How ‘Voltron Legendary Defender’ Is a Small Victory for Transgender Visibility

     June 14, 2016

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Warning: potential spoiler if you haven’t seen beyond the third episode of Voltron Legendary Defender on Netflix.

Every once in a while, we get something like The Legend of Korra, a show that became much more than a kids cartoon. The Nickelodeon series proved its own potential to be a cultural model for diversity by featuring a well-crafted leading heroine, who shocked audiences by coming out of the closet. If the finale scene between Korra and Asami wasn’t abundantly clear, co-creator Mike DiMartino made it so: “Our intention with the last scene was to make it as clear as possible that yes, Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other. The moment where they enter the spirit portal symbolizes their evolution from being friends to being a couple.”

Whether or not it was an intentional move, Korra vets Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery take a similar approach in shedding light on a different letter of LGBT with their new animated series Voltron Legendary Defender.

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Image via DreamWorks Animation

A reboot of the classic ‘80s cartoon, the latest Netflix original sees five earth-bound teens piloting robotic lions to fight an intergalactic war against Emperor Zarkon. Even with the inclusion of Allura, the just-as-capable princess, this was a male-heavy bunch — until the fourth episode. If you didn’t read the roster of voice actors, you wouldn’t have known the short, tech-savvy Paladin of the Green Lion, Pidge (voiced by Bex Taylor-Klaus), was a girl. Her looks, voice, and general appearance gave the presumption of a boy, an identity she had to assume as a means of finding her family.

Pidge’s birth gender was first brought to light when Allura was informed by her animal companions. After failing to coerce the information out of Pidge at a party, the princess resolves, “I just want you to know you can confide in me if there’s anything you ever want to talk about.” By the beginning of episode 6, Pidge has her “coming out” moment after foiling another plot to steal the Voltron zords.

“I need to come clean and I’m afraid this may change the way you all think about me,” she says. “Just so there are no secrets between us anymore, I can’t ‘man up.’ I’m a girl. I mean, I can ‘man up’ because that’s just a figure of speech. I don’t actually have to be a man to ‘man up.’” Despite initial shock from Lance (the Blue Lion Paladin), the team is accepting. “Owning who you are is going to make you a better Paladin,” says their leader, Shiro.

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