With the dreaded holiday coming up, here’s a reminder for you. You are valued for who you are, not in spite of who you are. If you’re still closeted to your birth family, that’s okay. If you’re still closeted period, that’s okay! These things are important for you to tell at your own pace.
Fanfiction is important to how we as a community are able to express our creative abilities and also give other people in the community a place to experience loving/smutty/ridiculous couples that we would otherwise never get.
This has been a real quick note.
Something that has always bugged me in post-apocalyptic settings is that suddenly there is the expectation that queer folks either don’t exist or are somehow more concerned with the biological continuation of the human race instead of their self. Or if they do keep to their orientation, they are dramatically sacrificed for the greater good of the (usually cishet) group, thereby proving that they cared about furthering humanity all along.
Granted, this assumes that there’s queer characters in post-apocalyptica at all. Part of the issue is that for ages, anything related to the queer community has been put into the specific category of queer content only. The desire for artists of all kinds of media to create compelling stories featuring queer characters had to weigh getting the story out there versus having the main character be queer.
The Handmaids Tale, first published in 1985, focuses on a straight character but includes her best friend, a lesbian woman. While the main idea of the story is the subjugation of women, there is also a brief explanation of what happens to queer people, referred to as “gender traitors” in this dystopia. Men and women alike are killed for their identity in this setting that values Christian fundamentalism is they are queer. It is assumed that this is definite for trans folks as much as it is for anyone who shows their sexual preference. In the cases of lesbians, it is possible that they may be sent to a place called the Colonies, an irradiated area where “non-persons” are sent to clear up radioactive waste, men and women alike. While this is also a death sentence, it is seen as far more cruel than outright being executed.
Part of the problem is that speculative fiction shows which covers post-apocalyptia is almost always based off of books or short stories. They are expanded on and bring the worlds to people who would have otherwise not read the original texts. And the literary world is fraught with people like this who make it difficult to publish queer dystopias at all. There are filters that limit what we get to see on screen that are filtered by what producers want to pick up that are filtered by stories that get to be told. When we put a limit on trivialities like how many identities make up an individual (which only ever seems to be a problem when it comes to inclusion), we are limiting how many amazing stories we get to consume in the long run.
This is a bit of a weird area for me. I’m an adult who absolutely loves to watch cartoons. I love animation. I love seeing how kids’ stories are being told. I love seeing new heroes that kids get to enjoy and play as in their heads.
But see that’s one of the things. I’m not a kid anymore. So where does that put me when it comes to being a fan? Where does that put me when the characters of a show are all minors and I know that a couple of them would be in love with the other? Where does that put me when I’m invested in a story not meant for me as a target demographic?
The answer is simpler than you think.
I’m still a fan. I’m just not usually the intended audience. And that’s okay. I never really got to see people like me growing up, in real life or on TV, so seeing cartoons with queer characters now is amazing. Because it means that kids out there who are in the same boat that I was are getting to realize things about themselves sooner. They get to see healthy same-gender relationships. They get to see toxic ones. They get to see that there are in fact people like them.
I always think about how much less complicated my life would have been if I’d figured out even one of my queer identities in middle school. I’m able to look at these mixed emotions about not changing a thing about how I realized I was queer and being upset that no one told me I was being bullied because they thought I was gay. It just would have saved me a lot of time coming up with these revelations!
Most importantly, it’s giving kids something that would have made things easier for a lot of us. Terms. Maybe it’s not all the intricate actual names of things, but they have examples and frames of reference. Someone can try to explain to the best of their ability that they aren’t a boy or a girl, and another kid can have an understanding that Stevonnie is the same way (a literal blend of a boy and a girl). They can say that they think that they might like other boys and there’s Shiro from Voltron (although this is a bury your gays trope and isn’t really all that great).
With the normalization of queer characters and queer writers to go with them, we’re able as a community to express ourselves and our hardships. We can tell our stories to the next generations in something that they’ll be able to look back on and be fond of. Maybe even thankful for.
And for now, we who didn’t get to experience explicitly queer main characters growing up get to sit alongside and cheer, because finally we have it. We have a little bit less of a shitty world where the kids have someone in their corner as a reference to who they might be. And those characters can kick the world’s ass.
I know this blog is about television and film, but honestly I feel the need to remind people that representation in video games is also incredibly important. It gives us a chance to actually see the characters interact with each other and have developing relationships that we feel apart of because we take an active role in the storytelling.
I recently replayed Dragon Age: Inquisition and for the first time played as a male Inquisitor. For those who don’t know, it’s a Bioware game which are most known for their long-form multi-game storytelling with decisions carrying over from game to game. Romances are one of the elements to their games that are especially appreciated by fans.
This run-through, I was set on romancing Cassandra, a tragically straight fighter. But then it hit me. I had romanced one of the pansexual characters before (The Iron Bull). I knew that Josephine is also pan. Sera is a lesbian. Dorian is gay. I got curious about how these other queer characters were handled. And since I can’t romance Krem – the only explicitly trans character in the game – I decided to do run-throughs with each of the queer romances.
My conclusion? I’m too gay for this.
Sera is a wonderful woman with a severe case of sarcasm that can and will destroy a man. Her romance is sweet. When she gets a “gift” for the Inquisitor it’s an ugly hat with a drawing of the antagonist filled with apples for people to beat. And what do you get for someone you love so dearly but refuses to open up to people? Ask all of your friends if they know and in the process let the entire world know that you and Sera are lovers. Which she adores.
Dorian was surprisingly dear to me. His romance flows as awkwardly as you’d expect from a first relationship, especially when he realizes that the flirtation is genuine. I still have mixed feelings about how the romance is handled when it comes to the ending. No matter what happens, Dorian leaves to his homeland and is placed in the position of needing to either end the relationship or make it a long distance one without any real contact for two years (and that’s only revealed if you have the Trespasser DLC). If you ask him about the relationship within the Trespasser DLC, he’ll give the Inquisitor a magical Thedas equivalent of a cellphone, with the sentiment that nothing could keep him from the man he loves.
Everything about Josie makes me giddy, honestly. She’s so sweet and loving with an intense knowledge about how the internal workings of the noble courts function on all sides. She is one of two pan characters in this game, and I was genuinely surprised that there wasn’t a sex scene like the other romances have. It seemed like something that the studio could have easily done in a way to give some eye candy the way they have with other female romances, which made Josie’s romance all the sweeter.
What Josie’s romance lacked in sex, Bull’s makes up for. The relationship with him begins as a purely physical one, leaving it up to the Inquisitor how much of it will be the light and breezy pace they’ve been working at. Although this is how it starts, the romance aspect of it is also funnily sweet. The way to initiate the romantic aspect of the relationship involves giving Bull a traditional token of the Qunari that is made of two matching halves of a split dragon tooth and means that no matter how far one is from the other, they are always together.
So one of the big things recently shown is that Tom Hardy kisses the symbiote in the new Venom movie. And while the queer community is All Over That Shit, it’s also worth mentioning that the symbiote is in fact in a woman’s body at the time. Jury’s still out on whether this is any actual kind of representation, but I would like to stand on it being technically pan at the least. And that’s today’s Real Quick Note.
So here’s something that we need to talk about: the spotlight.
What little of it that the queer community gets is seen as something to ration and develop into a political point of how “Hey! We should be able to exist!” Because of this idea of rationing our representation, we don’t get all of the wonderful character development that could be. People try to get characters to be as palatable to the status quo as possible in order to even get the go-ahead to write them as explicitly queer.
There’s tiers of character palatability.
- White or fair skinned
- “Conventionally” attractive
- Hero complex
- Heteronormative-focused coming-out scene
- Slightly obnoxious/plays into queer tropes
- A man (preferable)
- May be Not White
- Allowed to be active in civil rights (but not too much)
- Doesn’t need a coming out scene
- Allowed to be more nuanced in personality
- Not too attractive to outshine the main character (unless it’s relevant to the MC)
- Person of Color™
- Natural/plain looking
- Fills in crowds where relevant
- Can be recurring, but not often
This isn’t always the case, obviously. We’ve been able to step forward and get some characters like Anissa Pierce in Black Lightning and Elena Alvarez in One Day at a Time. But it’s pretty telling that majority of memes about queer TV are things like this:
And that’s today’s real quick note.