I just finished the latest episode of Young Justice: Outsiders and it concluded with quite the character development; Kaldur, the new Aquaman, is indeed queer.
Uhhhh where to begin… Ok– Am I happy that one of the OG characters is revealed to be queer/bisexual? Of course! Now let’s get into the narrative issues…
1: Feels Out of Left Field– Sure, from the comic we know that Kaldur was interpreted as gay, but here there is really no context to this development. For those who don’t know, Kaldur was an original creation for the animated series who was then brought over to DC comics universe.
When the show-runners revealed a couple years ago that there have always been LGBT characters on the team it seemed the easiest choice would have been Kaldur since he was their original character thus giving them creative freedom. However, We know that a principal plot to his character for the first two season was his affection for Tulla (Aquagirl) and ultimately the loss of her. So…
2: What Did the Past Two Seasons Mean?: We know that in season two, Kaldur is by his father’s (Black Manta’s) side working as a double agent. The story that the team created in order to “justify” this action is his rage over the death of his love, Tulla. Well, we know that Kaldur never truly betrayed his team. Therefore, I suppose, we can rule out the depths of his devastation over Tulla’s death, but that does not take away from the fact that in season one he genuinely wanted to be with her! He was willing to leave life with the team in order to find his own happiness.
I repeat, as far as we know, Kaldur is confirmed queer/bisexual and not gay. Therefore it’s totally possible (and possible for anyone) to fall for someone of both genders. There’s no rules. The issue with the episode is that for a character who does have such a history with romantic longing for a woman, this kiss with a stranger feels completely out of left field and just confusing. D-do you want to give us some actual context?!
3: CHALK Full Episode…: I have preached on many occasions that someone’s sexual orientation should never be their complete identity; we all have multiple layers. However, again, this character has a two season history depicting something else and this episode was STUFFED with so much that there wasn’t enough time to properly introduce what they were trying to give us.
This had Harper’s confession about home, Violet visiting Gabrielle’s family, trying to save Victor from Father Box, small moments for Connor and Brion, and ultimately an Atlantis plot that was about exploring the new meta-human’s adjustment to life under the sea. The reveal of Kaldur’s “lie” is done in a screenshot, no dialogue, and within a multiple subjects focused montage.
Sexual orientation should never been the totality of someone’s identity, but holy s**** if you’re going to introduce it for a character that has literally never explored it on screen, nor has been a part of his narrative for the past sixty-something episodes, at least respect it enough to properly express it?!
4: Is it Too Little Too Late?: One of the OG teammates is revealed to be queer and he is also one of the coolest of the six. Yes, I’m happy, but is it too little too late? I mean, I understand that the original two seasons came out in a different time (yes things have shifted that much since they aired) and those seasons were shown on Cartoon Network which presents it’s own bag of cats for obvious reasons, but the choice was made to have Kaldur open in season 3 as a member of the Justice League and ultimately become a secondary/tertiary character; would that be wrong to say? After all, the first thirteen had Nightwing, Artemis, and Superboy still front and center with Miss Martian taking somewhat of a backseat, yet, still got her subplot for those episodes. Seven episodes into the back thirteen, Miss Martian has taken up more of a lead while Nightwing has ultimately vanished. However, in the entirety of the season (so far) Kaldur has truly become a member of the Justice League regarding screen time- very limited and not a lead at all.
So, though I’m happy for the representation, should it count when he isn’t even part of the squad that the show focuses on? Seems a little too convenient of a reveal when you don’t really HAVE to explore it or show it as much as you would have had to had he remained with his original team… Am I being unreasonable? Do we need a comparison? Sure- Nightwing/Oracle, Brion/Violet, Superboy/Miss Martian, and Black Lighting/Dr. Jace have gotten UNAPOLOGETIC moments of affection, romance, and yes, even shameless imagery alluding to F********!
Yet the best they do for Kaldur is a confusing dialogue under the sea, and a gay kiss screenshot…Oh dear.
Conclusion: Look, efforts are always appreciated. Yet, this is coming off the heels from the reveal that Violet, a character with LITERAL rainbow powers, is a gender-queer bisexual who wears a hijab even though she doesn’t identify as Muslim. Once again for the people in the back- CONTEXT TO CONTENT. You WERE giving representation to a group of people in this amazing show and then ultimately decided that her wearing a hijab is just a fashion statement because she doesn’t identify as Muslim. PLEASE understand how that is a miss. These things go beyond just the imagery- literally.
Often times these stories feel like an adult talking in baby-voice to a nine-year-old while asking them how cool it is to go to Chuck E. Cheese; it’s uncomfortable and they clearly don’t get it. To get it right, or get an idea of how it would feel better, is write a story about a heterosexual male and female and then when you’re done just switch the gender of one of the characters to match the other, and that’s it! You’ll likely see that the couple is just as much a part of everything that everyone else is doing; that maybe Kaldur would be exploring his relationship and truth without it being a big deal! But it would have been explored just as Black Lightning and Dr. Jace… Like Brion and Violet… Like Perdita and Garth… Like Artemis and Wally… Like Nightwing and Barbara….Like Superboy and Miss Martian… Like Wondergirl and Robin… Like Thirteen and Blue Beetle…
Alas, Young Justice has been renewed for season four! I hope this was just the introduction to this element of Kaldur’s self-discovery and not the end.