As I sat in my room on Saturday night listening to the song “Everything Stays,” from the “Adventure Time” mini-series, “Stakes,” on repeat, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in the way mainstream LBPQ pairings are presented.
“Stakes,” “Legend of Korra” and “Steven Universe” are among the few PG TV shows attracting lesbian and multisexual women, as they present LBPQ pairings without gratuitous homophobic violence or assault.
As a lesbian, I appreciate these shows, but at the same time, I feel as though women loving women should demand more from the content targeted at us.
Each of the pairings on these show represents a different problem in the way that LBPQ content is presented.
“Stakes,” for example, was specifically marketed to women loving women with the promise of adventures following the characters Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, who are canonically exes, but fans have predominantly interpreted as girlfriends.
However, the miniseries itself only delivered faint hints of a romantic relationship. Which, to me, considering the hype, is queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is the practice of aggressively and repeatedly hinting that two characters have a same-gender relationship without actually confirming the relationship.
Although many LGBT viewers can easily recognize this issue, even straight viewers would have been able to understand the way Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship was downplayed and glossed over.
At one point in “Stakes,” Marceline even says she has a strange feeling in her stomach, looks directly at Bubblegum, and concludes that, “maybe it’s love.” Yet, in the next moment, the scene transitions to something different, and her comment is never explored any further.
While not queerbaiting, the subtle canon pairing of Korra and Asami at the end of “Legend of Korra,” similarly leaves something to be desired. Essentially, my frustration is that the relationship between Korra and Asami was confirmed with nothing more than a meaningful stare and hand-hold.
To be fair, “Legend of Korra” show creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino have explained that they were limited by Nickelodeon in their ability to convey Korra and Asami’s romantic relationship. But, I almost feel as though there is the implication that I, as a lesbian, should be understanding of the network’s homophobia, and just be grateful for whatever same-gender pairings I’m given, rather than want explicit representation.
I find myself less irritated with Konietzko and DiMartino as I am with the way homophobic “Legend of Korra” viewers have dismissed the legitimacy of Korra and Asami’s relationship.
The problem with the way “Legend of Korra” framed their same-gender relationship is an all too common problem that arises with more subtle media representations of same-gender pairings.
Without explicit representation, homophobic viewers of shows featuring relationships between women loving women, will, time and time again, consistently dismiss these pairings and harass LBPQ fans.
I have found that, regardless of the energy LBPQ fans put in to explain and analyze the nuance of media with same-gender relationships, any signs of ambiguity will be weaponized against women loving women to derail what meager representation we have.
While the relationship between Ruby and Sapphire in “Steven Universe” is arguably the most explicitly stated lesbian relationship in a cartoon on a children’s network, show creators have yet to similarly legitimize that the characters Pearl and Rose had a romantic relationship.
This reluctance to confirm their relationship is particularly painful because there is absolutely no ambiguity about Pearl’s feelings for Rose. This is underscored when Pearl says, in reference to Rose, “None of you had what we had,” and “Rose made me feel like I was everything.” In fact, someone made a video documenting the number of times Pearl longingly said Rose’s name; the number: 31.
To say that the pair is queerbaiting would be inaccurate, as “Steven Universe” featured a scene with an obviously implied kiss between the two. However, without confirmation from the creators, homophobes will continue to undermine their relationship similarly to the way Korra and Asami’s relationship has been trivialized.
While I realize that my desire for homophobia-free shows with same-gender LBPQ pairings is unrealistic, it is 2016, and I don’t think demanding explicit representation is asking for too much.