Not too long ago we were contacted by authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith about reviewing their new YA novel, Stranger, thanks to our previous interest in diverse post-apocalyptic fiction. I happily accepted the opportunity to read and review this book, but was admittedly nervous that I wouldn’t like it and then struggle with the review. My fears were utterly unfounded. What I found was an extremely exciting and well written book, with a diverse cast of characters.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “why does this character have to be gay? It’s so distracting!” Or what about this: “we thought about making this character queer, but we thought it would be a distraction”. It seems like I’ve been seeing this sort of thing a lot lately—I see authors insisting that they’re open-minded and love their “gay fans”, but making characters queer would divert attention away from the story; on the other hand, I see fans complaining that the existing queer characters are distracting. But all I, a queer person, can hear from this is “for me to accept and portray you as a person, I need to ignore a piece of your person; can we pretend it doesn’t exist?” and “no one wants to see you as you are”.
It seems that a lot of creators think that it’s enough representation if they have ‘hidden’ LGBTQ+ characters—only revealing it with a throwaway punchline at the end of a movie (see: Mitch in ParaNorman), or even worse, only mentioning it outside the work itself (see: J.K. Rowling’s “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay”). Many fans cheer when this happens, because, see, you can write gay characters who don’t distract from the story. On one hand, this helps to normalize queer characters; it makes them seem just like heterosexual characters, so straight viewers don’t think of them as ‘other’, but as people just like them. And this is important. But on the other hand, really, what sort of representation is it if the audience has no idea the character is queer for mostof the work? Invisible representation is not representation. It also sends the message to queer audience members that they’re only equal to straight people when they’re indistinguishable from them, when they’re exactly the same; that to be accepted you have to follow the heteronormative rules. If you’re in any way different, you draw attention and it’s annoying and disgusting and the need for you to be this way is constantly questioned.
I’m a girl who, if there’s a chance for a choice-driven romance dictated by the player in a game, will be about 70% more likely to buy said game. Or at least I’m 70% more likely to dedicate my brain-space to the consideration of buying it. I have no shame in saying, then, that one of the huge draws of the Dragon Age series for me are its potential romances. After what feels like like an eternity, one of the last possible love interests for DA: Inquisition has been revealed to the denizens of the internet last Thursday. With fan-favorites Varric (the charming surface dwarf) and Vivienne (an intriguing mage from the court of France-inspired Orlais) at the tip of fans’ tongues for “most wanted love interest”, the reveal of the newest LI—the Grey Warden, Blackwall—left a huge portion of the fandom underwhelmed and even hurt. These feelings stem not from feelings of entitlement, but from a sense that despite the game’s astounding nine romancible characters, this newest installment of the Dragon Age series has taken a step backward for minority representation.
Recently, there has been some fantastic news for Bubbline (Princess Bubblegum/Marceline) shippers everywhere! Olivia Olsen, the voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen and a contributing author for the The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, said at a book signing that Marceline and Princess Bubblegum totally used to date.
In case you are unable to listen or can’t hear the video, this is the full text of what Olsen said:
I was at the studio on Tuesday and Pen was actually there because he was recording for Lumpy Space Princess [crowd goes wild!] and I wanted to ask him a lot of questions, because he’s trying to write the book and stuff, so I wanted to pick Pen’s brain a little bit. And he says, “Oh, you know they (Marceline and PB) dated, right?” And I said, “Wellll, that’s what I figured from all the creepy fan art.” [crowd goes wild again!] And I said, “Are they going to do it on the show at all, or can we say anything about it in the book?” And he’s like, “I don’t know about the book, but in some countries where the show airs, it’s sort of illegal.” So that’s why they’re not putting it in the show.
After hearing this statement I, along with many other fans, rejoiced that Bubbline was now canon, but I was also feeling disappointed. My disappointment stems from the fact that still more queer characters in children’s shows and movies are still basically being forced into the closet. While Adventure Time is not without its issues, for the most part it has been a pretty progressive show, especially in its portrayal of female characters and various feminist issues. I had hoped beyond hope that maybe, just maybe Bubbline would soon be canon and that Adventure Time would go down in history as the first children’s cartoon to predominantly feature a queer relationship.
By now, dear audience, you’re probably a little Otomen-ed out and are wondering when I’m going to stop talking about this series. Fear not; this is the last one (unless something ridiculous happens in the last volume, which I highly doubt)! You made it! Give yourself a pat on the back.
Having tackled the issues of Aya Kanno’s dichotomy concerning gender roles and the confused tone of the series, it’s about time to look at one of the more obvious points of contention: LGBTQ+ representation. It saddens me to say this, too, because starting out I really thought this series was going to be progressive in that sense. However, much like most media here in the States, a lot of the queer plot points are left to subtext and essentially ignored in favor of giving everyone heterosexual relationships. The most offensive example of this blatant refusal to address this issue shows up in discussions of Asuka’s dad, Hiromi. Continue reading
If you have been spending any time on Tumblr recently, you have probably seen this page of a Wonder Woman comic that not only implies that the Amazons accept trans women, but that Wonder Woman herself is a trans woman. It’s beautiful and makes you happy to be alive just reading it, but, sadly, it’s not real (here is the real picture). As of right now, DC Comics only has one trans character, Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s roommate in Batgirl. DC has never really been great when it comes to minority representation. For a while they did have more female-led comics than Marvel, but it was debatable whether those comics actually portrayed their female characters with respect. DC did, however, beat out Marvel when it came to trans representation, and though Alysia is not a trans superhero it is nice to finally see a well done and respectful portrayal of a trans character in a comic book. The inclusion of one character is not enough to really be authentic representation, though, and with transgender rights finally gaining more visibility, fans are now turning critical eyes on to Wonder Woman and the often transphobic portrayal of the Amazons.
There are not many places to eat near where I work. There is a Subway, a Wendy’s, a Chinese restaurant, and a McDonald’s, and with the exception of the Chinese restaurant (which I can really only eat at when I have a few more dollars in my wallet), I usually eat at the McDonald’s. It’s an ideal lunchtime work place. The food is cheap, there is a wi-fi connection, and I get to leave the office for an hour, but every time I set foot into McDonald’s I’m confronted with the one thing feminists hate about McDonald’s—the Happy Meal toy display.