After months of research I can now confirm DreamWorks Animation has engaged in deceptive marketing to boost LGBT viewership on its properties, including She-Ra.
Over the past two years, DreamWorks Animation has engaged in predatory, deceptive marketing to boost LGBT viewership without intending to depict queer individuals in a meaningful way. As part of this campaign, DreamWorks misrepresented internal diversity safeguards to journalists while the studio’s allies, such as voice actors and friendly commentators, have attempted to spread false information to discredit injured minority viewers. These processes, which started on the past show, Voltron: Legendary Defender, continue to be employed by the company on current series.
Though it has taken me months to confirm, I can now share that multiple independent sources have informed me Noelle Stevenson’s show, She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, is part of this campaign to manipulate queer viewers. After several seasons of teasing queer content, both in the show itself and in staff interviews, the show itself will not incorporate meaningful, unambiguous LGBT depictions on screen among primary characters. According to the sources, DreamWorks and its partners rejected the idea of having a queer protagonist in their She-Ra show, despite the show’s marketing and positioning as a queer-friendly program.
To understand how DreamWorks has been successful at manipulating audiences into believing their shows will be inclusive (despite the studio’s lack of actual inclusive programming compared to its competitors), and to see how they’re doing it again, we need to explain what happened on their previous queer-marketed property, Voltron. While I have already written about Voltron and its negative impact on LGBT individuals, Voltron’s queerbaiting tactics and how the studio spun the subsequent disappointment ultimately served as the blueprint for She-Ra’s marketing strategy. Additionally, I have quite a few new details that I wasn’t able to share in my previous article.
And, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to talk about my own experience, and discuss Voltron from my own perspective, just this once.
Voltron’s show runners and staff said something clear: minorities, we see you. This promise was echoed again and again by the staff (with showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos claiming “Each and every one of [the staff of the show] has been a champion of inclusivity and acceptance…”) and by the official marketing of the show. When the show revealed Shiro, a leading character, was queer at San Diego Comic Con in 2018, ‘Shiro’ trended on Twitter. Showrunners promised his queerness wouldn’t become his defining aspect – he was a hero who was gay, not a gay hero. And it’s because of that statement that so many people had such high hopes for this show.
It’s why I did too.
I’m a gay man, and as a queer person, you accept something: the stories in the movies, on TV, they aren’t about you. The creators will happily take your money, but you’re largely invisible. You exist, but not on the screen. When two creators promised queer people that queerness will just be another part of a leading character? In a giant robot show, a genre not known for being inclusive? It was something worth celebrating.
Looking back, there were red flags I should have seen. DreamWorks marketing had official merchandise with fan-popular queer pairings Keith and Lance (commonly referred to as Klance by fans of the pairing), and Shiro and Keith (referred to as Sheith). Official videos on YouTube were tagged with pairing names like Klance to increase visibility, despite that show staff said on multiple occasions they wouldn’t pair Keith and Lance.
Note: DreamWorks has since removed the keywords from YouTube, and Hot Topic has changed the descriptions on several Voltron items so they are no longer referencing pairing names. However, we were able to confirm the usage of the keywords and titles both from screenshots of the items when they were originally posted, and from DreamWorks personnel.
It should have been obvious that DreamWorks’ marketing team was using popular queer pairings to advertise to queer consumers despite the fact those pairings would never be anything more than fan-theorized. Most queer people I spoke with were skeptical that any queer pairing could come to pass with established characters, regardless of staff comments. However, comments from staffers about the show being a “slow burn” gave some people hope that a queer pairing between established characters was in the cards. And, barring that, given the promises that the showrunners wouldn’t shoehorn in a relationship without development, about queerness being “an aspect of Shiro but not his defining aspect,” at least the queer character they did have would be handled respectfully.
Then the final season happened.
Shiro, after being revealed as queer, was suddenly distant from all his male friends, mirroring the kind of isolation so many queer people face when they come out. The once vibrant character became a generic general, barking orders without characterization, until the final five seconds of the show, where he abruptly resigns as an admiral, a position we saw him fight to achieve and maintain throughout the show, and despite his repeated statements that he finds fulfilment through his job as a leader, to marry a random man that he never once spoke with.
I was stunned. The show runners, who had pledged to care about diversity, who told us again and again that we, queer people, were seen, had turned us into a public relations stunt. Shiro was no longer a hero, but the gay ex-hero they married to a man. “Isn’t it wonderful,” straight commentators said, that the show had a gay wedding? Isn’t this so great for queer people?
But what I saw was a queer hero, suddenly distant from his friends, stripped of his hero status. We were left with the horrifying message: you could be gay or be a hero, but not be both.
If you’re unclear on how a gay wedding can be hurtful for gay people, I’d like you to join me in a thought exercise. Let’s pretend it wasn’t the gay hero that retires and gets married to the random character at the end, but the woman scientist, Pidge. Let’s say her ending is her abruptly stopping her work inventing, because she found a man, and she can leave her career and stress behind. Now, for a show that advertised itself as diversity-focused, would we call that a win? Would we say it’s so great that she found someone? Or would we say, “you stripped the female scientist of her love of science and inventing, a character so many people looked up to because she was more than just a girl, and made her just a girl.”
I wasn’t alone – after the final season, I spoke to several dozen LGBT individuals, both online and in person, and this same sentiment would echo again and again – people felt hurt.
To quantify how gay people were affected, I worked with Renee Ann Drouin, a PhD candidate researcher at Bowling Green State University. Drouin surveyed over 400 queer individuals about their thoughts on the depiction of queerness in Voltron: Legendary Defender.
Of those 400+ queer respondents, 93% said the overall depiction of queerness (including the wedding) in Voltron was negative, with the majority scoring it as deeply negative. Over 100 comments directly referenced the wedding (and the final season overall) as rewriting a main character’s personality to “only be the gay one.” Respondents commonly used phrases like “tokenized,” “betrayed,” “dehumanized and humiliated,” and, perhaps most painfully, “used.” The idea that Shiro had to stop being a hero to find happiness with another man made many respondents argue the show was saying, “being queer is a bad thing.”
Those complaints were also echoed privately by LGBT media academics and other queer critics I spoke with. For many, the ending had not just ruined a show they had loved, but also had a profoundly negative impact on the individuals themselves. The queer individuals Drouin surveyed explained the show had been something that had given them hope of seeing themselves in media, but the ending had left them feeling broken. One respondent commented:
“I saw [fellow fans] so heartbroken (and some even triggered into vomiting fits) that I couldn’t even watch the entire season. It gave me an anxiety attack that left me shivering.”
This same sentiment was expressed by another respondent:
“I didn’t watch season 8. I still haven’t. I saw what friends of mine were saying, what people were spoiling, and I felt sick. I actually couldn’t sleep the night before, because I was SO excited to see what season 8 would bring, that it would really be this fun, blow out of an ending, and then I saw the spoilers, and felt sick to my stomach. I cannot fathom how much was changed, but it read and looked like a completely different show. I never wanted to see that happen to characters I adored, and judging by the backlash, neither did anyone else.”
“Since Dec 14 [2018, the release date of the final season] I’m fighting with depression. I also always had anxiety but I was pretty positive person, so I could fight my anxiety with it. But I lost my positivity. I lost interest in many things that made me happy before. It’s been two months and I still cry when I think what DreamWorks have done and how long they ignore us. With the show, with the characters, how everything [showrunners Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos] said in previous interviews was a lie. I feel betrayed, used … I never expected to have such feelings coming because of a show.”
Ultimately, the sudden marriage to an unnamed random was transparent value signaling, not inclusion. DreamWorks was saying “look at us, we have a gay wedding, aren’t we so progressive” ignoring the voices from actual gay people who were screaming “we didn’t want this.”
With such an overwhelming majority of queer people expressing injury, I assumed it would be easy for Shiro’s treatment to be seen as the loss it was for the queer community.
I was so naïve.
Despite the show’s Rotten Tomatoes audience score falling into single digits, a counter-narrative began to emerge from straight fans, critics, and show staff, designed to delegitimize queer concerns: that people who expressed injury were just upset that Shiro didn’t end up with [insert character name here]. Despite arguments from queer critics, academics, and countless people about how the ending de-empowered queer people, in ways completely unrelated to who Shiro ends up with, this argument, that queer people were simply upset Shiro didn’t end up with a specific character, was deployed again and again.
The argument is a variation on the No True Scotsman fallacy; “real gay people” would have seen the wedding as a win, so anyone upset must just be angry about something else. The benefits are obvious: it silences and discredits queer people (the majority of whom expressed injury), it shields people who want to harass queer people (because they’re just attacking “shippers,” or fans who preferred a specific relationship, not “real gays”), and it casts the show as innocent.
That last part is important – because it can be used to paint the show as blameless, some Voltron staffers adopted this argument to defend the show. Neil Kaplan, the voice of Zarkon, claimed that queer people upset were quibbling that it wasn’t perfection, and they should just accept it as a small victory (despite, as I’ll continue to repeat, 93% of hundreds of queer people surveyed saying it was hurtful). Kaplan continued, telling a fan that who called the wedding “thoughtless” that they had made “an ignorant and callous accusation.” Kaplan then engaged in the false narrative as he continued berating the fan claiming, “just because the results were not what you hoped for doesn’t mean you know anything about what went in to [it],” despite, as he also acknowledges, Kaplan himself didn’t know what went into the decision. He questioned how a show could “make” a queer person feel ashamed of their queerness, and cited the AA prayer at one frustrated individual, saying that they should accept the things they cannot change. He even made the comment that queer people who were disappointed should use their anger to “INSPIRE [them] to create the world or the universe that you want to see.”
You’ll note something – when discussing queer representation, Kaplan, someone who isn’t gay, seems awfully eager to share his thoughts about what’s good for gay people. But, thoughtless as Kaplan’s tweets were, they’re nothing compared to how this situation was handled by Afterbuzz TV.
While DreamWorks told media journalists there would be no interviews after the show’s disastrous final season, Afterbuzz TV, a YouTube talkshow, was given an exclusive interview with showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery to discuss queer representation in March of 2019, three months after the show’s finale aired. On that interview, Emma Fiffe, one of the hosts, repeatedly attacked queer concerns. At one point Fiffe even laughs out loud while claiming arguments about why the wedding was hurtful (the ones argued by actual gay men) were stupid. Like Kaplan, Fiffe and her colleague, Kate Kullen, also argued, without evidence, that the ending of Voltron was good for the gays and argued that those upset were just angry shippers.
Despite Voltron’s dismal ratings and ample evidence to the contrary, Kullen, another show-friendly host, claimed, “we got it,” with respect to gay inclusion in the same interview, and attempted to aid the showrunners in spinning the show’s marginalizing message as a win for queer men.
In both these cases, official show staff and friendly media commentators (who were granted an exclusive) attempted to silence and shame queer people who simply expressed injury that the thing they promised (a show where they were treated as people and not a publicity stunt) wasn’t what they received, and they did so by using language designed to systematically discredit injured queer individuals.
To be clear, it’s easy to see why they did this – it’s why so many other creators have engaged in this kind of deceptive conduct. DreamWorks can safely claim they were “groundbreaking,” but, by pairing off a main character with a random, and by never including any story, they had effectively quarantined queerness to the epilogue, so it was something palatable for conservative viewers. If the only gay in a show is in the last 5 seconds of epilogue, it won’t create a boycott. And, at this point, DreamWorks already had the money and the viewership numbers from queer consumers – it’s a win-win for the studio.
I spoke to so many people who sounded broken after the AfterBuzz interviews – so many who talked about how this show was so much more than a show. This was their shot. Their chance to finally see themselves in a work of media they were fans of. Not a random, queer-focused art house release, but a major property. They believed in it. And, once they gave the show their time and money, they were attacked.
I started researching how diversity worked at DreamWorks soon after the finale aired. After so many claims about diversity, there had to be some sort of internal process. In my industry, I am required to go through standardized ethics training annually and training on bias; I assumed others probably had to do the same.
And then I started speaking to people. And sources familiar with Voltron’s production told me that not only did Dos Santos and Montgomery bypass diversity resources available to them, but they had treated diversity as a “joke” while working on the program.
I confess, even after the final season, I really wanted there to be an explanation that exonerated Montgomery and Dos Santos. I wanted these two people who claimed to care about us to be somehow not at fault. It’s again stunning in retrospect, because it was their show, of course it’s their fault, but I believed in them. And I wanted so badly to believe that I hadn’t misplaced my trust. But every source I spoke to said the same thing: the issues with representation were the direct fault of Dos Santos and Montgomery.
By the time the Afterbuzz interview occurred, I was already largely convinced Dos Santos and Montgomery were at fault. That wasn’t helped by Dos Santos’ curious claim on Afterbuzz that, despite the vast majority of queer consumers arguing that Voltron’s finale was hurtful, he and Montgomery had done “the right thing” for diversity and queer viewers, which begs the question, shouldn’t queer people be the primary arbiter of what’s good for queer people, not the straight writers?
Dos Santos and Montgomery hadn’t just written a bad ending, ignored warnings that their ending would be hurtful, and lied to queer fans; they actively seemed to believe they had given queer fans a gift. Before I completed my investigation in April of 2019, in which I published that Dos Santos and Montgomery had bypassed diversity practices, I learned they lied to journalists as well.
Donya Abramo was, at the time, the reporter assigned to Voltron from the site Hypable. Like me, she was queer, and she had believed in this show. And, like me, she was gutted by the hurtful ending. In March of 2019, she offered to share an unreleased interview with Dos Santos and Montgomery.
Dos Santos’ remarks in the interview were surprisingly insensitive. At one point the showrunner claimed that “it’s a tough spot to be in when you know where you stand on the issues [of diversity] but you’re still called out for being ‘part of the problem.’” Instead of attempting to learn why queer people were upset, or demonstrating empathy, his answers, along with the answers of Montgomery, demonstrated an utter lack of understanding of the problem, and repeatedly focused their own view of what’s good for queer individuals instead of engaging with feedback from real queer people.
They repeatedly made comments like, “we knew that … it would be viewed as pandering,” and hinted that, maybe if they had developed the relationship between Shiro and the unnamed character, it would have been helpful. While that would have certainly been better, very few people that I spoke with flagged that as a problem. Shiro’s retirement, his isolation from his friends, and his tokenization through the sudden wedding were far more common complaints. In fact, most people I spoke with seemed to indicate they’d have preferred the wedding not be there at all if it meant the gay protagonist remained a hero. This was also echoed by the queer individuals Drouin surveyed:
“I was extremely disappointed with the way Shiro was treated especially, it felt vile and I am honestly still hurt by it. It made me feel like if Shiro’s sexuality had never been confirmed he could have remained the important and fully developed and interesting character that he was before and keep the close the relationships he had with the other characters. It made me sad to think that such an amazing character would never get the ending he deserved.”
“He also lost all his other relationships aside from the ‘husband’ we know nothing about, that he shares almost no screentime with and has no chemistry with. Is that all LGBT people deserve? Only a marriage to a stranger with no other goals, no career, no friends?”
Dos Santos also admitted to, in his interview with Abramo, what I already knew – that the man who had pledged to care about minority voices, who had spent hours in interviews talking about his commitment to diversity, hadn’t bothered to ask a gay person “how do I represent people like you respectfully?” Despite the fact that DreamWorks had diversity consultants for showrunners to use, Dos Santos admitted that he and Montgomery did not consult with them, nor queer writers at DreamWorks, nor any external groups like GLAAD.
As I prepared my own article on Voltron, which would come out in April 2019, I spoke with DreamWorks Animation’s Director of PR, Seth Fowler, about my own findings: that Dos Santos and Montgomery hadn’t consulted any gay writers or reviewers. Fowler, however, was adamant that what I had heard from sources wasn’t possible. He argued there was no way Dos Santos and Montgomery could have aired a gay wedding without talking to gay people. That DreamWorks processes should have prevented that. Since, by that point, I had already seen Dos Santos’ confession to Donya Abramo, in addition to my own data, I assumed Fowler was simply misinformed. That wasn’t the case.
Donya contacted me a few weeks before I published my own article, saying that Dos Santos had requested to change a few previous answers for grammar as he was answering several follow ups. He had promised her that the changes were non-substantive. Donya shared the modified file, and at first glance, nothing jumped out. However, that changed when I ran the documents through a comparison program.
Dos Santos had left the first lines of most paragraphs intact and had kept the word count stable. However, he had indeed made significant substantive changes to the document, at times completely flipping previous answers.
As we mentioned, Shiro’s retirement was a major sore spot for many LGBT individuals. Here’s what he said initially:
And just to add to that a bit. It definitely was not our intention to make Shiro more emotionally distant. But I think the circumstances of him now helming the atlas while the other Paladins continued on with their duties dictated that perceived distance to some degree. I think that, combined with the fact that we also had this massive Honerva backstory/motivation to payoff maybe led to some feeling like he was being underserved. As for his retirement at an early age…. I think that decision was two fold, first of all, the guy had been through enough insanity throughout the series that we felt like he more than deserved it. Second, in terms of Shiro’s character, he’s always been the type of person to put the mission above all else. We saw this play out with Adam in season 7. I think the reality shaking events of season 8 maybe put things into perspective just a bit for him and he decided to focus on himself and his personal happiness for once. But I could imagine some stories playing out post series where he gets called back into duty for some “special ops” type ass-kickery.
And here’s that same paragraph from the updated document, after Dos Santos had already confirmed Shiro had retired in his interview with AfterBuzz TV:
It definitely was not our intention to make Shiro more emotionally distant. But I think the circumstances of him now helming the Atlas while the other Paladins continued on with their duties dictated that perceived distance to some degree. I think that, combined with the fact that we also had this massive Honerva backstory/motivation to payoff maybe led to some feeling like he was being underserved. As for his retirement at an early age, I think that decision was multi faceted. First of all, who’s to say he’s actually retired? Although the guy had been through enough insanity throughout the series that I think we can all agree…. He more than deserved it. In terms of Shiro’s character, he’d been written as the type of person to put the mission above all else. We saw this play out with Adam in season 7. I think the reality shaking events of season 8 maybe put things into perspective just a bit for him and he decided to focus on himself and his personal happiness for once. That’s not to say that he quit the Garrison altogether. I think there is a bigger, less literal message there with Shiro being able to put the battle behind him.
You can see how the change helps feed the counter narrative – after confirming Shiro retired (something they did in the AfterBuzz interview) abruptly changing their answer allows them to discredit queer individuals who had flagged the retirement as a major issue. Dos Santos, Montgomery, and their allies can now say queer people simply misinterpreted the ending, gaslighting the queer community.
Not only did Dos Santos attempt to hide changes like this one in the 19-page document (and lie to another journalist in the process), Seth Fowler was copied on the exchange. More surprisingly, Fowler received Dos Santos’ answers to Donya’s questions before he told me that there was no way Dos Santos could have bypassed diversity review. When Fowler made that assertion, that Dos Santos’ couldn’t have gotten the wedding approved without involving queer people, he was in possession of emails from Dos Santos admitting to Donya that he had done just that.
That point is worth repeating: Seth Fowler, the most senior PR officer at DreamWorks Animation, made false statements about the company’s diversity safeguards while in possession of emails detailing how they were false, and tacitly allowed Dos Santos and Montgomery to misrepresent information to a journalist, in a way designed to discredit queer people.
While Donya ultimately decided against publishing her interview, she encouraged me to proceed with my own investigation, and in late April of 2019 I published my own work detailing that Dos Santos and Montgomery had bypassed diversity resources, and were directly responsible for the issues in LGBT depictions. Considering Dos Santos had already confessed this to Donya, and it was consistent with what other sources had told me, I felt incredibly confident in the piece.
I confess, I underestimated how much people really didn’t want to admit their trust was misplaced. While I expected the retaliation from DreamWorks (which canceled a major interview in response), as well as the attacks from the usual bigots online, I got attacked, passionately, by Voltron fans who refused to believe Dos Santos and Montgomery weren’t the perfect allies that we believed them to be. While I shared their frustration and can empathize with how difficult it is to acknowledge you’ve been played, the passionate and absolute defense from Dos Santos’ and Montgomery’s fans caught me off guard.
Despite that, the piece was overall well-received, and I decided to put Voltron to rest.
But, one thing kept bothering me – a source familiar with DreamWorks’ roadmap had said the cycle, the queer baiting and disappointment, would repeat.
I took a break from investigations for several months, worked on other pieces, got engaged to my boyfriend of several years, began planning a wedding, but I never got that warning out of my head. And it was echoed by other sources. Something bad was coming from DreamWorks.
I started looking more closely at She-Ra, and I started noticing similarities immediately. Like with Voltron, the show was positioning itself as gay friendly, without any primary gay characters. Like with Voltron, the show staff spoke openly about their commitment to diversity. I was already concerned the show was over-promising, so I started investigating.
After months of checking and rechecking, I am now confident enough in my data to share it – multiple independent sources confirmed to me that She-Ra is another Voltron—that DreamWorks and its partners early on in the show’s development rejected showrunner Noelle Stevenson’s plan for there to be a foreground LGBT character. However, they continued to market the show as though there would be a LGBT primary, encouraging young LGBT viewers to attach to the show, and leveraging Noelle’s previous work on LGBT content.
One source did say Stevenson, who is queer herself and has written several works with prominent LGBT characters, fought against the decision to exclude queer primary characters, but also confirmed that she was wholly aware her request had been rejected when she began teasing queer relationships in her show. While Stevenson did not go into the show with the intent to manipulate LGBT viewers, the source confirmed Stevenson allowed it to proceed, and intentionally played up romantic subtext between same-gendered characters (like Adora and Catra) to queer fans.
The baiting of a potential romantic relationship between Catra and Adora is significant, in that it has been teased through a variety of channels. Besides the subtext in the show itself, Stevenson has engaged in a tactic called “queer catching,” in which the creator uses out-of-show interviews and marketing to manipulate queer audiences.
In the 1990s, Subaru wanted to market to queer individuals, but didn’t want the boycotts and attention that openly courting queer buyers would bring in the less-accepting time. To accomplish this, they hired an ad firm to develop ads that would go unnoticed by straight consumers of the day, but would use language and images that queer people would notice and lock onto. This form of targeted marketing is similar to how Stevenson has manipulated queer audiences on She-Ra.
The thing about subtext-driven queerbaiting and queer catching is that it’s difficult to prove outright; unlike with Voltron, where executive produces Dos Santos and Montgomery made public promises about queer depictions and then broke them, Stevenson has been much more careful to tease without promising, to provide herself with deniability. However, we can point to specific instances of this behavior, and help demonstrate a pattern.
At Emerald City Comic Con in 2019, well after DreamWorks and its partners had rejected the idea of a foreground LGBT relationship and had informed Stevenson of their decision, Stevenson accepted praise at the She-Ra panel for depicting budding romantic queer relationships in the show, and said her favorite moment of the fandom was when an Adora and Catra cosplayer proposed to each other. When someone shouted at her to place that in the show, she smiled, and took a sip of her water, before they moved onto the next question.
In an interview with Fandom entitled, “‘She-Ra’ Gives Us the Slow-Burn Queer Romance of Our Dreams,” Stevenson claimed that “the relationship between Adora and Catra is the defining one of the show.” When asked point blank by interviewer Keely Flaherty if their relationship was romantic, Stevenson dodged, claiming, “I want the people watching it to draw their own narrative from [the show itself] … But it’s a reading that’s definitely fair.”
Several months later, Noelle also posted this image after the fourth season aired, with the caption, “oh, the blood and the treasure, and the losing it all.”
Now, individually, none of this will register to the average straight viewer, or to the average fan of the show who isn’t following interviews and Twitter. However, for queer viewers, who were hooked by the promise of a queer friendly show, and began following the show on social media, these things form the out-of-band message: “Hey, I like these two together as well, maybe it will happen. Come watch and see.”
Since I know some people will look at this and still have doubts, here’s an example that’s harder to play off as fans over-reading. This is a screencap from the third season of She-Ra, featuring Adora and Huntara:
However, this is not what Netflix placed in the promotional images for the show. Instead, the following image was used:
This shows that, for some fans, there was more marketing value in showing a false image with Adora and Catra then there was showing the actual screenshot. At this point, I’d ask a reader, why spend the effort to change the image? What value does it serve?
Now, armed with this information, the data from sources, and the blueprint from Voltron, it’s not hard to see how this will play out – the show, after seasons of queer subtext (both in show and in interviews), will not deliver any on screen confirmation of queerness. Queer fans will express hurt, and once again the gaslighting will begin.
DreamWorks surrogates, such as voice actors, will reference the background queer characters, such as Bow’s dads and Double Trouble, as “a step forward,” they’ll argue that queer fans were never promised anything, and once again the narrative about a show that failed its queer fans will not be about the injured queer people, but about the poor creator who tried. And while it’s possible that DreamWorks could, abruptly, change course, it’s unlikely, and doesn’t change that they have, for the past four seasons, engaged in predatory targeted marketing for LGBT youths, teasing the possibility of a queer relationship between main primary characters, despite knowing it would not occur.
But we don’t have to accept this. We don’t have to say it’s all right for a show that teased a gay hero to deliver a work where the only unambiguous queerness is quarantined to secondary and tertiary characters. We don’t have to thank creators for content that is marginalizing. We don’t have to say, “well I’m sure they tried.” We can stand up and say talking about diversity isn’t enough anymore – we can demand studios deliver.
If my time working on other stories has taught me anything, there are creators making diverse content. There are allies that treat us as people, not just points. There are so many publishers who walk the walk. And, as a reminder, our fellow queer people are also creating diverse content, from small indie works, to major studio properties.
All these creators, publishers, and studios are willing to include queer people in their stories. If DreamWorks isn’t willing to include us in a meaningful way (and, at the moment, they aren’t), we shouldn’t support them.
We have reached out to DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation for comment and will update the story if we hear back. We were unable to seek comment prior to publication, as there were concerns about source intimidation.
This article would not have been possible without the work of Donya Abramo and Renee Ann Drouin, who generously agreed to share their data. I’d also like to thank GeekDad Editor-at-Large Ken Denmead, as well as my fellow writers Rory Bristol, Will James, and Jules Sherred for their assistance and support.