Fantastic Beasts 3: How The Secrets of Dumbledore Falls Short on LGBTQ+ Representation

Harry Potter is probably one of the most well-known and highest-grossing movie franchises in history. It’s an intricately woven narrative of magic, friendship, and learning to fight for what’s right. The films and novels have received bountiful praise over the years, and the Wizarding World continues to be a pop culture icon. Viewers still look forward to Harry Potter marathons on TV, Universal Studios features Diagon Alley as a major attraction, and there are literally hundreds of ways to show some love for your Hogwarts house. Recently, the franchise saw the addition of a prequel spin-off that takes place well before Harry’s time: the Fantastic Beasts trilogy.


Documenting the adventures of magical beast whisperer Newt Scamander, a young Albus Dumbledore and many witches, wizards, and muggles who shaped history, Fantastic Beasts is meant to be a fun ride for the whole family. However, one glaring issue has been making it difficult for some fans and critics to appreciate The Secrets of Dumbledore, the latest installment in the franchise — for the beautiful level of diversity seen in the rest of the Wizarding World, this film falls surprisingly short on LGBTQ+ representation. Let’s talk about the movie and its (poor) portrayal of LGBTQ+ relationships.

Related: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review Round-Up: A Worthy Wizarding World Sequel?

Dumbledore and Grindelwald: A Romantic History

When Harry Potter‘s author confirmed that Albus Dumbledore was gay in 2007 (nearly a decade after the first Harry Potter book), per ABC News, she also elaborated on his romantic relationship with Gellert Grindelwald as a teenager. The two met around the age of 17, and they were both dealing with a slew of personal issues. Dumbledore had returned to Godric’s Hollow to take his place as the family patriarch following his mother’s death, and Grindelwald had just been expelled from Durmstrang Institute and was violently obsessed with hunting the Deathly Hallows. Upon meeting, they bonded immediately over their shared intellect and desire for bigger and better.

Their friendship quickly blossomed into romance, and the couple spent two passionate months together. During this time, they developed plans to recover the Deathly Hallows, gain ultimate power, and lead a revolution that would put wizards above the rest of humanity. Their motivations were a bit different — Dumbledore sought freedom and a means of reviving his parents, while Grindelwald was hell-bent on controlling the world.

Despite a deep (and explicitly sexual, as confirmed by the author) relationship, Dumbledore and Grindelwald split up when a quarrel resulted in young Ariana Dumbledore’s death. Grindelwald fled to seek the Elder Wand, and Dumbledore went on to study under Nicholas Flamel and later become a professor at Hogwarts. As young men, the two campaigned against one another until Grindelwald was finally taken into custody by Aurors; despite their status as enemies, it’s suggested that both men still had feelings for each other.

Why Their Relationship Feels More Like a Plot Device in Fantastic Beasts 3

One of the biggest complaints fans have about Dumbledore’s sexuality isn’t that he’s gay; it’s that we’re repeatedly told he’s gay rather than shown. The Secrets of Dumbledore is the first official movie in the Harry Potter franchise to openly reference his sexuality, but it’s limited to a select few scenes. We get an intense dream sequence in which the couple discusses their lost love, but their connection is otherwise sparingly mentioned. It feels as though the exploration of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship is restricted to only what is absolutely necessary to progress the story, and we never get glimpses into their golden days or see them share moments of romantic tension in the present. Simply put, it feels like their relationship is only referenced at all because it has to be, and it’s mostly portrayed as a catalyst for negativity and regret.

Related: Fantastic Beasts 3 Critics Agree: Mads Mikkelsen Better Grindelwald Than Johnny Depp

Giving in to Censorship Overseas

In an extremely controversial move, per Variety, Warner Bros. actually removed bits of dialogue referencing Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s sexuality from the Chinese theatrical version of the film. The dialogue specifically mentioned the love between the two men, including a line where Dumbledore directly told Grindelwald that he was in love with him. While the canon lore of their relationship can’t be snuffed out, international censors have gone out of their way to minimize their homosexuality from what little representation it gets. This is predominantly a major issue with many Hollywood studio films that, on the one hand, promise its LGBTQ+ audiences visible and respectful representation, but then, on the other, immediately give in censorship overseas in order to profit on international markets.

While the third installment in the Fantastic Beasts series doesn’t give the best LGBTQ+ representation, there’s still hope that the next film could be more nuanced. That said, the franchise is reportedly on thin ice, having been unsuccessful at drawing the same crowds and positive reception as the original Harry Potter series. It also doesn’t help that the books’ author has doubled down on her transphobic remarks, giving little hope in proper LGBTQ+ representation in future franchise projects.

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