Voltron: Legendary Defender showrunner apologises to fans after killing off gay character
The showrunner of Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender has apologised to viewers after the programme was accused of queer-baiting its audience.
It was revealed last month that Takashi ‘Shiro’ Shirogane – one of the superhero paladins who come together to make the gigantic, evil-fighting Voltron – has an ex-boyfriend.
At San Diego Comic-Con, fans found out that Shiro was ready to marry Adam until he decided to leave for an important mission instead.
Viewers were excited to dive into the couple’s backstory in season seven, which started last week.
They quickly discovered that Adam features in the series opener, then disappears and only shows back up to be killed by enemy forces in episode eight.
This prompted accusations that the show had queerbaited its fans, promoting Adam and his relationship with Shiro only to end up perpetuating the tired ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope.
The programme’s showrunner, Joaquim Dos Santos, wrote an open letter in response to these allegations, defending him and his team’s intentions regarding the Shiro-Adam storyline.
In the message on Twitter, he said that “if anyone for any reason took away from this season that our intention was to queerbait the VLD fandom I’d like to personally apologise.
“I can only speak to our intent and I can truly say we did not intend to bait anyone. I know that is not any consolation but it is the truth.”
— Joaquim Dos Santos (@JDS_247) August 14, 2018
He continued: “We were incredibly excited and proud when news broke (post SDCC) of Shiro being revealed as a gay man,” adding that the story used to deliver this news to the audience “served two purposes.”
Dos Santos explained: “The first set up Shiro’s sexual orientation (obviously) and second, to demonstrate that Shiro was dealing with some heavier stuff long before he ever got wrapped up in this crazy alien conflict.
“The hope was that, that type of life experience and perspective would (hopefully) help reinforce Shiro’s position as team leader beyond allowing the viewers to look back and see Shiro in a deeper light.”
He then directly addressed the pain which many fans felt about the death of Adam, which was the latest example of a recently introduced gay character dying rather than getting a happy ending.
“We were aware of the ‘bury your gays’ trope but hoped against hope that our struggle to confirm Shiro’s orientation would take centre stage here,” wrote Dos Santos.
“We had not intended for Adam be interpreted as a recurring character or someone that would come back into Shiro’s life.
“That is not me attempting to turn this around and place the burden of expectation on anyone. This is not an excuse.
“We crafted this entire series around the themes of sacrifice and loss and at the end of the day we have to take responsibility for our creative decisions.”
He said that the show had anticipated emotional responses to the new character being killed off, but not in the way that it happened.
“We knew people would be affected by the loss of Adam; we just could not have predicted how profound that loss would be,” wrote Dos Santos.
He said that the show was “honoured to have been embraced so tightly by the fandom, more specifically the LGBTQ segment of the fandom,” before outlining why he was “proud” of the storyline.
“Amongst the insanity of this war-torn storyline (as well as the general levels of insanity going in on the real world around us) we really wanted this to be a moment of positivity,” he wrote.
“We’re proud to say that the archetype of ‘battle-hardened soldier’ which for decades had been occupied by a pretty stereotypical ‘buffed out, heterosexual dude’ was, in our show occupied by an LGBTQ man.”
But the showrunner admitted that mistakes had been made in the way that Shiro’s sexuality was revealed.
“There is no way for me to take away the hurt some of you have felt with the loss of Adam and from a bigger perspective how we fumbled a potentially larger positive social message,” he said.
“What I can say is that we’re riding an ever moving, fine line here and trying to navigate as best we can while still moving the conversation forward.
“We are incredibly proud of the strides we were able to make thus far.
“The fact that there is a vocal audience demanding for the conversation to be pushed farther and faster is ultimately an incredibly positive thing and a lesson we’ll take moving forward.”
If you’re looking for more queer representation on your screens, DC is set to release Birds of Prey, its first film to feature a lesbian superhero in the shape of Renee Montoya, an openly gay Gotham City detective.
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