Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore Edited To Remove LGBTQ Dialogue In China

"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" is days away from hitting theaters in the US and whisking audiences back to the whimsical yet war-torn wizarding world. The promise of familiar faces and enchantments is more than enough to inspire excitement, but then there's the chance to delve into a beloved character that the prior "Harry Potter" movies portrayed as a mystery: Albus Dumbledore. 

In particular, the latest film will be the first to acknowledge Dumbledore's relationship with Gellert Grindelwald. Up until now, the saga has shied away from explicitly exploring Dumbledore's sexuality, including this core relationship from his past. But not everyone will get the chance to see this long-awaited detail get some screentime. For the film's release in China, references to the gay relationship have been edited out of the movie by Warner Bros. (according to Variety). This amounts to just six seconds of the 142-minute runtime, as the studio explained in a statement:

"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."

China has a history of censoring LGBTQ acknowledgment, even in films where said relationships are core to the story or characters. "Bohemian Rhapsody," the Freddie Mercury biopic, was one such example, in no small part because of its potential to bring in revenue. The Potter-verse has staying power and an undeniable popularity, so neither Warner Bros. nor  theaters in China wanted to miss out on the box office earnings. Sure enough, Variety reported earlier in the week that "The Secrets of Dumbledore" had a solid opening weekend in China, winning the box office race by earning $9.7 million (at current exchange rates) over its first three days. 

The complicated case of Albus Dumbledore

Harry Potter has become a property rife with controversy, most of which goes back to Rowling (the TERF behind the series), but Dumbledore's sexuality has also been a point of contention for years. It started with Rowling's post-series declaration that the Hogwarts headmaster was gay and had been in love with the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in his youth. She dropped this detail at a book reading in 2007 and continued to confirm it outside of the series canon. It's one of those things you can certainly find in the books, if you're looking for it, but for such a crucial detail to be an after-the-fact trivia mention was always very telling.

Since then, "Harry Potter" fans have been craving to have the series canon actually acknowledge this relationship and for a long time, this seemed unlikely. Then "Fantastic Beasts" happened, and a new magical saga presented an exciting opportunity that was initially wasted. While Jude Law's young Dumbledore had a role to play in the second film, the sequel chose to ignore this detail despite having him confront his past partnership with Grindelwald. So you can imagine the surprise and joy when it was revealed that the third movie would actually and explicitly acknowledge the relationship between the two men, and its impact on their lives. And how could it not? The film is literally titled "The Secrets of Dumbledore" so at this point, it would be absurd to keep dodging the question. But as the Warner Bros statement notes, all it took to make the film ready to screen in China was removing six seconds. This includes the phrases, "because I was in love with you," and "the summer Gellert and I fell in love," and "Who will you love now?" The rest of the film, including an understanding that they share an "intimate bond" remains the same. Warner Bros said:

"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. Our hope is to release our features worldwide as released by their creators but historically we have faced small edits made in local markets.

This wasn't the only possibility though. It's not unheard of for a film, even a large blockbuster, to turn down distribution in China for the sake of maintaining integral LGBTQ+ representation. Last year, Chloé Zhao refused to change the sexuality of Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Marvel's "Eternals," so the film never saw release in China. This year, the Daniels have taken a similar stance and refused to remove Joy's (Stephanie Hsu) relationship in "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" hit theaters on April 7, 2022. Here's the official synopsis:

Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald's growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines?