I basically live for representation of LGBTQ+ characters. As a bi person, I’m especially starved for good bi representation. Unfortunately, such characters are especially difficult to come by. Then there are wonderful characters who could be great bisexuals, and that’s where headcanons come in. A headcanon is something that is not explicitly stated in the text, but doesn’t contradict it either, and you like to imagine it’s true. It’s not as great as actual representation, but it can be great fun and provide comfort when actual representation isn’t there. So, today I want to share with you my Top 10 characters whom I like to imagine are bisexual and who would make excellent representation if they were made canonically bisexual.
“I’m not going to your school,” he mutters.
“I’ll tell you what,” she says. “Why don’t I sit here for … ten more minutes, and at the end of it I’ll ask you again. If you say no then, I’ll leave. Does that sound okay?”
“No,” he says. “I want you to leave now. My dad’ll be home soon.” He tries to make that last bit as threatening as he can.
Her face goes hard suddenly, where it was unsmiling but gentle before. “Rick,” she says, and he flinches at the iciness of her tone. “Your father doesn’t frighten me. He shouldn’t frighten you. There have always been cruel, close-minded people like your father, and you have the choice, right now, to stop being afraid of them.”
“Shut up,” Rick says. “My dad isn’t cruel, he just doesn’t want me to be a freak—”
“A freak like Kieren?” she says coolly.
“I’m not like Ren!” he says, trying very hard not to yell. “I’m not like Ren, and I’m not like you, I don’t even know you, so just go away already and stop saying bad things about my dad.”
I recently binge-watched all of the BBC’s In The Flesh, a show you may have heard described as “that show about gay zombies”. The description isn’t entirely wrong—there are zombies, and some of them are queer, but In The Flesh really serves as one big metaphor for the Other—the people who, for many reasons, are discriminated against by people who claim they and they alone are “the norm”. I’ll admit that when I first went looking into In The Flesh fanfic, I was hoping to find fic about the vivacious Amy Dyer, or Kieren’s badass, vulnerable little sister Jem (or fics with Amy and Jem, if you know what I mean). Both ladies are two of the most well-written, well-developed female characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to see on any show, gay zombies or not. But if any one character exemplifies the difficult, thought-provoking, heartwrenching themes of In The Flesh, it has to be Rick Macy. And that’s where today’s Fanfiction Fridays has landed us.
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.
In The Flesh is very important to me (you can read an introductory review of Season 1 by Ace here), and Kieren Walker, in particular, is very important to me. He’s an artist. He doesn’t want to stand out but at the same time he stands up for the mistreated. He spends a lot of time wanting to run away from everything but when it counts he decides to stay. He has a history of depression. He is also a LGBTQ+ character, which is one of his defining characteristics but not the defining character feature. The way Kieren’s sexuality is portrayed on the show and talked about by the creators isn’t perfect, but it is also extraordinarily positive in quite a few ways.
Trigger warnings for brief mentions of suicide and depression below. Also mild spoilers concerning Kieren’s character development and relationships.
Zombie stories have all but saturated pop culture. They’re everywhere—28 Days Later, The Last of Us, Warm Bodies, just to name a few—and thankfully for those of us who love zombies, they’re not going away any time soon. However, since there’s so many of these stories, they face a huge challenge: being both unique and interesting to audiences that have already consumed dozens upon dozens of zombie narratives. Some of them, such as The Walking Dead and The Last of Us, succeed. Others, like the Resident Evil movies, do not.
Of course, there don’t seem to be too many places to take these narratives, and that adds to the challenge. Often, they will follow a group of people attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Warm Bodies switched this up a bit by creating a cure for the zombies. In The Flesh goes a similar route; it follows Kieren Walker, a zombie who’s been cured of his feeding urges, as he struggles to fit back in with society—but whereas Warm Bodies was a comedic love story, In The Flesh has a much darker narrative to follow. It’s also a giant allegory for LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Right now I’ve only watched the first season of In The Flesh, which is only three episodes long. I also have no idea how I’d never heard of this show until last week, because its first season is quite possibly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
Spoilers be ahead.