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Queerness In Scifi/Fantasy!

Test blog, see.



Statistically speaking, it is claimed that ten percent of the population is queer-identified to some degree. What that means is one out of every ten people identifies as gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer or transgender. It doesn’t mean you could randomly pull ten people off the streets and one of them would always be gay, but that’s apparently how the mean averages work out.


So why isn’t this reflected in the media realm for science fiction or fantasy?  Ten percent of the population would imply one in the fellowship in ‘Lord of the Rings’ was gay.  It suggests someone on the crew of Serenity, one of the survivors in ‘LOST,’ one of cast of ‘Heroes,’ quite a few people at Hogwarts and a significant proportion of the remaining humans on ‘Battlestar Galactica.’  It means that there should be an entire GLBT quarter on the starship Enterprise, and that at least one of Buffy’s high school friends should be lesbian (oh, wait…).


Well, with the exception of Willow from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (and, all right, I’ll give it to Inara, from ‘Firefly,’ but only barely), there is a severe lack of queer representation in science fiction/fantasy media.  Is it because like attracts like?  Perhaps Harry Potter, who is straight, only hangs out with other straight people. Perhaps Captain Reynolds doesn’t like homosexuals and thus only hires straight people when he can.  Popular “gay” shows like ‘The L Word’ and ‘Queer as Folk’ definitely do seem to give the impression that gays do their thing, straight people do their thing, and rarely do the two mix in any serious capacity.  Is there a line is drawn in the sand, with queers on one side and everyone else on the other?


It doesn’t take much research to see that that theory does not hold up in the large scheme of things.  ‘LOST’ features an eclectic crew of strangers, thrust together due to surviving a commercial jetliner plane crash. Yet, despite the original forty-plus survivors, none are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender.  In the first season of the show, there were fourteen principal cast members actually identified out of those forty survivors, so one could argue that the token four queer people statistically predicted were just not highlighted on the show itself.  After all, forty is still a relatively small pool of people, and certainly not everyone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer is out and proud.


It isn’t so easy to use the same excuse with a show like the re-imagined 2004 version of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ where all but approximately 50,000 humans were wiped out by a horrendous Cylon attack. The series follows the survivors through outer space, as they try to out run and out smart the pursuing Cylons. Never once, however, are any of the almost 50,000 survivors identified as queer in any way.  In fact, when we are given hints to potential homosexual activity on the show, it is not the humans who are displaying their “sexual deviance,” but the evil Cylons.


This theme of casting a token homosexual in an evil role is hardly new or exclusive to ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ The 2001 Superman-prequel TV series ‘Smallville’ gave audiences a terrible, obsessive lesbian ‘monster-of-the-week’ stalker villain as early as season one, and has not touched on the theme since. Even ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ gave us an evil token lesbian before Joss Whedon finally coughed up Willow Rosenberg’s lesbianism in the fourth season of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Even the time-traveling BBC production ‘Life On Mars’ managed to squeeze in a homosexual villain in the first season.  So, what’s worse—casting the queers as villains, or not casting them at all?  Some might say any publicity is good publicity, but I think most queers would agree that they would rather no homosexuals than evil homosexuals.


There are shows that do it right.  ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ as mentioned, did eventually give the world a very popular, positive queer character in the lesbian Willow Rosenberg, and she had two on-screen lesbian romances with equally charismatic women.  The 2005 revival of the British classic ‘Doctor Who’ gave audiences the charming 51st century bisexual Jack Harkness, who flirted with the male and female leads equally, and managed to kiss both of them by the end of the first season.  Jack Harkness went on to star in his own spin off TV series ‘Torchwood’ in 2006.  While some might criticize the writing of ‘Torchwood’ there is something to be said for the show’s queerometer—by the end of the first season there was only one member of the six person main cast that had not made out with someone of the same sex.


Homosexuality wasn’t invented in the 21st century though, and shows like ‘Quantum Leap’ were giving the positive nod to queer characters back in the 1990s.  In “Running For Honor” Sam leaps into a cadet in the 1960s, being targeted by a gay-bashing group.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the targeted cadet was gay—the persecution against him was real enough.  This begs the question as to why ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’—on the air at the same time as ‘Quantum Leap’—has never addressed such an issue, not even obtusely.  ‘The Next Generation’ was followed by three additional Star Trek spin-offs: ‘Deep Space Nine,’ ‘Voyager’ and ‘Enterprise,’ covering thirty-two seasons between them all (I’m not counting the original series folks—it was the 60s!). In over thirty-two seasons worth of episodes, it is hard to believe that Star Trek writers could not find one story to tell about gay characters, nor to give audiences one homosexual character.  Is homosexuality ‘wiped out’ in the future? What sort of message is to be taken from that rather blatant omission?


‘Star Was’ runs afoul of the same problem.  Even if you ignore the original trilogy because it was made in the late 1970s and early 1980s when homosexuality was being blighted in media by the heightened public awareness of AIDS, the prequel trilogy ought to have paved the path for a strong, positively identified homosexual character in science fiction.



Um….. I’ve lost steam! To be continued!!


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