Going to Face the Dragon (Ep. 123 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

We usually talk on this show about the entertainment that's changed the lives of gay men, but this week we're also talking about how gay men have changed entertainment. My guest is television writer Drew Greenberg, who's written romantic scenes between Willow and Tara on Buffy, helped introduce queer characters on shows like Warehouse 13, and is currently working on season 5 of Agents of SHIELD. Throughout his career, he was told his shows could never have queer leading characters. And throughout his career, he's refused to accept that that's true.

By the way, if you're in London, come see me at Nine Worlds, the geek culture convention from August 4th to 6th. I'm doing a panel on cosplay and another on queer Star Trek characters. And then on Sunday, August 6th, I'm presenting video highlights from interviews with LGBT gamers -- that's part of my documentary project Playing with Pride, which is all about what happens when queer culture and game culture collide. You can get more info about the panel and the project at PlayingWithPride.com.

Also -- throughout the month of July, The Sewers of Paris needs your nominations to win a Podcast Award. Just go to PodcastAwards.com and nominate The Sewers of Paris in the LGBT category. It's open July 1 through July 31, so if you're enjoying the show I'd be very grateful if you could help it win a Podcast Award.

And a big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon, including brand new patrons Andrew, Patricia, Gary, Cameron, Sidekick, and Robert. If you're enjoying the show, you can help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. Just go to SewersOfParis.com and click support the show on Patreon.

This Week's Recommendation: DS9 episode Rejoined

Thanks again to Drew for joining me. You can catch his writing on Agents of SHIELD -- he's hard at work on Season 5 right now. That show features the first openly gay character in Marvel's cinematic universe. And while it's a little frustrating that it took so many years for the MCU to have someone who's openly gay, that's nothing compared the how long it's taken Star Trek. For my recommendation this week, take a look at a complex queer episode of Deep Space Nine, Rejoined, from Season 4.

The show features a character named Dax who's quasi-immortal in that a part of her consciousness can move from one person's body to another before dying. She's lived for several lifetimes, and on this episode, she meets another of her kind to whom she used to be married, several lifetimes ago. Back when they were married, they were a husband and wife -- but now, both of them are inhabiting female bodies.

This is complicated, because their species strictly forbids interaction with individuals from previous lives. But the two women find themselves falling in love all over again, despite the cultural taboo, and they're faced with a choice: live openly and face exile and death, or repress their love to remain a part of ordinary society. The parallels to queer ostracism could not be more explicit, though the show never comments on the characters being either lesbian or bisexual -- even after they share Star Trek's first same-sex kiss. It's a weird omission that nobody talks about gender, given that everyone else around them in the entire known universe presents as heterosexual. I would have liked to hear Star Trek speak as boldly about same-sex romance as explores far reaches of space, and although it's tender and affecting, the episode falls tantalizingly short of what it could have been.

I have a lot of quibbles with the way that Star Trek handles gender and sexuality, and I'm not going to go into my rant right now other than to say that it's a crime they stopped having men in miniskirt uniforms after the first few episodes of Next Generation. As a franchise, Trek has been disappointingly silent on queer romance -- but that's something I expect to change very soon. The upcoming series Discovery has Bryan Fuller at the helm -- that's the showrunner who gave us explicit queer sex on American Gods, lesbians on Hannibal, and musical numbers with Kristen Chenowith on Pushing Daisies. Even as studies told him to straighten his shows out, Fuller embedded a queer sensibility so deeply that it simply couldn't be removed without erasing the entire show. 

Discovery premieres in late September, and I cannot wait to see how queers are woven into Star Trek at last. Until then, we can content ourselves with the adorable timid first steps of DS9.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About


Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0