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Voltron Showrunner Pens Open Apology Letter

Spoilers! Spoilers everywhere!

Shiro considers the next move in Dreamworks' Voltron: Legendary Defender

At San Diego Comic Con, the panel for Voltron: Legendary Defender revealed that popular protagonist Shiro was gay and in a committed relationship back on Earth. Fans immediately celebrated the inclusion of a gay protagonist in the children’s series, and expectations were high.

Unfortunately, they were disappointed to find out that Shiro’s romantic interest Adam only existed in two scenes: a scene where he broke up with Shiro and a scene in which he’s killed during an alien attack on Earth.

The fandom reacted with grief and a sense that they had been betrayed. And while some of the reactions crossed the line into harassment and threats, most of the reactions stemmed from a place of hurt. The fandom was somewhat baited into expecting Adam would play a larger role in the season, as a tweet that was made during the panel said that fans would meet Shiro’s significant other in season seven.

I wrote about why the show’s decision to kill off Adam was a poor one, and will not rehash my entire argument in this article. I will summarize by saying that LGBT+ representation is not necessarily progressive if it’s marked by a character appearing and dying a scene later, but LGBT+ representation where characters are allowed to thrive and find happiness is a step in the right direction. This is not to say that LGBT+ characters should never die, but that we need more characters who find happy endings too to make up for years of being supporting characters or having our stories end tragically.

Yesterday, Voltron showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos penned an open apology letter to the fandom following season seven. The tweets are included below; unfortunately, the letter itself is too long to transcribe here:

I respect Dos Santos’s decision to step forward and engage with the fandom in a discussion. It shows a maturity and respect for his fans that many showrunners who double down on bad decisions following backlash do not necessarily possess. It’s a thoughtful apology as well, which, again, shows a respect for his fans and, to me, conveys a genuine desire to learn and grow.

Dos Santos mentions behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Shiro and Adam, and that it was a struggle to get the green light to confirm it. It could have been that they were not given permission to make Shiro’s sexuality more evident and had to make do with what they had, which could have been very little. We cannot discount the fact that Voltron is aimed at children and that it is already a struggle to get LGBT+ characters into media aimed at wider audiences. However, this is purely conjecture and only based on a couple of lines in Dos Santos’s apology.

The reasoning behind the decision to kill Adam still does not necessarily hold water. There have to be other ways to raise the stakes that do not involve Adam’s untimely death; it still comes off as burying the gays which is a deeply harmful trope. However, Dos Santos recognizes that they “fumbled” a potentially powerful moment of social change, which is an important step in the right direction. It could be that DreamWorks had some maneuvering behind the scenes that could have sealed Adam’s fate, or Dos Santos and his fellow showrunner Lauren Montgomery could have simply had good intentions but dropped the ball.

Regardless, the apology is sincere and kind, and the fandom should not attack while critiquing. The discourse is important though; if Dos Santos is able to step back and realize that they might have made an error in killing Adam, then the fact that LGBT+ fans are speaking out might enact meaningful change down the line. However, having spoken with Dos Santos previously, I can say that he is coming from a place of sincerity with this apology.

It is probably too late to impact what happens in season eight, but this is a lesson that hopefully all will learn from and that can lead to meaningful change being enacted in media that will be released down the line.

(Source: Twitter; Image: DreamWorks/Netflix)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.