On Why “Gayness” Is Never Irrelevant To the Critic of Truth and Substance


In today’s Times, we are told by critic Edward Rothstein with regard to Albus Dumbledore that the question of the wizard’s “gayness” is “irrelevant” and “distracting” given the character’s later vows of celibacy and his more high-minded efforts to save the world. Here we have a perfect example of the sort of tepid, mediocre and ultimately prim (bourgeois) analysis that has come to typify so much of The Times, particularly since the phasing out and eventual death of Herbert Muschamp (for whom gayness, we might add, was never irrelevant).

Nor is this a harmless exercise in self-delusion! All one has to do is scan the barren desert of post-war American literature to understand how misguided and ultimately destructive Rothstein’s analysis is for its refusal to acknowledge a fundamental truth of the human condition (and the implications of this truth), which is that sexual desire informs every aspect of our development, particularly when such desire is prohibited or censured (as it always it with gay desire). For those willing to open their eyes, we can see this force manifest itself in ways both disturbing (e.g., Hitler) and inspirational (e.g., Abraham Lincoln). (And yes, we choose historical figures for a reason.)

The critic of substance never loses sight of the fact that the world is filled with an obsessive desire, which — and whether we give in to it or not — bends our minds and shapes the fabric of our daily interactions, not to mention the ultimate trajectory of our lives. For Rothstein to claim that these forces are “irrelevant” — even (or especially) in a fictional context — is to describe a world as uselessly fantastic as the one in which our contested wizard was so unfortunately doomed to inhabit.

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