The Fantastic Beasts series — a spinoff off the mega Harry Potter franchise — is not new to controversy. Prior to the third movie premiering, the series made headlines when the studio delayed its recasting of Gellert Grindelwald (then played by Johnny Depp) following Depp’s abuse allegations. The latest development of the Fantastic Beasts world, The Secrets of Dumbledore (out April 15th), is facing backlash once more from fans, this time for deleting dialogue that references queerness between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
It was revealed this week that Warner Bros. removed dialogue in the film for the Chinese market, lines that allude to a romantic relationship between Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) and the series’ antagonist, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). The lines in question were: “I was in love with you” and “the summer Gellert and I fell in love,” spoken by Dumbledore. Notably, Dumbledore and Grindelwald are the only canonically gay coupling (as of now) of the entire Harry Potter extended universe.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, both exchanges amounted to six seconds of the movie’s total 143-minute runtime. Fans have taken to social media to address the erasure of these lines — dialogue which establishes a romantic relationship beyond any reasonable doubt.
“As a studio, we’re committed to safeguarding the integrity of every film we release, and that extends to circumstances that necessitate making nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter. “Our hope is to release our features worldwide as released by their creators but historically we have faced small edits made in local markets. In the case of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, a six-second cut was requested and Warner Bros. accepted those changes to comply with local requirements but the spirit of the film remains intact. We want audiences everywhere in the world to see and enjoy this film, and it’s important to us that Chinese audiences have the opportunity to experience it as well, even with these minor edits.”
Despite these assurances, Potter fans are still not pleased with the situation overall. Many have pointed out that if two lines of dialogue were all it took to erase the queer elements of the film, it wasn’t sufficient representation in the first place. As one of the most influential franchises in the world — arguably, there’s not a household around the world who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter — the extended world of Harry Potter has a great opportunity to stand alongside its queer fans. Their opportunity to normalize queer relationships and characters is one that very few franchises have and while it’s disappointing to see them buckle under the weight of profit, it’s not surprising. Fans are not incorrect in claiming that they did the bare minimum in representation: if six seconds of dialogue is the only confirmation of their queerness, it was already a disservice to LGBTQ+ fans already.