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Voltron showrunner apologizes to fans following outrage over gay character’s storyline

Contributed by
Aug 14, 2018

Fans of Voltron: Legendary Defender were thrilled when it was revealed that Shiro, a main character, was not only gay, but in a committed relationship back on Earth. The inclusion of the relationship was cheered by the LGBTQ community, until the episodes that contained the relationship were actually revealed. Shiro's promised love interest, Adam, had two scenes in the series— one where the couple broke up, and another where Adam was killed in an alien attack. 

The fanbase was not amused, to say the least. Showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos took a lot of heat over the issue, which many saw as a needless continuation of the "bury your gays" trope. Santos recently took to his Twitter with a lengthy open letter, in which he apologizes to the fanbase and tries to get his intended message across.

After confirming the many DM's that he has gotten in response to this story choice, he writes at first about inclusiveness, and how they "created this version of Voltron with the intent of being as inclusive as possible within the boundaries given." He admits that there are still boundaries for this type of, what he calls an “action adventure/product driven/traditionally boys toys." He writes that those boundaries have widened wince they started the show but that there is "100%" room to grow. 

He then gets into the controversy of season 7, saying that "if anyone for any reason took away from this season that our intention was to queer bait the VLD fandom I’d like to personally apologize. I can only speak to our intent and I can truly say we did not intend to bait anyone. I know that is not any consolation but it is the truth." 

He himself was excited about the reveal of Shiro as a gay man, and he explains that the decision (and the creation of Adam) served two purposes— "The first set up Shiro’s sexual orientation (obviously) and second, to demonstrate that Shiro was dealing with some heavier stuff long before he ever got wrapped up in this crazy alien conflict. The hope was that, that type of life experience and perspective would (hopefully) help reinforce Shiro’s position as team leader beyond allowing the viewers to look back and see Shiro in a deeper light." 

He goes on to explain that having Adam himself involved "allowed us to step up the stakes in as simple a way as possible." For him, having a "familiar face" seen making a sacrifice would make it all the more effective. It sure sounds like the "bury your gays" trope to us, which he is very quick to mention in his next sentence— "We were aware of the “bury your gays” trope but hoped against hope that our struggle to confirm Shiro’s orientation would take center stage here. We had not intended for Adam be interpreted as a recurring character or someone that would come back into Shiro’s life." 

He reiterates that this is not an excuse, and does not "place the burden of expectation" on anyone. He admits that he knew that the death of Adam would affect people, but he did not realize "how profound that loss would be." 

He continues to write that he understands how passionate the fanbase is, and that he had hoped that this would be a positive moment— not just in the war-torn world of the show, but in our weirder-by-the-day real world as well. He liked that the battle hardened soldier that they had created turned out to flip the script, and was revealed to have been homosexual the entire time. 

He then goes on to apologize for his actions that he undertook while the fandom raged around him— his intention was to lay low on social media, but curiosity got the better of him. He ended up "liking" some posts explaining things in the way he agreed with, which he admits was a betrayal of his true intentions. It "further exacerbated the chaos" and "was a pretty irresponsible and insensitive thing to do given my position. Basically it was a jerky move and for that I apologize as well." 

He addresses those factions of the fandom that have been rather aggressive with their feedback, saying that taking that anger out on "staff and/or the performers on the show is not the answer." He pleads for angry fans to find a more "constructive" path. 

After warning fans about the dangers of expectation and becoming too invested in a particular ship, he apologizes one final time: "There is no way for me to take away the hurt some of you have felt with the loss of Adam and from a bigger perspective how we fumbled a potentially larger positive social message. What I can say is that we’re riding an ever moving, fine line here and trying to navigate as best we can while still moving the conversation forward. We are incredibly proud of the strides we were able to make thus far. The fact that there is a vocal audience demanding for the conversation to be pushed farther and faster is ultimately an incredibly positive thing and a lesson we’ll take moving forward." 

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