Shadowhunters may not be the best show out there, both in terms of writing and acting, but it does get a few things right in terms of diversity and representation. I talked about my love for Magnus Bane as a bisexual character before, and I just recently finished catching up with the second season, which had a lot of great moments between Magnus and Alec, his boyfriend. So, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at Alec Lightwood and how he is presented in the show as a gay man.
Some spoilers for the Shadowhunters TV show below.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten really into Dungeons & Dragons, a role-playing and story-telling game that relies on improvisation and dice. A game of D&D is led by a Dungeon Master who provides a fantasy world for the players to interact with, and together, they build a story. I discovered D&D through Critical Role, which is a weekly livestream showing a group of people playing the game. It’s quite unlike any other media content I consume, as it doesn’t have a team of writers and is largely improvised. Moreover, it started as a private home game, so it wasn’t even initially created with an audience in mind (although the players did make the decision to continue their game instead of starting a new one for the broadcast).
However, since it started streaming two years ago, it has become quite a phenomenon, inspiring people to play D&D and to create. I wrote about the show several weeks ago while I was still frantically trying to catch up and as such didn’t really stop to think much about anything. I was very excited, for instance, about the mere fact that the show includes LGBTQ+ representation. Since then, I’ve finished catching up and had time to reflect on and look at this representation a little more critically. While Critical Role does have characters of differing gender identities and sexualities who are portrayed with care and respect, some of the actions of the players show a lack of consideration towards the LGBTQ+ characters and the people they represent.
I always loved Gambit. The smooth talking Cajun, desperately in love with Rogue despite not being able to touch her, was certainly one of my favorite characters growing up. He was a little bit of an arrogant asshole, but he had a good heart. Gambit was also a big fanservice character. He was one of the few male characters drawn more for female comic readers, and furthermore, there was always the hint that Gambit’s sexuality might be more fluid than the comics led us to believe. However, despite everything that could be inferred from the comic, Gambit was never explicitly stated to be a queer character. That seems to be a big trend in comics right now. Despite the fact that Marvel in particular has been doing a lot better with having more diversity in their comics, there is still a significant lack of queer characters.
If you’re a Xena: Warrior Princess fan like myself, then you have probably heard that a reboot is in the works. Sadly, it is a reboot and not a continuation, which means Lucy Lawless and Renée O’Connor will not be reprising their roles as Xena and Gabrielle. That’s a little sad, but I guess I get the direction the Powers That Be are pursuing.
That being said, if this is going to be a reboot, I have a couple of suggestions and requests for how to make a Xena reboot successful today while still being true to the spirit of the show.
Recently I have been embracing my queerness more and more. I’ve always been open and proud about my pansexuality, but circumstances have made it so that I couldn’t be as out and as proud as I wanted tobe. For example, even now I can’t talk about or even mention my sexuality at my job, or I could be fired—the hazards of working for a Catholic church. I was nervous about going to my local Pridefest because if someone saw me I could have lost my job just for attending. This is an obstacle that is sadly still in my life, but other obstacles have since fallen away. Before this, I hadn’t come out to my father; however, I have now, with thankfully very few obstacles. I have also been engaging more with the queer community: something I was previously afraid to even attempt because of how prevalent I heard the bi and pan-phobia was in the community. But so far, to my delight, I haven’t personally encountered any such issues. Now I can be somewhat more open in my life, and the recent Pulse shooting prompted me to be even more open in defiance of all the hate. Together, this all has led me to want to engage more in the queer community and queer culture.
Of course, being a nerd, I naturally wanted to look into queer stories in sci-fi and fantasy. Sadly, as you can guess, there are very few.
I have been pretty impressed with comic book movies lately. Yeah, it’s still not ideal, but both Marvel and DC Comics have far more women and people of color in their upcoming movies than they had before. At least now in Marvel we have Natasha, Pepper, Wanda, and Sam Wilson and James Rhodes, and we’re about to get Black Panther and Captain Marvel, but we don’t have one single queer character. And in DC Comics we are finally getting Wonder Woman, Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), and Black Atom (played by Dwayne Johnson), but again, still no queer characters.It’s pretty nice to see even some progress being made—well, in some areas at least. When it comes to queer representation, both DC and Marvel Comics are severely lacking even to the point of straightwashing queer characters. Despite gay marriage being legalized in the United States, continuing to be legal in at least nineteen other countries, including countries like France, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil, and gay rights gaining ever increasing support, it seems The Powers That Be are still hesitant about including gay characters in their comic book movies.
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”.
Awesome character, but not an epitome of LGBTQ+ representation
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.
The start of a new year brings forth the changes that we want to make in ourselves and the world around us. These resolutions are what propel us forward, even if they end up being just a little out of our reach. What I have for you today isn’t a nerdy way to lose weight or a petition to bring about a well-needed shift in media; however, if your resolution had to do with reading something new, have I got a webcomic for you.
On the surface, Megan Rose Gedris’s Yu+Me Dream doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. Main character Fiona lives her day-to-day normal, boring life going to Catholic school and being teased because she’s an outcast. Although content with her life—save for the bullying—Fiona can’t help but feel there’s something missing, and when new girl Lia transfers in, Fiona realized that it might just be this new face she was looking for this entire time.