I have been thinking recently about the practice of making existing characters who are previously thought to be straight into queer characters. It’s not something that happens often, but it has been done before. In DC’s New 52 reboot, the Green Lantern Alan Scott, previously assumed straight, was revealed to be gay. Batwoman was another character who was previously assumed straight—ironically, she was actually introduced as Batman’s girlfriend to prove that Batman was straight. Now she’s a lesbian. Yay! On television Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character that is still often debated by fans. While her character’s bisexuality was definitely erased, many fans still argue over whether there was evidence in previous seasons that showed that Willow was attracted to women.
Furthermore, the Slash Madness Tournament is here again and is currently in its final match-up. Once again it’s come down to a war between Destiel and Sterek fans. Last time I checked, Destiel was in the lead by a small margin, but the Sterek fans are certainly putting up a fight. What’s more interesting to me, however, is less the tournament itself and more how fans talk about these two giant pairings. Fans seem to think that winning tournaments like this will prove to The Powers That Be that certain queer relationships, like Sterek and Destiel, would be supported by the whole of the fandom if they were made canon. By showing support for these pairings in a visible way, fans believe that writers will realize that the fandom won’t abandon the show because of canon gay characters—rather, fans will actively support it.
While I’m all for people shipping whatever pairings they want, I have always been skeptical about turning canonically straight characters into queer characters. This mostly has to do with having decent writers in my opinion, and even that’s not always a guarantee. I’m especially concerned with characters like Dean Winchester, who is portrayed as a real ladies’ man. In this case, I worry about writers trying to claim that character is now completely homosexual, when logic would dictate that he is at least bisexual. I also worry about the reasons why we, the viewers, are just now learning that a character is queer. Why have these characters never shown any interest in same-sex relationships until now?
A real life example of this is Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon did not originally intend for Willow to be gay, but come season four, he decided to have a character explore their sexuality and thus Willow became a lesbian. In my opinion, the whole thing was handled very poorly. Other than one episode in season three where Willow’s evil twin is described as being “kind of gay”, there is no indication that Willow is attracted to women before season four. Maybe if Whedon had spent a season or two developing her sexuality this transition could have worked out, but he didn’t, and it didn’t. I’m not saying that these issues can’t be dealt with, but so often they aren’t or aren’t dealt with well.
My biggest concern, though, is actually fanservice. While fanservice isn’t always bad, I’ve never been in favor of changing a character’s sexuality in the name of fanservice. LGBTQ+ representations shouldn’t be about fanservice. I have always believed that writers and producers should be concerned about representation and actively try to include a diverse cast in their stories. Adding queer characters into a story retroactively, like in the case of Dumbledore or Willow, seems like a cheap win for LGBTQ+ representation. Furthermore, as I have discussed before, just because fans want a queer pairing to be canon, doesn’t mean they want it because they genuinely view these characters as gay or even care about queer representation. A lot of the ships in fandom seem more likely to fetishize gay couples than actually promote legitimate LGBTQ+ representation.
That being said, I certainly understand fans’ need to see their beliefs about a character’s sexuality validated when they truly believe the show is hinting at the character’s being queer. I know Lady Saika has written before about how she believes Sherlock from BBC’s Sherlock is asexual, and this is something that I wholeheartedly agree with and would love to see officially acknowledged in canon. (Though it never will because Moffat thinks asexuality isn’t interesting.) I don’t care if Sterek ever becomes canon, but I think there is plenty of evidence that Stiles is actually bisexual, and writer Jeff Davis hasn’t ruled it out as a possibility. And I am certainly sick of the queerbaiting that happens with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn and would love to have it finally confirmed that the two characters have feelings for each other.
However, half the reason I support queering the characters that I just mentioned is because I already see evidence that they are queer. It wouldn’t take much explaining within the current canon storyline to make these characters something besides straight.
But what about just taking existing characters who are assumed to be straight and making them queer?
And in doing so, ignoring their history of apparent heterosexuality? Is there a way to do this? Considering how I feel about this issue I gave it a lot of thought and came to two conclusions: reboots or focusing on characters that aren’t as well known.
For example, Lady Saika discussed before that she hoped for Agent Coulson to be revealed to be a queer character in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. Despite Coulson being a fan favorite, not much is actually known about him as a person. And because much about him is unknown, writers could easily reveal Coulson to be queer.
However, out of the two options, I think the reboot option is the most interesting. Alan Scott was revealed to be gay in the DC reboot. Writers didn’t have to worry about trying to explain anything in the past because the whole universe had been rebooted, starting over with a clean slate and allowing writers to do whatever they wanted. And chances are, from here on, Alan Scott will always be a gay character, adding much needed diversity to the DC universe.
Andrew Garfield has also suggested that Spider-Man be revealed to be bisexual in the movies, gender-swapping Mary Jane so that one of Spider-Man’s main love interests is a man. Movies often reboot original stories, and in the case of comic book movies, producers have a rare opportunity to change things in the comics as well. What if a male MJ and bisexual Spider-Man ended up being received very well by fans? That might lead the writers to change the character in the comics. At the very least, the writers might write a series in an alternate universe where Spider-Man is bisexual.
This isn’t limited to comic books or comic-book movies either. What if the Star Trek reboot wrote Uhura as bisexual? What if some time in the future the Harry Potter movies (I say movies because I doubt anyone would change the actual books) are rebooted and Luna is shown to be pansexual (and Dumbledore was actually revealed to be gay in the canon)? Tomb Raider recently set a precedent for rebooting video games. What if in the new reboot Laura Croft is revealed to be a lesbian? Reboots allow writers to take existing characters and make them queer, which could in the future create the possibility of the characters always being portrayed as queer. That’s certainly an exciting prospect!
Personally, if I could make any character queer it would be Superman. Seriously, go big or go home. A character that’s an American icon, stands for truth and justice, and is also a queer character? That would be awesome. I would make him pansexual, but I’m biased. The next Hobbit movie will feature a brand-new female elf named Tauriel who’s not in the books. Maybe instead of having a romance with Kili as some rumors suggest, she could be in love with another beautiful lady elf. And finally, since I have Teen Wolf on the brain thanks to the upcoming finale, I would kill for a polyamorous bisexual relationship between Scott, Isaac, and Allison. A girl can dream right?
Now it’s your turn. Which characters would you queer? Don’t worry about whether or not there is evidence supporting that character being LGBTQ+. Just tell me: if you could rewrite any character as a queer character, who would it be? Let me know in the comments.