It feels like every time two female characters become a couple in a cartoon for children, some people steer the conversation toward (the lack of) gay male characters in animation instead. Specifically, they claim that lesbians and bisexual women are over-represented in fiction compared to gay and bisexual men. In actuality, all kinds of LGBTQ identities are vastly outnumbered by heterosexual and cisgender characters.
As a lifelong fan of cartoons, a number of examples come to mind when others lament a lack of gay and bisexual male characters. They often appear in the same cartoons as lesbian and bisexual female characters: OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Steven Universe, The Loud House, Twelve Forever, etc. No one’s obligated to watch or enjoy the source material, but people act as if they don’t exist. On one hand, I don’t want to derail news about lesbians. On the other hand, perhaps an informative resource could expand the conversation and prevent bad faith in the future.
Before we get to the list, let’s first establish that LGBTQ creators take precedent over fictional characters, whether they’re out and whether they have LGBTQ characters. In observance of Pride Month and in honor of Black Lives Matter, here are ten openly LGBTQ Black people in animation to start with. You can also find this list at the end of the article.
Now, here it is: an article of just what it says on the tin, created to answer “where are the gay/bi male characters?” in good faith. It’s not about gay and bisexual men behind the scenes, the history of queer-coding, or characters in animation aimed at adults. A little subjective analysis here and there, but aiming to mostly state the facts. As such, these are not recommendations or endorsements. This is not a comprehensive list of every single instance of gay and bisexual male characters in children’s animation, either. It is an overview of patterns within the last decade primarily from the United States, with illustrative examples for each category. (Unfortunately, some examples come from cartoons with allegedly abusive creators. The titles have been marked with an asterisk and you can read the allegations here.) It is incomplete without characters outside the Anglosphere (such as Henri and Masato from Hugtto! Pretty Cure), and does not claim otherwise. Feel free to add your own examples via comments, but please don’t frame it as if they’ve been forgotten or erased.
Continue reading “Where to Find Gay and Bisexual Male Characters in Recent Children’s Cartoons: An Incomplete Overview” →
This post contains spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Char’s Counterattack, and Fruits Basket.
In honor of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s 40th anniversary, the 1988 feature film Char’s Counterattack from the Universal Century timeline had a limited theatrical run in the United States. Char’s Counterattack is many things: a spectacle of animation, the end of an era, a divisive film. It brought a close to the story of Amuro Ray that began with 1979’s classic Mobile Suit Gundam, at least until more continuations came along. Amuro survives the One Year War piloting the first Gundam, albeit traumatized by war. His inadvertent murder of Lalah Sune, an enemy soldier he nonetheless emotionally connected to, haunts him in particular. He lives on to fight in the Gyrps Conflict featured in the 1985 sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Alongside him stands Char Aznable, the commander and mentor of Lalah, whether as an enemy in year 0079 or ally in 0087.
Lalah loves both Char and Amuro, devoting herself to the former and regretting she met the latter “too late” to truly connect to him. At first, this “love triangle” seems resolved through Lalah’s demise. She cannot choose between them if dead. However, she lingers in their minds, in memory as well as a literal ghost. The loss of Lalah fans the flames of Amuro and Char’s rivalry, which continues to evolve.
The rest of this post contains discussion of sexual content and child grooming.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Char’s Counterattack, or How to Resolve a Nine Year Love Triangle the Gay Way” →
It didn’t click until about ten or so minutes into the movie that I was gonna have Feelings about Shazam! In retrospect, it’s kind of obvious. A found family story about an adopted (foster) kid (who has other adoptee siblings!) who’s still laser-focused on finding his birth mom from his early childhood? All wrapped up in an energetic, fun superhero movie? Maybe it’s not particularly groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s just nice to have the adoptee-equivalent of comfort food.
Note: I use “Shazam” to refer to Billy’s superpowers and everything incorporated within that. Billy is referred to as Billy and the wizard is referred to as the wizard.
Spoiler warning for all of Shazam!
Continue reading “I Wanna Talk About Shazam!” →
To me, good art transcends what it is literally. I can point out a superb sentence, share the behind-the-scenes production details, break the plot down like a Wikipedia article, discuss the layers of authorial intent, but in the end, it’s always an attempt at articulating the ineffable qualities. Good art touches something inside us and rouses up emotion that feels bigger than ourselves. It’s an all-consuming, personal, and holistic experience that’s beyond simple explanation or lesson.
Maybe that’s why praising things I like in an isolated, non-fandom context can feel so flat. I always feel a combination of incoherent in trying to match the artistry of what I’m describing and embarrassingly simple of pointing out what seems obvious to me. Does this plate of food taste good? If it is, then why, how? It just is. There’s useful words like flaky, tender, sweet, etc. but it won’t be the experiences themselves, and that irks me, even when I’ve read critics I like, even when I know better.
But I want to practice. I want to tell others about the things I like just as well as I can tell other about the things I dislike. I want to share what art has made me feel greater than myself. I want to talk about good art that’s looked out for me, looked through me, and looked at me. That’s why I make these lists, when when they’re fairly late.
So let’s dive right in.
Continue reading “Malia’s Top 11 Movies of 2018” →
December 14th of 2018 saw the release of not one, but two monuments in popular culture. One was the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an animated film starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales. Before the film’s premiere, Sony announced a sequel and a spin-off film in the works. Joaquim Dos Santos has been confirmed director for the sequel. At the moment, Lauren Montgomery is in talks for directing the spin-off. Dos Santos and Montgomery are fresh off their work as executive producers of Dreamworks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender, which had its eighth and final season on Netflix the same day Spider-Verse hit theaters. Audiences met Spider-Verse with critical acclaim, while the same cannot be said for Voltron season eight. Responses ranged from lukewarm to furious. After season seven left some fans frustrated with the death of a gay man of color character and other developments, season eight disappointed many more with the ending (including the deaths of more characters of color).
Voltron and Spider-Verse have more in common than a release date, however. Without getting into spoilers, the plot of season eight and themes of grief bare a striking resemblance to those of Spider-Verse. Not that one ripped off the other, but that they both aimed to tell stories about loss and family. The delicate consideration and authenticity of marginalized characters simply made audiences more receptive to Spider-Verse. If the Voltron showrunners couldn’t carry out something so similar to Spider-Verse with the same praise, how are they supposed to follow it up well?
This post contains spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Also, a disclaimer: this is not meant as an attack on the showrunners (or any crew member) of Voltron as people. This is a critique of the TV show they produced and their role as storytellers.
Continue reading “What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners” →
It’s that time of year again. Karleen and Malia have rounded up their favorite (not necessarily the best) media of the year enough times now it officially has its own tag: Favorites of the Year.
Continue reading “Favorites of 2018” →
As of today, the anime adaptation of Banana Fish has come to an end. For those looking for a movie to watch or a manga to read to fill the void, look no further.
This post contains spoilers for Banana Fish and discussion of rape, abuse, incest, and suicide.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Movie and Manga Recommendations for the Grieving Banana Fish Fan” →
Shortly before the release of Solo: A Star War Story, the latest Star Wars midquel film that dives into the backstory of the original trilogy’s Han Solo, screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan supported describing the iconic Lando Calrissian as pansexual. While he may have had noble intentions, the robot-focused exploration of Lando’s sexuality does more harm than good in introducing people to pansexuality. L3-37, his co-pilot and love interest, unfortunately falls into misogynistic tropes for the first leading droid played by a woman in a Star Wars film. Together, they leave Solo with a lot to be desired in terms of gender and sexuality in science fiction.
Of course, this post contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Continue reading “Solo: A Shortcoming of Gender and Sexuality” →
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a divisive film, to say the least. Many consider it “childhood-ruining,” while positive reception commemorates a rejection of nostalgia and subversion of fan expectations. However, the film is not the anti-nostalgia manifesto many believe it to be. It celebrates the beloved strengths of Star Wars while reconciling its faults and looking to the future because, just as Rey learns, everything is a balance of extremes.
Past and future collide not only through the events of the film and its characters, but the sequel trilogy’s metanarrative on Star Wars fandom as well. The Last Jedi picks up where Episode VII: The Force Awakens left off with the new characters connecting with established characters, objects, and concepts. It all comes to the forefront with the story between Rey, Luke Skywalker, and Kylo Ren on navigating the past, present, and future.
Of course, this post contains spoilers for The Last Jedi.
Continue reading “The Last Jedi’s Balance of Nostalgia and Progress” →
I saw a lot of films last year. It’s a family tradition to go out and see a movie about once a week. I’ve always treasured it but especially now. It’s been one of my consistent comforts for a year like 2017.
Most critics get their best films of the year list out before the end of the year, but given that I’m not a professional critic, my access and time is a bit more limited, especially when it comes to those that just sneak in at the last minute before hitting wide release in January. Plus, I figured getting out my list a couple weeks before the Oscars would be close enough.
What I’ve realized over the past several years is that media itself isn’t as important, so much as our reactions to it. I don’t just mean big topics like oppression and hegemony, but the easy, personal things. Who did you empathize with? Who pushed you away? What tugged at your heartstrings? What annoyed you? What lingered with you after you left the theater, if anything did at all? Do you still feel like the same person before you experienced it?
The films I list here changed me in some way. Sometimes they gave me new knowledge and sometimes they reminded me of what to hold onto. Each one gave me increased perspective and energy that I hope to bring to 2018.
The ranking here is approximate. I tried to put some films in some kind of order and I have my top favorite saved for last, but really, every film listed here is one that I treasure.
Continue reading “Malia’s Top 11 Movies of 2017” →