The other week, I went to Steel City Con, the Pittsburgh Area’s valiant attempt at a comic con. Lots of vendors, bunch of B- and C-list TV celebs, usually two or three A-listers (last year I got autographs from Shannen Doherty AND Holly Marie Combs!!!), and of course: tons of passionate, weird, lovable pop culture junkies, God love ’em. As I went through through my loot, I realized I had had a gay ol’ time. My two biggest gems? Action figures of Willow and Tara, and All New X-Men #17: aka newly-out Iceman’s first, big (I’m talking full-page panel) gay kiss. This is exceptional, you guys: Iceman has been part of the X-Verse since its very beginnings in 1963, one of the original five X-Men. So how did we get to this place fifty-four years later? It’s the long line of the quirkiest comic team family expanding its inherent diversity. Let’s take a look.
When used well, allegory is a powerful tool for satire and critique. It can make complex subjects easier to understand, or foreign concepts more relatable. Of course, when used poorly, you end up with mixed messages and weak positions. Worse yet, bad allegory can send the entirely wrong message, and creators should know how to avoid that minefield.
I spent a lot of time trying to decide on a topic for today’s post. But I could really think only of one topic, although I tried to resist it for a while because it’s too sad and frustrating. In the end, I decided to go with it. And so today I want to join the conversation discussing the queer women that have died on our TV screens this year, the Dead Lesbian trope, and the implications of this continuing trend.
Spoilers for Lost Girl, Person of Interest and The 100 below (and of course, don’t look at any of the links if you don’t want to be spoiled about any character deaths anywhere).
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.
Recently I’ve been spending lots of time on YouTube, and I subscribed to Funimation so I could keep up to date with current anime. Not too long ago I saw the title Yurikuma Arashi. I didn’t know anything about it, but the art in the screencap looked cute, so I watched a random episode. I’ll admit that I’m not the most eloquent person, but I was at a complete loss after watching the opening credits.
Trigger Warning: Mild Nudity and Sexual Themes
I sat there dumbfounded out of sheer confusion. A few minutes later I smacked myself in the head. I knew at least what half of the title meant, but I just didn’t pay attention to it. Yuri, in Japanese, refers to a genre about lesbian relationships. Kuma translates to bear. Then I looked up arashi, which means storm. I was intrigued—if nothing else I wanted to know what “lesbian bear storm” was about—so I decided to finish the series in order. When I saw the opening I was doubtful; worried it was going to be some strange harem anime or something. After watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s bizarre to be sure, but the message was genuine. Almost all of the characters struggle with being lesbians because the world they live in tries to conform them into something else, or in some circumstances, kill them. It’s not the deepest love story, but it shows how society can shun people for being different, or try to change them from being who they truly are. Yurikuma Arashi shows how queer relationships can be complex and difficult, and touches on different forms of love, even familial.
If you’d like to see the show, it’s on funimation’s channel on YouTube, though the entire series is not loaded yet. The full series is offered free on Hulu at present. Bear in mind that it is rated for a mature audience. Spoilers after the jump!
For anyone who doesn’t watch The 100, the CW made great strides toward representation when it revealed that its leading character is bisexual. Initially, Clarke came across as the generic cishet white girl we now commonly follow in dystopian societies, and I got on The 100’s case about that a while back. I have never been happier to be wrong. The 100 started off rather campy, but it has really grown into its potential, and it is most certainly one of the better shows on TV right now. The reveal of Clarke’s bisexuality and Lexa’s queerness only added more layers to two already well developed characters—but the writers are also taking another step to show why their sexualities should matter to us.
Representation matters, and everyone wants to be a hero. Unfortunately, what we LGBTQ+ folks get more often are queer villains, queer-coded villains, or anti-heroes. At least, they’re the most famous ones: pretty much every Disney villain ever, Loki, Constantine. The predominance of these types of characters and the lack of LGBTQ+ “good guy” superheroes creates the image of queerness as being tied to wickedness, threat to society, and general “otherness”. This influences both the way the general society sees LGBTQ+ people and how LGBTQ+ folks see ourselves, especially young people struggling with their identities. It creates a certain narrative for us, implying that we can only fit a certain type of mold and that it always sets us apart and makes us a threat. And that sucks.
However, I’m not saying all queer characters need to be “good guys”. It’s just that a balance is needed to avoid forcing the idea that queer equals bad. Therefore it’s important to have more LGBTQ+ heroes and “good guys” who are people others follow and look up to (I’m not saying bisexual Steve Rogers, but I’m totally thinking bisexual Steve Rogers). We need to see that we can be great heroes and that we can have all kinds of different stories be about us.
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.
A casual search on the popular fanfiction site Archive Of Our Own will reveal a trend that—while unsurprising to the fandom community—would be somewhat baffling to the casual observer. A search of standardized tags on AO3 indicated that nearly 63% of all the romantic and/or sexual fanfiction published there is classified as male/male (i.e. “slash”), compared to about 30% in the female/male category and a scant 6.6% in the female/female (“femslash”) category. Based on a survey of fanfiction.net, another popular fanfiction website, FFN Research estimates that 78% of fanfiction writers identify as female. Myriad explanations try to account for this: the most popular is that girls just like to fetishize gay men, but some contend that it’s partly an empathetic reaction to media dominated by male characters; others speculate that it is a way for women to write romance while removing objectification from themselves. As other LGG&F writers have speculated, the real explanation is probably a combination of these motives, as well as innumerable others.
As a genderqueer person I’m fairly certain that my own experience with slash fanfiction differs somewhat from the norm. Only recently have I begun reflecting on how formative both writing and reading fanfiction was at a time in my life when I felt isolated and frustrated by my own seemingly incongruous feelings. Knowing now that there are a surprising number of people for whom the gender binary doesn’t hold true, I like to think that for some small portion of the fan community fanfiction has been an important tool for self-discovery, as it was for me.
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you may have noticed something: namely, we are big fans of queer ladies being included in things. Whether it’s a plea to include more lesbians in media or to write more femslash, there are few things we are more adamant about than the representation of LGBTQ+ women in popular culture.
It’s probably not surprising to know that we are not the only ones who are invested in queer female inclusion, and that’s where this week’s Web Crush enters the picture.
We accept recs for both original and derivative works in any media which are primarily focussed on one or more F/F relationships. This includes:
- Relationships which are sexual and/or romantic.
- Committed platonic and/or queerplatonic relationships.
- Polyamorous relationships.
- Relationships involving cis women, trans* women or non-binary people.