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What counts as 'representation' in fiction?

Recently, the producers of ‘Solo’ announced that the character of Lando, played by Donald Glover, is pansexual. However, this is never explicit in the film and certainly, the word ‘pansexual’ is never said. The LGBTIQ community has responded to this with much criticism, arguing that this doesn’t count as proper representation because not everyone who watches this film will pick up on Lando’s queerness and as such, not everyone will be able to relate to him in this way. This is very similar to the controversy surrounding JK Rowling announcing that Dumbledore is gay, even though it is never clear in the Harry Potter books and even though the producers of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have said that they are going to erase this part of Dumbledore’s character. This then raises the question of what is ‘representation’ and what is good or harmful ‘representation’?

  • I like this topic; it reminds me of the recent stir Charlie Day and Steven DeKnight created when they confirmed that they wanted to play Newt Geiszler and Hermann Gottlieb as a queer couple in Pacific Rim: Uprising (which, of course, did not happen) and the way Korra and Asami's relationship was handled in Avatar: The Legend of Korra. It's a strange phenomenon that's racked up in the last few years, in which queer coding ceases to be subversive (as it was in the early days of film) and is starting to seem like a half-baked courtship of as many demographics as possible (both the queer community and the religious right). On the other side of the spectrum, there are characters like Bojack Horseman's Todd, who came out as explicitly asexual and connected with the ace community in his area, where the basic tenants of asexuality were essentially explained point blank for the benefit of an uninitiated audience. Obviously, we can't expect all forms of media with a queer character to infodump about queerness (nor would I want it to; I think it worked well in Bojack Horseman, but it's a clunky and awkward thing to have to write into a scene), but the trend of silently queer characters only to be "confirmed" in interviews with actors and content creators does feel like empty pandering. – TheCropsey 3 years ago
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  • I think this is a really interesting topic! It seems as though these producers want to profit off of the LGBTQ+ community by stating that a character is queer without the backlash of explicitly stating it in the movie/series itself. – ivanavidakovic 3 years ago
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