The Problem With the “If it’s gay, it’s good.” Mentality.
Hello, various fandoms that will be seeing this.
While I focus on some specific fandoms and shows in this essay, rant, overanalysis, what have you, I believe that the concept is pretty far-reaching and overarching across the majority of the shows that this website freaks the fuck out over.
Gonna go out right here and establish that I’m panro-ace and male, so don’t worry, a “straightie” isn’t preaching to you about what LGBTQ+ representation should look like in media. (that is to say, though, that contrary to popular belief on here, it is possible for cishets to have the right idea about topics such as this.)
Anyway, on to what I want to talk about.
In recent months and going back to when I first joined Tumblr two and a half years ago, I’ve started noticing this disturbing trend with the types of media that we as fans consume. Particularly, those of us who are in the LBGTQ+ community.
Ask anyone who’s spent more than three seconds on here, and they can give you a seemingly endless list of shows that either fucked up representation (Steins;Gate, Rukako/Lukako specifically), baited representation, i.e. “queerbaiting” (Hetalia, Love Live Sunshine/School Idol Project), or killed off one of the two queer partners for “shock value” or some other bullshit reason (e.g. Clexa).
But then, here in late 2016, the year of Hell, we are suddenly graced with Yuri on Ice, the first mainstream anime in recent memory to have a canon gay couple in a non-BL or Yaoi setting. In other words, the first show to treat a homo pairing like a hetero one.
Naturally, we’ve exploded as a fanbase. People obsess over each screenshot pulled from the show, there’s a shipping web more complex than most ones created by spiders, and each Wednesday there’s so much YOI on my dash that sometimes I wonder how anything else is reblogged on those days. Hell, I even changed my URL the day of the reveal to celebrate. It’s a fantastic thing and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
However, it’s not all good. And I think that the popularity Yuri on Ice and shows like it, such as the aforementioned Love Live School Idol Project, Hetalia, even Hibike! Euphonium depending on who you ask (though if you ask me, I believe there’s been enough confirmation from the staff to say they’re canon, but another post for another time there) creates and sets a bad standard for representation in media as a whole.
It’s the standard of “If it’s gay, it’s good.”
We, as fandoms, have an extremely bad habit of completely ignoring a show’s flaws, shortcomings, or queerbaitings if we either 1) see our pairing become canon (Yuri on Ice) or if the show is bait-y enough that all fans have to do is connect a couple dots (NozoEli, ChikaRiko, in Love Live).
Yuri on Ice is being hailed as this masterpiece that can do no wrong, has perfect characters, a deep story, and gorgeous animation.
I’m here to say that that’s simply not the case, that we’ve been blinded by the greatness that is Viktuuri, and how dangerous that is for LGBTQ+ representation going forward.
Firstly, the characters, while not bad, are relatively one-dimensional, save for perhaps Yuuri and Viktor. There’s not much complexity to Yurio’s “tough on the outside, soft on the inside” facade, and the majority of the other side characters in the show could be described pretty vaguely.
“The fanboy one from Thiland.”
“The hot guy people ship with Yurio”
“The one that looks like Pew-Die-Pie”
As for the animation, while I admire Mappa as a studio, and I think Zankyou no Terror/Terror in Resonance is one of the best animated shows ever, I think they really dropped the ball on Yuri on Ice.
I would ask that the only explanation that this point requires is for you all to take off your manservice glasses and look at how dopey most of the skating scenes are. If you want an ice skating scene, look up the one in Death Parade, a show by Studio Madhouse a year or two ago. (Honestly, please just go watch Death Parade, it’s such an underappriciated show as a whole)
The thing that really irks me, though, is when people say the story is this complex interweaving of perspectives and plot threads, when it’s really just a bunch of flashbacks through the lens of not one, but two whole characters, those being Yuuri and Viktor.
Think Yuri on Ice is a masterpiece for having two perspectives with flashbacks? Compare it to a show such as Durarara or Baccano. I’ve watched all the way through the former while I’m still working on the latter, so I’ll use it as an example.
Off the top of my head, I can think of twelve different perspectives that the show explores and fleshes out in twelve episodes (one more than YOI)
Namely, the perspectives of:
Shizuo Heiwajima, Izaya Orihara, Masaomi Kida, Mikado Ryuugamine, Simon the sushi dude, Celty Sturlenson, Shinra Kishitani, Anri Sonohara, Walker, Erica, Kyohei, and a fucking sentient sword.
All of those characters have well-established backstories, characters, and motivations after twelve episodes.
How many characters does Yuri on Ice flesh out to that extent? Yuri, Viktor, and Yurio.
I know what you’re thinking…at least I think I do- So, ok. Yuri on Ice isn’t as deep as the fandom says it is. Big whoop. Even still, the representation it so boldly carries with that makes up for all the shortcomings, right?
No. Representation does. not. equate. to quality.
And here’s why.
Since anime is my forte, I’ll be focusing on that, but again, this is applicable to all kinds of media Eastern, Western, or otherwise.
The single greatest motivating factor for any animation studio (or any company in general) to produce a show is how much money they can make on it. So naturally, they start looking for easily exploitable means to that end. One such means is the inability of fandoms such as ours to distinguish representation or baiting from quality.
Yuri on Ice is a now the standard for representation, but let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s kind of a shitty standard, at least compared to what it could be.
Like, think about it for a second– yeah, YOI is a fantastically entertaining show, but just imagine if you had a show that was, say, on the level of quality as some of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time with that sort of representation.
That’s a great thought, isn’t it?
Well until we as fandoms start to distinguish quality from representation, there will be very little opportunity, if any at all, for the quality of the media in which said representation takes place to grow.
I am sick and tired of scrolling through my dash to see text post, after fanfic, after comic, after whatever reducing either a canonically LGBTQ+ character or a character that’s commonly baited/implied/headcannoned as such be reduced to that and one other charactaristic.
Nozomi is gay and likes parfaits.
Eli is gay and is Russian.
Yuri is gay and likes Katsudon.
Rukako is trans and shy.
Umi is gay and has a stick up her ass.
Shizuo’s gay and strong.
You see where I’m going with this?
Like, I’m perfectly ok with joking around about these characters. That’s not what I’m talking about.
But when the prevailing works of media in a fandom are these stupid crack fics or fetishy artwork that’s justified under the context of the artist “exploring their sexuality” that do nothing to develop characters in meaningful ways, that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because the creators of mainstream media look at that and think that that’s all we as a community want– one-dimensional characters in easy-to-write shows that take no effort to create yet sell oodles of merchandise due to the fact that “it has gays in it.”
And you know what? It works. Because we as LGBTQ+ people are so starved of representation in the first place, we latch on to any representaton (or teasing thereof) that we see, even if it’s really shitty.
No. If something’s gay and cliche, than it’s still cliche and therefore as bad as something that’s straight and cliche. And until we get past the mentality that that’s not the case, we won’t see any drastic improvement in either the quality and/or quantity of good representation in media.
This post was created for the sole purpose of creating discussion and raising awareness to what I believe is a big issue. Please reply, reblog, send me an ask, whatever with your own opinion of things. I’d love to hear it.
Portraits of Firo and Ennis to start off with. I have book 3 in my hands and I feel like the luckiest person on earth because there is official translation of Baccano which has this character named Claire Stanfield. He is still perfect as ever /cry