Book Adaptations: ‘Good Omens’ and Good Queer Representation

Screenshot of Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as Crowley in ‘Good Omens’. Copyright goes to BBC Studios, Narrativia, The Blank Corporation, and Amazon Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Good Omens’ is probably my favorite streaming series of all time. It’s one of the perfect blends of excellent screenplay and incredible casting with some of the best chemistry between its two leads that I have ever seen in any show. I really can’t wait for the next season to come out. But from its first announcement, I have been very concerned about the show becoming an example of queerbaiting. This specific fear has been loudly voiced by many fans. We’ve heard from Michael Sheen, Neil Gaiman, and multiple other people that Aziraphale and Crowley love each other, with several references from Amazon Prime themselves that imply the relationship between these two characters is romantic. But all of those statements don’t mean anything if we don’t see anything in the show, as ‘Harry Potter’ fans very well know. However, this conversation is more complicated than it seems. What if Aziraphale and Crowley aren’t romantic, but are instead a queerplatonic couple? If this is the case, what constitutes as clear representation? Especially if we’re carrying forward Gaiman’s idea that neither Aziraphale or Crowley really have genders? And should we be bombarding Gaiman with questions before the season is even released? I’m going to try my best to tackle this whole complicated issue with some of my opinions thrown in there for good measure. Let’s get started!

Queerbaiting:

‘Our Flag Means Death’ in particular has started up a large amount of conversations about queerbaiting over the last few months. ‘Our Flag Means Death’ marked one of the first occasions where the two main male leads seemed to be interested in each other at the beginning of the show, and then were revealed to actually be romantically interested in each other by the end of the show. Going back through the episodes it was clear to all viewers that the show was telling a classic romance with its two leads. But the kiss between the leads still caught most fans off guard because we don’t see that in shows very often. What we usually get is something like ‘Supernatural’. We get two main characters of the same sex who seem like they might be interested in each other but either don’t start a relationship, get paired off in straight relationships, or are separated before anything can happen. Many franchises avoid being accused of queerbaiting by simply telling their audience that it’s cool if they think the two leads would make a good couple, but they aren’t intending to write them that way. ‘Good Omens’ isn’t one of those shows. In fact, they embrace the LGBTQ+ community who adores this series. Amazon Prime has labeled multiple YouTube videos containing moments in the series with jabs to the widely regarded romantic relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley. Michael Sheen has openly endorsed the couple on Twitter, retweeting fan art and fan theories, admitting to reading fanfiction, and even stating in multiple, multiple, interviews that Aziraphale is in love with Crowley. While David Tennant has made less statements like this, he’s been on board with the idea. But actors support queer couples all the time without writer support. Just look at Oscar Isaac. And this is where Neil Gaiman comes in.

Neil Gaiman:

‘Good Omens’ already isn’t a case of the actors being the only support for a main queer couple. Neil Gaiman has also voiced support for this idea. But his opinions on this entire situation seem to vary depending on the instance. He’s responded positively to fans theorizing that the relationship is romantic, platonic, and queerplatonic. Most recently he’s talked about a queerplatonic relationship, but the issue with choosing to represent this type of queer relationship is it requires explicit proof that both characters involved are queer. This, as well as an understanding that this type of relationship is different than a friendship. Which is not information most people in the entertainment industry seem to know. Whether or not Neil Gaiman knows this is unclear, but he seems unwilling to label Aziraphale and Crowley as queer, or anything else for that matter. He’s often responded to comments online indicating that the characters are gay with the argument that neither have a set gender. Which would be cool if the two characters being discussed didn’t canonically present themselves as men for millennia. Both have presented as a woman once each in the series, but these occasions are exceptions to the rule. So, once again, for this to be a valid argument we’d need explicit proof in the narrative that these two characters are genderqueer. The point I’m trying to make here is, regardless of what Neil Gaiman wants to do with gender, sexuality, or the romantic status of these characters, representation is required in season two for this series to avoid queerbaiting. And like many, I’m very afraid we’re going to see this opportunity for representation passed on once again.

The Most Recent Interaction:

The reason why I’m making this post is because a fan recently took the opportunity during a Neil Gaiman Q&A to ask whether or not ‘Good Omens’ was going to be queerbait. The answer they got back was not at all attempting to hide Gaiman’s annoyance. His answer summed up to what he’s been telling us since season two was announced. He isn’t going to reveal anything about the plot and we need to wait and see. I think that’s fair. I don’t want spoilers for season two. I don’t think expecting spoilers for season two is reasonable. I also don’t think that Neil Gaiman can be considered guilty of queerbaiting at this point. To be clear, I don’t think season one of ‘Good Omens’ was queerbait. The book was created many years ago now, when both Gaiman and Pratchett weren’t really thinking about the sexuality of their characters, and even if they were, queer relationships weren’t as accepted in media. Season one is a faithful interpretation of the book, and beyond that, it also develops the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley with the queer relationship many readers told Gaiman they had seen clearly in mind. But nothing is explicit, to the point that there are still a mass of homophobic fans attempting to shut down fans who think Aziraphale and Crowley are together. And we won’t know if anything will be explicit until season two is released.

Do I think queer relationships need to be explicit to be accepted as canonical? I don’t. Not in general. But the truth is, the LGBTQ+ community needs for representation to be explicit in media right now. Because too often, we don’t get anything at all. Too often we get queerbait instead of actual queer relationships because writers aren’t willing to actually put LGBTQ+ characters in their stories. ‘Our Flag Means Death’ has proven that putting clear LGBTQ+ representation in any fun story is not only possible, but can also be wildly successful. I’m sincerely hoping that, whatever ‘Good Omens’ decides to do, they join the list of shows making change right now.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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