Why is J.K. Rowling okay with queerbaiting fans in Fantastic Beasts 2?


Since David Yates revealed that Dumbledore wouldn’t be “explicitly” gay in Fantastic Beasts 2, J.K. Rowling doesn’t seem to understand why fans are upset.

Instead of turning this into an opportunity to uplift the LGBTQ community, Fantastic Beasts 2 is making things as difficult for itself as it possibly can. Now an ongoing saga with multiple parts to the story, it seems that J.K. Rowling is just a few tweets away from alienating a huge portion of her fanbase.

Prior to this development, it’s unlikely that anyone would have the gall to question Rowling. She’s always been a progressive advocate on several different fronts, but here’s a reminder of what’s happened so far and why faith in her has been shaken:


If awareness was a proper stand-in for representation, we wouldn’t have a problem. That’s like saying that we know someone’s drowning, but we’re not going to jump in the pool and save them. Is that the kind of lifeguard people want? Of course not.

The chance to see young Dumbledore in the first Fantastic Beasts film drew many fans to the theaters. And it’s his relationship with Grindelwald that continues to intrigue many of us. But nobody asked Dumbledore to be gay; J.K. Rowling did that herself. She put it out there, which opened the door to fans’ expectations that we’d eventually see that on screen.

TVTropes defines queerbaiting as follows:

"[…] to portray queerness in order to attract an LGBT Fanbase (and also the liberal and Millennial viewers also more interested in seeing representative stories), but never actually confirm it. Though the term seems pejorative, queerbaiting is not necessarily negative, but as a means to capitalise on both the queer and straight storytelling potential, and to retain as large an audience as possible. Basically, it’s allowing the audience to see what they want to — and never outright denying nor confirming anything."

And since the Internet can argue everything to death, here’s another, more succinct explanation from the Huffington Post:

"It refers to the concept of showrunners and writers adding homoerotic subtext between two characters, usually leads, in order to attract LGBTQ audiences to the show without ever intending to elevate the subtext to an actual relationship."

The overall idea to gather here remains that J.K. Rowling has “teased” Dumbledore’s sexuality without what now appears to be no intention of actually showing it on screen. Though Yates said “not explicitly,” Rowling’s defense didn’t make anyone feel better. To a majority of audiences, not showing a wizard to be explicitly gay is just another way of making him straight until proven otherwise.

I’m not here to condone sending hateful messages on social media. However, J.K. Rowling chose her words in such a way that she missed the opportunity to stand with the LGBTQ community in solidarity. Where she could’ve said she heard and understood why it was such an important matter to them, she chose to “not explicitly” hint that we’d eventually see something in the “five-movie series.”

An important facet of diverse representation is normalizing something that is otherwise marginalized. So, to elevate Dumbledore’s sexuality from an awareness to proper representation, it needs to be shown explicitly. He doesn’t have to have sex with men or be flamboyant, but it can’t just be open to interpretation. He should definitely do more than Percival Graves’ awkward seduction/manipulation of Credence that we saw in the first film.

So, if Fantastic Beasts 2 won’t show it and J.K. Rowling won’t defend why, then what’s the point?

The Harry Potter film series is a multi-billion dollar franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 closed with $1.3 billion on its own. Fantastic Beasts got really, really close to a billion, too.

Sequels can be even harder to pull off than the first film. Just look at what happened to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Although it made money, it also alienated a core group of the fanbase. Now it looks like Fantastic Beasts 2 is going to do the same thing, but in reverse.

As Rowling pointed out, it’s a five-movie series. They need it to be big five times in a row. So someone blinked somewhere, but it’s impossible to tell whether that was someone from Fantastic Beasts 2 or Warner Bros., specifically. Since Rowling wrote the screenplay, a lot of the culpability falls to her.

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Unfortunately, Rowling, who has always been vocal and liberal about things, put her foot down twice in a row. It just happened to be in opposition of equally vocal fanbases as well.

Will this ultimately hurt Fantastic Beasts 2? Possibly. We won’t know until the movie hits theaters on Nov. 16, 2018.