After years of public proclamations that Albus Dumbledore is gay without depicting that on the page or on-screen, the Harry Potter franchise is ready to actually, truly, really confirm that the famed Hogwarts headmaster was in a romantic relationship with his archnemesis Gellert Grindelwald.
A viewer in the U.S. who walks into a movie theater to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore will hear Jude Law, the actor playing Dumbledore in the series, reference his past with Grindelwald, with the lines “I was in love with you” and “the summer Gellert and I fell in love,” the Hollywood Reporter reported last week.
Well, except in China: The six seconds' worth of dialogue were the first on-screen confirmation of Dumbledore’s status as a gay man, so naturally, the studio got spooked and decided to ax it from the Chinese cut of the film.
Warner Bros., the studio behind Fantastic Beasts, has confirmed that it removed those lines from the cut of the movie being screened in China. Warner Bros. has defended the decision, describing the whole thing to the Hollywood Reporter as “circumstances that necessitate making nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors.” (Kudos to the PR team that crafted this statement.) But the six-second cut continues the long Harry Potter tradition of supposedly championing the values of love, diversity, and acceptance, while not doing all that much to, y’know, carry out those values.
It’s hard to even consider watching Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore without being reminded that, off-screen, so many marquee names associated with the franchise are now embroiled in some kind of scandal.
There’s Johnny Depp, who’s departed the role of Grindelwald and is now, rather than promoting the film, sitting in a Virginia courtroom fighting over whether his ex-wife Amber Heard defamed him. Heard first accused Depp of domestic abuse in 2016, two years before the release of the second, Depp-starring Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald. The series’ director, David Yates, decided to keep Depp in the movie because, he said, the controversy surrounding Depp was a “dead issue.”
“Honestly, there’s an issue at the moment where there’s a lot of people being accused of things, they’re being accused by multiple victims, and it’s compelling and frightening,” Yates told Entertainment Weekly. “With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.”
Turns out the issue wasn’t quite so “dead”: Days after Depp lost a different defamation trial, against a British newspaper that called Depp a “wife beater,” Mads Mikkelsen was approached to take over the role, according to GQ. Mikkelsen described the folks behind Fantastic Beasts as “panicking.”
There’s series star Ezra Miller, who was recently accused of bursting into a couple’s Hawaiian bedroom and threatening them—and is also reportedly facing a disorderly conduct charge from a karaoke-related incident. (Apparently, it had something to do with a rendition of the song “Shallow,” from the movie A Star Is Born, which is a horrific detail in a different kind of way.)
And then, of course, there’s the writer behind the whole thing: J.K. Rowling. In 2017, Rowling described herself as “genuinely happy” to keep Depp in the role after the Heard allegations—but at the time, she was seen as the fount of wisdom and warmth behind the wizarding world. Now, as the whole planet knows, she’s taken to sending out missives where she rails about the supposed threats posed by trans people.
But Rowling never declared that Dumbledore was gay on the page. Instead, the author has a long history of discussing the Hogwarts headmaster’s sexuality without ever depicting it. She first announced that he was gay in 2007, after finishing the book series.
“I find something a little frustrating about her continuing to muck around with the books after she wrote the final words,” Lev Grossman, the author of the fantasy series “The Magicians,” then wrote in Time magazine. “If she really wanted Dumbledore to be gay—and Neville to marry Hannah Abbott, &c., &c., &c.—why didn’t she just write him that way?”
Rowling didn’t exactly take that criticism to heart. She continued to not write him as gay in “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” which didn’t confirm Dumbledore’s sexuality. She suggested that was because the character would develop further—but evidently, that development isn’t seen as absolutely essential to the story “Fantastic Beasts” is telling, if the makers behind it have no problem just erasing a crucial piece of Dumbledore’s backstory, particularly one that marks him as a member of a marginalized community.