Kakegurui: Queer Gamblers and school girl romances and mental illness


Okay maybe we can just about forget about being able to stick in a consistent update schedule, I just don’t seem capable of it. My work seems to come in randoms bursts than anything else. Oh, well every writer is different. But right now I want to discuss the gambling anime Kakegurui and it’s depictions of Queer women. Be warned there are spoilers ahead. Also be warned this blog post will be discussing mental illnesses, gambling and violence in some depth. Also, I will be discussing spoilers of the series in depth. This analysis is only best on the anime, I have not read the manga nor have I seen the live-action adaption (although I might review that one in the future-don’t hold me to that though).

In an elite school in Japan what matters most is not the students’ grades, their looks or the latest fashion, no this is a school where the social hierarchy revolves around gambling and how much you can win. Realistic? No, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch these intelligent gamblers outsmart each other by any means possible. Including skill, cheating, blackmail and abuse. If they fall into debt than they become housepets and are treated as subhuman. But if they can become the best gamblers possible than they will become members of the student council. This makes gambling into a game of true status. However despite how fun the anime can be it also contains several rather problematic elements which I am going to examine here.

In Harry Potter, you have Ron, Harry and Hermoine (the three amigos or power trio) however in Kakegurui you have Suzui, Saotome and Jabami our three protagonists. Saotome begins the story as the starter villain, Jabami as the new girl set to cause chaos and Suzi as a house pet under Saotome. However, Jabami entrance into the Academy soon starts to change things. As a powerful and wealthy gambler, she crushes Saotome and frees Suzi. Throughout the story, Saotome and Jabami go from being enemies to friends and allies. Suzi delivers exposition about how the school works and serves as a Watson of sorts for Jabami to explain all her. However, their interpersonal relationships however while stated as friendships are loaded with romantic and sexual subtext.

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Are you honestly going to tell me this looks platonic and not at all creepy?

Suzi seems to have feelings for Jamabami and much of the art puts a focus on the two interacting in romantic ways. However the same can be said of Jabami and Saotome with many scenes looking like they are about to kiss or romantically embrace. Jabami is being coded here as a bisexual woman. Part of me does have a lot of fun watching this Queer Gambler wipe the floor with her opponents and see through their cheating but the image of Jabami is not exactly clear cut.

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Or this?

These characters are also sexualized, presented at times as mentally ill and inhuman. The characters are prone to rather extreme expressions that make them seem monstrous at times. Take the following images, the eyes are red, there is an emphasis placed on her breasts and she looks on the verge of an orgasm. This is how Yumeko Jabami acts whenever she is winning a gambling game. It puts me in mind of a witch or a demon. Even though she is actually a school-aged girl. It is disturbing, to say the least. During both the opening and closing credits there is an emphasis placed on her butt and breasts, to a point that makes the viewer uncomfortable. Also, she is far from the only character to behave in such a way, even though she is probably the most common.

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Resultado de imagen de  mary saotomeSometimes the faces are sexual but other times they are just plain gross and weird (such as the image to the right). Also while less common, the boys pull gross or disturbing faces as well but these are usually not sexual like the girl’s faces are. I understand that this series is written by a Yuri fan but I really don’t understand the appeal of images such as these. Is the series as bad as saying Citrus in this regard? No, thankfully not it is still very worrisome. To be sure, this is not a problem unique to Japan but given that this is animation the problem is much more exaggerated here. Honestly, animation takes time and money, why create disturbing images like this? Is it supposed to be a horror story? Are these meant to be monsters? I could do without seeing disturbing sexual imaginary when watching thanks.

While the romantic and sexual elements of the three main characters are subtext the next two are very much cannon but their relationship is very unhealthy. The student council president and her assistant. Kirari Momobami and Sayaka Igarashi are very much in love with each other. Kirari Momobami likes to play games with people and she is very much an antagonist. She even plays games with the girls she loves, causing her to jump out a window. She pulls out another girl’s eye and creates live plans for both Satome and Jabami which include marrying abusive men. Yeah….she is very clearly antagonist and a villain with shocking lack of empathy.

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Kirari Momobami and Sayaka Igarashi, hard to believe they just jumped out a window together, lucky they had a soft landing

Meanwhile, her girlfriend is always rather unstable. Igarashi is highly logical and rational but is drawn to the emotional and unstable president. At times her love borders on obsession. Even going so far as to say would give her life to the president if she asked for it and challenging Jabomi to a match of life or death out of jealousy when she thinks the former and the president have feelings for each other. I’m just going to say it, this is not a healthy way to deal with your emotions for another person. Also, it is not a way to treat your romantic partner. While these two do have some sweet scenes between them and their relationship has the potential to be really interesting, I wish these elements could have been handled differently.

There is one more cannon queer female character and honestly, out of them all, she is the most problematic and downright makes me uncomfortable every time she is on screen. While the others have redeeming features she is quite simple just a problem through and through. I’m talking about Midari of course. She is the girl whose eye was torn out by Momobami. Ikishima greatly enjoys pain, carries a gun to school and masturbates with it (yes, you read that last bit right). She enjoys having her eye ripped out and begs for the other one to be pulled out. Midari clearly is unstable and a danger both to herself as well as others. Part of me is wondering why she isn’t getting any therapeutic help. So, yeah not a fan of this character and all the implications that she comes with.

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Honestly, she just looks unstable, I don’t how anyone thought a character like this was a good idea

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Last but not least we have Rei Batsubami, who is only really implied to be Queer at this point in time. She dresses in men’s clothes and has a history with the older sister of Jabami. It is heavily implied she has romantic feelings for Jabami’s older sister, who was kind to her even though she was of low status. Rei enters the academy determined to have her revenge for what happened to her beloved. She functions mainly as a filler character for season two who is defeated by the end. After her defeat, she makes peace with Jabami and we last see her looking far more conventionally feminine. Honestly, I felt like this character had a lot of untapped potential that wasn’t really seen through but she isn’t in the manga and thus isn’t really part of the story but I do hope they find a way to bring her back as the cool tomboy she was in the beginning.

This anime can be a lot of fun but I think it would do better justice to the characters and stories with a few adjustments. For example, rather than making our protagonist a compulsive gambler who only cares about risk what if she intentionally cultivated that persona and used these games to earn enough money to help her sister receive treatment? If the story goes that way I would not only be happy but surprised. Jabomi has entered the academy not only to save her sister but perhaps to play against the person who broke her and exact a terrible vengeance. Could be interesting.

Or what about the antagonist? Instead of making her this cold and apathetic person motivated only by curiosity. Momobami could instead become an effective leader who crushes those who oppose her. The series could be about the rivalry between these two trying to destroy each other. Also, remove or rewrite the characters with mentally unstable tendencies, they are not needed and are only being portrayed problematically. The pieces are all there for it, it would just take a few adjustments to the story. Like I said, I find the anime fun but it could be so much more.

Now that we have covered how the anime presents Queer women and mental health lets talk a little bit about the real world (in particular Japan and how it views queer people and mental health). Queer women as a group are very prone to mental poor mental health, I speak from personal experience and there is research to back this up. Queer people are twice as likely to abuse acholic drinks or other drugs than our straight counterparts. Lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese due to body image issues (which in turn leads to physical health problems). LGBTQ youth are more likely to suffer from depression, suicide idealization and other mental health disorders.

In Japan, both mental health and homosexuality remain taboo subjects. While the latter has never been illegal, it has been hidden. Japan’s attitude tends to be one of a don’t ask, don’t tell to both topics. Neither of which are productive. Japanese families do tolerate so long as the LGBT person isn’t part of their family if that is the case it will usually be shushed away. While there is certainly media representation with yaoi and yuri these are often unrealistic, highly sexual and rarely reflect the lives of actual LGBT Japanese people. Certainly there have been many recent gains (such as the banning of bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students in Japanese schools) and many Japanese people report being at least open-minded to the idea of LGBTQ people but the laws in Japan remain very conservative which no marriage equality, no employment protection and restricted recognization of transgender people.

So what does this all add up to? Put it simple Kakegurui while most certainly not the worst anime in regards to same-sex relationships but it also one with several elements that are unnecessary and frame queer characters with mental health problems as scary, formidable and cruel. It does not attempt to humanise them or to show how to deal with mental health issues. This is both influenced by and reinforces problems already present in Japanese culture and worldwide. While there are certainly positive elements such as a canon female same-sex couple who are accepted with as Jabami saying ‘you like who you like and you can’t change that’ I think the message would be far more powerful if mental health was handled better within the story. Kakegurui has a lot of untapped potential and I hope that eventually, it will begin to use all of it.

Further resources on queer mental health, being LGBTQ in Japan and mental health in Japan






Click to access LGBTQ%2B_Mental_Health_1.pdf


A Queer and Feminist Reading of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

The Witches, Patriarchy and Feminism

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina (TCAOFS) is a Netflix streamed series about a teenage girl who struggles with finding her place in the world. A common thing for many young people. However, she is also the daughter of a Warlock Father and Mortal Mother. This dual nature of hers gives her an insight into both communities in a way that others lack. Sabrina starts working, as her father did before her to bridge the gap between Mortals and Witches, to bring about a change for the better. While the Mortal World is similar to our own the Witches themselves are very different. Before we go any further if you have not watched the whole series then Spoilers are ahead. Also content warning: I will be talking about different forms of abuse, cannibalism, incest and much more here. (But with Satanic Witches what do you expect).

Their community is a secret one hidden away from mainstream society. This can be read in the same way many minority groups have secluded themselves for their own protection, often hiding within plain sight as the Witches do. However, I am cautious about comparing them to real life groups for one simple reason: The Witches and Warlocks have a very different sense of morality, they routinely engage in Cannablism for one thing, punishing their enemies with death and violence this sets them vastly apart from mortals in a striking way.  Also, while they do have their enemies in the Witch-hunters they also have great power and the ability to crush mortal humans with magic. While their difference is not all bad, they are far more open-minded about homosexuality, polyamory and many other things than their mortal counterparts. They embrace the more carnal side of human nature making them very different from mortals. From our own moral Framework, many of their behaviours are outright evil.

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This badass lady is the new High Priestess of the Church of Night

The Witches worship Satan himself, due to his rebellious nature and second only to him is Lilith, for her independence deserting the Garden of Eden. While in theory women would be revered in such a system it is instead in practice more of a Patrichary. Women are excluded from positions such as top boy and High Priest. Every year a young witch is murdered and eaten by the Coven in the name of tradition. While the narrative shows us many strong women, such as Zelda, Hilda, Sabrina, Lilith, Roz and Prudence, they are all treated as less than by many of the Warlocks. In Particular Father Blackwood who goes so far as to remake the Church of Night into the Church of Judas. He evens goes as far as to murder the Anti-Pope in case he chooses the more progressive believes of Edwards Spellman. While the Witches may look down on Mortals, they themselves are in fact a very dark and bloody Patriarchal Society.

The first two seasons can be looked at as the coven receiving its own feminist movement. The Dark Lord, an Evil and abusive figure to both Lilith and Sabrina, was sealed away. Sabrina gains both power and freedom and Lilith becomes the Queen of Hell. Father Black Wood another abusive figure to Ambroise, Prudence, and Zelda is on the run. The former two are hunting him down and Zelda takes his role as Lead of the Coven and the first High Priestess of the Coven. In part three I hope she reforms the Church of Night into something more Humane and Equal for all witches and Warlocks.

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The New Queen of Hell, she is hands down my favourite character

Queer Themes and Characters

There are a few characters that explore Queer identity in TCAOFS, either through subtext or else explicitly. The most important ones are Sabrina, Ambroise, Theo and Dorothea Putnam. Sabrina is not explicitly queer, she only ever shows an attraction to boys. However, her dual nature as both a witch and a moral can speak to anyone who has been caught between two worlds. For example take someone who is born to immigrant parents and raised within two cultures, the culture of their parents and then the culture of their adopted homeland.

However, I related most strongly to her as a bisexual woman. As someone who is attracted to more than one gender, I have often been pressured to pick a side (to be gay or straight) as Sabrina is in choosing her witch nature or her mortal nature. I have had people assume that I am poly or down for threesomes because I am attracted to more than one gender, as Nick to Sabrina does when he says ‘you have two natures, why not date two guys.’ When Sabrina begins to embrace her Witch nature more, she nearly loses her mortal friends, because she relies on magic to fix everything she loses her romantic relationship with her mortal boyfriend and she actually has to come out to her mortal friends as being not just a Witch but both a Witch and a mortal. Her family only understand part of her nature and not her whole truth. I have lost friends when I come out as bi, I have had gay men and lesbians misunderstand my experience and well-meaning people assume I would be better by being with a man. I am not saying Sabrina was intended to be a ‘coded bisexual’ but rather that is how I related to her, certainly there are other ways to do so.

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Ambroise is explicitly bisexual or pansexual within the narrative, it is rare to see a male character who is openly attracted to more than one gender. Ambroise pursues relationships with both men and women. This is very much accepted by Witch society (remember how I said they are not all bad). Ambroise has relationships with both Prudence and Connor in particular. In addition to being bi, like most Witches, he is ethically poly, both of which are supported by his family. He is Sabrina’s confident and advisor. His aunties are the only mothers he has ever had, Hilda even helps him go on a date with Connor. Pretty cool and progressive, I greatly enjoyed Ambroise, he is one of my favourite characters.

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Next, we have Theo and his ancestor Dorethea Putnam. Theo is a transgender young man who is played by a non-binary actor. Over the course of the series, he grows into his own, taking part on the boy’s basketball team, choosing a new name, coming out to friends and family. With each step, he becomes more confident and strong in himself. He is also advised and supported by his ancestor Doretha Putnam. A woman who wore traditionally men’s clothes and was in a long term relationship with another woman. She also much like Theo supported Witches, being the one to bury the Greendale thirteen. Much like how Theo is the only one of Sabrina’s mortal friends not to turn on after she has been gone for a while. Theo and Dorethea are two of my favourite characters, watching this younger gender non-conforming person by mentored by an older one is not only interesting but makes me wish I had someone like that back when I was first coming out as trans myself.

TCAOFS is perhaps one of the most feminist and queer inclusive fantasy series out there. While it doesn’t do everything right it does more than enough to garner praise, the feminist and queer themes have a depth to them rarely seen in media that is directed towards young adults.

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Authors note: You may notice that I didn’t talk about the revelation that Sabrina is, in fact, the daughter of the Dark Lord at all. Because I hate that plot twist, it is so cliched and done so often, the idea of secret (often evil) heritage. It was good when Stars Wars did it, folks, not anymore. Sabrina already has a special heritage, she is both witch and mortal. Her additional powers could have been because she was intended as the Bride of Satan, not because she is his daughter. Which also he wants to marry his own daughter? I get that he is a bad guy but that takes it to a new level of gross. Even Witches don’t approve of incest as can be seen when Prudence turns against her father because he wants her younger brother to marry her sister. So yeah, please retcon this.

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Spoiler warning: If you have not read both of these books then there are spoilers here, proceed at your own risk.

Also a content warning: For sex trafficking, abuse, and violence.

The story here concerns six central characters, a criminal, a witch, a spy, a runway, a convict and a sharpshooter. Each of their unique talents comes into play as they pull off the heist of a lifetime to rescue a scientist from a fortress known as the Ice Court. Two characters are of color, three are queer, one has a learning disability and one has a physical disability. This book is perhaps one of the most diverse stories I have ever read but also in a way that makes sense. The ensemble cast is united in a singular goal-six million in cash. Their motives and characters are what makes them different and interesting.

But first and foremost, there is the setting which is a constructed universe, there are several fantasy countries that are based on real-life cultures. The Wandering Isles based on Ireland, Ravka based on Russia and Kerch is Holland among many others. The city of Ketterdam is a stand-in for Amsterdam with canals and boats. There is a great fear of fire and plague in the city. Our characters all consider the slums of Ketterdam, called the Barrel as their home. They have all come here from different walks of life and none of them by choice. But the barrel has become their home and has even given them a family in each other. However, the most interesting thing about each of these characters is how they make the world see them, the masks or identities they wear.

23437156._UY453_SS453_ (1).jpgThe first of these characters is Kaz Brakker, a thief, smuggler and gang boss. Kaz is a master of wearing different masks and cultivating an identity for himself. An identity that is to be feared and respected. As Dirty hands, he is capable of anything. Then we have Nina Zenik, a Grisha (witch) who is a deserter of a second army-she considers herself many things but a soldier first. Then Inej who is in many ways the female version of Kaz, a spy, an information broker, and future slave hunter. Then there is a Jesper, a sharp-shooter who is secretly a Grisha. Wylan Van Eck, an heir to a fortune who has been disinherited due to his inability to read or write and has since become a barrel rat. Lastly, there is Matthias a witch hunter who ends up defecting for love. Each of these characters plays with identity in their own way as Kaz says ‘criminal identities are slippery, they can put on and taken off.’


This is one of the central themes of the story, how a person recreates themselves after traumatic events have broken them apart. Kaz lost his parents, brother, home and his whole world.  Inej was taken from her parents and forced into sexual slavery. Wylan lost his mother, inheritance, and home. Mathies lost his family and was wrongfully placed in prison. Jesper lost his mother and became a gambling addict, nearly losing his father everything. Finally, Nina had to leave her home to free Mathies from Prison and her powers are altered forever by Parem.

Each of these characters is forced to remake themselves. Kaz becomes Dirty hands, Inej becomes the Wraith and Wylan becomes a member of the Dregs. Mathies leaves the witch hunters, Jesper embraces his Grisha powers and Nina masters her new ones becoming the corpse witch. It was loss and the subsequent trauma that causes them to change from common and decent people into the feared nightmares of the barrel.

In addition to this, there are also Queer characters and perhaps the most interesting Queer character in the book is Jesper. Leigh Bardugo has described him as pansexual (meaning attracted to all genders). Instead of being a plot point this is just another part of his character, far more important to the plot is his secret Grisha powers, which are far more in the closet than his sexuality.

The other Queer characters are Wylan and Nina. Wylan is Jesper’s love interest, he may also have had another relationship with a tutor of his but beyond that, it doesn’t affect the plot much. One of my favorite scenes, however, was when Jesper’s father told Wylan he would be good for him. A supportive parent is always great to see in young adult fiction-too often parents of Queer youth kick them out or disown them for being Queer. One thing I do wish had been explored more was Nina’s identity. While her identity is hinted at throughout the text it is never explicitly said or commented on. Especially as she is mainly involved with a man throughout the story. But she is in the new book by Leigh Bardugo so hopefully we will see more of this, it is rare to see a Queer woman in a relationship with a man in media, so I wish it had been explored more. This links back in with the theme of identity, so I am glad it was included.

Six of Crows is ultimate about how six people recreate themselves, its central theme is about the fluidity of identity. We might think of ourselves as being a specific person but in truth, we are forever changing due to our circumstances and environment. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy with this theme. There is a Netflix’s adaption in the works which I will review when it comes out. I hope it keeps these themes and expands on them.

Bojack Horseman: How to use fiction to understand mental illness? Also, where have I been?

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Okay so, I have recently not been blogging at all because I have recently been dealing with depression due to losing my job. As a result, I stopped writing and moved back home with my parents. I’m doing a lot better now, so I want to talk about Depression in Media and look at some works that I find really do justice to the idea. I think that is a good way to make a come back with my blogging.

Content warning and Spoilers: Bojack Horseman is a show that deals with abuse, mental illness, drug addiction and suicide. Please proceed with caution. Also, there will be a lot of spoilers here, so many spoilers.

This will be a more general look at the series, I plan on looking at things in more detail such as individual episodes or characters later on.

Bojack Horseman and what the hell is he thinking?

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The show that I really want to talk about is Bojack Horseman and its portrayal of mental illness. In real life, I have often found myself asking ‘What the hell is he thinking?’ when I am confronted with someone else’s bad behaviour or choices. It is almost impossible to get into the head of a real person. However, in fiction, we are handed the keys and can see the whole truth. Bojack Horseman is probably one of the most polarizing characters out there. Personally, I find him both extremely compelling and I hate him. Over the course of the show, he attempts to do or else does the following: sleep with a married woman, sleep with a teenage girl, abandons his best friend in purest of fame, enables Sarah-Lynn’s bad behaviour and destroy the happiness of his best friends. In the latest season, he assaults Gina. Why do people put up with this guy? Often in real life when I encounter such people I find myself sitting there wondering ‘what the hell made you this way?’

However, in Bojack Horseman we don’t have to wonder, we get to see the reasons up close and personal. While Bojack has many problems there are two reasons for this: Beatrice and Butterscotch Horseman. Worst parents ever. Is Bojack horrible behaviour acceptable because of his terrible childhood-no, of course not and the show never even tries to go down the road, Thankfully, Bojack is always held accountable.

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These two are the reasons why Bojack is who he is

The story showcases his mental illness in a variety of ways itself, showing his inner demons through images of his thoughts. Unlike in real life, we can actually see what is inside Bojack’s head. The inside isn’t pretty. I don’t have to ask myself what Bojack is thinking-I know what he is thinking. However, what is interesting is what we learn that Bojack does not learn-first and foremost about his own mother. One may ask why would a parent treat their child in the way Beatrice treated Bojack here we get the answers and they are heartbreaking answers. Showcasing how abuse and trauma can be handed down from parent to child.

But this still leaves a major question: is Bojack capable of being redeemed? Does he even deserve to be redeemed? These are complicated questions and not there are no easy answers to them. At the end of season five, we finally see Bojack accept the idea of getting some professional help. However, who Bojack is right I feel does not deserve redemption, before he can even begin to earn such a thing he needs to change into a person who deserves that. What would that look like? I don’t know really and I want to know the answer.

In real life when someone behaves like this we can only sit back and ask ourselves ‘what the hell were they thinking?’ here we don’t have to. We see the answers and we can understand these characters in ways that we never could with real people. I can understand horrible Bojack in a way that I can never understand a horrible person in real life-Bojack Horseman (character and show) is a testament to the power of fiction in understanding mental illness.

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Out of all the characters on the show, Diane is one of my two favourites. I have a few things in common with her. We are both writers and struggle with depression. Diane began the show as a person who saw the world in a much more black a white way then she does at the end of season five. In season one she said ‘I don’t think there really is such a thing as deep down, I kind of think all you are is the things you do.’ This is certainly one way of looking at a person. That their actions are the only thing that matters. But is it fair?

However in the more recent season of Bojack Horseman instead she says this ‘there is no such thing as bad guys or good guys, we are all just guys who do bad stuff sometimes, and good stuff some other times.’ Quite the change in approach. What brought about this change in approach? I think it is in part her struggle with depression. Over the course of the story, we see her falling into a funk after not being able to handle her job with Sebastian St. Clair, as her marriage falls apart and engage in adultery with her ex-husband. Each of these impact her depression and her view of herself.

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Maybe Diane didn’t believe in deep down because there was no deep down with her family, they are shallow mean people and that is it.

Where will she go from here? I think that both stances she has adopted are wrong but in their own way. While actions certainly are the most important thing they need to be put into the proper context. This is what the show has always done by showing us Bojack’s past, Diane’s history and it helps us to understand why they do bad things. Perhaps Diane herself will have reached this type of understanding by the finale of the show. Unlike with real people, we know what she is thinking and how she evolved into the person she is. While we may not agree with her view we can at least understand it because we can see all the reasons she has it.

If there is one character on the show that is even more tragic then Bojack that is Sarah Lynn. A child star turned pop star she has since become washed up at the terrible age of *gasp* thirty-clearly this is a criticism of celebrity cultures such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Who become heavily sexualized after using a pure image for most after their careers. Sarah Lynn struggles with drug addiction. However unlike Diane, Bojack or any of the other characters who go through changes she refuses to work on herself saying ‘I’ll just die young.’ Sarah Lynn is a person who refuses to work on herself, content to just destroy herself instead-which she eventually does in ‘That’s too much man.’

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While she did make a turn around in that episode by realizing what she really wanted, to become an Architect. Maybe if she had realized this sooner, she would have made a change for better that could have been more permanent. She was unable to save herself before it was too late. In reality, we might know someone like this and be unable to understand why they don’t help themselves. But with Sarah Lynn, we know why she is this way. The influence of Bojack, her mother and her stepfather has moulded her into what she is.

Many people think that Mr Peanut Butter is the happiest character on the show. However, I think that the happiness Mr Peanut Butter has only existed on the surface. Because he only ever looks on the bright side he is unable to deal with darker emotions. When he discovers for example that his brother has cancer, his whole dreamer changes as he is unable to see any good in the situation. Because for once there isn’t any. While his brother does survive his cancer, I can’t help but wonder what is next. We don’t know enough about Mr Peanut Butter’s past to say why he is like this. With Diane and Bojack we know why they are the way they are. I hope the show will give us the keys we need to understand this in future seasons because I want to know why the hell Mr Peanut Butter thinks the way he does.

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There are a few characters in the show however who do have some genuine happiness. Among them are Princess Caroline and Charlotte. These characters have some happiness in their lives but each for different reasons. Let’s start with Princess Caroline, while she is not the happiest person in the world, most people would consider her to be the most driven and hardworking. As she says ‘Princess Caroline always lands on her feet’. Prince Caroline is not just driven and hard-working, she is hopeful. As she says ‘sometimes life dark, you need to push on through and hope there is something better on the other side.’ Because of this drive, she starts making better choices for herself. To leave Bojack, to start her own company and become a mother. By the end of season five, she finally has gotten something she always wanted to be, a mother, Princess Caroline always lands on her feet.

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Finally, we get to Charlotte who is the true happiest person on the show. What makes Charlotte happy whereas the other characters are unhappy, well the real answer is actually rather simple: she makes tough choices and sticks to them. Whether that is to leave Herb in LA, cut Bojack from her life or else to get out of toxic environment she is able to say to herself ‘this isn’t what makes me happy.’ She is willing to make sacrifices for what is important in the long run, her husband, her children and her life. The real reason why Bojack is miserable is that he is unable to work on himself to make long term changes that Princess Caroline and Charlotte make. All the characters on the show are slowly revealed to us through the story. We can say well this character thought X way because Y happened. Something that is never possible with real-life people but can be explored through a fictional lens.

Queer Characters

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A whole range of Queer Characters shows up in both major, supporting and minor roles. These include Todd, Yolanda, Herb and Kelsey among others. The portrayal of asexuality on the show is truly praiseworthy because it is perhaps one of the most misunderstood identities out there. Todd is the main asexual character we get to know, he is carefree, innovative and a lot smarter then most people assume. He also lacks direction and can be very naive at times. Over the course of many seasons, he comes to the conclusion that he is an Ace, the coming out of an Asexual character in Western animation is rarely seen if this is not the first.

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However, as much as I like how Todd’s asexuality is handled I think he has a lot of untapped potential for growth. But I was less impressed with how Yolanda’s asexuality was handled. She has so far who had one episode where she was the central character, focused on the coming out of her asexual identity to a very highly sexual family. It was hilarious, but that is all season five gives us. I can hope she returns and we see more of her character.

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Then there are the gay characters. Such as Herb, in him, we see the person whom Bojack could have been. While Herb lost his dream that didn’t stop him from going on to do other things and finding happiness. He even went on to write a book, sure it was terrible but at least he tried. He leads a good life whereas Bojack just sat on the couch. The treatment of his sexuality during the 1990s is unfortunate but historically accurate.

Finally, there are a few supporting and minor lesbian characters. There is Kelsey, the grumpy lesbian director. She shows up several times and is a no-nonsense woman, I hope we get to see more of her in future seasons. There is a lesbian wedding in the series and during her dinner with her wife Dr.Indira retells the series with alternative character designs. Bojack becomes Bobo, The Angsty Zebra. It’s a brilliant set up and I hope we get to see something similar in the future with the show.

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A final word: if you haven’t watched Bojack Horseman yet then I encourage you to do so, there is much to enjoy but be warned the show is not for the faint of heart.

Author’s note: As I wrap up this piece all I can say is it is good to be writing again, I am going to set myself a goal of writing one blog post per month in future. I prefer quality over quantity.

Why do I watch Bad anime?

The idea for this post came from My Brian is Completely Empty you can find their blog here ( https://mybrainiscompletelyempty.wordpress.com/ ). I would also recommend reading their pieces on ‘bad’ and ‘boring’ anime for more context. So, what do I mean by bad anime. There are any number of flaws that could make an anime (or any story for that matter) bad. It could be bad writing, problematic elements or awful animation among other things. But the first two are the ones I’m going to be talking about here. The animation is usually pretty obvious, sometimes it isn’t the fault of the creators either. Digimon Tamers for example was made on a budget, the animation is not as good as the first two Digimon series. But even with that Tamers remains my favourite because of good writing and great characters even if the animation isn’t as polished as it could be. By bad anime, I don’t mean anime that is boring. I find dissecting bad anime a lot of fun, I enjoy analysing stories just as much as losing myself in a good story.

That bring said there is even bad anime that I can not stomach and have to abandon, an example being Citrus. I’ve already made a post about Citrus, so I won’t go into much detail here. The anime is badly written filled with problematic elements and makes me uncomfortable. I dropped the anime after only the first few episodes, it was rubbish. So, I have two bad anime that I haven’t talked about yet on this blog. I’ll dive into the problems with these shows and why I still have fun watching them. Sword Art Online is probably the most infamous bad anime out there. SAO starts off really strong and the first few episodes are actually really good. We are introduced to Kirito, Asuna and Klein within the space of a few episodes. Each of their character introductions are very strong. A good idea of who they are is painted. They are not fully fleshed out and well-rounded characters though. It isn’t possible to establish them as that within a few episodes. Character development needs to be consistently done throughout the whole story until the very end. SAO never really develops its characters beyond these cardboard cut outs of the first few episodes.

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It’s not as though everything in SAO is bad. The romance between Asuna and Kirito is handled very well, the animation is good and the concept of being stuck in a virtual world is an interesting one. A lot of good shows get a lot of mileage out of it. However, the problem with SAO is that doesn’t do much with the concept, in comparison to other shows such as Digimon. I enjoy learning about how this concept can be done badly because it teaches me where to avoid these pitfalls in my own writing. Bad shows are like a ‘How not to write’ guide for me. SAO is perfect for ‘How not to write a trapped in another world’ story line. I find it fun watching just how bad it can get, sometimes the writing in SAO is so bad I have to laugh and other times I have to cringe. So that is why I enjoy SAO, not because it is good but because it is bad.

My next anime is the second season of Black Butler, it is rather infamous. The first season was a self-contained story with its own ending, only loosely built on the manga. The second season was advertised as a new Butler and Master. Alois and Claude were the focus of the first episode. During that episode some interesting things were learned about them. Alois is openly what TV tropes called cute and psycho. Switching between cute and charming to cruel and psychotic in the blink of an eye. Claude meanwhile is a stoic, constantly rolling his eyes at his master. The other characters introduced include the triplets whom like Claude are stoics and Hannah the maid whom is rather sadly looking on at Alois. This is an interesting setup, it not only revisits the formula of the first season but puts a new spin on it, this could have made for a very interesting new story. However, all that is thrown out the window with the return of Ceil and Sebastian as the main characters by the end of the first episode.

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Instead of a new Butler and Master we now have the two Butlers facing off. Alois wants revenge on Ciel for the death of his brother and Ciel meanwhile is back to square one with his memory erased. He has entirely forgotten the events of the first season. This is another interesting set up. Again, none of this is exactly bad. Either of these plots could be interesting if done properly. However, instead half way through the story Claude kills Alois and decides to steal away Ciel’s soul. Removing the ambiguous evil vs. evil nature that made it interesting in the first place. Because even though Sebastian is a demon, Claude is the worse of two because he doesn’t even honour the contract made to his master. That being said, I still had fun watching Black Butler II, I would love to see another anime, or any story take these concepts and work with them to create something interesting.

Who knows maybe I will do so at some point in the future. Watching bad stories can actually by a great way to find ideas of your own stories, ask yourself what needs to be done to make this concept actually work? How would it look? What would it be like? It’s another reason why I enjoy watching bad anime or rather bad stories in general. In short I watch bad anime for two reasons. Firstly, because they can be a handy to guide on what not to do with a story, secondly because they can be great fuel for coming up for my own ideas.

The problems with Citrus

Author’s note and trigger warning: If you like Citrus I am here to tell you that you have bad taste or that you’re wrong for liking this anime. To tell the truth, I enjoyed watching this anime because there are so few anime out there about Queer women, but that being said Citrus is still very problematic in many ways. Considering I could probably write an entire book about this whole subject I have boiled it down to three main problems that I have with this anime and how it depicts same-sex attracted women. I will be talking about incest, sexual assault and underage relationships in this. Please processed with caution.

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The first problem is a pseudo-incest relationship is central to the story. This is probably what this anime is best known for, that in addition to both being girls, the two main characters are also step sisters. (Left) Yuzu Aihara and (right) Mei Aihara. I think the idea behind this was too add to the taboo factor. The whole idea of forbidden love is very popular (or else Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t be so famous). I have no problems with stories that try to deal with complicated, taboo and even dark issues. I would even say that we need stories that do. But the problem is that this isn’t really utilized. The fact they are now step-siblings does not add to the overall story. It could have. Perhaps with the two them sitting down and talking about how they shouldn’t purse their attraction to each other because it would mean that their relationship as sisters wouldn’t be appropriate. That they can either be lovers or sisters but not both. That would have made for some pretty interesting drama.

But that isn’t what happens, in the end the two get together without having such conversations. So, why add this element if you’re not going to use it? There is a similar idea in Sword Art Online: Fairy Arc Dance. Hot mess though that arc is it at least used this plot element to add some drama. Kazuto and his adopted sister/biological cousin, Suguha have a strained relationship. Despite growing up together Suguha has developed romantic feelings for Kazuto, but unlike Mei or Yuzu she realizes these feelings are wrong. What’s more Kazuto does not return these feelings. This leads to some pretty interesting drama between the two. With Suguha accepting Asuna and Kazuto relationship. Yeah, I know that the Fairy Dance Arc is terrible but at least it utilised this plot element when it included it, Citrus does not.

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Even with how gross this element is, this relationship was the only compelling part of this arc




There are other examples of exploring this in fictions. For example, the relationship between the Lannister Twins in a Song of Ice and Fire or Túrin and his sister Túrin Turambar. Each of these has their own problems but at least these actually use it as part of the plot. As I have already said, I have no problem with stories that deal with taboo themes-like I said it can even by a good thing. There are many examples of these relationships being explored but if you are going to include it in the story you need to utilise it, if you’re not trying to say something with this then don’t include it. You could just as easily cut this element and have much of the same story. What was the need for this? What does it add to the story? It seems to only be there for the sake of making the relationship between the two main leads even more taboo-being edgy just for the sake of it is just lazy by the way.

The second problem is a lack of consent in every relationship, these are not healthy relationships for anyone regardless of the sexuality involved. Yeah, there are so many scenes that just make me really uncomfortable when watching them. Every time there is a kiss scene it starts with one girl forcing herself on the other and only then does the other give in. It would make anyone feel uncomfortable. It gets to the stage where every relationship feels forced in some way. Once again, exploring these issues in writing and stories isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Once again, it can be a good thing to explore these issues but the narrative kind of just glosses over these things. Rather than addressing these issues, by having the characters talk about them and face the consequences of what they have said and done, nothing really happens to them, these actions only serve to further the plot. There is not much more I can say on this, just that it isn’t something I want to watch.

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Lastly there is the representation of female same-sex sexuality and it is one of the worst I have ever seen. All the characters are young, feminine and there is an emphasis put on their breasts or curves. The animation puts an emphasis on their lips and tongues whenever there is intimate contact. The whole thing feels sexualized and over the top. In conclusion: Citrus’ problems are more than just bad writing but rather it is really problematic. I am trying to think of things that Citrus does do right and the only one I can come up with is that the two girls don’t die-that is a really low bar to set. I usually say that shows don’t do everything right but still do a good job, here though I can’t think of anything that I really could appreciate about this anime.

I think if you want to watch a love story between two girls there are better options out there then this-even in Anime, even in an Anime that has a bittersweet ending like From the New World has more to offer then this. If you want a happier anime with Queer characters watch something like CCS. If you want something more lesbian centric then read or watch Akuma No Riddle (the manga is better then the anime that downplays the Queer relationships). Don’t bother with this particular Anime, it isn’t worth your time, if you can find something worthwhile here then by all means, let me know in the comments because I couldn’t.

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Citrus overplays the sexuality, Akuma no Riddle’s anime adaption downplays it, the manga hits the correct amount of representation of sexuality.

Queer Coding, Subtext and Reading in Black Butler

Queer Subtext: Is the implicit meaning of the text. This is where Queer identity is hinted at but not outright stated. An example of this is actually The Little Mermaid (yes, really). The Disney classic is based off the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson whom was bisexual, he was motivated to write it after his male lover married a woman. However, because he couldn’t openly write about his feelings for another man, he hid it behind a metaphor of a mermaid falling in love with a human prince.

Queer Coding: This is where a fictional group of people are given traits that are associated with a real-life demographic. An example of this is in regard to LGBT+ people is actually Ursula from the Little Mermaid. Yes, really. She is based off a Drag Queen called, Divine. Her body language, voice and behaviour are all from a Drag Queen. Divine was actually meant to voie her as well but tragically she died of AIDs before she could do so.

Queer Reading: Is where the Queer elements where not intended by the author but ended up there anyhow. An example of a Queer Reading comes again from the Little Mermaid, the Disney film has been read as a metaphor for being transgender. The whole film is about a girl whom wishes to alter her body and soical identity. From that of a mermaid to a human girl.  Disney films are actually a lot more gay then people first assume they are.

To read more about this follow this link ( https://www.themarysue.com/little-mermaid-queer-subtext/). But for this post, I am going to be taking about Black Butler and how it’s characters are coded as Queer, the subtext in the story is actually rather full of it. If you are not up to date with the manga and haven’t seen the anime, then fair warning: Spoilers are ahead although pretty big ones at that. Also, trigger warning: the manga and anime do contain the subjects of murder, death, rape and sexual abuse (including that of children). If you’re not comfortable with that then don’t read further. With that out of the way then let’s begin.

Black Butler: An anime and manga set during the Victorian Era

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I love the Victorian era, it’s politics, literature and history are fascinating producing a whole field of art that continues to inspire writers to this day. One these writers is Yana Toboso is one of these writers and her series black butler is fascinating for many reasons. Victorian Literature is actually full of Queer Subtext, Coding and Reading because during those times it was the only way to write about such things. Examples of this include, Carmillia (a female vampire whom preyed on young women) and Jekyll & Hyde (living a double life, one as an upstanding citzen, other as a sinner). Both of these books are what is called Gothic Literature and is usually a subgenre of Horror.


The characters of Black butler including it’s protagonists, who would be the villains in any other story, play with these concepts. The other characters that play with these concepts include Madam Red, Grell Sutcliffe, Elizabeth Midford, Doll, Alois Trancey and many more. To cover all these characters would be like writing a book on the matter. So, I am going to limit myself to four for this post, Ceil, Sebastian, Madam Red and Grell. These characters are rather prominent in the manga and anime, also the former two and the latter two work as teams. So, I think it is best to start with them and see where I end up.

Ciel and Sebstaion

Ciel and Sebstaion do not at first glance seem as though they have any Queer element to them. But further insepecation reveals otherwise. The Earl and his faithful dog actually have plenty of subtext and coding to them. Sebstaion’s and Ciel’s relationship (for lack of a better word) is not a healthy one. Sebstaion is a demon and once his contract is forfilled with Ciel intends to eat his soul. Such a contract is often layered with sexual undertones.  In fact the dymanic between these two characters can actually be read as that of a Seme and a Uke from a Yoai manga. They certainly look the part, with Sebstaion as the masculine Seme and Ciel. Not conivinced? Well Yana Toboso was a writer of Yoai manga before she wrote Black Butler, while she has stated that BB isn’t intended as a Yoai manga, one can certainly see the influence. Naturally this would make anyone uncomfortable as Ciel is only a child. However, I think this the point, Sebstaion is a demon and in any other story he would be the villain. The fact he is coded as a child predator shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise.

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Like his Butler Ciel Phantomhive would be a villain in any other story. Even without Sebstaion he does plenty of things that play with the conventions of gender and sexuality whtin a Victorain setting. In both the anime and the manga Ciel disguises himself as nurmous different people, as a young girl (twice), a circus performer and kind student. While he isn’t much of fighter (although he is a good marksman), he can maniplute anyone, he is a skilled at lying and acting. Even being an Earl is that of a role he plays as he is not the real Ciel Phantomhive but rather his younger twin. Our Earl’s real name has yet to be revealed. The young Earl is a perfect example of the many masks a person can wear to achieve their own ends. There is an elements of Queer identity to this with him, being able to shift between these many different identities (including ones that are female). I am not saying Ciel is LGBT+ but rather that he plays with the concept of gender and identity with talent and practice.

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Sebstaion Michaelis shares many similarities with his master in this regard. Like Ciel is skilled at lying and acting. He manipulates, seduces and coerces people into doing what he wants. Unlike Ciel, he can also fight. As a Butler his weapon of choice is usually siliver wear. While he does not dress as a woman like Ciel does he still plays with many different identities from a Circus performer to a school teacher to a doctor. However, his true form is very different. In that form he wears high heeled shoes, has long hair, sharp teeth and red eyes. In Gothic literature the Supernatural is also associated with sexuality and gender (something that the Victorains had a large amount of axienty around). The opening of chapter 137 states that the Demon is ‘nothing and therefore can become anything.’ Sebstaion is a shapeshifter, even more so then his master, able to take any form he may choose.

Grell and Madam Red

Unlike Ciel, Madam Red is a secondary character whom dies early into the Manga, during the second arc known as the Red Butler/Jack the Ripper Arc. They work as a team, both forming one half of one of the most infamous serial killers in history: Jack, the Ripper. This person was never caught, to this day it is unknown whom they were. Everything from their gender to their motives is competly unknown. Many ideas have been suggested but none have been universally accepted. In Black Butler, Madam Red and her supernatural Butler are Jack the Ripper. Between the two of them they murder countless innocent sex workers on the streets of London, both motivated by envy due to the fact that they cannot have children. Madam Red due to an accident that killed her unborn child and Grell due to their biological sex. Both are blood thirsty, ruthless and enjoy their work.

Imagen relacionadaMadam Red (real name Angela Dallas) plays with gender in her own way. Historically speaking the idea of female doctor providing legal abortions in Victorian England would never have happened. But historical inaccurancy aside I do love Madam Red and wish she had played a larger part in the story. At first glance, she seems to be loving and kind maternal figure to Ciel. However when the truth is revealed she is actually a villainess and terrifying one at that. This plays very much with the Victorian Ideals of womanhood. The perfect Victorian woman was the kind, asexual maternal figure. The fallen woman on the other hand was sexual, a danger to both children and other women. Madam Red was both of those things, her desires to be a mother, a wife and kind all eventually turned her into a serial murderer whom took the lives of countless women. She meets her end in which we learn about the Phantomhive past. I wish she could filled a greater role in the Manga, hopefully she will at some point. Through flashbacks or else as a Ghost or Bizzare Doll. Someone call Undertaker that needs to happen.

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Out of all the characters here Grell is perhaps the one most Queer-Coded, they are something of a problematic favourite of mine. Grell’s gender identity and sexual orentation are things that are not made clear in the manga itself. They refer to themselves with ‘she’ ‘girl’ and ‘lady’ but everyone else around them uses male pronouns and calls them a man. Grell does not an attachment to Madam Red that seems romantic but also openly lusts after men such as Willaim and Sebstaion. While Toboso has confirmed on Twitter that Grelle is indeed intended as a trans woman, they are more a case of a heavily coded villain rather then an actual trans person. Others see her as an Okama-‘a man with the heart of a woman.’ Grell seems to be this confusing mix of a trans woman and an effimate gay man. There is even an entrance over on TV Tropes about this called ‘Trans equals Gay.’ Grell is also a murderer, they kill their partner Madam Red in a fit of rage. Grell is the most overt case of playing with gender in the Manga, they are Supernatural, coded as Queer, as if she literally stepped right out of Victorian Literature and straight into a Japanese Comic Seris. (That probably is what actually happened though.)


I’m saying that Black Butler is somehow secretly a great source of LGBT+ representation, rather that is strange mixture of Japanese Culture and Victorian Literature blending into one. The Victorians were very fixated on keeping in appearance, as a result their literature is full of coding, subtext and reading. Anime and manga is often full of these things as well. Black Butler has many of these things going on, perhaps more so then most other anime because of the Victorian influence and setting. I think that is one of the reasons why it is something of a problemetic favourite of mine.

Authors Note: I used ‘they’ as a singular pronoun for Grell because of their ambigous nature. Yes, I can do that and it is grammatically correct. (I have an English Degree don’t fight me on this).

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Should only trans actors play trans roles?

This is an argument that comes up every now and again on social media. Typically, whenever a cisgender person plays a transgender person. Usually there are two main schools of thought on this question. The first one, states that anyone should be able to play any role what so ever. That it should only be based on the actor’s talent. The other school argues that trans actors should play trans roles because they would have an inside knowledge on what it is like to be a trans person. The more extreme version of this argument states that cisgender people whom play trans people are guilty of ‘trans face’ similar to that of black face.  The otherside of the argument often points out that a trans person often does begin their life as their assigned sex. So that it makes sense to have someone of their assigned sex take the part.

As a result, whenever a trans character makes an appearance in media, there is constant arguing about who should have played this character. This makes for a massive headache for anyone who attempts to even get involved in the argument. The examples I will use here are ones I am personally familiar with and all of them will be trans women. As those are the ones I am most familiar with. I let someone else handle the topic of trans men in film and tv-there are plenty of trans men whom would be better suited to that then me. This isn’t intended as a representation of every trans woman in film and media but just as one person’s take on the whole situation.  If you want to get a conversation going, please feel free to drop a comment down below, if you enjoy what you read give this post a like and subscribe for more.

Cis men playing Trans Women

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Casting a cisgender man to play a trans woman is probably the most controversial choice one can make in terms of casting to play a trans woman. Unlike most other cases where this is usually frowned on, I am going to discuss two examples of this, one which I consider positive and the other negative. In the 1999 film, Better then Chocolate, a trans woman, Judy Squires is played by a cis man, Peter Outerbridge. Would it have been better to have a woman play this role? Yes, but this film came out in 1999 and even though the representation of Judy does not hold up to a modern standard of say Orange is the New Black it still has a lot of positives to it. Judy’s identity is not treated as a joke, she is respected by friends and they fully support her. Whether that means being there to talk or else standing up to transphobes in the restroom for her.

Judy herself is quite a go getter, throughout the film she prepares for surgery, deals with family rejection and find the love of her life. She is one of the few trans characters in media to get a happy ending.  Judy’s identity both as a woman and as a lesbian is treated with respect both by other characters and the narrative. She is a person with depth, not a punch line. There are some jokes but never as her expense, she sings a pretty hilarious song explaining the differences between trans women and drag queens (rightly called ‘I am not a fucking Drag Queen’).  The difference here is, we are laughing with her not at her. But even though this representation is pretty good considering that this film came out in 1999, there are still problems with casting a cis man to play a trans woman.

I have nothing against Outerbridge as an actor but when he puts on a wig, makeup and a dress to play a trans woman, I have to willing suspend my disbelief to accept that Judy is a woman. Which shouldn’t be the case with trans women ever. Trans women should not have to ask cis people to suspend their disbelief to acknowledge that we are women. That shouldn’t even be considered-society needs to learn that when someone describes their gender identity that what they are saying is truthful- no, ifs, ands or buts about it. While I am willing to give Better then Chocolate a pass because of when it came out more modern examples of this are just insulting, it is no longer 1999 people, it is 2018.

I am tired of having to see cisgender men in wigs, makeup and skirts acting as though they are trans women. That is not my idea of accurate or respectful representation. Perhaps one of the worst offenders of this was back in 2013, when a trans woman, Rayon was played by Jared Leto.  While Rayon’s identity was at least no used as a punch line-probably the only good thing about it-everything else about her character was cliched and done. She makes a living as a drug dealer, she is played by a cis man, her face is covered in makeup and you can still see stubble, she is an addict, who dies to motivate the cis people to do better. Check, check, check, check and check. There is nothing new here and hardly anything progressive. Rayon does not feel like a trans woman to me and I am a trans woman.

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When you ask me to accept that a man in a wig, dress and makeup is a trans woman, it means I have to willingly suspend my disbelief to see this person as a trans woman. I have to do the same thing with witches, goblins and elves but the difference here is that they are not real people whose lives will be impacted by this representation. Transgender people are. When it comes to casting of other minority groups one could make the same argument. We don’t cast white people to play racial minorities anymore, because we have accepted that when you want a character who looks like a particular racial group it is better to hire from that group. When you want a character who is a woman, hire a woman to play her.

Cis Women playing Trans Women

There are three examples I personally am familiar with where cisgender actresses have played trans female characters. Those are Anna Madrigal from Tales of the City (1993), Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty (2006-2010) and Bree from Transamerica (2005). Each of these stories has their own problems but the difference between them and the cases where cisgender men take on these roles is that these are women regardless of how I view them. Which is at least a start-casting a woman to play a woman. Tales of the City and Ugly Betty do not focus on their character’s transitions as part of the storyline. Indeed, the two women have both undergone GRS by the time the narrative begins. However, rather then being treated as just another aspect of these women instead the fact that these women are trans is treated more like a plot twist.  Something that these women have hidden away, and that the other characters uncovers during the story. Yes, it is an improvement on the one hand to have women in these roles but their trans identities are also sensationalised.

Resultado de imagen de ana madrigal tales of the cityAna Madrigal character is presented as the motherly land lady to the other characters in Tales of the City. Later it is revealed she is the bio-parents of one of the main characters: Mona Ramsey. Throughout the series her trans identity is hinted at, through old photos and comments about her past. At one point she uses an expression that men whom served in the army used. It isn’t until the very end of series that she tells her married lover about her past because someone is threatening to expose them. Refreshingly, he simply accepts this part of her history and who she is. I rather enjoyed the character of Ana Madrigal, but I wish this aspect of her could have been handled differently. She is a trans woman living in deep stealth, not even those close to her know about her history. The mystery added to her identity sensationalizes it, rather then gives us an insight into who she is and why she chose to live the way she did. Like with Judy from Better than Chocolate there are a lot of positives to her story and considering it came out in 1993 it was pretty good considering the time.

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However, Ugly Betty’s Alexis Meade is far more sensationalistic then Tales of the City’s Ana Madrigal. In the former, Alexis Meade kills off her male identity very literally, by faking her own death and going into hiding to pursue her transition. She later emerges to take revenge on her father for rejecting her, by framing him for murder and taking over his company. The first glimpses we get of her in series are those of a badged woman, hinting that she has undergone heavy plastic surges as part of her transition. She is also very wealthy, flirts with her brother before revealing who she is and organizes a (failed) hit on her father. That results in her and brother ending up a car crash (I could not make this up if I tried people). It isn’t as if there are no good elements to this representation, Alexis is being played by a woman, her identity and struggles are portrayed as valid and with sympathy. Ugly Betty aired between 2006 and 2010, so at least it got those things right.

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Lastly, we have Bree from Trans America. Bree’s identity isn’t sensationalized like with Ana’s and Alexis’, but she is portrayed as doing femininity and femaleness very badly. She comes off as more of a cliché then an actual person. Her face is covered in makeup, her nails painted pink and all her clothes are pink. The entire film is her quest to have GRS, resulting a road trip with her long-lost son. The entire film seems to be going out of it’s way to portray Bree’s identity as fake-this representation feels like it has more in common with the examples of cis men playing trans women then those of cis women playing trans women. While it is great to see a woman playing a trans woman, it is undermined by all these attempts to make Bree’s femaleness seem fake.

Even with the sensationalistic elements, Ana and Alexis were never undermined as women, the narratives they were in never attempted to make them look or feel fake. This is further driven home by the several real trans women such as Calapra Adams and Andrea James whom briefly appear in the film. The cases of cis women playing trans women fall short because either the character is sensationalized or else her identity is undermined. Again, this isn’t what I would call respectful or accurate representation. But at least they were steps in the right directions with women playing women, instead of taking a cisgender man and putting him in a dress and wig.

Trans Women playing Trans Women

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There are four examples of trans women playing trans women that I will look at here. Sophia from Orange is the New Black. Ricky from Boy meets Girl. Naomi from Sense8. Jen and Paige from the web series Herstory. Sophia Burst played by Laverne Cox is considered one of the best examples of a trans person in media. She is portrayed well; her identity is treated with respect and she is a character with depth. However, there is another side to this representation, every single one of her storylines focuses on the fact she is a trans woman. Not a single episode she is in focuses on some other aspect of her character. Not to mention it is made clear, she is only in a women’s prison because she is post-op. While the series does seem to be trying to use her to draw attention to the issues transgender prisoners often face, she feels less like a real person with each passing season. She is also the only trans woman on the show, no other trans women visit her in prison or show up her flashbacks, just her wife, her son and cis male friends.

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A similar problem pops up in Boy meets Girl. Even though Ricky is a character with depth, portrayed empathically and well written there are still some problems. She is the only trans character in the film, she lives in a small town so another trans person being in life that way is very unlikely. However, she is a youtuber and there is a huge number of trans youtubers, she could have a community to connect with but doesn’t seem to. Not only that but similar to Sophia emphasis is put on her surgical status. There is an entire scene, where she is unclothed, unrevealing that she is pre-operative or non-operative. She is the only one in the scene to be disrobed as well. There is an over emphasis placed on the genitalia of trans women in media. So, to improve on these two examples of representation two things need to happen. Firstly, trans female characters need to be shown as having a community and secondly, the surgical status of the character needs to be left alone-the genital of a trans woman is no one’s concern, except for her whether she is real or fictional.

Sense8 handles the idea of a trans person far better than the previous two do. Naomi is shown as having a community. From her girlfriend and her a close circle of friends. She later forms a connection with a gay man through their shared experiences as LGBTQ. But there are also other aspects of her characters that are given focus-her hacking skills, her identity as a lesbian and her psychic powers as a member of the cluster. Her trans identity, isn’t overly focused on but rather is put of her character and is integrated into her narrative and who she is as character. Also, she gets a happy ending with her soon to be with wife. But while all of this is good, there are still some problems with her character.

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She is first introduced during a sex scene with girlfriend-the first thing we learn about her is that she is post-op. Also, while some of the other characters she interacts with maybe trans it is never state if they are. So, yes big improvement but still some ways to go. The difference between Naomi and characters like Sophia or Ricky is that there are trans women behind the production, the Wachowski sisters, so is there a better example of trans female characters whom were created by trans women, well yes actually there is. A web series called Herstory, which is the best representation of trans women I have seen.

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Herstory was written by a trans woman, directed by a trans woman and has trans women in the leading roles. The two trans characters of Paige and Violet are each other’s friends and confidants, the series focuses on their dating lives and their trans identities are interwoven into the narrative not overly focused on. The issues trans women face are highlighted but do not overtake the narrative, that focus remains on the budding

romantic relationships in the series. Jen and Paige exist in a community of other queer women, of both cis women and other trans women. Their surgical status is never mentioned in the story, because it isn’t important to the story, for once. The reason why Herstory is able to do all these things right is because it was created by trans women to tell their own stories. Herstory needs to be seen as the model to follow, because it is trans women telling their own stories, proving that trans women are the best people to tell our stories.


Having a trans woman actress play a trans female character is what I would consider best practice in terms of casting. Even if the character is ‘pre-transition’ it should be down to the actress whether she is comfortable with presenting as male (there are trans women whom are Drag Kings that wouldn’t be a problem for them). Now, it won’t be every case where a trans woman will be cast, there maybe many cases where a cis female actor could do a good job, but a trans actor would be able to bring an insider’s knowledge to the role a cis person would lack. But with that all being said, we need to stop having cisgender men in wigs and dresses play trans women, because that ultimately that undermines what trans women have been fighting for, that we are women, no ifs, no ands, or buts about it.

Secondly, why yes having trans women actresses is important but what is also very important is having trans women as writers and directors. So that the character is as fleshed out as possible by people who understand there is more to this person then their gender identity. The talent behind the camera is just as important as the talent in front of it when it comes to Film and TV. Otherwise, we end up with characters being treated like Sophia, where only her trans identity is focused on with nothing else being looked at. Or else with Bree, where the story focuses overly on her feminine appearance. While reading this, some might be thinking ‘but what about a trans woman playing a cis woman is that not the same thing?’

Well, no it isn’t because cis women are everywhere in media. Yes, the portrayals of cis females are not always good but there is a huge selection and cis actresses are hardly short of roles in comparison to trans women’s roles. Trans women on the other hand are massively unrepresented. Yes, it is all acting, but this is a question of whom is best suited to the role, it isn’t about talent, and for this, transgender women are best suited to tell our own stories.

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Yes, Bisexual people can reclaim homophobic slurs. Time to put the B back into LGBT.

Homophobic Slurs and Bisexual People or why does this matter to me?


I have seen many gay men and lesbians argue that words like fag, dyke and queer can not be reclaimed by bisexual people because they’re slurs for gay people only. As someone who is bisexual and who finds power in reclaiming words used against me and people like me, I have decided to write this just, so I can send it to anyone who thinks this rather than having to repeat the arguments over and over again. Enjoy everyone. Before anyone says- ‘But it’s written in the dictionary’-Sorry but put down your dictionary, it is not the by all and end all of the English Language. I have seen this line both in arguments online and in real life ‘well according to the dictionary definition of the word’-stop right there please. The dictionary is not some holy bible of the English language.


It is not the final and deciding factor on what words mean. A dictionary is written by people whom have biases and flaws just like the rest of us. Words gain their meaning from social political and historical contexts. [i] This does not mean that words can mean whatever we want them to mean. But rather that what they mean is governed by social norms of a person’s community.[ii] Therefore, when you start arguing that a word definition is X and only X because it is written in the dictionary you fail to consider the social, political, historical and cultural reasons why they define the word in that particular way. Often the reasons maybe not as simply as you think. So, before you begin arguing about terms and definitions do some research. Many words have more than one meaning because different groups have different norms. Most dictionaries reflect only what the majority of people in a particular setting see the word as. Many groups fall outside the majority and just because you’re in the majority does not make you right-language is an anarchy not a democracy. Many groups have terms and language that would not even be recognizable to people outside those groups. In short, the common dictionary is not some holy bible of the English Language, if you have a problem with how a group of people define a word then you need to come up with another reason then ‘well the dictionary says so’.


Let’s take this and apply it to slurs. You might insist that a word like dyke means lesbian because that is the dictionary definition, or else that the word faggot means a gay man because that is in the dictionary. But the dictionary definition of a word is always awfully simplistic, dictionaries are very inadequate about explaining the social, political and historical factors at play. This is because they only give one sentence explanations for words-which is not nearly enough. Secondly, these words association with lgb people is not official, even your dictionary can tell you that. The word fag for example actually means a bundle of sticks. The word dyke is a damn, and Queer means something strange. So instead let’s dive in and have a look at some of those factors surrounding some of the most common slurs for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. I have located three: Fag, Dyke and Queer. But beforehand I am going to explain a little bit about bisexual people historically and how those history intersects with the wider LGB+ community.


A very brief history of bisexuals before the word bisexual existed or will the real Sappho please stand up?


Separating out bisexual history from LGB history is difficult for a number of reasons. The first one being that bisexual is a modern word that was only coined recently.[iii] Therefore, because the label didn’t exist until then you won’t find a woman in the 15th century proudly calling herself bisexual. This applies to other words used in the LGB+ cannon as well. Gay did not gain its current association with homosexuality until recently. Before then it meant happy or immoral-sometimes both and was frequently used as a term for prostitution. A gay woman was not a homosexual but a sex worker. This problem is actually affect one of the most famous women to love other women in history; Sappho. In our modern age, Sappho is usually seen as an icon to Queer women.


But this was not always how Sappho was viewed.[iv] During different periods, she has been seen as fallen woman, married woman and an intellect. There are also myths of her falling in love with the ferry man Pheon and of her marriage to a man. It is also possibly she may have a daughter-but whether this was by birth or adoption is unknown. This is because we know so little about Sappho’s life. Only a tiny handful of her poems survive to the modern period, of these there is certainly homoerotic elements to them. Considering all of this it is impossible to say for certain if Sappho was attracted to men and women or if she was exclusively attracted to women.  We may never know.


With all this in mind we can’t say for certain whether she would have called herself a lesbian or bisexual today. Is it even fair to place such a label on her when she herself would never have used them? I think that we need to be cautious in assigning a label to someone whom can’t speak for herself on the matter anymore. So, instead of calling a lesbian or bisexual, I will refer to her a proto-queer woman. Queer here is meant in the umbrella sense, whether she was exclusive interested in women or interested in men and women, she would be considered Queer today. Proto, meanwhile, accepts that she would not have called herself such, that I am only placing the label there to make sense of her and her legacy for myself.


With that in mind, when I discuss women that existed before our era, who would not have used our language, I used terms like proto-queer, proto-lesbian or proto-bisexual. So where are the proto-bisexuals in history? The answer is that they are closer then we think. Emma Donoghue writes in Passions between women that ‘While many of us make a useful erotic and political distinction between the labels ‘lesbian’ and ‘bisexual today, I have found little evidence of any such distinction in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century text.’[v] Such a distinction is not found until the late 20th century.[vi] The separation of women who loved other women into the subgroups of lesbian and bisexual is a recent invention. Proto-bisexual people can be found in the pre-stonewall gay communities all throughout history. It just takes a little digging to find them.


During the 20th century a gay women’s bar and house party culture had developed; this community was relatively insular focused on survival and supporting one another. This was true in both the USA and UK.  During this time period, the word lesbian was not widely used. In the USA the word gay[vii] was used, meanwhile in the UK terms such as tomboy and career woman were used.[viii] These were more common with the working class, Sapphic was more common for the middle and upper-class women. The working class gay women’s community in both the USA and UK had some things in common, including the Butch and Fem (or femme) roles and dynamic.[ix] These two archetypes had very different roles and stereotypes about them. The Butch was seen as a gender invert, the true homosexual.[x] With her masculine dress and manner whose sexuality was in born, something that could never be changed. The Fem was very different. Her sexuality was not seen as in born nor fixed but fluid and elastic.[xi] Many Femmes combined their gay identity with being a girlfriend or wife to a man, or a sex worker with male clients.[xii] Her feminine dress and manner meant she wasn’t easily recognizable as a Queer Woman.  The difference between butch and fem has been described as that of the butch as persistence and the fem as fluid.


The fluid fem was viewed with suspicion and doubt. Many were seen as the type to go back to the safety and security of heterosexuality. During the (in)famous lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, the protagonist Stephen is a butch woman whose fem lover leaves her for a man in the end. Another example of this is Anne Lister whom had is considered ‘the first modern lesbian’ whom was the first to use the word femme to describe her lovers-many of whom had relationships with both men and women.[xiii] Queer women use different labels for lesbian and bisexual women now, it is also understood, that one can be feminine and a lesbian or masculine and bisexual. However, these archetypes still existed for many years within the pre-stonewall community and can be seen in the lives, literature and history of the women from these times.


I am not arguing that every fem was fluid and every butch was persistent. There were plenty of femmes whom were committed to the gay women’s community. Meanwhile there were also butch women whom had sexual contact with men-whether from lust or for material and social gain.[xiv] However, the social norms within this community did describe these two archetypes that did impact how members of the community viewed each other. The archetype of the butch can be read as a the proto-lesbian. The archetype of the fem can be read as a proto-bisexual woman, seen as sexually fluid and having relationships with both men and women. So, where were the proto-bisexual women? The answer is that many of them were living as femme gay women.


I have written a lot about women now, because that is what I know best. But what about the men? Where are the proto-bisexual men? Where they inside the gay men’s community, similar to the case with proto-bisexual women? While let’s examine the history of men who love other men and find some answers. Unlike with women whom the law was silent on, male-male sex was illegal under the charge of sodomy. However, despite the legal persecution these men faced many of them were able to find one another and form a community. Gay bars have existed for centuries-even though they weren’t always called that. Perhaps the best example of a Proto-gay bar comes from the Molly Houses.[xv] A Molly was a term used for men whom had sex with men or for male assigned at birth people whom were gender non-confirming. Molly houses were a combination of drinking houses, community centres and brothels. The most famous of which was mother clamps molly house.[xvi]


It’s important to understand that sex between two men was not seen as a normal expression of sexuality for some people but as a sin that any man could be attempted by.[xvii] Because of this a sodomite was defined not by his exclusive interest in other men but because he had sex with other men-it was seen as a matter of behaviour not sexual attraction. The society these men were in did not care if they were attracted to both men and women or if they were attracted in only men. Sodomy was Sodomy and that was that. The Molly subculture was persecuted fiercely but that did not stop these men from gathering, this subculture was a proto-type of the gay bar culture of the later 19th and 20th century. This culture co-existed alongside the gay women’s culture, often sharing the same drinking establishments and the two sexes mixed frequently enough.[xviii] So, what did this community of men whom were persecuted for having sex with men think about sleeping with women? Did the mollies, sodomites and buggers of the 17th to 20th century have a problem with men whom had sex with both men and women? What about the early gay community of the 20th century?


The answer is that, similar to their female counterparts, these communities did not make a distinction between a bisexual man and a homosexual man. In his book, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, George Chauncey states that ‘Above all, it was not a world in which men were divided into heterosexual and homosexual.’[xix] He continues ‘This book argues that in important respects the hetero-homosexual binarism, the sexual regime now hegemonic in popular American culture, is a stunningly recent creation.’[xx] Instead sexual behaviour was the only identifier. If you chose a man as a partner you were gay, if you chose a woman you were ‘normal.’ Some men went back and forward between the two genders and some were sexual active with both. Others, of course, were exclusive in their choice of sexual partners, choosing only men.


So, what does all this mean? Very simple put: bi+ men and women have been here from the beginning and we’re just as much a part of the community and its history as gay men and lesbian women are. You cannot draw a clear-cut line between the experiences of a lesbian woman and a bisexual woman. Just as you cannot say bisexual men have nothing to do with the gay community. This is not just true of history but also of sexuality in general, thanks to the efforts of researchers such as Alfred Kinsey, we know sexuality is more of a spectrum then a black and white divide-as Kinsey himself famously said ‘the word is not divided into sheep and goats.’[xxi] More recent researchers such as Lisa M. Diamond have argued sexuality is fluid for many men and women.[xxii] So, when did it change from gay being the only term used to identify people whom were attracted to the same sex to the whole alphabet of labels we have now. The answer lies in the late 20th century, as the gay community became more radical many new ideas come forward and a new language began to develop to talk about sexuality and sex.


Despite their many flaws, the Kinsey reports of 1948[xxiii] and 1953[xxiv] had a massive historical impact. At the time they were revolutionary changing the world’s view of sexuality forever. Kinsey was the first one to argue that sexuality was a spectrum and not a binary between; Queer and ‘normal.’ For those who fell in the middle there was also now a world for such a thing: bisexual. People whom labelled themselves as bisexual began to crop during the early 20th century. Active in the pre-Stonewall, homophile movement and in the liberation front that came later. These include figures such as Stephen Donaldson and Brenda Howard. Donaldson founded the first students homophile group and Howard organized the first pride celebration.


However even though bisexuality as a concept now existed it was not always accepted within the early gay rights activism-indeed many had to hide their orientation because many gays and lesbians believed they would revert back to heterosexuality, this is despite the fact that many gay men and lesbian women were not out themselves. The gay liberation movement embraced bisexuality and celebrated it as part of human sexuality. The liberation movements of the 60s went even further arguing that everyone would be bisexual if it wasn’t for how society forced people into heterosexuality. However, this changed yet again with the 70s and 80s. However, the Gay Liberation front came to an end in 1972 because of infighting among the different subgroups.


Exclusively same sex attracted men began to argue that homosexuality was an in born trait-similar to your skin colour.[xxv] Women whom were attracted to other women left to join the feminist movement-going on to define the word lesbian as a woman who exclusively chose women as sexual partners.[xxvi] They argued women should only chose other women as their sexual partners- ‘feminism is the theory, lesbianism the practice.’ Women who could not should chose to be celibate and put her energies to other women, rather than sleep with the enemy.[xxvii] Men and women whom identified as bisexual were left out of these movements. Thus, they began to create their own. Many of which such as the Bisexual Resource Centre still exist today.[xxviii] While the earlier bisexual groups did focus on either helping women or men, later ones began to help both-meaning that unlike the gay male community or lesbian community this one made up of both men and women.


For most of the 1980s these three communities saw themselves as separate but that changed again because of the HIV/AIDs epidemic. These three groups along with transgender people began to work together to fight the virus-they had no other choice. From here the LGBT community was born- in some way things have come full circle except now we have a language for talking about many different experiences that before would have simply been grouped under one word: Gay. Now that I have put bisexual people back into our proper place in history. I will now go on to explain why slurs can be reclaimed by bisexual people, where these slurs came from and how they can affect anyone under the Queer umbrella.




This word is probable the most controversial for a bisexual woman to reclaim, I have seen many lesbian women insist that this word is specific to lesbians only. Well then let’s unpack that a little bit. The word dyke’s origins are not something we can be sure of and there are many theories as to where the word comes from.[xxix] Similar dyke is a slang word that has had many different meanings depending on the time and place it was used.[xxx] Sometimes it means a masculine woman, sometimes it means a lower-class Queer woman, and other it means a woman whom only engages in tribadism every now and again by those whom partook in this activity more often. The term dyke has been around as an insult for a long time, however, regardless of where it came from its origins as a slur predates the divide between lesbian and bisexual women.[xxxi]The orgins of the term in regards to Queer women seems to refer to dyking-a sexual practice of rubbing two cliterouses together. A practice both lesbian and bisexual woman engage in.


The word dyke has long been used as an insult for any woman attracted to other women, even before the term bisexual was coined or before lesbian became popular with exclusively same-sex attracted women. Arguing that the word dyke was coined to describe lesbians alone, overlooks the circumstances in which the word has been used. To claim lesbians exclusively have the right to this word, or that it comes from the women whom were exclusively attracted to other women is nothing more than ahistorical. The word comes from a time when the difference between lesbians and bisexual women wasn’t even invented. Which means that the word dyke, belongs to any woman whom is Queer, not just those attracted to their own sex exclusively.




Of the three words discussed here, faggot is perhaps the one that has been least reclaimed. I personally see it more commonly used by ignorant teenage boys then by Queer men. Make no mistake this word is a slur with a long and very violent history.[xxxii] The word Faggot comes from Latin and means a bundle a of sticks.[xxxiii] It was first used as an insult for an older woman.[xxxiv] How this shifted to refer to Queer men is unclear-perhaps it was the conflation of male homosexuality with male femininity that brought this about. Another possibility is the practice of fagging[xxxv]-where British Schools would have younger boys be servants to older boys. Perhaps it was this association with male-male relationships in an all-male environment that caused the word to eventually take on a sexual meaning.


Whatever the reason for this however, faggot predates the inventions of the divisions between homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual. It was first recorded in reference to male same sex sexuality in 1914.[xxxvi] Meaning that it must have already been in use by this point. At this time many bisexuals and homosexuals would still have used the word gay as an inclusive term for anyone with same sex attractions. The word fag come about just before the split. This means the word faggot, while newer then dyke, similar refers to any man with same sex attractions. Like the words Sodomite and bugger before it, it belongs to any man attracted to other men-not just the ones exclusively attracted to other men.




Out of the three words here, Queer is probably the least controversial one for a bisexual person to use. Probably because it has been reclaimed as an umbrella term for anyone whom does not fit into the heteronormative world. The word has its origins going as far back as the 16th century.  It meant something odd, unusual or ‘something not quite right.’ It first began to be applied to LGB+ people in the early 20th century before the division between heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual was created. It is a term that was initially used as a slur by those whom said it. Efforts to reclaim it came about during the HIV/AIDs epidemic when LGBT+ people had to put aside their differences and work together to fight the disease. Since then it belongs to anyone under the LGBT+ umbrella and bisexual people have just as much a right to it as gay people do.




Homophobia is defined by UK Stonewall as ‘the irrational fear, hatred and prejudice to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.’[xxxvii] Before Stonewall, you were either gay or else ‘normal.’ Homophobic people have never cared if you’re exclusively attracted to your own gender, or if you like both your own gender and others. Either way you are a Queer. Homophobic people hate queer people, they see us all as a threat. Bisexuals are not less committed to liberation then gay men and lesbian women. Such an idea is not just insulting both also ahistorical as many LGB+ activists are or have been bisexual. Bisexuals have just as much to do with this fight as gay men and lesbian women do.


Bisexuals are in fact even more disenfranchised then gay men or lesbian women are. Because in addition to facing homophobia from the heterosexual world, we also face biphobia from heterosexuals, gay men and lesbian women.[xxxviii] Bisexuals have the worse mental health, unemployment rates and substance addiction of anyone in the LGB+ community.[xxxix] Many organization still acknowledge the B and the T as foot notes to the LGBT community. Bisexuals have been part of Queer communities from the very beginning-the history of the L, the G, and the B are interconnected and overlapping, not separate. The slurs discussed here are defined by their history which includes bisexuals just as much as those whom are exclusively homosexuals.


If a bisexual woman calling herself a dyke, a bisexual man calling himself a fag, or bisexual people using the word queer bothers you then I suggest you take some time to think about why that is, especially in light of the information in this blog post. I will be interested in knowing some of the answers, feel free to comment below to start a conversation. However, be warned I will not tolerate having my work misinterpreted intentionally or otherwise and I will tolerate any type of bigotry. I will not publish your comment if that is the case.


Author’s Notes


I have discussed a lot of things here at length however there are some things I left out. These include the history of Queer people of colour, and Transgender people. It was not my intention to erase them but only to keep this essay within a certain length-you can write a whole book about these things and still gloss over a lot. If you want to know more about Queer people of Colour or about Transgender people I suggest the following resources. I am sure there are other groups I have overlooked in this, it wasn’t intentionally-again leave a comment about what you think.

‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis

‘Transgender History’ by Susan Stryker

[i] https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/the-role-of-a-dictionary/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130518 For information on the flaws of dictionaries check out this article.

[ii] https://www.wuj.pl/UserFiles/File/Studia%20Linguistica%20129/sling-129-suppl-adamska_salaciak-dictionary_definitions_problems_and_solutions.pdf For the more common problems in the dictionary going as far to say ‘Dictionaries are inevitably ethnocentric; their authors being limited by their own

experience of the world and their beliefs about it. Bias can be discerned especially with regard to politics, race, gender, and religion.’

[iii] https://www.glaad.org/blog/us-bisexual-movement-biweek-history-lesson The word bisexual was first used in its modern sense in 1892. However, it did not take off until the later decades.

[iv] http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z928rdm

[v] From p.6 of ‘Passions between women’ by Emma Donoghue from google books.

[vi] This when the term bisexual began to be more widely used because of the publications of the Kinsey Reports.

[vii] From p.385 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[viii] From ps. 6-7 of ‘Tomboys and Bachelor girls’ by Rebecca Jennings.

[ix] Both ‘Tomboys and Bachelor girls’ and ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ talk in detail about Butch and Fem roles among Queer Women. The formers focus on British culture while the latter focuses on American culture.

[x] See p.384 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[xi] See p.384 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[xii] See p.120 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis and see ps.121-122 of ‘Tomboys and Bachelor girls’ by Rebecca Jennings

[xiii] See http://rictornorton.co.uk/lister.htm the word femme comes from French and Anne lister, whom used the long version of the word.

[xiv] See ps. 122-123 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[xv] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/regency-gay-bar-molly-houses More information on Molly Houses

[xvi] http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/mother.htm More information on mother clamps molly house.

[xvii] Sodomy was a very confused category, with many definitions and ideas but it was seen as a behaviour see https://web.archive.org/web/20080704144443/http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/sodomy.html for more information.

[xviii] See p. of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[xix] See p.18 of ‘Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940’ by George Chauncey

[xx] See p.19 of ‘Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940’ by George Chauncey

[xxi] See ps.18-20 of ‘Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940’ by George Chauncey, this topic is covered in depth.

[xxii] For more information see Diamond’s book ‘Sexual Fluidity’ and this lecture by her ‘Lisa Diamond on sexual fluidity of men and women’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2rTHDOuUBw

[xxiii] http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/kinsey_ac_S.pdf

[xxiv] http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/kinsey_ac_S.pdf

[xxv] See Queer by Choice by Vera Whisman for more information.

[xxvi] See Queer by Choice by Vera Whisman for more information.


[xxviii] A timeline of bisexual history http://www.binetusa.org/bihealth.html and the bisexual resource centre:  http://biresource.org/about/

[xxix] http://rictornorton.co.uk/though23.htm the history of Queer words

[xxx] See p. 68-69 of ‘Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold’ by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis.

[xxxi] https://www.adl.org/media/6788/download and http://rictornorton.co.uk/though23.htm Dyke goes back as far the 1920s and perhaps before then. It predates the division of Queer women into lesbian and bisexual women which only took hold in the 1960s.

[xxxii] I would advise reading ‘Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940’ by George Chauncey in it’s entirety because the history of the word fag is long and complicated and has been well documented in this book.

[xxxiii] https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2112/how-did-faggot-get-to-mean-male-homosexual/

[xxxiv] https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2112/how-did-faggot-get-to-mean-male-homosexual/

[xxxv] https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2112/how-did-faggot-get-to-mean-male-homosexual/

[xxxvi] https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2112/how-did-faggot-get-to-mean-male-homosexual/

[xxxvii] http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/biphobia

[xxxviii] https://sf-hrc.org/sites/default/files/Documents/HRC_Publications/Articles/Bisexual_Invisiblity_Impacts_and_Recommendations_March_2011.pdf The bisexual invisibility report details many instances of biphobia from the gay community. Of particular interest is the story of a young man whom was accepted as long as he maintained a gay identity but was rejected once he began to be sexually active with women. By both straight and gay people.

[xxxix] https://sf-hrc.org/sites/default/files/Documents/HRC_Publications/Articles/Bisexual_Invisiblity_Impacts_and_Recommendations_March_2011.pdf The bisexual report goes into detail about these things.

The Queer Darling in the FRANXX

Spoiler warning: If you have not watched the entire series do not read this blog entry, there will be so many spoilers that I can’t even count all of them.

Trigger Warning: Through out this post I will be discussing sex, sexuality and gender in detail. Including attempted sexual assault, that is the triggering warning, leave now if you wish.

1.Heterosexually powered robots.

Probably the thing that stands out most about this anime is that the robots are powered by pseudo-sexual activity between a stamen (a boy) and a pistil (a girl). All of the pairing in the anime are adolescents because they are the only group of people in this society with functional sexual organs. Both boys and girls are objectified in this society-with even their chromosomes displayed on their uniforms-a Y for the boys and an X for the girls. Adults do not wear such things-their society places greater value on them. Because the adults have achieved immortality, their reproductive functions are gone, and they see no need for children beyond piloting the Franxx robots.

The children are born (possibly from birth mothers or from artificial uteruses we don’t know) and raised in the gardens-a type of creche. With their sole purpose in life being able to pilot the Franxx robots. However even with that being the case they are very ignorant of sex and reproduction. They don’t know what kissing is and do not know how babies are made. Only when Kokoro discovers a book about such matters, while exploring an abandoned town, do they learn the truth. Slowly over the cause of many episodes their faith in the system they are in begins to shake, eventually breaking when the truth about their society is revealed to them. That their leader is really an alien determined on wiping them out.

What the hell is up with these desgins?

Their society has a strange relationship to sex, despite sexual organs being needed to pilot a Franxx, the pilots are kept in the dark about such matters. Probably because VIRM does not want anyone discovering how to reproduce but also, because a pregnant female cannot pilot a Franxx. While this effect both boys and girls, I would argue the girls are treated worse because their society is implied to be a Patriarchal one. Their leader is called Papa, it is the female characters whom are most at risk while piloting their Franxx and despite their young age they are routinely sexualised throughout the story. Just compare the uniform of the Stamen to that of the Pistil. One is far more sexual then the other. The very positions for riding the Franxx are in fact a doggy style sex position with the male on ‘top’ and the female on the ‘bottom’ as it were. The robots meanwhile have a very feminine and, in some cases, sexualized design. Did I mention they were designed by a man whom has no problem pawning at women? Yeah because that is a thing.

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Yes, they are piloting that doggy style, your eyes are working properly

While some explanation is offered in that the Franxx are designed based off the Klaxosaur species and that the females becoming the monsters’ bodies while the male their pilot-it doesn’t explain away all of these things. But this doesn’t explain all theses things especially with how void the Klaxosaur are of primary and secondary sex characteristics. Speaking of the Klaxosaurs they seem to be an almost Matriarchal species with their ruling Princess and their female monsters-their males are only the energy source for the females to strike the opponents, they the females seem to have retained some form of sentience, the males have not. This would make sense as the humans and the Klaxosaurs have many parallels. I think we need to view the society VIRM have created as one of ageism, heteronormativity, misogyny and violence.

The word Heteronormativity is very important here. The majority of pilots are in only male and female pairings-based off of the Klaxosaurs’ own bodies-with the female becoming the monster and the male only it’s core. But this begs the question how do Queer people fit into such a society? Do they even exist? With the way this story is structured, it would be very easy to ignore such things and I am glad that Darling in the Franxx (DitF) does not. The anime does contain some Queer characters whom struggle in the system they are in, trying to understand it, their place in it and finally realizing they need to rebel. These characters are: Ikuno, Naomi, Hiro, Mitsuru and the Nines (including Zero Two and Nine Delta). I will go over each of these characters here and how their sexuality impacted the narrative. Lastly, I will address what the big problem is that DitF, how it could have been avoided and the problem resolved, lets dive right in.

  1. Queer women: Ikuno (Below right) and Naomi (Below left)

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Probably the easiest character to start with is the one whom is the most obviously Queer, that being Ikuno. Throughout the whole series she struggles with her sexuality, she is forced to pilot the Franxx with male partners. Whenever she is the robot with her male partners she fantasies about being with another girl in order to activate the robot. She struggles with her partner Mitsuru and the two do not like she other. When she tries to pilot with another girl (Ichigo) she fails to connect. Ikuno is a lesbian character, existing in a world where heterosexuality is the only option for her.

Her struggle is heart-breaking and comes to a climax when she confesses her feelings to Ichigo. The latter does not reciprocate. The scene in which this plays out is actually one of the best in the entire series. After a confrontation with the Nines, in which Nine Delta says some pretty disgusting things about Mitsuru ’s and Kokoro’s relationship Ichigo thanks Ikuno for standing up for the former two. To which Ikuno tells her she is wrong, and she secretly agreed with Nine Delta. Ikuno tells Ichigo the truth, her feelings, her resentment towards Ichigo’s male partners and how angry she is at the system. Ikuno tells Ichigo she has loved her ever sense they were children. The lighting, animation and music in this scene all play out really well and only add to it. It is a truly compelling drama scene. What really made the scene though for me was Ichigo’s response, while you can tell she doesn’t fully understand what Ikuno is going through right now, she does her best. She assures her friend that she is normal, accepts her as part of the squad and lets Ikuno cry on her shoulder.

Resultado de imagen de darling in the franxx naomi

Ikuno’s takes place in Mitsuru ’s and Kokoro’s wedding and cheers them on. However, her problems are not over yet. She needs to continue fighting. One battle causes her to age rapidly-making her hair turn white. Her lifespan has been shortened dramatically. However, she does not let this defeat her, she continues to give her all to fight for a better tomorrow. In the far future she has become a doctor helping the parasites affected by aging live longer and helping the others have children. She is implied to have a relationship with Naomi (Hiro’s older partner) because they work together and are seen holding hands. Ikuno is by far one of my favourite characters on the show, because of how resilient she is. She is inside a system that where she is objectified and sexualized like all the other girls but even more so, she simply does not fit into this system at all because her attraction to girls and her lack of interest in boys.

I also like how she didn’t end up with a guy in end, I was actually really worried about that. Instead she finds a purpose, meaning and love in life without having to be heterosexual or a mother. That is pretty progressive for an anime. My only compliant about Ikuno’s storyline is that we don’t get to learn more about Naomi and their relationship. Naomi only appears a handful of times throughout the series and does show a few rebellious traits. She convinces Hiro to stay behind, admonishes him for giving up and goes on to work with Ikuno. I really wish we could have seen more of her and her growing relationship with Ikuno. But I am glad for what we got and hopefully there is some fanfiction out there that will fill in the cracks for me. So, I would say Ikuno is a pretty brilliant character whom I really enjoyed seeing growing and developing.

3.Queer Boys: Hiro and Mitsuru

While I did enjoy Ikuno’s story arc, I wasn’t as impressed with Hiro’s and Mitsuru ’s relationship. Now, to be honest I really liked Mitsuru as a character, watching him grow from an angry and detached boy to a strong and open young man. Mitsuru ’s sexuality is part of this story. As a child he desired to pilot a Franxx with Hiro, even going as far as to be injected with a serum that could have killed him. When Hiro forgets such their promise because of his mind being tempered with, Mitsuru is deeply hurt and goes on to carry this anger for years after the fact. Is there a romantic/sexual element to this relationship? I personally think so, piloting a Franxx clearly has a sexual element to it. Meaning that Mitsuru must have some kind of sexual feelings for Hiro, this isn’t out-right stated but it heavily implied. After all Ikuno was in love with Ichigo and wanted to pilot with her. I think Mitsuru is in the same position. Which is ironic considering the two really don’t like each other, they have more in common then they think.

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Calm and collected facade later breaks to reveal a much kinder person under it, but also one who is really hurt-his hair cut visualizes his character growth.

After realizing Hiro never intended on hurting him, Mitsuru begins to undergo some pretty big character development, becoming more open and honest. He realizes that this whole time he could have trusted Hiro and could have trusted others. His Ice King persona starts to crack. The biggest part of this come when he falls in love with Kokoro. Sure, the two have problems with consent and communication but they do figure it out. This result in them not only getting together but later on having a family, by the time of the epilogue they are on their fourth child. One thing I really did like about Kokoro was how she acknowledged and validated Mitsuru ’s feelings for Hiro, rather then try to down play them or dismiss them. Mitsuru is a bisexual boy, whom gets that rare thing a happy ending.

Hiro’s feelings and sexuality are more complicated than Mitsuru ’s feelings are. Throughout the story, Hiro fails to connect with female partners due to the fact that he has consumed Klaxosaur blood. Throughout the series he only mages to connect with two partners-Zero Two and Nine Delta, both of whom are clones of the Klaxosaur Princess. Zero two is feminine presenting and the two have a romantic/sexual relationship. Nine Delta is masculine presenting and the two manage to pilot a Franxx together. Mitsuru is a boy whom Hiro once made a childhood friend promise with. On realizing he broke it no matter no unintentionally Hiro is deeply regretful. Mitsuru is a boy, Zero Two and Nine Delta are confirmed to be genderless. With all of this I would argue Hiro is indeed bisexual, or perhaps even pansexual. Did he return Mitsuru ’s feelings or did he not fully understand the formers feelings and feels that he rejected him (similar to Ichigo’s and Ikuno’s storyline)? It’s not really stated.

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The Stoic lead of the anime

I feel like this storyline wasn’t fully resolved, even with everything I have written here. Whenever Mitsuru and Hiro have a scene together it is full of tension, as though they are exes with unfinished business-which in a way they are. The fact they are both boys who wanted to pilot a Franxx is never really brought up between them. Could Hiro have kept his promise even if his memory hadn’t been erased? Or world their sexes/genders have prevented them from controlling the robots? What would things have been like without Zero Two and Kokoro in the picture? Would the two have ended up together? None of this is addressed and it could have been with the two of them sitting down to have a conversation about all of this, in fact if they had it could have been on par with the scene between Ichigo and Ikuno but that never happened. Sadly, this is not the only interesting storyline, Darling in the Franxx, does not fully explore: more on that later.

4.Gender Ambiguity: Zero Two, Nine Delta and the other Nines

The Nines are confirmed to be clones of the Klaxosaurs’ princess. More specifically Zero Two is her clone and the others are clones of her. The copies of a copy. Zero Two’s storyline is best understood as an attempt to understand what it means to be human. She is desperate to be human, so she can be with her Darling (Hiro). She does appear female-with feminine clothes, long hair and breasts but confirms that she cannot reproduce and as a Nine, in theory could be a pistol or a stamen. Although, we only ever see her take the position of a pistol in the anime proper. She is also, very interestingly, a clone. Meaning that from her conception she isn’t like the other characters. She struggles to fit into her society of humans as a clone of the Princess, as someone whom isn’t, biologically speaking, a human.

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Zero Two’s old Squad mates

Unlike the other main characters, she does have more knowledge about sex and sexuality-as can be seen when she makes sexual advances to Hiro. Which, in the earlier parts of the anime, often border on assault. Zero Two is portrayed in two very different ways through out the narrative. The first image is that of sexual vampire, whom knowingly drains her partners energies until they are dead-giving her the representation as a partner killer. The second is that of a confused, lonely girl whom is desperate to be with the one person she truly loves-Hiro. Which part of these images are true? Is one a façade for the other. I think they are both two extreme views of her character the truth is that Zero Two falls in the middle. She is a scared and lonely person whom is capable of some truly terrible things.

Resultado de imagen de darling in the franxx zero two

Her relationship with the other Nines, is one of suspicion and dislike. Perhaps this is because of how she firmly desires to be human while they reject humanity. In her few interactions with them she is cold to them. This is another thing that I wish the story had gone further into. Zero Two wishes in story that she could have children, similar to Kokoro. Surely, the closet thing she has to biological family are the other Nines, whom are confirmed to be genetically derived from her mean something to her? But this isn’t really answered. The other Nines clearly do care about each, as can be seen as when Delta and her partner are killed. They do everything to try and save their team mates. They do seem to care about Zero Two as well even if it was a very flawed way. Nine Delta thinks she is lower herself meaning that he cares about her status if nothing else. They work with Squad thirteen to help rescue her from out space in the series. But this isn’t gone into with a lot of depth.

Resultado de imagen de darling in the franxx nine alpha

Other then Zero Two, the only other Nine we see a lot of is Nine Alpha. Similar to her he is genderless but presents as male. He shows sexual interest in Hiro, Ichigo and has another partner, a Nine. Arguable making him bisexual as well as genderless. For most of the series he is an antagonist. Until VIRMs unravel that is, they then turn on these Aliens whom have deceived them. The Nines don’t last long after their society collapse because they can’t survive without their maintaining regime. Nine Alpha choses to sacrifice himself on the battlefield rather then fade away in his bed. While I did like that he was redeemed I dislike the redemption=death trope, because it means we will never get to know this character as a good person. Like all tropes it can be used in a good way or a bad way, but I think it is over used these days. But that’s a me thing. The Nines were very interesting characters, but not enough time was spent on them for us to really know them. Like I said that is a big problem with this anime, which brings us to the next part.

  1. Unanswered and/or glossed over questions

A brief list of all the story elements that are not concluded in the anime in a satisfactory way.

  1. Hiro’s and Mitsuru ’s relationship is glossed over, the two never have a proper conversation about their feelings or their past.
  2. Who was the woman Zorome mate when he goes into the city? Was she his mother in some way? Never answered.
  3. What are the other Nines like?
  4. We don’t get to know Naomi very well, she appears only a handful of times.
  5. The VIRM twist wasn’t very well foreshadowed.
  6. Can the Franxx be piloted by same sex pairings? Was Ichigo’s and Ikuno’s experiment a failure because Ichigo is heterosexual? Or can it only be a male/ female pair? What if Naomi and Ikuno had tried to pilot a Franxx together?
  7. Were there any members of the Klaxosaur species whom were homosexual or bisexual? Did they simple become Magma energy?
  8. If male female pairings are what are needed what about a transgender person? Would they be able to pilot a Franxx at all?
  9. Do intersex people not exist in this society? If so why not? Genetic engiring? Would the Nines be considered intersex?

These are just the ones I can come up with off the top of my head and I am sure other people can find even more problems. The main problem with the series is that it tries to pack so much into only twenty-four episodes. DitF either needed to cut the number of themes and idea it was trying to use or else have more episodes. Honestly, I am actually impressed they were able to wrap up as a much things as they did.


Darling is the Franxx is the examination of a society that runs off of heteronormativity, misogyny and ageism. The society they are in shows us a world where most people have lost the ability to reproduce, making their society sterile and stagnant. Zero Two describes it as ‘lifeless’ and she is very right. Usually stories like this tend to outright ignore Queer people, Darling in the Franxx does not, by including several Queer Characters. The story tries to involve how their lives would be affected by living in such a society with varying levels of success. It doesn’t get everything right, but I think that has less to do with a lack of talent on the writers’ part, or a lack of examination on their part about these issues. The problem with Darling in the Franxx is that it is only twenty-four episodes and isn’t able to do justice to many parts of the story. Which is really unfortunate, the shorter a story is the more you have to focus on quality not quantity. With how popular Darling in the Franxx was, I think more seasons was not too much to ask. I hope that some of this stuff gets picked up in supplementary material or that the next big anime that focuses on similar themes is given more time to them so

Authors note on sexual assault: Two characters nearly commit sexual assault in the story, that being Zero Two and Kokoro. With Zero Two this is addressed through her character development as she grows as a person. Which I have written about here. With Kokoro the situation is more one of her ignorance about sexual matters. The good thing is that she realizes this before she does something damaging to Mitsuru and is sincerely remorseful of what she did. I don’t think is a predator but rather it is an example of dangerous ignorance can be-which is yet another way this society is so flawed. This isn’t to excuse their behaviour, simply to put it into context.

What do you think of Darlin in the Franxx, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts but no flames wars please, contructive criticism only.