Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why It Matters To Me

(Originally posted to my Tumblr, but I felt this belongs here too.)

There’s something that’s been brewing in my head for a while now, and there’s a larger picture to it than just this post - but I want to start here. I want to talk about Critical Role; the Geek & Sundry Twitch phenomenon that is live Dungeons and Dragons played by amazingly precious marshmallows (Okay, in their words Nerdy Ass Voice Actors - but I like my version better). I could talk about this show all day (and pretty much do Thursdays on Twitter) and the depth of characters, amazing storytelling, and just all around awesome that is Critical Role - but right now I want to talk about something very special and rare to me - Representation.

Early in the series (episode 14) we first encounter a character that has been mentioned before on stream; a Glorious arcane bastard (shop keeper and wizard extraordinaire) by the name of Gilmore. Gilmore is an attractive, flashy, and fairly stereotypical gay human. However, as the story progresses over the course of many episodes we learn that he’s more than that; he’s intelligent, charismatic, ruthless, and a badass on top of that (explaining how would be spoilers, suffice to say he’s a fucking BAMF okay?). There is also an obvious interest in one of the adventuring party; the rogue Vax. At first it is uncertain if Vax’s flirtation with Gilmore is genuine or simply an attempt to (successfully) haggle out a better price and information. We’re left to wonder, but Liam O’Brien (Vax’s player) caught someone insinuating on Twitter that the attraction was one-sided and immediately squashed the idea, making it clear that the affection was certainly returned. Over the course of many episodes, we were given glimpses of this, and then (honestly, much to the pain of my shippy heart) Vax fell for Keyleth, another party member. In a move that I applaud Liam and Matt Mercer for, Vax told Gilmore about these feelings and “broke up” with him out of fear of hurting Gilmore by not being true and following what he appears to see as the woman he is destined to love.

Yet still, now several episodes after this, there’s still this glimmer of genuine love and affection between them that does not in any way diminish Vax’s love for Keyleth much the way Vax’s love for Keyleth does not detract from the real attraction to Gilmore. And with no fanfare, no applause, no pats on the back and cookies for their radical inclusion we have an actual HEALTHY bisexual character… on a Twitch based Dungeons and Dragons show. We have relationships that aren’t forced, that clearly aren’t there to appeal to a certain audience type. In the very thick of a culture that to many is toxic to its LGBT members we have healthy non-heterosexual characters and relationships portrayed as commonplace and without pandering or making it into a joke. Without insulting those of us who ARE nerdy and queer as fuck.

I can look at a character like Vax who is openly not straight, I can look at other characters both within Vox Machina and NPCs that are implied to potentially not be straight (whether through coding, flirting, or wild guessing). But most importantly I can see the community and the creators embracing this with the sort of normalcy that I’ve been groomed to not expect through a lifetime of being the outsider. It’s thrilling, and gives me hope that if representation and inclusion can happen in this amazing little corner of geek media maybe some day we’ll have openly queer creators and characters to look up to without feeling like we’re alone in this.

For this, I thank you Critical Role. Thank you for making one queer #critter for life feel a little less alone in this world.

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