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The Internet Just Confirmed Problematic Queer Characters Are the Soul of Fandom

Toby Stephens as James Flint on Black Sails completely rewiring the chemistry of my brain in every scene he's in

Fandom is a place of many contradictions, and that’s arguably also what makes it such an amazing and madness-inducing place to be in.

For me, one of the biggest contradictions I’ve had to grapple with in my decades-long fandom experience is the knowledge that on the one hand, queer-coding villains or generally morally ambiguous characters can be a disservice to the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s a trope that has caused some serious damage when it comes to the place we, as queer people, occupy in the landscape of our current society. 

On the other, though, queer-coded villains are just It. There’s no other way of putting it—they’re entertaining to watch and fascinating to see at work, and more often than not in possession of a tragic backstory that tugs at your heartstrings. It ultimately all boils down to the issue of “if queer-coded villain bad, why so bloody compelling?”

There’s certainly something to be said for both cases—having queer or queer-coded characters on the “good” side of the story is undoubtedly good for representation. Still, it’s point-blank unrealistic to expect that queer characters everywhere are always nice and “unproblematic” all across the board. Queer characters, much like queer people, come in all shapes and forms and moral alignments.

So there’s definitely an argument there for making queer characters complex and sometimes downright “bad.” British filmmaker Francis Lee, who directed both God’s Own Country in 2017 and Ammonite in 2020, stated this sentiment in a tweet that read, “Make your gay characters complex. Problematic. Nasty fuckers who do bad things. Unapologetic. Evil. Manipulative. Unlikeable. Three dimensional. Villanous. Not just the ‘cute’ teens holding hands.”

The tweet was a quote reply to the popular format of asking for controversial opinions on a certain subject—you know the one, with Flynn Rider from Tangled surrounded by swords to visually represent the situation your controversial opinion could land you in—but it generated an avalanche of quote replies itself, as well, with people providing their favorite examples of just what Lee was talking about.

And of course, they’re all somewhere between hilarious and incredibly fitting, so let’s take a look at some of the best. Captain James Flint deserves to be number one on this list because he is everything Lee’s tweet describes and more. I love him so much. This is also when I tell you to watch Black Sails if you haven’t yet:

To be fair, though, this whole thing could apply to several other Black Sails characters because that’s just the type of show that it is:

Of course, Villanelle from Killing Eve has to be on this list because who else is doing it like her?

The character doesn’t need to be explicitly queer, either. Queer-coded works, too.

And this one made me lose my mind a little bit but it’s so true:

If “sacrificing all your friends to horrible deaths” doesn’t count as being a “nasty fucker” then I don’t know what does:

I mean, “eating people” also is pretty up there:

And how not to mention one of the most famous queer-coded Disney villains?

Finally, I know we’re all still reeling from The Last of Us, so how not to mention her?

(featured image: Starz)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.