Voltron: Legendary Defender writer Joaquim Dos Santos has penned an emotional open letter to fans who have been deeply hurt by the show's depiction of its first two gay characters.
The Netflix animated had been initially widely praised when it announced that the seventh season would acknowledge that Shiro (aka the Black Paladin) is gay and in a long-term relationship with a previously unseen character named Adam.
Show bosses said that they always intended for Shiro to be gay and waited for it to play out on-screen because the world of Voltron is one of where "acceptance and inclusion is part of everyday life".
However, a section of fandom were ultimately disappointed when the season dropped on Netflix last week because Adam only appears briefly on-screen in flashback scenes, and is killed off battling for earth in the first major battle with the Galra Empire.
Many of those fans angrily sent complaints to the show's cast and production team, leading to some staff temporarily dropping off the social media radar. Now, showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos is addressing complaints.
An open letter to the VLD fandom RE: Season 7. pic.twitter.com/S4Ram1Mxm1- Joaquim Dos Santos (@JDS_247) August 14, 2018
"I'd like to say that we created this version of Voltron with the intention being as inclusive as possible within the boundaries given," Dos Santos wrote in a letter to fans. "Are the still boundaries? Well, for this type of 'action adventure/product driven/traditionally boys toys' show the answer is unfortunately yes... Have those boundaries widened since we first started the show? Yes. Is theres still a TON of room to grow? 100% Yes.
"We were incredibly excited and proud when news broke (post SDCC) of Shiro being revealed as a gay man. The story of how we eventually arrived at getting the green light to confirm Shiro and Adam is unfortunately a tale that we'll have to tell another day.
"At any rate, the flashback story of Shiro being in a long-term, committed relationship with Adam that ultimately came to a conclusion when Shiro decided to go on the Kerberos Mission was the device we settled on to deliver that info to the audience."
Dos Santos stressed that his writers were aware of and were keen to avoid the 'Bury Your Gays' trope in TV and film writing, but he understood why fans see Adam's death as an example of that trope.
"We had not intended for Adam to be interpreted as a recurring character or someone that would come back into Shiro's life," he explained. "That is not me attempting to turn this around and place the burden of expectation on anyone. This is not an excuse.
"We crafted the entire series around the themes of sacrifice and loss and at the end of the day has to take responsibility for our creative decisions. We knew people would be affected by the loss of Adam. We just could not have predicted how profound the loss would be."
He later noted: "It goes without saying that aggressive behavior (verbal or otherwise) is just not doing anyone any good. Taking our frustration (verbal or otherwise) on staff and/or the performers on the show is not the answer. Do they work on the show? Yes. Are they integral to the show's high level of fidelity? Absolutely.
"Are they involved in the story decision making process? No...There is no way for me to take away the hurt some of you have felt the loss of Adam and from potentially larger, positive social message.
"What I can say is that we're riding an ever moving, fine line and trying to navigate as best as we can while still moving the conversation forward. We are incredibly proud of the strides we were able to make thus far. The fact that there is a vocal audience demanding for the conversation to be pushed farther and faster is ultimately an incredibly positive thing and a lesson we'll take moving forward."
Voltron: Legendary Defender returned to Netflix on August 10, and will be back for an eighth and final season.
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