson-starring Rough Night (Columbia Pictures) featured two queer protagonists and a queer storyline that never poked fun at LGBTQ people, but rather just included them. This year, movies like Love, Simon (20th Century Fox) and Blockers (Universal) have been hailed as progressive gay, high school rom-coms.
Conversely, animated movies, children’s movies, superhero movies, and blockbuster dramas have been noticeably absent from the conversation. Wonder Woman and Black Panther were trailblazers in representation for both DC and Marvel, and with another female-fronted superhero movie on the horizon, the Brie Larson vehicle Captain Marvel, things are certainly looking up — but not for LGBTQ people. Even heterosexual male actors are starting to catch on, like Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington, who recently slammed Marvel for its lack of inclusion of queer superheroes in the MCU.
Hopefully, major studios will take the hint — or the forceful nudge — that the world is ready for out, queer protagonists and queer storylines. Their silence on these issues is deafening, and their refusal to include LGBTQ people in mainstream movies isn’t just insulting — it’s unrealistic.
In America, more adults and teenagers openly identify as LGBTQ than ever before. But according to GLAAD’s 2018 Studio Responsibility Index, which measures LGBTQ representation in film, there was actually a significant decrease in the number of LGBTQ-inclusive films distributed by major studios in the last year — only 14 of the 109 films released contained characters that identified as LGBTQ.
There’s a major disconnect here, and it has nothing to do with how much sexuality defines a character, and everything to do with studios’ discrimination.