Although it has been hinted at and alluded to throughout the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the first film in either franchise to make it explicit that Hogwarts’ beloved headmaster Albus Dumbledore is gay, and had a past romantic relationship with his arch-nemesis, Gellert Grindelwald. Dumbledore’s dialogue in the new Fantastic Beasts includes lines about being “in love” with Grindelwald on two separate occasions.
But Chinese audiences won’t hear either of them, as the roughly six seconds of spoken dialogue have been removed from the film for its release in China. Warner Bros. released this statement about their decision to remove the reference to Dumbledore’s sexuality, via The Hollywood Reporter:
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. 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.
American films released in China must be approved by local government censors, who can reject a movie for a variety of reasons, including references to homosexuality. (Another recent example, via The New York Times: “The Chinese censors put a black dress on the heroine’s nude body in The Shape of Water.”) Chinese film censorship recently made headlines here in the U.S. when the Chinese approved version of Fight Club — complete with an improbable and inexplicable happy ending — appeared on social media.
China is an enormous market and so in recent years Hollywood has often made cuts like the ones in The Secrets of Dumbledore in order to reap the financial benefits of having their movie play to Chinese audiences. And Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is already open in China and the #1 movie in the country, despite the trims and large-scale closures of many theaters due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.