At this point, you may have heard of the whole backlash against a seies of so-called “progressive” shows after they started to simultaneously kill their minority characters (mostly the ones who qualified for LGBT+ representation) in a way that would make you think thewriters and producers had had a secret meeting in where they agreed to do this together, if only because that is slightly more believable than the sad truth that the writers decided to throw their minority characters to the side to give the spotlight to the “straight, white) hero or pretend they were “mature” via shock value.
While it is not a trend that affect LGBT+ characters exclusively but PoC characters, too, I am going to focus on the former for this article. I am not ignoring their particular struggle and the problems they have, just not addressing it just yetThis article can explain better than me why this was a problematic trend (that hasn’t quite ended yet, but isn’t as bad as when it started).
Of course, most apologists try to justify this deaths by saying it is “realistic” (because, you see, bullets are naturally attracted to lesbians and can find one hidden in a room of 100 people) or that if writers cannot kill them, then they are getting special treatment (I mean, have you EVER heard of a show that did not kill their characters that managed to be succesful? that is unheard of!). This do not adress how this trend is anything other than shitty writing, btw, only that it okay because of “realism” (TM).
But what baffles me the most is how this shows also want to pretend that, by continuing the trend of killing gay characters, they are being “progressive”, or that the show is “creative”(yes, because the most creative thing to do is to do what everyone else has done, ever. and yes, i know the creators of shome of this shows have tried to apologize, i just find it interesting this where the words being used).
Just a bit of a note: having a reduced number of (self-identified) LGBT+ characters and you start killing them off for no particular reason other than shock value or tragedy, that is not being progressive, that’s being regressive. That is falling back into the tired old and harmful ideas of what to do with LGBT+ characters, namely that they are not to have happy endings and are there to be killed off so we can feel bad. That is, among other problematic things, emotionally manioulative of your audience.
Now, you want to know what being progressive REALLY looks like?
Now, I can speak the different ways in which Steven Universe is a very progressive show, from the fact it has plenty of Characters of Color as well as, from the looks of it, an authistic character among the main cast, that it actually acomplishes having a bisexual love triangle that doesn’t end up erasing the character’s bisexuality or the way it handles a non-stereotypial family formular or gender roles.
But since this opinion piece is about seemingly progressive shows doing regressive things, I want to focus on Ruby and Sapphire (or as this ship is called: Garnet) because I feel they better fit what i am talking about when I am talking about this particular trend.
First of all, some of those shows seem to require, whenever they have a gay character/romance to have one or both parties go through some sort of emotional search before deciding this is what they want and the infamous “will they/won’t they?”
Garnet had been together long before the beginning of the show.
This shows also have a tendency to try to bring up drama in this relationships, rely on a foundation of lies or in some way hint that the relationship is bad for them.
Garnet is a perfectly stable fusion, only possible if both parties are perfectly in synch, it is also stated they have a fully honest relationship with each other. Also, it is because of the relationship that Garnet is the strongest in the team.
Finally, it is the fact so many shows want to speak about how they “don’t want to make it about their sexuality” or some crap like that.
Hit the Diamond can be summed up as “how Gay can these two be?”
Now, i know what you may be saying. Isn’t it stereotypical to have the characters talk about how gay they are?
To which i answer:
- Adam Sandler Movies can be summed up as him going “LOOK HOW HETEROSEXUAL I AM!” and yet he is not coonsidered playing a “stereotype”.
- Not only most LGBT+ fans seem to be in love by how much lovedorks this two are. the previous episode, “The Answer” received a lot of critical acclaim to the point Rebecca Sugar is adapting it into a book.
Now, where am i going with this? That among all the live action shows that brag of being LGBT+ inclusive, the most creative, original and most respectful of it’s LGBT+ fans, as well as treating different issues with the maturity they deserve… is an animated kids show about space rocks.
And this is not me saying it to bash kids shows, that’s where all the mature writing is, after all (Ba Dum Tish). What I am saying is that animated shows, specially kids programming, is often looked down by live-action “mature” programming, because the former are inherently inferior to the latter in their eyes.
It’s why the Last Airbender movie had been turned into a live-action film in the first place, after all. And yet, by the looks of it, the one who is least afraid to go out of the comfort zone that is erasing LGBT+ characters in the middle of the road, that is determined to have an LGBT+ relationship front and center as something empowering and beautiful is the animated one.
At this time, with Gay Marriage being a thing, with people starting to aknowledge other sexualities as real, with more people coming out. It is the most important that tv shows (as well as movies) start to show Homosexuality, Bisexuality, Trans individuals and all the other parts of the LGBT+ spectrum as something more than a mere source of some progressive points which you can drop once you don’t need them anymore.
And Steven Universe understands this. It understands this are not characters to be dropped as soon as they serve their purpose, that they are part of what makes this show special to a lot of people. Steven Universe is an LGBT+ TV Show and is proud of that.
And considering Steven Universe manages to acomplish it even though LGBT+ restrictions are stronger in animation than Live-Acton. The fact they can make it better makes it sad that how those other shows fail to acomplish even that and still want brownie points.
Because you are not being clever, you are not being original nor respectful. You are being lazy.
Guess what? when you only have a very reduced number of LGBT+ characters to represent them, guess what? You are not being progressive, you are only doing the bare-minnimum.
When you kill an LGBT+ character, you are not doing something unexpected. Everyone did it before you, you are unoriginal.
When you create a world that punishes LGBT+ characters, you are creating a bigot’s world.
When you are unable to imagine a story in which an LGBT+ character is able to make it through whatever crap you make up, you are not doing it because “anyone can die” in real life, you are doing so because you are a shitty writer who does not believe anyone in the LGBT+ spectrum can have a happy (or even bittersweet) ending unless they end in a M/F relationship.
You want to be progressive? The bar has been raised.
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