‘…recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying “I knew a girl once…” I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, “Dumbledore’s gay!” [laughter] If I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!’
There’s a sticky situation one runs into when writing LGBTQ characters. So you want to write some non-heterosexual people into your story, whether to reach out to an abysmally underrepresented minority (which really isn’t such a minority, not that the media would have you think so) or to look cool and hip and fresh by being inclusive or to lay out fish hooks for the slash fans. The question then becomes, how does one write in gay characters while making them characters and not just gay?
I name this post after the case of Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series (really, should I have to spell that out in this day and age?), as his acclaimed author simply let it drop one day that the character was in fact homosexual, expressing it as Word of God rather than having it come through in the books themselves. This inspired an ovation from some and outrage from others, and academic eye-narrowing from all sorts of angles about the nature of this decision.
Was J.K. just pulling the factoid out of her hat after the books as a cheap attempt to seem inclusive and an ally? This seems to be a question still floating around. One argument is that there was absolutely nothing in Dumbledore’s characterisation that indicates he was gay, which would have saved J.K. Rowling conveniently from any obtrusive moral guardians while the books were still being published. The counterargument is that of course there wasn’t any evidence of Dumbledore being gay, because, well, people don’t actually come with neon signs announcing their sexuality.
Am I sensing a cop-out, or a legitimate representation?
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a sweet member of the character archetype class, the girl that sits in the middle of the room blowing bubbles with her gum, drawing all over her notebooks and resting her colourful tight-clad legs on the desk. At least until the bell rings, then she flings herself from her seat and into the befuddled arms of her resident love interest. Bonus points if she does so while singing, or exits through the classroom window.
She means well but she’s a problem student, mostly because she’s more about freedom of expression than logic and wants to have class outside all the time. A factor also affecting her school performance is her unwavering devotion to her love interest… and the fact that she really can’t possibly exist.
Now, Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a name-of-shame too often slapped on the wrong people, but this is not a post that aims to point the finger and tack the accusation onto female characters who dare to act free-spirited and quirky. It’s also not a post that complains about the archetype, whatever it may be called, because I’ve done that already. It is, however, a post that rejoices over the general acknowledgement that the trope itself is deeply flawed and shallow.
What respect and logic is there, after all, in a character that exists purely to fulfil a fantasy (be it male or otherwise)? Continuing with my business of finally getting my butt around to watching recommended movies that came out ages ago, I viewed Ruby Sparks recently—a story about a man who literally conjures up his dream girl, and then has to work out what to do with her. Suffering from severe writer’s block, Calvin starts tapping out drabbles about the adventures of a wondrous, eccentric, bubbly, artistic character named Ruby and the man she’s falling in love with, who Calvin shyly admits ‘has a lot of me in him’.
Things get interesting when Ruby appears without explanation from anyone (including the cosmos and the movie writers) in Calvin’s kitchen, eating his cereal and wearing his shirt and acting as though they’re in a long-term relationship. Once he figures out that he isn’t losing his mind and other people can not only see but interact with Ruby, he’s left with a dilemma. What do you do when your dream girl becomes reality? Continue reading