Preaching to the Choir: Progressive at just right moment to just the right audience

I saw Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore today. I thought it was a really good film, though with an overly drawn out and sentimental ending. It was interesting to finally see Dumbledore’s dark backstory explored while he was once again wonderfully portrayed by Jude Law.

The film specifically explored Dumbledore’s complicated relationship with Grindelwald. I found the backstory to be interesting ever since I first learned about it and I wasn’t disappointed by how it was developed.

The whole controversy surrounding Dumbledore being homosexual always confused me, since Dumbledore giving into his homosexual feelings led him to evil and his defeat of Grindelwald was followed by a celibate life. It seemed to me like a backstory written by some Conservative Christian encouraging celibacy for homosexuals. Yet Conservatives (who were often hostile to Harry Potter anyways) were upset while the left never attacked this form of representation.

The way Dumbledore’s homosexuality was portrayed in the film only continued the rather pro-celibate take on his backstory.

Yet the few references to Dumbledore’s past falling in love with Grindelwald were of course removed for audiences in… a certain country. Needless to say, this has happened a lot. I wonder if countries like Hungary or the Philippines will start doing the same thing.

It does play into the stereotype that progressivism is something promoted in Capitalist countries to weaken them while law and order should reign in the workers state.

But this brought me to an amazing realisation: Showing progressive scenes in progressive countries isn’t brave or stunning. While Disney is pushing to show more LGBT content to children this is only for American children. Chinese children don’t need it. Yet films get praised for having LGBT representation (while refusing to tackle intolerance in dictatorships to avoid losing money).

This reminds me of how Legend of Korra was praised for its plausible deniability ending, because it was the first (American) cartoon show with such a scene. Braceface had gay characters more than 10 years before that, but those weren’t main characters and it was Canadian so it didn’t count. Having LGBT main characters (even if it was tagged on at the last second) was an amazing first step. So much so that it didn’t need to be done well. I mean Korra being bisexual had no role in her character arc or anything to do with the story and the writers had to accuse fans (including fanatical gay rights supporters) of watching the show through a hetero-lense when they called out how poorly developed the ‘romance’ was.

But a lot of critics have already commented on the opportunism of the ending… really, the Legend of Korra’s ending would have been ground-breaking in the days of Avatar The Last Airbender. But in those days Suki made clear that she was a girl by kissing Sokka.

‘Being a girl=liking guys, Avatar the Last Airbender 2005.

But in 2005 the Democratic Party was still against gay marriage and portraying it in a show might get support from 10 % of the population but not the majority. In 2014 the benefits were greater and the risk were lower. Somebody was going to do it and Bryke struck at that opening in the market.

Next, they tried (unsuccessfully) to make it fit in their Turf War comics. There they revealed the Air Nomads (who followed a monastic lifestyle) were actually very tolerant of different sexualities (while keeping boys and girls separate) while Firelord Sozin (who was proud of his progressive nation) made the Fire Nation intolerant towards homosexuality.

The comics actually had it backwards. Japanese samurai culture and even Japanese fascism have been rather approving of homosexuality while Tibetan Buddhism has called it a sin.

But hey, that’s not the stereotypes we follow in the West.

This is the degeneration of art. Mythology ends up representing the year it is released. The Avatar world isn’t a fantasy world based on Asian history and mythology. Avatar the Last Airbender is American culture from 2005-2008 and Legend of Korra is just 2012-2014 culture and the comics are representative of… I don’t care enough to look up the specific year.

Similarly, Rowling’s books revealed a more conservative vision even before she came out as a TERF.

While she has said in the past that Hogwarts was supposedly a safe school for LGBT students, in one of the books it was revealed that a magical spell turns the staircase to the room where the girls are sleeping into a slide whenever the boys try to use it.

How would a magical system preventing boys from going into the girl’s room make sense in a school that was a safe space for trans students?

I mean if we assume the magic could sense one’s actual self-dentification and it made exceptions for trans people, we still have to wonder how it dealt with non-binary people. Surely magic would have enabled the wizards and witches to understand such things a lot faster right?

The attempt to retroactively make media from less than 20 years ago, to be up to date is just pathetic.

Come to think off it, no characters got divorced in her stories, there was no pre-marital sex, just traditional marriage and kids, there wasn’t even sex education at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter could have had LGBT characters in the 1990s. It didn’t. Neither did the original 2 Toy Story films. If you’re only progressive when it is cool, you’re not courageous or innovative.

When the original Star Trek series had an interracial kiss, they reportedly faced attempts at censorship, but the scene wasn’t cut out in Southern releases.

The first film to depict LGBT characters and have it aired in China, will actually be daring. Angering Conservative American parents is shooting easy targets. Nothing radical about it.

Altman Beten

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