Have you ever clapped, or snapped, along when your favorite podcast or show hit points you’ve been trying to make in your everyday life? That’s the exact feeling Comic-Con@Home’s ‘LGTBQA Characters on TV: What’s Next?’ panel brings. Moderated by Jim Halterman of TV Guide Magazine, the panel dove right into character representation and visibility.
For LGTBQA characters and their actors, the queer fandom remains as strong and dedicated as ever, even as actors move to different projects and characters. Yes, there remains a burden of education and honoring. Jaime Chung certainly felt that in playing Mulan on Once Upon A Time, especially considering her character’s Disney legacy. But, in the case of Brian Michael Smith and Harry Shum, Jr., there can be writers, producers, and directors who honor LGTBQ experiences by checking their own privilege and learning. Doing so means stepping beyond stereotypes and listening to lived experiences.
Queer coding within science fiction and fantasy has existed for years. Yet, the geek fandom is largely queer as Anthony Rapp notes. Wilson Cruz expanded on that point noting that sci-fi and fantasy require a suspension of disbelief, requiring audiences go where they wouldn’t normally think to go. In doing so, the genres have the unique opportunity to open minds to queer experiences beyond coding and villainization. The queer fandom hungers for authentic representation, and TV is slowly progressing toward that goal.
TV made and makes tremendous strides in representation, but there remain milestones to achieve. Some of those milestones include differently abled queer and non-binary characters, stories that center queer characters in positions of authority and in healthy, domestic partnerships.
Tatiana Maslany notes that she is ready for increased representation behind the camera. She wants to physically embody characters and feel into them–a perspective we miss without diverse viewpoints.
Jaime Clayton has often been the only trans-woman on sets, and frequently typecast as such. She welcomes trans representation behind sets on all levels, from craft services to writers rooms and production offices. She embraces new opportunities to play characters where transition isn’t the focus of the character’s experience.
As discussed by Anthony Rapp, Hollywood must extend stories for queer POC beyond urbanization. While these stories are real to many queer folx, as J. August Richards and Wilson Cruz pointed out, we need to remember queer community thrives in all environments. Hollywood tends to focus on urban stories to their exclusion.
Wilson Cruz ends strongly with a call for more queer POC joy, a revolutionary act today. To which I shouted, “YES! Bring these facts, Wilson!”
There was an immensely life-affirming feeling to this panel. So much so I found myself clapping on the actors as if at the panel with them. Fans of these characters will be proud to know their actors take their work seriously, and are committed to addressing the characters, and the machine of Hollywood, in a way that provides for more inclusion, diversity, and honesty. I’m ready for what’s next and so are they.