Shiro’s Sexuality in Voltron: Legendary Defender

One of the most talked-about revelations of 2018 was Takashi “Shiro” Shirogane being gay. Initially, most were in support of this development. Very rarely are significant characters in western animation openly gay. Typically characters that have a sexuality that differs from what is considered acceptable will be put in the role of comic relief. Their alternative lifestyle would be made to appear eccentric. This almost always leads to some form of quirky interaction with them and their companions.

Shiro
I hope he’s not too attached to that arm.

Because of that queer characters are almost always set up as different from the rest of the cast in their series. But, Shiro was unique in how he commanded respect from his allies and enemies alike. He was undeniably the leader of Voltron even after giving up piloting the black lion. His sexuality was not made the sole focus of his characterization. Nor did it act as a means to alienate him from the rest of the main cast.

Shiro

Shiro the Hero

He filled many roles throughout the series, acting as a mentor for Keith and Lance. Being the confidant, Allura needed in the early part of the series. Shiro also showed far more compassion towards Pidge than the other paladins when it came down to her search for her family. And while he was usually serious, he could easily show a more humorous side with the other paladins.

Shiro
Shiro, by Murder.

This does not mean Shiro is without his own flaws. He suffered from PTSD due to being forced to fight in a Galra gladiatorial arena while they imprisoned him. Shiro also shows a reluctance to share his burdens with the rest of the team. There are only two notable times where Shiro confides in anyone. The first is when he and Keith are stranded. Thinking he might die, he tells Keith should that happen, “if I don’t make it out of here, I want you to lead Voltron.” Voltron Legendary Defender S2: E1. The other time is when he’s becoming aware of Honerva’s mind control, and he confides in Lance that something is wrong. That there are gaps in his memory, and he’s feeling “Like I’m not myself” Voltron Legendary Defender S5: E6.

A lot of care went into determining what kind of leader Shiro would be for the paladins of Voltron. So the mishandling of his sexuality is easily one of the series lowest points when looked at critically. Due to misuse of the marketing and fan expectations for season seven of Voltron Legendary Defender, it’s not surprising so many questioned if DreamWorks was just queerbaiting

What went wrong?

While the staff of the series claimed that they knew Shiro was going to be gay early on. The accusations of queerbaiting were fair when one sees how DreamWorks choose to market season, seven. The announcement trailer briefly shows a flashback to Shiro before leaving Earth, and you get a brief shot to a man from Shiro’s past. The implication being that Shiro has some relationship the series had yet to explore. This relationship was further explained at San Diego Comic-Con 2018. It is revealed that the man was named Adam, and he was Shiro’s partner. DreamWorks writers and voice actors sent out multiple tweets and Facebook post thanking fans for their support and discussing how the reveal at SDCC had fans crying in joy. They also had a promotional image of Shiro and Adam standing back to back for this season. This only further highlighted their relationship. Even if someone starts watching season seven unaware of Shiro’s sexuality, due to not following SDCC coverage. One cannot overlook this relationship due to how prominently it’s promoted in other sources. The only other plot point discussed more than this was how the Galra were readying to attack Earth. This relationship was set up to be significant.

Voltron

Despite that, Adam gets next to no attention during season seven. That scene in the promo gets extended slightly in the actual season. It shows how Shiro’s pursuit of his career ultimately leads them to end their relationship. Adam is then killed during the first wave of the Galra attack, and fans correctly point out that this is a perfect example of the trope “bury your gays” After that, Shiro briefly mourns Adam at the end of season seven. Then Shiro’s romantic life sees no further development until the final episode of the series. In the end, we get to see Shiro marry a minor character named Curtis, and they briefly share a kiss.

The problem with this is that there is no actual exploration of these relationships. Viewers are made aware of this part of his character, but nothing is done with it. When you combine the heavy marketing of Shiro’s sexuality and the fans’ expectations, DreamWorks lays the groundwork perfectly for disappointing its fan base. This is only made worse because, for the past six seasons, they had a vocal queer community asking for some form of representation. With one fan going so far as to blackmail the studio if they did not make a popular gay headcanon real within the series. Despite how it was received, DreamWorks writers have always denied they attempted to exploit the LGBT community.

In Defense

According to the interview that Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery gave at SDCC 2018, they admitted they knew Shiro was gay for a long time. They discussed how they had more planned for the paladins’ backstories. Yet, there was significant pushback from producers that wanted the series to stay more action-oriented to tie in with the toy lines.

So initially, there were pitches for Voltron being this giant toy-driven franchise and Merch! Merch! Merch!” and all the stuff that goes along with something that involves robotic lions that transform into a robot.

Both Santos and Montgomery talk about how the series went through several changes throughout its run. How they initially planned to keep Shiro dead after season two and were later told he was not allowed to be killed off. How they wanted to briefly split up the paladins to have them grow as individuals. Hearing what the staff wanted to do with the series, one can only imagine what might have been.

Voltron

While it is easy to assume the worst about companies, there is probably some truth to what Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery said in their interview at SDCC 2018. Writing out queer characters and the issues their community face has always been a common practice. And while Voltron came out in an era where many shows had openly gay characters, most inclusions could be seen as token efforts.

Late to the Party

Most queer characters are relegated to secondary roles where they are out of sight and out of mind. Even shows like Adventure Time that is praised for its depiction of a lesbian relationship had to wait till the end to openly show it. While many fans suspected a romance was developing between Marceline and Princess, Bubblegum, it was not confirmed until the end of the series. And like Legend of Korra before it, Adventure Time’s queer characters do not get that relationship openly explored in the animated universe, but in the pages of the comic book spin-off.

Marceline and Princess Bubblegum
In S:7E:2 it is heavily implied that Marceline and Princess Bubblegum dated in the past.

Comics often cover the topics that animated series are blocked from addressing. This is most notable when comparing Detective Comics animated series to their comic book counterparts. LGBT characters in comics are nothing new. In Batman, the animated series Renee Montoya was canonically a lesbian. This fact was never revealed within the cartoon but was the case in the comics. While some comic-books depictions have been criticized for their offensive takes on LBGT issues, comics still have acted as a dumping ground for sensitive topics. This is mostly because comics are far cheaper to make and are only read by a niche audience. At least when compared to animated shows. This is why there is less fear of public backlash for the comic-book industry when compared to animation.

Money Talks

Animation often relies on the sales of merchandise and advertising sponsorships. Without them, it’s next to impossible to make a long-running animated series, as the budget is usually beyond what most studios could reliably afford. For that reason, animation often avoids addressing sensitive topics. The fear of alienating the audience is the primary justification for avoiding these issues. Because if no one’s watching the show, companies will not want their products associated with it.

This was reason enough for networks to censor or rewrite certain characters in the early 1990s. Static Shock is a perfect example of this. In the original comic book series Rick Stone (changed to Richie Foley in the animated series) is Virgil’s best friend. And for years, he kept his sexuality a secret for fear of being bullied. When he finally worked up the nerve to reveal his sexuality, he was ultimately rejected by most of his friends at first. It took Virgil time to accept his friends coming out. This plotline was removed entirely in the animated series.

Dwayne McDuffies’ original Static Shock finding out Rick Stone is gay.

LGBT Representation is only a Problem in the West, Right?

This trend of removing LGBT characters from animation is common. It even extends to the localization of foreign shows. The most well-known example occurs in Sailor Moon. In it, Sailors Uranus and Neptune are retroactively turned into cousins instead of lovers. That way, it could be marketed for western audiences without worrying about public backlash over the two characters’ sexuality. This deliberate destruction of a character’s identity for no other reason than to market the series as something it is not is part of the reason localization has a bad reputation.

Fans of eastern animation like to believe that it has none of the west’s problems when depicting LGBT characters, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. LGBT characters are still put in the stereotypical roles not too different from the ones seen in the west. While eastern countries are more comfortable displaying LGBT characters, the quality of the depiction may vary. Some characters end up being adored, while some are reviled, and others landing somewhere in between. The portrayal of LGBT characters in the east is more of a grab bag just because more exist in eastern animation. Not because they are inherently better.

A Flawed Representation

While the events surrounding how Shiro’s sexuality was handled is disappointing, Shiro being gay should still be taken as a win for the LGBT community. Shiro is a well-rounded character with depth to his personality. He does not exist to be a one-note individual. Nor is his sexuality used with the intent of marginalizing the community. Looking back on how early gay characters were written out of stories or had their sexuality ignored, having a visibly gay character is still a big deal. But the LGBT community should never settle for just being acknowledged either. Doing that could lead to their inclusion in media becoming nothing more than token gestures. Instead, they should continue to be critical of careless representation, as it is imperative when campaigning for change. All this must be done while simultaneously promoting the characters that best represent the culture. It’ll be a long fight but it’ll eventually give birth to more nuanced characters.

Voltron

Works cited

Amaya, Erik, and Gary Catig. “Voltron: Legendary Defender’s Joaquim Dos Santos Address Accusations Of Queerbaiting.” COMICON, 15 Aug. 2018, www.comicon.com/2018/08/15/voltron-legendary-defenders-joaquim-dos-santos-address-accusations-of-queerbaiting/.

Caron, Nathalie. “Voltron: Legendary Defender ‘Fan’ Blackmails Studio to Make a Gay Ship Canon on the Show.” SYFY WIRE, SYFY WIRE, 24 July 2017, www.syfy.com/syfywire/voltron-legendary-defender-fan-blackmails-studio.

Field, Sonya, et al. “Exclusive: Josh Keaton Talks ‘Voltron’ Season 7, Shiro’s New Arc, Love and Loss.” Hypable, 16 Aug. 2018, www.hypable.com/exclusive-josh-keaton-voltron-season-7-shiro-interview/.

Harp, Justin. “Voltron Writer Sorry for Backlash over Gay Character.” Digital Spy, Digital Spy, 28 Nov. 2018, www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a864147/voltron-showrunner-apologises-gay-character-shiro-backlash/.

Moran, Sarah, and Sarah Moran (1101 Articles Published) Sarah Moran has been a Screen Rant contributor since 2014. She primarily writes reviews and features in addition to covering the ong. “Voltron Showrunners Knew Shiro Was Gay For ‘A Very Long Time’.” ScreenRant, 26 July 2018, screenrant.com/voltron-shiro-gay-boyfriend-adam/.

Moylan, Brian. “Voltron: Legendary Defender Had a Gay Character All Along.” Vulture, Vulture, 13 Aug. 2018, www.vulture.com/2018/08/voltron-legendary-defender-shiro-gay.html.

“Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender Confirms Lead Character Is Gay.” Topics, www.sbs.com.au/topics/pride/fast-lane/article/2018/07/24/netflixs-voltron-legendary-defender-confirms-lead-character-gay.

Nick Romano August 09, and Nick Romano. “How ‘Voltron’ Showrunners Found a ‘Legendary’ LGBTQ ‘Defender’ in Shiro.” EW.com, ew.com/tv/2018/08/09/voltron-legendary-defender-shiro-gay/.

Zogbi, Emily. “‘Adventure Time’ Finale Confirms Marceline and Princess Bubblegum’s Relationship after 10 Seasons.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 4 Sept. 2018, www.newsweek.com/adventure-time-finale-confirms-marceline-and-princess-bubblegums-relationship-1104726.

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46 Comments

  1. OkaNaimo0819

    I never watched the Voltron series and only heard about it from my sisters, who did. We all agree, though, that Shiro’s sexuality wasn’t handled well. If you’re going to make a character gay, then put in the effort. Don’t half-ass it just to bring in the views.

  2. I will admit that it has taken me a while to truly grasp why the portrayal of Shiro’s sexuality was received so negatively. Of course, the LGBT community deserve to be viewed on screen as they are in person. And though I thought the relationship between Shiro and his partners Adam and the other one I can’t recall the name of was ridiculously downplayed, to me it was a matter of the show being an action adventure, not even any of the other major characters had romantic relationships until season 8. I do however address that the marketing expanded greater truths than what existed in the texts, something I wasn’t made aware of, and that’s just shameful. I’m aware lots of writers are usually pushed into a corner when attempting to represent minorities and hopefully producers will do better in the future.

  3. savag
    1

    I feel it was pretty cheap. They never really set it up in advance, (by comparison, Katie’s journey to find her brother and father had seeds planted since episode 1, and Keith’s Galra heritage had been set up during multiple seasons), and worse, they also introduce another concept that wasn’t seeded yet either; that Shiro has a disease.

  4. olie
    0

    Shiro being gay is only part of the character the writers didn’t want to Shiro being gay as the focus. His depth to his character and being gay was just to add to the mystery of Shiro. There was never an explanation of the characters in the original series. Trying to make Shiro an iconic figure is off the mark. He is a great character that happens to be gay.

  5. Lorretta
    0

    Dreamworks. Hope you’ll do better next time. 🙂

  6. Ferris
    1

    I’m very happy that season 7 gave us canon queer rep in the form of a well developed and strong character.

    Personally, I’m incredibly disappointed that in the end, Shiro was reduced to a quarantined side character. A shadow of his former self. No longer the serious, occasionally goofy and inspiring space dad, but the emotionless C.O. of the Atlas, who apparently now treats his former friends and comrades with whom he went through so much throughout the seasons with the same cold shouldered, business like attitude of an executive running a business meeting.

    Shiro changed. They changed Shiro.

    I’m incredibly upset that ultimately, all we got from this is an animated wedding and kiss that had no bearing on either the events that transpired or Shiro’s character. A meaningless epilogue romance between two characters, one of whom I know nothing about and one of whom I don’t know anymore.

    If there had been even a single moment of interaction between these two, a single frame of them holding hands during the Clear Day episode for example, I would have cheered this with the same fervor I did when they pulled him out of the closet in season 7.

    As is, I’m simply disappointed and bitter at what could have been ground breaking, but was ultimately pointless. In better terms, I agree with everything in this article.

  7. Mindi
    0

    It really just seemed unauthentic and rushed to me. I’m definitely glad they included it in the show but it seems like the writers are scared to develop Shiro’s romantic life for more than 2 minutes. I’m just imagining if this was a straight paladin getting married to a random side character in the last scene how weird it would be.

  8. Kristan
    0

    As a guy that dates other guys, I liked the scene I just wish it was more developed.

  9. Maryetta
    0

    I found Shiro himself to be amazing rep. I was elated when it was confirmed at SDCC. I thought Adam himself was poorly handled in regards to his death, but wasn’t against him dying as such, and I think people who hate him for standing between Shiro and his dreams are being a bit disingenuous and probably haven’t had adult relationships.

    In regards to season 8, I wasn’t happy. Shiro felt very sidelined to me for a lot of the season, and then I found the epilogue cheap. On one hand, the fact that the kiss happened was amazing, but on the other, Shiro and Lance were the only two who’s epilogue had anything to do with a romantic relationship. I may not have liked Lance’s epilogue at all, but at least it may sense for it to be affected by Allura. Shiro and this new guy, however, less so. I loved Shiro as rep because he was an amazing character. I adored him and he’s been my fave since day one. I loved that he became the LGBT rep, because this man that was loved and respected by everyone was also gay, and everyone saw that as completely fine, because it was. Having the epilogue have him reduced to a wedding was cheap imho. I’ve never felt queer baited by the show. Shiro was gay even if he wasn’t in a relationship. And I would have been more into the epilogue if I’d seen him and this new guy interact. Just sometimes, and not even romantically, but if they bothered to show some development there instead of tacking their rep onto a post script with uncharacteristically poor animation.

  10. Herrick
    0

    It was a very lackadaisical execution for sure.

  11. An Rizzo
    0

    I actually cried when I saw the wedding / kiss scene. It made me feel awesome. Like that was my “whoa he’s gay” moment. I guess I haven’t been paying attention because I didn’t catch on that Adam was Shiro’s fiancé either lol.

  12. Chad
    1

    As a cisgender, masculine gay dude with friends who are mostly straight guys, I think it’s awesome to have a main character that I can relate to. It wasn’t until after I finished binge watching the show that I found out about the fandom and the ship-wars.. hoo boy. So now I’m watching the whole thing again to see if there are more details I missed. Especially the whole thing with Keith.

    So, I’m on Season 3 now. And so far Keith seems like he’s either gay or asexual. A lot of gay guys who aren’t obviously gay come off as asexual because they don’t show interest in women. Keith does love Shiro a lot though. I think it wouldn’t be weird for his relationship with Shiro turn into a romantic one. I think the creators definitely put the POTENTIAL of that happening in the story. Like, even in the first episode when Keith touched Shiro’s chin – it’s awfully affectionate. Not beyond the realm of brotherly affection, but not really the kind of thing straight guys do. I mean Keith could’ve just grabbed Shiro’s shoulder.

    I’ll say this though – a straight guy can care about a gay guy a lot, and vice versa, without it being sexual. and even if Keith is gay, why can’t two gay men love each other like brothers without it getting sexual / romantic? Why can’t guys show they love and care about each other in non-sexual / romantic ways?

    • andy
      0

      Keith and shiro’s relationship is one of my favorite things about the show as well.

  13. TheHill
    0

    I have mixed feelings about it. I love that Shiro is simply gay with no justification or special attention. However before the finale I think they treated it too ambiguously. Viewed through a heteronormative lens, it’s easy to miss that he and Adam were dating, as they never explicitly show affection to each other. A simple “you know I love you, but I won’t go through this again” in the scene they were arguing would have gone a long way. Although I think it is really fucking cool that Shiro married a man on screen.

    • Blackcat130

      I agree with this sentiment. My biggest problem with Shiro was they had a couple of opportunities to further develop his romantic background but choose not to or weren’t allowed to. I can’t remember which season it was, but after rescuing Pidge’s father, they send him back to Earth with a message for their familiys. I felt like that would have been a good moment to introduce Adam. Instead, Shiro makes no mention of family or romantic partner. He instead sends a message to the garrison, which further informs the viewers on his personality, as he puts duty over his personal feelings. That aspect could’ve been a good way to make his relationship with Adam detiorate naturally. But nothing was done with it. That was the most frustrating part of this. It could’ve been a better reveal. Instead, they dropped the ball.

  14. DeathNote
    0

    Great read. It’s really cool Shiro is gay and married a man on screen, but it could have been handled a lot better.

  15. Virginia
    0

    I feel like the character of Shiro was based around duty and progress and wouldn’t be projecting his sexuality one way or another.

    • Blackcat130

      I also believe that’s what the writers were going for as well. I posted on an earlier comment about how Shiro puts duty before his personal feelings. But think they could’ve done more to illustrate that. Such as showing how Shiro’s career was getting in the way of his relationship with Adam.

  16. Martha
    0

    I really liked the character and in the end, his race, gender and sexual orientation became completely irrelevant and didn’t matter

    That’s how you strengthen diversity and that’s how you make good presentation.

  17. Ashley
    1

    As a queer person, it’s just tiring to see people messing up LGBTQ+ characters and relationships. And I’m tried of seeing queer characters suffering and dying tragically. Shiro, probably the only LGBTQ+ character on the show now, was the only main character that had a significant loss in the end as everyone else was reunited with their families in the end.

    • Blackcat130

      Lance loses Allura (the only unambigously women of color on the team) shortly after they start dating. There’s also Ezor and Zethrid who are revealed to be in a relationship during season 7 I belive. Besides Zethrid losing an eye, they get a happy ending that we won’t get to see on screen.

      Jokes aside I completely agree with you. Shiro’s ending was incrediblly underwhelming for me. And I hope LGBTQ+ characters start getting better representation soon. Because as it is right now most characters of this background feel like their included for marketing.

  18. Viva
    0

    It was really disappointing to see Shiro reduced to a token gay character. The fact no one else was in a relationship made that clear.

  19. Carlton
    0

    Let’s take a look at Shiro for a hot second. He had a disease in his arm on the garrison, he was taken prisoner and mutilated by the Galra for a year and lost his arm, he died, he came back to life, among many other things. He’s been through a lot and, after all of that, who wouldn’t want a break and find happiness. To add, everyone complained how there wasn’t any representation in S7 (which is true), but then you all finally get it and you complain that it wasn’t good enough?

    It’s the first animated gay wedding in Western animation, and it’s in a kids show!

    Anyways, as a gay trans man I thought that Shiro’s happy ending with his husband was everything and made me even more emotional after Allura just died.

    • Blackcat130

      I’m sorry if my article sounded like I was complaining to you. That wasn’t my intent, as Shiro is easily one of my favorite characters in this version of Voltron. I tried to be fair to what the people who worked on this series prensented.

      The point of my article was to show how LGBTQ+ characters are often written out of stories, or their storylines are often under developed because these social groups are considered “unmarketable or alienating”.

      I understand that for many people Shiro’s storyline was fine, but to others like myself felt there was room for improvement. Criticism shouldn’t be seen as simply complaining, but as creating discourse for understanding one another. Sorry, my article didn’t come across that way. I’ll try to do better next time.

  20. Beatris
    0

    Thanks for the article. I get that VLD gets some points for finally bringing out some LGBTQ representation but they could have done it in a better way than just marrying off Shiro to a random character where they have only talked once, if they wanted to marry him off to that guy that I can’t remember his name no matter how hard I try, they should have given them at least two or three little but cute moments together to let the fandom have an idea that they might get married and not just marry him off and have him settle down while the rest of the Paladin are working hard to make the universe a better and safer place when he was at the fore front of it all.

  21. Araceli
    0

    It was a throwaway idea from the beginning as an excuse to claim good representation of POC and gay/bisexual characters. A partially fleshed out relationship with some implications would have sufficed in this regard but they literally showed Adam for all of five seconds and he isn’t even shown to be an onscreen confirmed romantic interest to Shiro. He sounded and behaved more like a roommate. Especially when he died, Shiro was just like “bummer dude” and went about life. What the hell was that?

    The crew knew they didn’t get away with burying the gays trope so they had to save face by inserting the laziest epilogue known to man in which Shiro macks on a total random we barely know the name of!

    • Blackcat130

      I had this same feeling when I heard they initially wanted to reveal Shiro’s sexuallity earlier. I thought they were using it as away to randomly change/introduce a character with a different sexual background last minute.

      But now I have my doubts, as Joaquim Dos Santos has a long history of trying to get LGBQT+ characters in his animated shows. Korra is the most notable example. And while I know most people hate KorraSumi and accuse it of the same queerbaiting Shiro is accused of. Santos often tries to include varied characters only for his producer or the network to tell him no. A noteable example of this is with the animated series Justice League Unlimited. A lot of the openly gay/bisexual characters had this aspect of their background hidden. JLU was a show that both had Dwayne McDuffie and Joaquim Dos Santos working on it.

      Dwayne McDuffie is the individual who wrote Static Shock as I mentioned in my article, and he has a long history of writing characters of varied nationalities, political backgrounds, and sexual preferences. He even called out the comic-book industry for its blatant tokenism when it came to minority groups.

      This is a link to a mock pitch McDuffie wrote in 1989.
      https://www.marvel.com/articles/comics/dwayne-mcduffie-s-legacy-in-comics

      Now, this is purely speculation based on what I’ve read about Joaquim Dos Santos. But, I believe his more “diverse” characters got written out and relagated to the comics instead. Somthing that Dwayne McDuffie complained about. Because of NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) it’s hard to find out the truth, but I choose to believe he had the best intentions due to his history and the people he has worked with. That’s all I can really say in defense of the writers and directors. Make of it what you will.

  22. Wright
    0

    Shiro’s sexuality wasn’t a huge deal for me but it kind of bothered me how random and forced it felt. I mean I don’t recall any previous mention of Adam before S7 so the fact he’s just… there makes me see some serious wasted potential. Why kill off one of the most possibly interesting characters in the whole series when there’s still so much left unexplored? And I feel like the only real reason Shiro is even gay is to jump on that bandwagon and be inclusive.

  23. rallk
    0

    While I love Voltron, I have always felt the writing to be lacking. This is just another example of how poorly written Voltron is at times. I get they didn’t want Shiro’s sexuality to be his defining trait, but really? To not even let him mourn Adam’s death?

  24. Eric
    0

    My only issue was that Adam was kinda pointlessly there when he could have been made an important character who died. The creators said they killed him off to show the stakes but he was on screen once for like 2 seconds so it wasn’t meaningful at all.

  25. Laine
    1

    I’m mostly happy about Shiro’s character, however there are many blunders about him. Season 8 forgets all about him and there’s only one thing with Shiro that I can recall. That being a mostly filler episode. He’s always been the mentor character, but they don’t give him the chance to shine.

    Season 7 and 8 honestly don’t really give Shiro screen time. I’ve spent more time fanboying about Shiro and having short sadness about never seeing him shirtless than actually seeing Shiro. He has a much smaller role and felt more like a generic side character than the Shiro I’ve grown to love.

    His plotlines were erased or underdeveloped. The ending text with “He left his battles behind” were probably meant to be “He lost PTSD” but he isn’t really shown struggling and “curing” himself from PTSD after he’s merged with Kuron. The same can go for his muscle disease. They could’ve had one line that mentions the body he’s merged into doesn’t have his illness, but it’s never mentioned again. Thing is, his physical illness is imperative to his character BECAUSE it’s what drove him away from Adam, the reason for his ambition and why’s he’s the youngest pilot in space.

    His romance, well, he has none really developed. We know he’s gay and well, nobody cares that much except for people who wanted a gay representation. To me, I’m just happy he’s finally happy after years of trauma. He’s an interesting and relatable character, my personal favorite character, but major parts of his character like PTSD, sexuality, etc. are underdeveloped and would’ve flourished otherwise had Dreamworks not step onto his sexuality.

    • KIK
      0

      I agree. Shiro had the potential to carry the entire show with one arm, but he’s rather under developed in the later seasons without growth. I would’ve been even happier about his kiss with his husband, but due to him being a random character, I honestly couldn’t care that much.

  26. Denise
    0

    What I loved about Shiro and how Dreamworks handled the character was that “it wasn’t forced onto the audience”. For example “here’s a gay character from the start and everyone should fall in love with them. Otherwise you’re a bigot”.

    • Bias
      0

      This is something I agree with. What I find more modern science fiction shows is that they’re trying too hard to “be progressive for the sake of being progressive” and just giving “forced diversity”.

  27. keep up the good work! more animation analyses, please!

    • Blackcat130

      I should have another one coming out, eventually discussing Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. It will be talking about the differences between objectivefication and being sexually open character.

  28. Steve
    0

    So I just watched the “gay reveal” episode in Season 7 which also showed how Shiro and Keith became friends. They introduced Adam in a subtle way, but from the dialogue it’s clear they’re in a relationship. Shiro also talks about Adam with Keith, so Keith (and presumably everyone else) is fully aware of Shiro’s sexuality. I think it’s rad that the show doesn’t make that to be a big deal. At the same time, I think they made Shiro’s sexuality more “coded” than it had to be because it’s a kid’s show and we as a society are still not that accepting yet, which is a bummer.

  29. paoal
    0

    I feel like the whole attempt at representation was insincere. It wasn’t something that was planned well and that’s why they messed it up. First with the whole Adam situation where it was really vague and how they killed Adam off so he and Shiro wouldn’t be in more scenes where their relationship would be more explicit.

    Then the season 8 scene which was basically just damage control to what happened in season 7 but all they could add was that one scene due to time and we didn’t even get a developed relationship between Shiro and mystery man. I didn’t mind that he got married story wise (it made sense to me unlike many other people who think it didn’t fit his arc) but my main issue was how random and rushed it was. Shiro himself was a good character but the representation wasn’t great.

    As a gay guy I was really excited for mlm to get some love in animation too bad they messed it up the way they did.

  30. Wiese
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    Why was it that Shiro and Keith’s relationship built up for the past seasons had to be suddenly removed when Shiro was confirmed being gay?

  31. Dorn
    0

    While they could have done it a lot better, as this article outlines very well, cartoons for kids have long had portrayals of romantic relationships. Sexuality has, in that sense, always been present. Gay people exist, they have relationships. Portraying that is simply portraying life. Inclusion is not a political agenda. Exclusion, and pretending gay people do not exist, was. Some kids have gay siblings. Some have gay parents. Nothing in this portrayal is inappropriate.

  32. Kiyoko
    0

    I think that thay added a sexuality to shiro is beautiful.

  33. Lucien
    0

    Shiro’s final wedding scene was a compromise for all the people who were not happy that one of the strongest and selfless characters in the series was a gay man. The writers showed how Shiro, despite losing his limb, love, life and lion, could not be deterred and would not compromise his heart and humanity.

    This series was not about romance. Some viewers wanted the characters to hook up but that was not the purpose of the show. It was about war, loss, sacrifice, redemption and family. The only reason that Allura and Lance had a relationship develop was to add a more personal element to her ultimate sacrifice. None of the other paladins had any romantic relationships yet members of the audience continue to complain about Shiro’s status.

    Shiro was Asian, yet we saw no other representation of his heritage beside his name. For most viewers, the name “Shiro” alluded to his background as much as “Lotor”, “Honerva” or “Allura”, just a proper noun to identify a character. Yet I did not see any uproar by Asians.

    The greatness of VLD is that our differences strengthen our humanity. We are not defined by our gender, race or physical attributes; however, we are a summation of our thoughts, intents and deeds.

    • Blackcat130

      I’ve mentioned this in some of my earlier comments, that it was never meant to come across as complaining or making an uproar. But rather I was trying to comment on trends that I’ve noticed with in the animation industry. If you can point to what section in my article came across as me making an uproar it would be greatly appreciated. As in both my articles I’ve published on this site, people seem to think I’m complaining, when my goals is to point out area’s where I think an artist work can be improved.

      Not only that but, many of your comments I felt I pointed to in my article as well. Such as how Shiro suffered from PTSD, had a rare muscle disease, lost a arm and went on to find happiness despite his troubles. I made a point to dedicate a lot of attention to how Shiro was built up as a great leader to the paladins. I even had a quote from the director about how they wanted Shiro to be more than just the token gay character.

      I also drew attention to how the producers wanted the series to be more focused on the action, while the writers and directors said they wanted more opportunities to explore the paladins background and deal with more of the dramatic action side of the series.

      While I didn’t mention it in my article the director did want an opportunity to explore the paladins ethnic background as well, but once again the producers blocked it for the reason I mentioned earlier.

      Also as to why fans didn’t raise a fit about the ethnic backgrounds of the Paladins. I would say it was due to a couple factors.

      1. They didn’t use the Paladins ethnic background in any of the marketing like they did with Shiro’s sexuality. The paladins heritage was left largely ambiguous, with only subtle hints to it (such as with Shiro’s name, and Hunk and Lances family dropping hints as to their background. This came in the form of their word choices their family used and food they prepared when they got back to Earth.

      2. Another factor is if no information is provided, their is no analysis that could possibly be made, only speculated upon. BTW Hunk is Samoan, Pidge is Italian, Lance is Cuban, and Beside his Galra heirtage nothing is known about Keith. Most people assume his father is American because of his southern accent, but that’s once again speculation simply because there is no further information given. The paladin’s ethnicity is never explored. This is probably as you said, that it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the series. Most of this information comes from the data book, but was never mentioned in the series.

      3. I also believe people didn’t care about Shiro being Japanese, as animation as whole has plenty of Japanese protagonist. Due to Japan being one of the biggest animation producers. So it is fairly easy to access shows written and directed by people of a Japanese background. This means the market isn’t exactly starved for shows that follow a Japanese protagonist. (This doesn’t excuse American studio’s from not writing a series that follows a diverse background imo though, but that’s why I believe it might not have been that big of a deal for people) Where as LGBTQ+ characters being shown in a more favorable light is less common. So when event’s like a Gay wedding appearing in show’s like Voltron or Steven Universe its a big deal for people who are a part of the community, and they don’t want their sexuality to be used as a marketing gimmick.

      I also agree with you on that the show is about about how we could come together despite our differences. Proof of this can be seen in how the people who worked on the show, as well as the paladins come from a multi cultured background. And the fact that the Voltron coalition is made up of various aliens the paladins meet in their journey. While the main antagonist is an empire made up largely of one race, and the people they forcibly subjugated (and are not loyal to the galra).

      I also want it to be known that Shiro is one of my favorite characters. Despite my criticism of how his sexuality was handled, I believe he is a fully realized character. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t flaws in how he is handled.

      I believe criticism is the only way we can improve. If we are not aware of problems we can’t fix them. This is why I wrote this mini essay in response to your criticism, as this is how I perceived my article. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it didn’t come across that way. If you could point to where exactly you felt I was lacking it would be greatly appreciated. It will only help me improve as a writer.

  34. Deal
    0

    I think shiro as a character is good representation, especially in a childrens show.

  35. Samantha Leersen

    Though I am not familiar with this show, I want to commend you on your thorough analysis. It was definitely intriguing to read!

  36. Andrew Shetty
    0

    Useful information. Thanks for share this post

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