Bubblegum Crisis was both revolutionary and exceptionally disappointing in its portrayal of homosexuality, or honestly, just non-hetero approaches to sexuality in general, but this is the 1980s; sexual identity was still, as a topic, very much on the binary scale, almost as if the other parts of the LGBTQIA+ didn’t exist to the larger public, but I feel like I’m not best suited to discuss that right now. I’m not a scholar in this area, and plus, it’s not the topic for today’s challenge, so …
Anyway, for the good parts. I mentioned that Daley was my favorite secondary character, and a great deal of that was because of his positive portrayal in the series. He was likely, next to Sylia, the most competent, non-evil character to grace the screen, and not once did anyone question whether or not he was capable of filling in a role as an authority figure. He’s not painted as this socially deviant, just a flamboyant guy who constantly fake flirts with his partner, Leon, who is obviously straight. The writers never come out and say he was gay, but there was plenty of subtext.
And that’s where the good parts end because … sigh, despite such a big leap – having a major character be openly gay – there was just so much more work to do. I would have loved to have seen Daley’s boyfriend or husband, a life outside of the AD Police. I also would have loved for them to have shown Priss and Sylvie in an actual relationship instead of hinting at it; Leon had mentioned in the first episode that he wondered if she was a lesbian (he doesn’t come out and say it, he just says, “I wonder if she …” after she rebuffs his advances), and then she gets super close to Sylvie in a way that seems definitely more than friends.
I don’t know. I’m of two minds here. Does them having a romantic relationship add to or detract from the story? Not really, I suppose. I don’t want representation just for the sake of it, like it’s just this added on thing to stay relevant. They could literally just be very good friends. But like the subtext with Daley, there is just an extra hint that there’s something more, especially when Priss is forced to kill Sylvie to prevent an atomic bomb from going off; you don’t act that way around a woman you just met if you all are just buds. I just feel we could have gotten a great lesbian (or bi or pan or maybe even ace!) icon so much earlier if they’d done more to delve into her character. It can deepen the story more and connect so many other people to the series. Granted, it ends badly with the “bury your gays” trope, so it’s not like there wouldn’t have been something problematic if she’d been openly gay.
So basically, this show was a precursor to having non-hetero main characters in TV shows, but like so many boundary-pushing bits of media, they weren’t perfect with it. No one can be. I think about how Friends was so revolutionary by having Carol and Susan getting married, but how it was also reductive by making their relationship a running joke for Ross or constantly having Chandler mocked for having more feminine traits or having a transgender woman played by a deep-voiced cis-woman (I love you Kathleen Turner, I promise!) or … you get the picture. There is always room for improvement, but I feel like we need to recognize the little ticks upward in progress that we can see while pushing for more and better, more inclusive representation. They were doing the best they could with what they had and were still fantastically successful in their time, even in the States.
Art Credit: FanPop