Welcome to Night Vale constantly amazes me with how unique it is, especially when it comes to religion. It manages to take real religious ideas and weave something entirely new and different from the thing that originally inspired them. The Smiling God, the beagle puppy, and the angels are inspired by Abrahamic religions, but while it’s clear that Huntokar and the other gods are definitely at least inspired by real deities, the creators of Night Vale have managed to create their own unique pantheon.
Several episodes ago, we learned that the god Huntokar, who has been mentioned in passing throughout the show, is the god of Night Vale and has been protecting the people of Night Vale since the very beginning. However, we came to discover that her protection also nearly doomed Night Vale by causing the multiple versions of the town in different universes to collapse in on themselves. In this episode, Huntokar mentions that she is one of four old gods that include the Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL), the Woman from Italy, and the Distant Prince.
Writers tend to take two different routes when it comes to adding deities to their stories. They either use gods of real religions, or they invent their own. Creating your own deities has the major advantage that you aren’t taking the risk of portraying another religion’s deities in a potentially harmful way. However, we cannot escape the fact that we are affected by what we know about religions and their deities and inevitably the audience may realize that these “fake gods” are inspired by real ones. It’s fine to be inspired by real deities, but it’s important to still develop them in such a way as to make them their own unique god, otherwise the portrayal could still end up seeming problematic. And that is exactly what the creators of Welcome to Night Vale were able to do. Their deities are clearly inspired by different real gods, but are written in such a way that they become their own unique god and are not simply a copy of another deity.
Spoilers for Welcome to Night Vale for up to Episode 113.
I’m not going to lie, I struggled with what to write about today. As someone already dealing with depression, this week has been extremely trying as I worry about myself and many of my friends and family. And I will not lie that as a white woman, I am utterly enraged by the actions of my fellow white women this election. While I always knew that all white women (I do not exclude myself from this) have issues with racism, due to our privilege, I guess I never realized how bad it was. So today I want to write about some amazing female characters of color from my favorite podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and some of the amazing women of color who have been elected to office and give us hope.
Our community here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends is a tight-knit one, and as a majority queer group, we were shaken to our core by the horrible tragedy that occurred a week ago in Orlando. Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims and their families, and we urge those who can to take an active role in responding to it, whether through blood donation, financial aid, or political activism. In the wake of the shooting, the LGBTQ+ community has responded with vigils, with calls to action, and with affirmations of self-worth. Notably among the latter is the #queerselflove hashtag, started by Welcome to Night Vale actor Dylan Marron on Twitter.
I am a soft-spoken brown queer man who wears his mother's pearl earrings. And I love my queerness. Let's start a #queerselflove hashtag
The hashtag quickly took off as the wounded queer community took the time to reflect on what made us special and important. In response to a hate crime, we told the world that if it was not going to love us, we were still going to love ourselves. I contributed my own personal #queerselflove to the tag on Wednesday night, but today I’d like to talk about a few of my favorite happy LGBTQ+ people and pairings in pop culture. We’ve spent so many posts recently condemning the treatment of queer people in fiction and this post isn’t meant to erase or negate those. Indeed, the importance of meaningful queer representation is more important than ever in a time when the gays we’re burying are no longer fictional. Queer people need to be able to look to something and see ourselves being happy.
Too fragile a portal into another dimension, a dimension which is probably Hell? IDK. I… I’m not a religious studies major, although if I were, I bet I would have graduated by now.
When I listened to this quote from Maureen in the Welcome to Night Vale episode “Things Fall Apart”, I took it as a little bit of a challenge. I am a religious studies major, and I started to look at some of the past episodes, trying to figure out what the latest plotline of Welcome to Night Vale was leading us to. It wasn’t until I listened to the episode “Who’s a Good Boy?” that I managed to finally figure it out.
Spoilers for Episodes 85 to 89 of Welcome to Night Vale after the jump.
We live in dark and difficult times. And while it may seem trivial compared to, say, the reality that Donald Trump is still running for president, one symptom of these times that’s really starting to get to me is the ongoing prevalence of the “bury your gays” trope. This trope, as the name suggests, highlights the ubiquity with which queer characters are killed off in our popular fiction. It’s 2016, people; it’s time to stop using it.
One of my very favorite genres is magical realism. I first discovered it when I was in college and my writing teacher informed me that my writing was more like magical realism than fantasy and encouraged me to write my thesis in the magical realism genre. Before this, I had never even heard of the genre, and I was extremely confused as to how it differed from fantasy. I remember at first being really defensive of my then-favorite genre, fantasy. In the world of literature, it has been my experience that academics tend to look down on sci-fi, fantasy, and horror as lesser genres that aren’t as complex as other genres in realistic fiction. Magical realism gets a lot more credit in the academic world because it isn’t as fanciful or escapist as fantasy. At first, I saw the attempt to push me toward magical realism as a dismissal of fantasy, but as I grew in my understanding of the genre I learned that they did very different but equally wonderful things.
But first, let me explain a little bit about the difference between magical realism and fantasy, as well as discuss some of my favorite examples of magical realism in storytelling today.
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.
I love a rugged jerk with a heart of gold as much as anyone, but Constantine’s morals and ethics leave something to be desired.
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.