Sexualized Saturdays: Which Characters Would You Queer?

batwoman_17_jh_williams_geekdraw_h022013I 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 aafinalmatch-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?

30067_3_fullA 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.

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Fan Service: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Fan service in this context, in case you are unaware, is when a TV show or movie pays some sort of tribute to their own fans. My Little Pony does this very frequently. For example, they have made references to bronies in the song “Equestria Girls”, given Derpy Hooves a speaking role, and actually called her Derpy (which we will come back to), and much more. In addition, the MLP staff has released rumors that some of the background ponies (that bronies love) are going to have bigger parts in the upcoming season.

However, I feel that sometimes the fan service can be too much. Derpy is a great example of this. When she was featured in an episode (see clip below), there was a public outcry from parents of children who watched the show, saying the name Derpy, combined with the voice, was offensive to those with mental issues. In response, her voice was changed to sound, well, less derpy in later recordings. This proceeded to upset all of the bronies who liked Derpy’s original voice and who didn’t believe the name Derpy carried negative connotations in this case. The bronies loved her; they didn’t love laughing at her.

I think MLP went a little too far with the original footage. While I enjoy fan service, it shouldn’t seem like it is coming off at someone else’s expense. The way the scene was originally done, it was easy to take offense at and it seemed insulting to those with mental illnesses. I know that no one meant any harm and MLP writers were only trying to pay homage to their fan base, but from a perspective outside that fan base, it just came off as rude.

The instance above was just going a little far. The Legend of Korra, on the other hand, beat the idea of fan service over the head with the voice of General Iroh. He has the same voice actor (Dante Basco) as Zuko, the main firebender from the original Avatar, and General Iroh’s grandfather. This was probably done to pay homage to the fans from the original series and pay tribute to the previous series. However, since I literally watched Avatar and then immediately picked up Korra, I knew instantly that General Iroh and Zuko had the exact same voice. Not a single difference. For me, having the two characters depicted by the same voice actor would have been enough, but giving them the same voice was overkill. It also made it very difficult to figure out how old General Iroh is (I actually have zero idea). If Basco had changed his voice slightly, I would have 99 problems and Iroh’s voice wouldn’t be one of them. But right now I just have 100 problems.

In short, fan service is awesome in small doses. In big ones, it just makes people upset and sometimes angry.