Tag Archives: lesbian

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

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The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

This caused a minor hubbub and then faded away, as all news does. Fast-forward to exactly a week ago, when the Pottermore Twitter page decided to unearth this particular trivia tidbit to an internet that had somehow managed to survive the hellscape that 2018 wrought.

Among the many, many “Tweetus Deletus” gifs was one response that both roasts this (very bad) piece of worldbuilding and helps set us back on topic:

Van Arendonk is clearly addressing the stomach-turning topic at hand, but this was far from the first time that the author had chosen to elaborate on her universe after the Harry Potter series had wrapped up. A decade before the original “Chamber Pot of Secrets” debacle Rowling announced during a Q&A at Carnegie Hall that she “always thought Dumbledore was gay.” She went on to explain that the character had fallen in love with wizard Hitler-stand-in Grindelwald, which turned out about as well as you would expect. At the time of this writing that remains the full extent of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s coming out.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been opportunities to depict him as having been actively romantically involved with other men. Last November’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald featured both the genocidal sorcerer and school headmaster as young (by comparison) men, with many fans assuming this was the time period that Rowling had been referring to.

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Dumbledore and Grindelwald as (actually) young men.

The screenshot above is from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, not from the aforementioned Fantastic Beasts sequel. As many fans have noted, the two wizards actually share no scenes with one another. If only they had taken Jude Law, the actor portraying him, at face value when he said several months prior to the film’s release that: “(they’re) not going to reveal everything all at once.” Potterheads would discover that this meant no references, explicit or otherwise, to his being attracted to men. Currently the film series’ is slated for release on November 20, 2020.

“We’re All LGBT+ Now”

This past Monday lore-starved Overwatch fans were surprised by the delivery of “Bastet”, a short story penned by lead writer Michael Chu that progressed the game’s treacle-slow narrative, the kind of rare occasion that results in the generation of dozens of “i owe you my life” memes. Although it focused on 60-year-old Egyptian sniper Ana Amari, what really set the internet ablaze was a conversation she has with her fellow vigilante-in-hiding Jack Morrison, AKA Soldier: 76.

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Illustration by Arnold Tsang.

After finding a photograph that he’s been keeping all of these years, she brings up the young man he has his arm around, asking about what could have been.

“Vincent deserved a happier life than the one I could give him.” Jack sighed. “We both knew that I could never put anything above my duty. Everything I fought for was to protect people like him… That’s the sacrifice I made.”

“Relationships don’t work out so well for us, do they?” Ana said, unconsciously running her thumb over where her wedding ring used to be.

Given an earlier passage that highlights his inability to convince Ana that he’s pleased about Vincent’s present marital status (happily married), it doesn’t take much to arrive at the conclusion that he’s gay, or at the very least was romantically involved with a man. Some might read them as simply being very good friends, which, I mean, c’mon.

While this may seem like the dictionary definition of storytelling, this falls more in line with Rowling’s approach when Chu, after waiting a few hours for people to have read the story, took to Twitter to respond to what is very likely a deluge of tweets demanding confirmation:

Faithful readers (I’m “back”, did you miss me?) will remember when I briefly mentioned a similar coming out story in December 2016, touching on an Overwatch comic called “Reflections” which featured face-of-the-game Tracer kissing another woman named Emily. As he did earlier this week Chu once again came forward on Twitter to clarify for fans who might have been confused about their relationship.

In addition to that, a Blizzard representative provided a statement to IGN, which has to at least be on par with comments made on the head writer’s personal (his bio says: “Opinions are my own. Unreliable narrator.”) Twitter account.

“Tracer is a lesbian on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are.”

The narrative of Overwatch deserves a multi-part series of blog posts in and of itself given the varying opinions on the rate, method, and quality of its delivery, but all I’ll say right now is that there is no readily apparent progressing story within the game itself. Gameplay consists primarily of six-player teams going head-to-head to (violently) accomplish objectives, and both heroes and villains can be chosen regardless of whether or not they would ever canonically team up. There is a seasonal event which thus far has provided a way of playing through past missions, but as far as “current events” that take place in Overwatch‘s present nothing currently exists.

That said, there are details within the game that provide evidence of both Soldier: 76 and Tracer’s respective same-sex relationships.

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The Soldier: 76 spray “Jack and Vincent” and the Tracer spray “Emily”

As seen above, there are sprays unique to each character which depict significant others, both past and present. When playing on the King’s Row (London, where “Reflections” partially takes place) map Tracer has the chance to utter one of several voice lines, one in particular being “Wonder if I have time to visit Emily? … No, better stay focused…” Another has her responding to an invitation from another character asking about her and her girlfriend.

It’s a far cry from seeing these relationships play out in-game, or have any kind of significant impact, but these acknowledgements are there.

When Did It Happen? (And a Lot More How)

Without having seen any evidence to the contrary, both J.K. Rowling and Michael Chu are straight, as both have spouses of the opposite sex (the latter was married just last October). To be clear, I firmly believe that anyone can write for any character (the time and effort and sensitivity needed varies). It does bear mentioning, however, that their personal orientations mean that neither are writing their respective stories from a place of personal experience. I should also state that I’m choosing to think the best of them.

In other words, I have no intention of entertaining the idea that either writer, to use a few buzzwords, lazily shoehorned in LGBT+ characters into their work in order to pander to the SJWs (my thoughts on that last word here). The alternative is to consider their intentions to be pure, which begs the question of what their intentions were, exactly.

A straightforward response would be that they’re simply providing backstory, fleshing out characters that their respective fanbases already know and love. The differences to highlight would be the way that Harry Potter and Overwatch told, and continues to tell, their stories, as well as when these characters came out relative to their creation.

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Dumbledore, as portrayed by Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Albus Dumbledore was first introduced in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) over 20 years ago in 1997. The film adaptation of that book was released in 2001, with sequels and corresponding movies dropping in subsequent years. With Pottermore still a twinkle in Rowling’s eye (limited registration began in 2011), books and film were the author’s primary means of crafting her universe.

To simplify things, Dumbledore was “born” in 1997 and “came out” in 2007. This event also took place 91 days after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the septilogy, was published. At that point there were still three films left to be made, with the seventh being split into two parts, though none followed up on the knowledge that Rowling had shared.

As far as its timeline is concerned, the Overwatch beta, open to a limited few in order to test the game before its wide release, began on October 27, 2015. The game was officially released on May 24, 2016. Tracer “came out” in December 2016 and Soldier: 76 did the same just this month (January 2019).

As mentioned, and for better or for worse, there is no currently existing, consistent, effective in-game storytelling in Overwatch. That said, the game’s narrative has, since its announcement at Blizzcon 2014, taken the form of cinematics (as seen below), comics, and most recently, with “Bastet”, short stories.

Overwatch also launched with a website that provides for each hero, in addition to their abilities and difficulty level, a short bio (here’s Symmetra’s, one of my personal favourites). From the beginning the team behind the first-person shooter has taken a multimedia approach to worldbuilding, though admittedly not on a schedule that many appreciate. As an online game Overwatch also continues to be patched with content (typically in the form of new maps and heroes) and as such has no easily discernible “end date.” This is a story that continues to be told.


Both Harry Potter and Overwatch are reigning champions in their own right, having amassed awards, accolades, and millions of faithful fans. A number of those fans identify as being LGBT+, or haven’t yet. They have family members or loved ones who are members of the LGBT+ community, or who don’t yet know any at all, possibly even as a personal choice. The point is that queer stories matter and have always mattered. The fact that these two fanbases are able to see gay characters in beloved media is a very special thing.

How those characters come to be, however, is another matter entirely. In Rowling’s Wizarding World coming out is magical. Words are spoken and changes occur, but not all of them can be perceived by the eyes of the untrained and ordinary. In Overwatch coming out is the future. It’s both imminent and right now and, to paraphrase a scientist cautioning a young genetically enhanced gorilla, not accepting people at face value and daring to see yourselves reflected in them.

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“Marvel Doesn’t Care About LGBT People”

To start with, I hope that the reference in the title is apparent.

If not, let’s flashback to September 2005 and A Concert for Hurricane Relief. It was during this live star-studded benefit concert that Kanye West very famously said:

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The following week, on The Ellen Degeneres Show, West elaborated on the incident. Given the immense loss caused by Hurricane Katrina, he explained that “[it was] the least [he] could do to go up there and say something from [his] heart, to say something that’s real.” At the risk of misrepresenting him, my takeaway was that there’s something very pure and genuine about personal emotional reactions that makes them worth expressing. While the facts may reveal otherwise, their having elicited this response speaks for itself, in a way.

It’s a sentiment that many readers of Marvel comics may strongly agree with given the fallout of Guardians of the Galaxy #18, which hit stands this past Wednesday. Continue reading

The Swinton-Cho Letters, Part 2: Putting Down a Resurrected Argument or: When Isn’t Art Political?

I began the first installment of this two-parter making note of the long and ultimately wearying experience it has been, starting with Doctor Strange going into pre-production and continuing on to the recent exposure of the Swinton-Cho Letters. While I spent time describing the ups and downs of casting news what I neglected to mention, and what I’m going to focus on today, is the outset and ultimate resurgence of an argument in defence of whitewashing.

That’s right, an argument defending what Wikipedia helpfully defines as “a casting practice [. . .] in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles.” The very faint silver lining is that the justification here does not revolve around star power and A-list draw, or the idea that “the best person for the role” was hired, the latter of which rarely ever swings the other direction. In spite of not being deeply rooted in these ways of thinking, however, the argument is remains deeply flawed.

Before we get into that, however, we should probably get to its origin story.

Like I Said Last Time, “It’s Always Podcasts”

Having to hit all of this again it’s important to be thankful for small blessings, with one being that I don’t need to hear C. Robert Cargill’s voice again due to already having done the research for another post. The person in question was one of the screenwriters for Doctor Strange, and dropped in on the  Double Toasted podcast mid-April to answer a few questions about it.

Eventually, and unsurprisingly, the issue of the Ancient One’s casting was brought up. Cargill’s response, as transcribed by CINEMABLEND’s “The Blunt, Yet Difficult Reason Doctor Strange’s Ancient One Isn’t Asian”, is as follows:

“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet [. . .] If you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”

In essence Cargill chalked the reasons for the casting decision up to politics and economics, implying that having the character played by a Tibetan would cause Marvel Studios to lose out on Chinese box office sales. He also suggests quite strongly that, conversely, having a Chinese actor play a Tibetan would cause a large amount of controversy. This was picked up by sites from IndieWire to ScreenRant to The Hollywood Reporter, with several using words like “reveal” in their headlines, as if a longstanding mystery had finally been solved.

The justifications he laid out were to become the go-to response for every commenter looking to defend the Swinton’s casting, and why not? After all, as one of the screenwriters of the film Cargill should be a direct and dependable source. The answer to that hypothetical starts with what happened a few short days later- Continue reading

“You Might as Well Have [insert character here] Be [insert 2-4 minority types here]!”

One of the most common adages on the internet is “don’t read the comments”. While this global network that we’re all currently using [unless you somehow managed to snag a printout of this post] has given us all the ability to share and discuss everything under the sun, the unfortunate truth is that a lot of that conversation amounts to hot garbage. You could scroll down past an article to see what people are saying about it, but chances are that it won’t be a particularly uplifting experience.

As someone who spends much of his time online reading about entertainment there’s a type of comment that I’ve seen crop up time and time again. It’s existence ties directly into a lot of the recent trends in comic books, television, and film, the push towards inclusivity and the people who are actively working to make that happen. A perfect example [of a handful I’ll be referencing throughout this article] is:

brandonallen

“disabled, multiracial trans women with disfiguring facial scars” – posted on “There are more (white) women starring in movies than ever before”

I’ve been compiling these for the past few months, originally with the intent of putting together another “For Your Consideration” and allowing readers to look them over and come to their own conclusions. A general [and accurate] takeaway would be to note them as being typical of inane online comments and move on, but I’d like to spend a little time breaking down the idiocy they represent.

They Perpetuate the Default

The default person, in case you needed to be informed of who generally holds the most power and screentime across the board, is a straight able-bodied cisgendered White man. I’m painfully aware that simply listing those words in successive order like that marks me as being one of the SJWs [my thoughts on that term here], but every one is important to take note of.

Take the following:

mikehuff

“black Asian gay lesbian transgender Spider-man” – posted on “Dear HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: May We Have a Word About ‘Cultural Appropriation’?”

To look at the list and mark it against the checklist of what makes a default human being, in the eyes of at least a few, we have:

  • straight  ≠ “gay lesbian”
  • cisgendered  ≠ “transgender”
  • White  ≠ “black Asian”

Other comments I’ll be including later on will add examples that include disabled people, but the general gist of every one capitalizes on the absurdity of a person who doesn’t match the standard cutout. A  straight able-bodied cisgendered White woman? Not a terrible strain of the imagination. Once you start to tick off more items that don’t coincide with the norm, however, things apparently get a lot shakier.

I don’t even think that many of these commenters are aware of the implicit message behind the words they type. By listing these adjectives and identifiers they end up with a person who most of them share absolutely nothing in common with, which exposes the very reason we need diversity at all. Everyone should be able to relate to entertainment, and for too long the industry has catered to an audience that gets smaller every day. Continue reading

Homosexuality in Comics: Here Be Lesbians

Just as in most forms of media LGBT representation has been lacking in comic books, both in the content created and those responsible for its creation. It’s a conversation that will last for decades until such a time that we can look to art and see that yes, it does reflect the world we live in, such as it is. In regards to all of this there are times when a person will look at their pull list and decide that the stars have aligned just right, and that it’s time to dust off a blog feature of sorts that hasn’t been used in years.

It began with “Homosexuality In Comics As Of May 20th”, a post in 2012 that shone some light on DC Comics’ announcement that they would be introducing a previously straight character as gay,  having that person become “one of [their] most prominent gay characters.” One year later there was “… As of July 26th”, in which I revealed the aforementioned hero-

Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-2 [an alternate universe]

-and shared my personal opinion on how not to introduce LGBT characters [ie. as a revelation after decades of established straightness]. That was where I left things, saying that we need more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc. men and women and others in the medium that I love so dearly without offering much of a solution.

Thankfully two of this week’s titles helped a) me out in this regard and b) improve the pop culture landscape of which comic books are only a small part of. Continue reading

Shame Day: Beyonce, Macklemore and the Grammy Backlash

Apparently I should really start watching the Grammys, primarily because they are THE place to find shameful behavior, or at least that’s what I’ve been hearing from the variety of subcultures that I belong to and/or gather interesting information/perspectives from. So for today I will be shaming three different aspects of the Grammy Awards show:

Beyonce and Jay-Z’s “Drunk in Love” Performance

I’ve been reading various blogs and articles on Beyonce’s since she released her visual album as a big surprise to fans. In news that was a little less surprising, it was an instant best seller.


All over the internet, however, feminists were having a heyday trying to figure out if they could really consider Beyonce a feminist. Continue reading

Duck Dynasty vs. Real Persecution

For those of you who don’t already know, I grew up in a very Christian community. And I had an amazing experience. For any of those people who may be reading this, thank you for helping create such a safe and loving environment for me to grow up it. I still look up to so many people in that community because they are kind and loving people who live their lives striving to serve God and love others.

That being said, it’s really frustrating to see a lot of really amazing people re-posting memes like this.

Because I’m pretty sure when any homosexual person reads this meme, what they are going to immediately understand is that you care more about the reality show of a multimillionaire than you care about actual abuse happening to members of the LGBT community around the world. Continue reading