Mainstream media has come a long way since the days where it was deemed acceptable to make awful jokes at the expense of queer and trans people. The media landscape is far more representative of the queer and trans people of color to whom they cater. And while there is always room for improvement, there should also be space to celebrate those entertainers who have found and thrived in an industry that consistently tells them they aren’t as amazing as they have consistently proven they are.
Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for Primetime Emmy in acting. Best known for playing Sophia in Orange is the New Black on Netflix, Laverne gained a following online for her trans advocacy and went on to be the first openly transgender person to snatch a cover on TIME Magazine. (more…)
If you’ve taken our Basic Stonewall Quiz, you’ll know all there is to know about the Stonewall riots that are regularly cited as the catalyst of all the progress we’ve made today. You’ll also know about the predominantly poor gender non-conforming majority of color being at the center of that. You’ll also know that leadership came in the form of Marhsa P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. That being said…
Ouran High School Host Club is an anime series revolving around a group of male high school students that formed a “host club” to entertain and charm women they refer to as “guests”. Called a “reverse harem” by one of the toddler characters in one episode, the series follows the misadventures of these characters as they adopt a male-presenting girl into the club. Silly, comedic, and super self-aware of itself as an ongoing series that relies on cliches while pointing them out at every term, this (debatably) subversive anime is coded queer. And the way it makes fun of rich people is kinda hilarious.
So if you were like me in college, you watched every episode of Ouran High School Host Club a few years back when they had the entire season on Youtube. It’s also the kind of ridiculously campy and over the top universe you’d love to live in. Here are my reasons!
I’d be a liar to say that I wouldn’t like to live the high life for a few lifetimes days–to see what life is like from the top of the economic elevator. Of course, I’m only talking about for the more frivolous aspects and having other folks worry about the things I don’t want to. Jus’ sayin’. Swerve with all the responsibility of having to run multiple multinational Fortune 500s and whatnot. Thank goodness the show never ruins the “rich people being rich” mood by showing us the characters doinghomework or anything else that actually requires responsibility and isn’t related to the Host Club. So I want all that, and the fancy tuna that comes with being rich.
As I said earlier, this show makes a lot of fun of the anime/manga genre and if you’re knowledgeable about characterization in that genre (or any type of animation/media product honestly), you’ll get a huge laugh at how stuff is subverted and played straight for laughs. And whether you want to be a host or be seduced by one, there’s someone for everyone!
This role is taken by Tamaki and he presides over the club as Daddy. At first glance, he is the noble prince–upstanding, regal, and kind in a polite manner. But just under the surface is a wild guy driven by emotion that completely turns his royal characterization on its head.
The obvious one here is Honey, who plays the role of the “boy-lolita”, or innocent, cutesy youngster (despite being older than most of the cast). He is much more powerful than he lets on, but his love of cakes and sweets and cute things masks that scary interior.
The male-presenting female protagonist might be among the few who actually plays their characterization straight (no pun). Haruhi is level-headed and astutue, often a slave to the antics of her boisterous co-members and often finds herself face-palming and sighing at just how out of touch everyone around her is. She’s a cutie because whether or not she chooses to go along with the craziness, react against it, or act in accordance, she’s adorable doing it. Not to mention she’s the romantic interest to many of the guys around her.
The “Actual” Stoic
Mori is the tall and handsome gentle giant (the fold to the cutie Honey who he’s always around). He’s muscular, strong and decisive and has the kind of reassuring effect that many of the shy guests that come into the club appreciate. He also has the “watch me take my shirt off and not even care” charm we see in one episode, but frog + teacup.
The Cool One
We all know the cool one who doesn’t waste words and who doesn’t let much get past them. In this case, it’s Kyouya. He’s a mix between heartless tax collecter, shrewd businessman, and puppetmaster, prompting his friends to give him the nickname “Shadow King”. They’re also (rightfully) a little afraid of him.
The Mischevious Guys
The Hitachiin twins take the cake with this one. Named Hikaru and Kauro, these redheads are almost the devil incarnate with their wily pranks and sharp words. But like everyone else in this show, their demeanor hides a complex past that shapes who they are and how they present themselves to the world. While in the Host Club, they walk the line of taboo, showing a brotherly affection that straddles the line of implied twincest to (somehow) make their female guests’ imaginations run wild.
Elite High School Experience
This may as well go back to the first reason of wanting to be filthy rich observe the lives of the wealthy from the inside, but I would specifically love to have gone to a high school where the school lunch made the Ritz Carlton’s food look like dog food.
I would love to have gone to a high school that had not only musical instruments, but state of the art music rooms with spacious halls. A school whose administration understood when you simply had to leave school to Fiji for a while. A school where everything stopped because you and your friends had to have a misadventure.
Of course, I’m sure actual elite high schools are different (minus the Fiji and instument bit), but in the Ouran universe, the sky is the limit.
So do you love Ouran? DO YOU LOVE IT?! Leave us a comment telling us about your favorite character or episode! Also, do you think it’s a good show or a disgrace to its genre and a mark upon the world of animation that would take centuries after an apocalypse to scrub off?
Steven Universe is not your mama’s cartoon. Unless she’s into shenanigans and femme-centric genderqueer storylines. Then it’s your mama’s cartoon.
Steven Universe is the story of a half-human/half-alien boy named Steven Universe who lives with his three alien guardians (known as The Crystal Gems) in Beach City to learn more about his Gem (alien) heritage and powers.
One of the many animations of recent years following a 10-11 minute format and seemingly written for an audience that is both childish and adult at the same time (Childult?), Steven Universe will easily remind you of Adventure Time, The Regular Show, and others of its ilk. The colors are bold and in your face at times while sitting next to softer hues to create a unique look for the wacky character designs and beautiful landscapes (both alien and on earth).
But Steven Universe is so much more than just a self-aware program with shapes and fun alien violence; it’s a fun story with cute messages of various types of diversity and queer overtones. Here are my reflections on some of those queer readings.
SPOILER ALERT: ALL THE SECRETS! (But seriously.. This post tells everything about major plot points. You’ll be sorry…)
At first, fusion in Steven Universe seems to be a throwback to Dragon Ball Z–one of the many self aware homages the show pays to the well-known programs that came before it. You do a dance, you try to mash into one another, and it goes horribly wrong or awesomely successful. But as the show goes on, we learn that there’s more to fusion than first meets the eye.
Seriously. Spoilers. You’ll be sorry…
When Pearl and Amethyst fuse to create Opal, we learn about the practical aspects of fusion in the Stuniverse. It’s presented as a cool advanced level technique Gems can do to increase their powers. And we see it again when Garnet and Amethyst fuse to create Sugilite and when all three gems fuse to create Alexandrite. In all of these instances barring Alexandrite, fusion was used to increase strength to fight and enemy or do something that required massive physical strength.
When Steven and Connie accidentally fuse to create Stevonnie we learn about fusion as a bond between two people, the stability of the fusion relying heavily on the connection of the people involved. As Connie and Steven share a close friendship (some say a crush or longing for one another) the fusion stayed relatively stable.
In the case of Garnet, we see that bond in action as she has been stable for 5-6,000 years or more. We also see that the Gems that constitute her (Ruby and Sapphire) are in love and, when captured and isolated, want only to know about the others’ wellbeing.
The Gems themselves are not physical beings, so when they fuse they aren’t creating a being that’s “more physical”, instead they’re creating an experience.
“You are not two people, and you are not one person. You are an experience! Make sure you’re a good experience! Now go have fun!”
-Garnet, “Alone Together“
The way I see it, fusion is a flexible metaphor—used to represent the wide variety of queer experiences for us as viewers. Fusion is symbolic and metaphoric of the following: Solidarity, toxic relationship, same-sex/authority-despised queer love, conformity, and trans/non-binary narrative.
It functions as the bond between different people working together to complete a task. We see this in Opal, the fused form of Pearl and Amethyst. They are both headstrong in different directions but must work together to achieve a goal that is bigger than the both of them. When they fuse Opal, they demonstrate putting their differences aside to create united front. Noticeably, however, their differences are strong and the fusion is therefore unstable.
Toxic Abusive Relationships/Self-Sacrifice
The fusion between Jasper and Lapis Lazuliis one that I believe is a hideous look at the toxicity of abusive relationships. Jasper forces Lapis into a fusion against her will, the resulting fusion was Malachite, a powerful and hideous aquakinetic monster intent on destroying the Crystal Gems. Despite despising fusion as “a cheap tactic of the weak”, Jasper forces it on Lapis for the motive of gaining enough power to overcome the Crystal Gems (in particular Garnet so to avenge an ass-whuppin). Perhaps because the fusion was forced and Lapis is so strong-willed, she retained control over her water-controlling abilities and used them to restrain the fused pair, dragging them down into the sea as revenge. In this act, she also sacrificed herself for the sake of Steven (It’s my belief that she doesn’t care either way about the Crystal Gems). It is as though Malachite is the representation of a person staying in an abusive relationship to protect another person.
In the case of Garnet’s fusion, it functions as the bond between two people very madly in love. It is a universal message that can be read as many things, but the most likely reading is that of a same-sex coupling. The character Jasper is disgusted with the idea of fusion in the way a bigot might be with a same-sex relationship. We see Garnet singing about this in a very self-aware and BOMB song “Stronger Than You.” In this analogy, Garnet is a symbol of a strong love between two people overcoming bigotry and opposition.
When it comes to forcing a non-nuclear unit together into a “perfectly normal nuclear family”, Alexandrite’s fusion (Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl AND STEVEN!) is the best symbol. Alexandrite is monstrously huge and obviously out of this world. Aside from being fantastically barely humanoid, Alexandrite takes on the worst of the Gems’ personality traits as she tries to be a convincing “wife” for Greg (Steven’s father). It demonstrates the ugliness of trying to conform into something you aren’t—I mean, have you seen the body horror that is one face, two mouths?!
In the case of Stevonnie, fusion functions as the bond of a strong friendship, but I believe that it is supposed to be read by the viewer as a carefree positive trans experience. Unfused, neither Connie nor Steven are stereotypically feminine or masculine respectively, but instead both display wholesome existences in being relatively comfortable in their skins unhindered by “normative” standards. Stevonnie’s short-lived journey shows a gender-neutral kid/teen that I believe reads as a trans/non-binary gender.
In our world, trans and nonbinary folks don’t get to see positive carefree images of themselves—especially kids of color. At worst, they are dehumanized objects to mock as punchlines (often times punching bags as they’re the recipients of horrible violence). At best, there are messages of resistance and social-political struggle. Trans/nonbinary narratives are shaped as resistance to the status quo rather than shaping themselves according to their agents—trans/nonbinary people—and they are ultimately forced to be statements. Even my writing about this right now is a statement! The Stuniverse presents viewers a chance to pause and review the narratives they’re familiar with and, ultimately, presents the people who live similar realities to rewrite them.
My reading of the function of fusion is only one of countless many from an infinite number of queer folks around the web and around the world. For me, it represents a myriad of bonds between people that range from practical to intimate to abusive and sacrificial.
What did you think? Leave a comment below and let us know!
*All images featured in the body of this post are from the Steven Universe Wikia unless otherwise noted in the caption.