Legends of Tomorrow
Tag: opinion

How the queer family on DC's Legends of Tomorrow echoes real life

Contributed by
Nov 20, 2018

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow opened Season 4 with a big queer splash, complete with a glittery goo-spewing, homicidal unicorn.

While “The Virgin Gary” is particularly rainbow-filled, metaphorically and literally, Legends has already distinguished itself as being a hilarious, queer take on superheroes. Well, and time travel. (For those of you who are new to the show, you are about to be living your best life.) Legends is an action-packed CW series about rejected superheroes who form their own team to travel through time fighting the baddies who would threaten the integrity of the timeline. Though the show has struggled to find its main cast of characters, the ever-rotating roster has had one glorious anchor: the bisexual, badass assassin Captain Sara Lance.

SaraLance-Woodstock

When we first catch up with the Legends in the Season 4 premiere, Sara and her girlfriend, Time Bureau director Ava Sharpe, are back together and the rest of the crew of the Waverider grow restless, longing for adventure. Luckily, a magical disruption of the timeline brings John Constantine back aboard for a trip to Woodstock. (I told you this episode was queer.)

What the crew finds, beyond the pinnacle of the free love movement, is a stunning unicorn… which they quickly realize is actually some kind of hell-beast that feasts on the hearts of humans, craving the tender flesh of a virgin most of all. Needing just such an untainted soul to lure the unicorn, the Legends enlist Gary, a Time Bureau agent, interim Legend, and Constantine’s friend-with-some-benefits. When Gary narrowly survives being the bait for the demonic equine, losing a nipple in the process, Constantine decides it's time to do something about that virgin label. All in all, the episode is an outrageous, delightful trip through the sexual revolution with some very sexual (and bisexual) heroes leading the way.

While the follow up episode “Witch Hunt,” is less overtly queer, the episodes collectively set the tone for a season filled with ludicrous situations, fairy tale fueled shenanigans, and queer goodness, especially if the minute and 35-second post-coital cuddle-and-kiss fest between Sara and Ava in Episode 1 is indicative of what we can expect.

Legends of Tomorrow

It’s not just the queer romantic relationships that define the show, however. How queer characters who are not romantically involved, or who are no longer so, interact and how they form a tentative family offers a vision of a queer family that is loving, imperfect, and still in flux.

An important aspect of that family is that characters of multiple genders live in community together. So many TV shows that have a queer character (or two) only portray one gender and the specific struggles of being lesbian or gay or bisexual or trans or, or, or. While there's certainly a need for these representations, Legends affirms queer families that are both chosen and thrust upon us, families that are not about a singular queer experience, but about the multiplicity of queerness, families forged out of our own desire to love and be loved—romantically, sexually, and neither. 

And, what I personally find so remarkable about this portrayal is how it echoes my own lived experience as a queer person surrounded by and in community with other queer people who aren’t one single gender, one single sexual identity, one single race, ethnicity, faith, ability, body size, and so on. Sadly, Legends is definitely lacking in terms of representation of diverse queer characters, particularly queer people of color. At the same time, the show has featured several queer actors in a variety of queer and non-queer roles, including Maisie Richardson-Sellers who will be playing a new character named Charlie in Season 4. (Given that Charlie is a magical fugitive, who knows what her sexuality might be or if we even have a word for it yet?)

Furthermore, Legends allows its characters to develop messy, complicated relationships—at one time Sara and Constantine enjoyed a bisexual dalliance in a mental ward—and those relationships reflect the reality of many queer families. 

Legends of Tomorrow Gary

The web of the Legends family, like all families, is built on the relationships between individual characters who are lovers, friends, allies, and agitators. Sara and Ava begin to form a deeper commitment and connection based not on the fear of losing one another, but on the promise of growing together. Though Ava doesn’t love Constantine, she knows from personal experience that he’s the person to be trusted when it comes to what goes bump in the night. Meanwhile, Constantine and Gary are enjoying one another’s company and Gary is definitely lovesick. Who can blame him? The roguish demon-hunter oozes bisexual swagger. And Ava and Gary work together for the Time Bureau where they’ve developed a respectful, if a bit cringe-worthy, relationship.

The real glue of this queer family, though, is Sara and Constantine’s friendship. Sara, now fully committed to her ladylove, wants Constantine to join the Legends crew, not only because they need his expertise dealing with magical forces, but also because she wants him to learn that joining a team is about being something more than a romantic loner. In return, Constantine warns Sara that people like them tend to get other people killed. Sara responds by saying, “Our friends and family, they don’t make us weaker. They make us stronger.”

In reality, the whole Legends crew, straight and queer alike, become part of the family that Sara builds, one founded on trust, care, and radical acceptance—a queer-ed family if you will. The Legends have all lost someone or are lost themselves, or both in the case of Constantine, and that is what brings them together.

Life is often cruel to queer people. Right now, the President of the United States is actively trying to erase the identities of trans folks. Meanwhile, there are anti-LGBTQ+ laws on the books and being developed at the state-level across the U.S. Of course, this is just the tip of a very deep iceberg filled with hatred, shame, fear, and violence. To have a show like Legends on the air during this time is a queer celebration of silliness and community in the face of abject bigotry. And, Legends’ vision of an imperfect queer family facing their demons while romping through time is just the antidote to the gravity and terror of our current world we could all use right now.

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