When I was younger, I didn’t really pay attention to things like inclusiveness or diversity. It wasn’t something I thought about because, you guessed it, I had a ton of privilege. For much of my youth, I was a young, white cis-het woman in a very conservative environment, and the great majority of what I saw (at the time) reinforced the idea that what I experienced was what everyone experienced.
Obviously, this is objectively not true, and I’ve learned that over my thirty-five years of life, including that I’m bi, which really did begin to open my eyes to the level of prejudice that lives in the world. I’m still very privileged, and I have to check it so often that it can make my head spin. But the McElroys seem to have figured out how to be inclusive with little effort, and it’s incredibly inspiring.
The level of commitment to creating a space for everyone, the Balance arc has LGBT characters, and all the McElroys have stated they don’t have a definitive appearance for any of the characters, allowing people to imagine them how they’d like and draw some pretty wicked fan art. They’ve continued this trend into their new arc, Amnesty, with non-binary characters, a bisexual player character (Travis’ creation, Aubrey Little), etc., and it’s something I’ve come to expect from everything they create.
This is not to say that they haven’t failed before. At the conclusion of “Petals to the Metal,” the heavily implied (later codified into canon) couple, Sloane and Hurley, both supposedly died, each sacrificing their life. That definitely caused an uproar about the “bury your gays” trope, but Griffin almost immediately introduced a lesbian couple (Carey and Killian) and then later resurrected Sloane and Hurley as dryads.
Another example is Justin’s initial joke of Taako trying to invent the taco in the world of Balance. He recognized that his character – and by extension, Taako’s sister, Lup – was commonly considered Latinx (mainly because of the taco thing), and he backed off this idea, realizing it could be offensive*. Griffin then later had the creation of a taco become an incredibly powerful moment, giving Taako the ability to save the day (and gifting Joaquin magical powers to rescue those in his/our plane).
They listen to their audience, which is not always something that a) happens and/or b) manages to improve a production. It’s always difficult to balance out what your audience wants and the story you want to tell, but the McElroys seem to have found out just how to do that.
Art Credit: Maximum Fun
* I honestly did not know the history of the taco, and I now appreciate the tasty treat even more.