Team Purple Lion has worked tirelessly to put together sources and information that we believe puts WEP LLC (formally World Events Productions) as the party in charge of making the changes to the final season of Voltron Legendary Defender. On Tuesday, April 30th, GeekDad.com writer Sean Z posted an article inappropriately titled: “Voltron Partners Not Responsible for Failures in Gay Inclusion; Sources Dispute Claim From DreamWorks Staff” which claims that Dreamworks is responsible for the erasure of Shiro as a queer character and can be found on GeekDad’s webpage in full if you wish to read it.
I know that I am the quietest member of TPL, however, my profession makes me the perfect person to address this article. I work in education, specifically with English, so I will treat this article the same way I would treat a student’s paper: with a red pen.
My purpose in writing this piece is to acknowledge that it is an opinion piece, and should be taken as such. The lack of sources and information to back up the author’s claims keeps it from being the article it so badly wants to be. I strive to point out the out of context quotes, uncited information, conjecture, subjective/inflammatory/misleading language, and mistakes.
My strategy, to make this easier on us all, is to provide the article in its entirety, and take it apart from there.
[My corrections, suggestions, and other notes will be in bold, surrounded by square brackets].
Let’s dig in.
“DreamWorks, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Lauren Montgomery, after claiming to make content “as inclusive as possible,” failed to follow basic best practices…
[What constitutes basic best practices? This term needs to be defined for the audience since most of the readers are fans of animation, not directly involved with its production.]
…on handling diverse characters respectfully, ignored clear warnings that their depictions were harmful, and attempted to blame external partners to hide their studio’s mistakes.”
—Joaquim Dos Santos, Voltron Executive Producer
With a 5% audience score for the last season on Rotten Tomatoes and countless messages on social media from upset fans…
[This would be a good place to provide multiple examples of the different kinds of negative reactions on social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, especially with how wide the complaints spread in both platform and topic.]
…no one can deny that…
[This is a logical fallacy – Alleged Certainty/Assuming the Conclusion. The argument is assuming the truth, rather than supporting it.]
…DreamWorks’ Voltron failed its audience. The animated show about giant robots, which was directly marketed to LGBT individuals with rainbows on its Netflix title cards and a cast and crew that spoke constantly about the value of diversity…
[Have Netflix, Dreamworks, WEP, or even the executive producers said the intention was to market to the queer audience? This is subjective unless there is a credible source that says otherwise. If the rainbow on the title cards is the source, please note that rainbows are not exclusive to the queer community, and have been used in the Voltron logo since the original Defenders of the Universe series.]
…delivered a marginalizing ending that left queer fans hurt, angered, and confused. Since then, many people have been asking, “What happened?” How did a show with so much promise fail so spectacularly? Despite claiming the show’s staff were “champions of inclusivity and acceptance,”…
[If one were to search the quote included, nothing but this article appears in the results, meaning that this is the first place this quote appears online, yet it’s in quotation marks as though it comes from someone else. This, in turn, means that it’s either plagiarism or the writer’s own words, and since there doesn’t appear to be a source for it, presumably this comes from the writer themself.]
… and having multiple resources within the studio to tell an inclusive story…
[Is there a credible source that explains which resources are available specifically from Dreamworks, as this is the company targeted by the accusation?]
… showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery failed to follow even the most basic best practices for depicting minorities during their tenure at DreamWorks…
[There’s an assumption here that the audience knows/agrees on what “best practices” are for depicting minorities at Dreamworks. Is there a credible source that can define what “best practices are” at Dreamworks? Or is this in reference to the writing/creative community as a whole?]
… At the same time, the studio ignored warnings from LGBT individuals that Voltron’s story, one Dos Santos would later declare was “an animated olive branch”…
[The uncited quote here appears to reference the March 4th Afterbuzz TV interview where Joaquim Dos Santos says “So this was, like, our way of reaching out to fans and it was like a, like a sort of animated, you know, apology or like an animated sort of olive branch,” at 30:33 in the interview.]
… to the queer community, would have a profoundly negative impact on real people in the queer community.After seeing the negative reactions, the showrunners attempted to shift blame onto the intellectual property holder, World Events Productions (WEP),…
[Not only the showrunners, but Bex Taylor-Klaus, notably out queer VA of Pidge Gunderson/Katie Holt. Not including Bex misleads the audience on who has spoken out on this matter. Bex says in the February 18 Afterbuzz TV interview at 14:24 “And I’m pretty sure, like, the toy company who owns the Voltron IP is like… ‘It’s for boys and their dads.’”
In addition, this would be a good place to note statements that back Taylor-Klaus’s assertion by suggesting the franchise was predominantly focused on selling toys began as early as this August 2018 Entertainment Weekly interview referenced later by the writer,
“DOS SANTOS: … So initially there were pitches for Voltron being this giant toy-driven franchise and “Merch! Merch! Merch!” and all the stuff that goes along with something that involves robotic lions that transform into a robot
DOS SANTOS: It’s strange, when we first got in, getting social on any level was this no-fly zone. It was all about big action-adventure and how many different vehicles can you put in the show to tie-in with the toys.”
DOS SANTOS: When we look at that lineup and we see that Shiro is clearly the more G.I. Joe-type character, the hyper-masculine soldier guy, he’s still very much that guy. We just love that. We think that’s the coolest thing in the world. If you’re talking to the 1980s toy execs who are like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy who all the boys are gonna like. He’s gonna shoot all the guns!’ And he still is! He’s still that guy and he’s gay and he’s our Shiro.” ]
…by claiming they were hamstrung in telling diverse stories by the show’s status as a licensed property…
[This is true, and it needs to be cited. There are two major instances in which the showrunners specifically point to the IP owner as the reason they couldn’t tell as diverse of stories as they’d hoped. In the March 4 Afterbuzz TV interview, Joaquim Dos Santos says,
“And you know, this is not like a, like, a vilifying of DreamWorks or anything, like, every exec that we ever interacted with was, it was like, ‘Hey, we understand why you want to tell this story. We understand where you’re coming from. It’s a little bit bigger than that. You know, there’s-there’s other, sort of, controlling parties with Voltron which makes it unique. It’s not just a DreamWorks-owned property.’”
And then in Let’s Voltron episode 175, he says,
“So, we had a pitch for Adam and Shiro. It made it all the way to, like, storyboards. It made it through premise, through script, through storyboards. It got storyboarded, it was like a day out from shipping. And then, you know, we got called into a conversation where we were told we couldn’t have Adam and Shiro in a relationship. So we’re sort of in this weird position where we’re like, ‘Okay, well, let us pitch you, like, a version where, like, maybe they’re not saying things that are so explicit,’ and maybe, you know, we can adjust the dialogue. So we pitched that back, and that sort of got rejected again. And at that point we were a little confused because, you know, Overwatch was out, and-and Steven Universe was obviously taking off, so we were sort of pointing at those things and-and we were getting pushback because it was like, ‘Well, you guys aren’t creator-owned. This is a show that’s, you know, more boy-centric, like, 6-11.’ And I know this, it-it sounds horrible, but these were the excuses that we were hearing back.”
Joaquim Dos Santos also states in that same interview, “So there was only so much leeway we had with the stories that we could tell,” with regards to Shiro being gay and cites not being creator-owned as part of what prevented him from being out earlier in the show, as well as the general sentiments about queerness in the industry at the time V:LD began production.
The recent reiteration of having to fight for inclusivity is also reflected as early as October 2017 in Episode 114 of Let’s Voltron with Dos Santos’s quote,
“We’re fighting to create as open and as broad a spectrum of characters as we can.”]
…However, GeekDad has confirmed that the showrunners’ claim that the license holder put up roadblocks to depicting queer characters is utterly false.
Voltron’s diversity problems are the fault of DreamWorks management and the showrunners themselves…
[As noted above, the showrunners are on record at the March 4 Afterbuzz TV interview as saying their pushback from having queer representation came from the IP owners, not DreamWorks.
In addition, the showrunners’ February and March 2019 statements are consistent with statements made in the prior referenced August 2018 EW interview. One such excerpt is as follows:
“You mentioned earlier about having to meet with executives and fight for the stories you wanted to tell. Did you get any feedback from Netflix or DreamWorks when you decided that you wanted to show Shiro’s backstory?
DOS SANTOS: The weird thing with this show is we’re dealing with an original show that aired in ’84 that had a fan following already. So anytime you want to make a change, it needs to go through a vetting process.
MONTGOMERY: And it’s also a show that’s a very large potential franchise for the studio, so there’s a lot of eyes on it. It’s always gonna go up the ladder and through all the people that have the choice-making power.
DOS SANTOS: We definitely knew that once we opened it up to those eyes that it was being discussed. It was often discussed I’m sure when we were not in the room. What we knew from our end was this was a story that we wanted to tell and we stood firm behind that. And we are just so thankful that the studio got behind it and supports it. And it has been nice also beyond the fan reaction to be getting internal emails from executives, both involved and not involved in the show, saying thanks for doing this. It’s just been incredibly warm and heartwarming.”
Furthermore, the writer’s assertion is a very strong claim that is never backed up, not even with a quote from the unnamed source. While the rest of the essay discusses the supposed problem of the botched representation, it does not have properly cited sources. The writer makes claims and instead relies entirely on the reader knowing about the information being discussed – or otherwise simply accepting that it’s an absolute fact without any evidence whatsoever other than the quotes from the showrunners being taken entirely out of context.]
So what happened?
Gay fans have spoken on how the ending of Voltron sent a clear hurtful message: you could be gay, or be a hero, but not both. As we discussed in our previous article, Shiro (the sole gay hero) was, before the final season, a complete character, one defined by more than just their queerness. Shiro is significant not in that’s he’s just gay, but that he’s a hero. He’s a main character in an action show. He’s respected and admired by his peers. He faces significant adversity throughout the show (as queer people often do), …
[This is misleading since Shiro did not face any adversity as a result of his queerness. Nothing about Shiro being gay caused him to face any trials that were addressed in the show. His is the story of a gay man in an intergalactic battle, not a story on living as a gay man in an intergalactic battle. If one is using literary interpretation to suggest the adversity a character faces is a metaphor intended for the queer audience, one should specify this.]
…but he survives and triumphs over it. That narrative of overcoming obstacles, of earning respect and becoming a leader, a hero, is so important—before the final season, we have a glimpse of what it looks like to see a queer man succeeding.
In the last season, after being revealed as gay, Shiro’s friendships, dreams, and career are all sidelined. His role in the story, despite being a leading character for the previous seasons, is greatly diminished. His friends barely interact with him. Though we see him find fulfillment in his job as leader for eight seasons, we’re told (though not shown) he “finally finds happiness,” by abruptly retiring in his late twenties, abandoning the admiralship we saw made him happy, and marrying a guy he’s never spoken with in a five-second epilogue.
The loss of the sole gay male hero in western animation was a devastating blow for queer fans. After waiting decades…
[Shiro has not existed in any other iteration of the Voltron franchise. His closest possible counterpart is Sven, an entirely separate legacy character who premiered in Defender of the Universe in 1984, who was given a small speaking role in “Hole in the Sky” of Voltron: Legendary Defender S3E4 to differentiate him from Takashi Shirogane of V:LD. Before V:LD there has never been a canonically queer character in any iteration of Voltron Legendary Defender. ]
…to see themselves represented by a hero who was more than just a gay person, queer fans saw their hero tokenized and taken from them in the final seconds of the show. Further, the gay wedding to a random character, after the showrunners had repeatedly claimed that any relationship would be developed over several seasons…
[This is missing several sources – if the showrunners have in fact, claimed this several times, this should be referenced explicitly here.]
…dripped with insincerity. While straight relationships were, as promised, developed over time, the showrunners haphazardly threw a gay one in at the last minute for points…
[Lance and Allura’s romantic relationship developed over time from Lance’s perspective. In fact, in the March 4th episode of ABTV, Dos Santos specifically says, “Here’s the one sort of point of contention that I have because I could totally see everybody’s, sort of, view on it. People were like, ‘It came out of nowhere.’ We were like, ‘We were literally setting up Lance’s angle on that, like, a ways out.’ He’s sitting there confessing to the mice, like, how he felt.” Lance is shown consistently in the show to be an unreliable narrator in regards to his own romantic pursuits. In the explicit plot progression, however, Allura does not develop feelings on-screen until her initial blush toward the end of season 7, and until then steadily rebuffs his initial flirtations and later harassment. Throughout season 8 any attraction on her end is entirely absent until the very final moments of her goodbye scene. She even several times remarks that Lance is unable to understand her perspective and responds to his declarations of love by glumly questioning if he really feels that way. To hold up the relationship between Allura and Lance as a properly developed romance is a disservice to the fans who were appalled and disgusted with Allura’s objectification and loss of agency in season 8. As for the “threw a gay one in at the last minute,” is there a source that claims Shiro being a queer character and his eventual relationship wasn’t in development the whole time, and is truly a “last minute” decision?
There is evidence to directly contradict this, specifically that the showrunners have been utterly explicit in their fight for Shiro’s queerness and inclusivity in general. In regards to Shiro’s queerness, Montgomery says in an Entertainment Weekly interview, dated August 9, 2018:
“I think a lot of his backstory was created independently, even from his sexual orientation, ‘cause that was just a part of who he was but it wasn’t necessarily a discovery moment. So the vast majority of the conversations of his backstory were around figuring out what else is there, the illness and those aspects of it. Him being gay was just something that we had always wanted to do with him from early on.”
She later goes on to say in regards to the reveal, “Yeah it was gonna be either the first or second episode of season 2.” Shiro’s queerness is on record as having been planned since as early as Season 2; not that it was a last-minute addition as the writer so reports. Any delay in this reveal would not have come from Montgomery or Dos Santos.]
…as though they were far more interested in getting the credit for a gay wedding than actually writing respectful (but potentially less flashy) stories about queer people.
But how was this allowed? DreamWorks had diversity consultants that existed to prevent this kind of hurtful depiction, and the studio acknowledged they had multiple gay writers on staff for other shows…
[Who are these diversity consultants? Are they exclusively employees of DreamWorks? Are they independent consultants? Simply claiming that they exist doesn’t provide the context necessary for the audience to understand how diversity consulting works on a large scale like this.]
…any of whom could have easily been called in to consult.
The answer, unfortunately, appears to be simple arrogance. DreamWorks does not mandate that showrunners use the resources available to them, nor provides oversight at the studio level to ensure diverse content is handled respectfully (something they acknowledged in our interview with She-Ra executive producer Noelle Stevenson).
[Noelle Stevenson acknowledged, “It’s on us as creators to make sure that we are being as thoughtful and as respectful as we can be. It’s not something that is necessarily mandated by DreamWorks.” Seth Fowler, the PR vice president for DreamWorks, did not comment further on this in the interview linked other than to say that, “There’s a diversity consultant that productions work with from time to time if there’s ever an issue that needs to be addressed.” Never did they acknowledge that the studio does or does not provide oversight at the studio level. Furthermore, these comments imply that a diversity consultant is someone that may be called in to assist when a problem occurs, not someone who is readily available to consult casually.]
The showrunners did not seek review on the first animated gay male wedding from a single gay person…
[This is pure conjecture without a credible source to back up the claim.]
A source familiar with the events…
[An unnamed source is only considered reliable when the writer quoting them is considered reliable. This is not a reliable source. How are they familiar with the events? What are their credentials to be speaking on the topic? Are there actual quotes of what they have said. By basing the entirety of the article on the summary of this singular source, the writer has no validity, and neither does the article. When unnamed sources must be used and cannot be disclosed, typically their credentials are offered, an explanation of how they are close, or at least a commentary on how multiple, independent sources confirm that.]
…confirmed to GeekDad that the two straight…
[Is there a credible source to back the claim that Dos Santos and Montgomery are straight or is this an assumption on the part of the writer? This comes across as an attempt to discredit them by using their presumed orientations as justification for criticism, rather than pointing to the merits of their creative work.]
…showrunners wrote the the ending without involving the people they claimed to represent, or their own diversity consultant, in the process. Ultimately, when Dos Santos and Montgomery set off to depict the first gay male wedding in western animation, they chased their own ephemeral idea of “what’s good for gay people,” instead of actually speaking to gay people…
[Is there a credible source from either Dos Santos or Montgomery where they say “what’s good for gay people” or that they never consulted gay people, or is it a subjective opinion on how the writer of this article views their actions?]
—Joaquim Dos Santos, Voltron Executive Producer
While there were gay writers on other shows at DreamWorks…
[There should be an example or two here to demonstrate who is out and writes for shows at DreamWorks, or shows that feature out writers, to provide context for those who might be otherwise unfamiliar with what DreamWorks produces. An example would be She-Ra, which was released on Netflix on November 13, 2018, and Noelle Stevenson, a known member of the queer community, is the creator, showrunner, and executive producer. Are there any more examples to provide to make this claim true?]
…the source confirmed they weren’t consulted…
[Again, this unnamed source is unclear to readers. The phrasing is very ambiguous. Was the unnamed source themselves not consulted? Or is the source an authority who can say for sure that none of the writers on VLD ever spoke to any gay writers? Without some acknowledgment of their credibility, background, or vetting from an unaffiliated third party, how can readers know that the source of information remains consistent, let alone credible?]
…Additionally, GeekDad would like to stress that simply having queer staff within the company doesn’t lessen the problem of showrunners failing to use readily-available resources. Expecting non-show staff to step up and offer feedback for issues in representation, especially when it’s outside their core role, means asking them to give unsolicited criticism on behalf of their entire group (and create more work for the studio, potentially harming their career for failing to be a team player). …
[Contradictory argument. Earlier, the writer claims that while there are multiple (unconfirmed) queer staff at DreamWorks, none of them were supposedly consulted. Then in this paragraph, he then says that queer staff shouldn’t be consulted on these matters as that one voice does not speak for the entire queer community. While people shouldn’t be put on the spot, this directly contradicts the beginning of the paragraph as it states that the staff present were not consulted, strongly implying they should have been.]
…The entire purpose of having dedicated diversity consultant…
[Are these diversity consultants dedicated exclusively to DreamWorks? Earlier in this essay, the writer implies that the resources are available, but not necessarily assigned to the productions, and Seth Fowler can be cited from the interview conducted with the writer as saying, “There’s a diversity consultant that productions work with from time to time if there’s ever an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Again, this implies that DreamWorks is active and quick to address issues that may arise, but that an on-site consultant is not available, and creators are left to their own devices in the interim. Based on this hypothesis, Dos Santos and Montgomery did not, in fact, intentionally disregard resources available to them – they would’ve only been called in if there were an issue. The fact that they weren’t means the only issue happened at the end of production; that they were on the right path to inclusiveness until someone forced an alternative narrative. All conjecture aside, however, without conclusive proof one way or another from a credible source about the function and availability of these diversity consultants to the staff of DreamWorks, the writer’s argument falls short.]
…is to avoid asking any individual at a company to speak on behalf of their group at risk to their career.
Leaked image of Voltron’s Ending, from translation firm BTI Studios
Despite their failure to do basic review,…
[Define “basic review” here for those in the audience who are not familiar with the leak and resulting backlash.]
…DreamWorks was given a clear opportunity to correct their mistake. In late October, several days after the showrunners reported they had completed work on Voltron, but still months before the final season would air, screenshots of the ending leaked from BTI Studios, one of the localization firms DreamWorks hired to translate the final season…
[Is there a credible source that names BTI Studios as the source of the leak?]
The leaks, shown above, depicted Shiro marrying a parody character resembling Roy Falkner …
[Misspelling. Fokker, not Falkner.]
… from Macross (another animated show about giant robots, and one the showrunners are known fans of).
[The audience may find it equally pertinent the Macross and Voltron franchises had a crossover comic together, which can be found here.]
Fan reaction was swift and intensely critical, and fans reached out to DreamWorks, as well as Montgomery and Dos Santos, to discuss how destructive this ending would be…
[Are there credible sources or examples of the fans who reached out and proof that the executive producers and/or DreamWorks saw their responses?]
… While at this point the studio’s options would have been limited given the show was technically complete, they could have trivially cut the hurtful epilogue, or they could have modified the text underneath the still of the wedding to prevent the gay hero from retiring, potentially softening the blow.
However, DreamWorks remained confident in their vision of gay representation, and despite the feedback from the leaks that the epilogue, that a sudden sloppy wedding, that the retirement of the sole queer hero, would be injurious to the queer community, the studio and its staff again prioritized their own idea of “what’s good for gays” over the opinions of the real gay fans who reached out to them…
[Is there a credible source of DreamWorks’ confidence? Again, where does the quote “what’s good for gays” come from? Without a citation or attribute, it either is the writer’s own words or plagiarism.]
…The show’s final season aired on December 15, 2018. Unsurprisingly, queer fans hated it…
[Weak argument. Queer fans are just one of the many in the majority of the fandom who hate the ending. To strengthen the argument being made here, the writer should point that out, then emphasize the queer outrage to focus the argument and bring it in line with the original thesis statement. At the time that this commentary is being written the Rotten Tomatoes fan rating sits at 5%, so it’s hated universally, not just by queer fans. Also, the season aired on December 14th, 2018 at 12AM PST, not December 15th as the writer of this article has stated.]
…—the show, which had been explicitly marketed to LGBT consumer, …
[When was Voltron: Legendary Defender marketed toward LGBT consumers? In terms of marketing, to quote Dos Santos in Afterbuzz TV on March 4, “We were, for all intents and purposes, like, started as a show for boys, like, 6 to 11 to sell as many toys as possible”. Lauren Montgomery was a supervising producer on Avatar: Legend of Korra and Joaquim Dos Santos was a series director for the same show alongside Kihyun Ryu, with Studio Mir animating it (Avatar: Legend of Korra, “Full Cast and Crew”). The lineup in the production crew, as well as narrative and representation in the show itself, were what drew in older audiences. In fact, on March 28 in Let’s Voltron episode 175, Dos Santos states, “You know, we [knew who our audience was], but-but the marketing machine that’s behind a show, like, those millions of dollars are spent and are going in a certain direction. And for us to, like, and… they’re millions of dollars, like, so from a company perspective, like, we were making a show that was diverting from maybe its original purpose.” This specifically refers to the—as he calls it—marketing machine that goes into Voltron and tries to make toys to go with the show and how the audience outside the prescribed 6-11 boy age range was both unprecedented and not accounted for by the marketing team behind Voltron: Legendary Defender. Lauren Montgomery also says in the March 4 Afterbuzz TV interview, “[Shiro]’s a similar thing with Pidge and, you know, my super selfish her good little girl fantasies, just like here’s a girl and she’s masquerading as a boy, and then you know, she ended up being kind of this pillar of hope for the trans community. And so like, I can’t take credit for that because I didn’t go fully into that, but it’s beautiful that it happened and I can look at that now and I can see where it came from.” While Montgomery and Dos Santos both expressed pleasant surprise at how their audience received the diversity in their cast, they discuss how the marketing machine had its sights set on young boys and their fathers. The closest to marketing to LGBT consumers the show got was when Shiro was revealed to be gay at San Diego Comic Con, which due to Shiro’s gay relationship being axed and his close emotional relationships being excised from season 8, caused the outrage in the fandom that persists today, including this essay being published and the official #TeamPurpleLion rebuttal. To be clear, #TeamPurpleLion stands with the LGBT community and agrees that harm was done—the rebuttal is against the evidence and merits of this essay, as well as whom the writer is choosing to blame for those decisions.]
…quickly saw its approval rating tumble into single digits on Rotten Tomatoes. Many queer fans expressed confusion and hurt on Twitter. One fan would later recount to me, “The ending of Voltron, specifically season 8’s ending, left me feeling empty. There was an intrinsic thought that enveloped me, reminding me that no matter what, people like me don’t get their stories to be told.” …
[This quote is nowhere to be found anywhere online, not even fragments of it. Who is the source and when was this said? Where can others find it if they want to learn more about this person’s feelings on the matter? Or is this the unnamed source in question, and if so, why would only a fan have the credentials to speak on the inner workings of DreamWorks?]
…This sentiment of hurt and exclusion, that Voltron wasn’t for everyone, was echoed again and again on social media.
Dos Santos and Montgomery were silent, and would not give an interview for the next three months. DreamWorks refused interview requests, and did not release a comment, but instead released a small clip on Twitter entitled “our heroes” …
[Can the account be credibly confirmed as being run by DreamWorks at the time of this tweet?]
…that showed every major character except Shiro, they gay one they stripped of his hero status. Afterwards, they posted the entire epilogue to their social media in a tactless attempt to advertise the gay wedding…
[Opinion. There has been no statement as to the motive for posting the ending sequence on twitter. Shiro’s wedding represents only a few seconds of a several minute long clip, so there is little evidence to substantiate it being the promotion goal.]
…further antagonizing queer fans.
In stark contrast, fans on Twitter reported that Bob Koplar, the president of World Events Productions and Voltron’s IP owner, was reaching out to individual fans, returning calls to his office to personally apologize to people that were upset or felt lesser at the end of Voltron…
[WEP was silent for nearly three months after the airing of Season 8, and did not begin to contact people until March, well after the first public finger pointing to WEP as the culprit behind the state of Season 8. This was in the ABTV interview with Bex Taylor-Klaus on February 18th. It was after this interview that fandom attention turned to WEP. This also ignores the multiple fans who have attempted to reach out and received no calls back, including the petition owner Allison Bugenis. Not to mention the fans who, prior to this had called in and been hung up on. It also ignores the content of the conversations, which do not address the concerns raised by fans, as evidenced by his letter to the #JusticeForAllura fans who sent in letters on March 1. The responses from Mr. Koplar neglected to address most of the fans’ issues with the ending. He has to this day refused to address any of the issues with LGBT representation, which should be mentioned considering the crux of this article.]
Many fans steadfastly refused to believe the wedding was the product of Dos Santos and Montgomery, who had made repeated prior statements that romances would be developed over time, and that the Shiro’s queerness would not become his only defining trait. More than thirty thousand fans signed a Change.org petition asking for DreamWorks to release the ending that the showrunners wanted, believing the released epilogue must have been a result of DreamWorks changing the planned ending by the showrunners.
[This mischaracterizes the petition run by Ms. Bugenis, as the title and goal of the petition is, “Release the Original the Showrunners Wanted”. It addresses the concerns about the entire eighth season, not just the epilogue, as it focuses on all the injustices done to the characters and the consequently toxic messaging put into the final season with the last-minute edits the showrunners were ordered to do.]
It hurts so much to have gay marriage weaponized against us this way. It hurts so much to see straight fans tell us to shut up and be grateful for the wedding when it was done for the wrong reasons, all because they don’t understand why it hurts and don’t care enough to listen.
—C. Smith, queer critic on Twitter.
When they finally emerged months later, Dos Santos and Montgomery explained on AfterBuzz TV (a YouTube talk show) and on Let’s Voltron…
[The podcast Let’s Voltron is founded by Jeremy Corray, a former WEP LLC employee who co-wrote the 2011 Voltron Force. He no longer works on it as a host, but for the sake of transparency, #TeamPurpleLion felt it was significant to point this out.
Another point, one of the Afterbuzz TV hosts, Megan Salinas, reached out to a hurt member of the queer community to say that Dos Santos and Montgomery were not at fault, but there was more she could not say due to NDA, of which the tweet can be found here.]
…(the official Voltron podcast) that they had wanted to tell a more inclusive story, one that involved Shiro potentially reconnecting with his former boyfriend Adam. The showrunners claimed that, because they “didn’t have the position of being the creators of the IP”…
[Quote from ABTV interview conducted by Katie Cullen and Megan Salinas on March 4]
… and because Voltron wasn’t “creator-owned,” …
[The showrunners themselves say in two separate interviews that Voltron is not creator-owned, the Afterbuzz TV March 4 interview, and Let’s Voltron episode 175. Bex Taylor-Klaus says in the Afterbuzz TV February 18 interview as well that Voltron is owned by a toy company at 14:24. The CEO of WEP LLC, Robert Koplar, and his father Edward are even listed as one of the executive producers for season 1 of Voltron: Legendary Defender (“Voltron Full Cast and Crew”). While they are not listed for any other season as producers, Robert at least would still have to approve storylines and proposals by the writers and producers, as his family owns the Voltron IP, both these facts have been confirmed by the executive producers multiple times in the March 4 and March 28 interviews on Afterbuzz TV and Let’s Voltron, respectively.]
(claims they made on AfterBuzz and Let’s Voltron respectively)…
[There are three interviews the writer could be referring to that have been conducted since the show concluded, but they are being treated as two and failing to specify dates, interviewers, or anything that can provide necessary context for those who have not listened to or read transcripts of the episodes. First was the ABTV interview on Feb 25, next was the ABTV interview on Mar 4, and last was the Let’s Voltron interview released on Mar 28. This essay, however, heavily references the March 4 and March 28 interviews.]
…they were unable to add in the fact that Shiro was gay until very late in production, after they already planned to kill off Shiro’s ex, Adam.
Confusingly, they also stated in multiple interviews they were given complete freedom to craft the epilogue as they saw fit. By their own admission, nothing was impeding them from writing a respectful conclusion in the epilogue, only that they could not pair Shiro with his (now dead) ex.
[Please cite the specific interviews where they claimed having freedom. The ABTV March 4th Interview 33:50: “we had like a day to really put [Shiro’s epilogue] together”.
Also, at 26:12: Joaquim Dos Santos says,
“But I–so I mean, we’ll continue on and sort of, like, explain how everything played out all the way through-through the-the epilogue stuff. But to DreamWorks’ credit, like, look, they’ll-they afforded us a ton of freedom to explore story and build characters with depth, and like-like heart-wrenching backstories where we’re like, ‘Is this villain, like, am I feeling true emotion for this villain’s, like, arc right now?’ This is, you know, that that’s stuff a-and these types of shows, it’s sort of few and far between. And I know, you know, I’m sure there’s a whole contingent of the fanbase that’s like, you know, ‘Whatever, dude. Big excuse.’ I get it, we all get it. We’ve all-we’ve all sort of been there, but for us it was a big deal.”
This quote, from 26:12, specifically refers to the freedom of building a strong narrative, and explicitly in reference to how people (girls especially) latch onto strong narratives and they were recognizing how their audience shifted from what they expected into a very wide demographic, and the quote from 26:12 specifically refers to the freedom that allowed them to create a story that resonated with the audience that it drew in: girls and women, people of color, the queer community, etc.
This is the only mention of the word “freedom” in the entire March 4 interview, which can be easily verified through the transcript on @dragonofyang’s blog.]
Dos Santos also made the misleading claim on AfterBuzz that they only had a day to make decisions about the epilogue. While the initial concept for what to depict in the epilogue may have been determined rapidly, production would not complete for at least six to eight weeks (as we know from the timestamps on the leaked animation and their own tweets about the show’s status). During this time a review could have been conducted in parallel, and they could have course-corrected by making changes to the animation storyboards, altering the text, or cutting the epilogue entirely.
[Subjective and conjecture. This claim is being made as though the staff of V:LD simply sat around twiddling their thumbs during this six to eight weeks. Is there a legitimate source to show what was being worked on at this time?]
The showrunners’ repeated claim that not owning Voltron is what caused issues with queer representation seemed to implicate WEP, Voltron’s IP holder. This is especially true when the claims are paired with a comment from Ty Labine, one of the voice actors on the show, who claimed that “keepers of the lore” had “kept the gates shut” regarding representation.
[It’s necessary to provide a credible source to back this claim. Is there a specific place where Labine’s comment can be found? Bex Taylor-Klaus also pointed out that WEP LLC was responsible for the gatekeeping during the February 18th ABTV interview as stated previously. Both the VAs and EPs are on-record as saying this, yet this article argues against multiple sources and relies on the word of a singular unnamed source who not only contradicts their claims, effectively implying that multiple testimonies on the matter are lies, but also does not provide a single credential for the audience to have any reason to believe their words over that of the named and publicly accessible sources.]
GeekDad’s source close to DreamWorks and WEP refuted this, and was able to confirm the IP holder was not responsible for blocking the introduction of queer characters.
[Quoting an anonymous source without providing information about the vetting process for GeekDad specifically or providing any sort of credentials that would lend any weight to what they say is not an ironclad argument.]
Further muddying the waters, Dos Santos frequently contradicted himself in interviews. On the same episode…
[There were two interviews with Dos Santos and Montgomery on ABTV since V:LD concluded. The interview discussed here is the Afterbuzz TV interview conducted on March 4, not the one conducted on February 25. Not specifying the date makes it harder for the audience to understand which interview is being discussed.]
… of AfterBuzz where he claimed the issue of external ownership was part of the problem, he later stated, “To DreamWorks’ credit, the tide started changing internally… [they were] open to exploring this relationship between Adam and Shiro,” implicating DreamWorks as the party blocking queer characters.
[This does not absolve WEP LLC of their hand in blocking the queer representation. It merely points out that there was some bureaucracy in DreamWorks that was later solved. She-Ra would have been in production at the time of this shift, demonstrating that DreamWorks does not benefit economically from barring another franchise from having canonically queer characters.]
Dos Santos also contradicted himself on Let’s Voltron. He stated that as She-Ra, helmed by the queer Noelle Stevenson, was in development at DreamWorks, attitudes within the studio began to shift, opening the door for them to have a gay hero. However, She-Ra was several months from release…
[She-Ra season 1 would have been well into the finishing stages of production at this time. Production and release are two entirely separate things in any media, but especially animation. Calling production “several months from release” conflates the two and muddies the readers’ understanding of an animated show’s timeline]
…when Dos Santos and Montgomery got the green light from DreamWorks to say that Shiro was gay. The statement that a series in production changed minds at DreamWorks, and, by changing minds at DreamWorks, opened the door to representation seems to further confirm that forces within DreamWorks, not external partners, were blocking the introduction of queer characters. The issues in introducing a queer character were caused by DreamWorks, not external parties.
[These last two sentences are not only subjective, but contradictory to the events of V:LD and Shiro’s character regression. Montgomery says during the Let’s Voltron interview on March 28, “The mandate that, like, [Shiro]’s gonna stay alive and that’s when we started thinking, ‘Okay, well then, we can–some of the things we’d taken off the table we can actually do again.’” Noelle Stevenson said in her interview on March 21 with Sean Z, the writer of this article that, “I think every time a show tries something new, creates a new character that isn’t often seen in the media, it makes it a little bit easier for the next show to come along. You know, we can point to other shows and say ‘you know they managed to do this, lets try and do this’.” Dos Santos says in the same Let’s Voltron interview,
“we were well into making season 8 when the door sort of squeaked back open, um, and at that point I want to say [She-Ra] was at least in development. […] I think the studio was just, sort of, beginning to sort of open its eyes to-to the possibilities of there being representation in their shows and there not being a huge backlash, a huge public backlash, for it.”
Shiro being a gay character opened the door for She-Ra to be as diverse as it is, which in turn encouraged DreamWorks to let Dos Santos and Montgomery try to create more explicit representation in the epilogue after the edits to cut out Shiro’s emotional relationships with the other characters, editing over Lotor and Allura, and turning Allura’s Heroine’s Journey into Lance’s hero arc, both of which are discussed at-length alongside many other issues present in the final season of V:LD in @leakinghate’s “Seek Truth in Darkness” and @felixazrael’s “Death of a Dark Youth”. It should be noted both trained writers rely on meticulously catalogued animation errors and formal training in narrative convention in the linked literary analysis pieces.]
Though it is difficult to pin down exact statements since their answers constantly change…
[As proven throughout this commentary, it is not difficult to pin down exact statements, as their answers are not changing. The perceived conflict between some answers comes from the cherry-picking of statements to force a meaning from some quotes that was not ever there when in context. If the difficulty of “pinning down” statements is too great, don’t use the statements, in any form, at all.]
…(mid-interview in some cases), we can say that Dos Santos and Montgomery, as well as some voice actors, attempted to shift part of the blame onto the IP holder. In reality, the issues have always been with DreamWorks’ studio management, or with the showrunners themselves.
[Purely subjective conjecture. To what end do the VAs benefit from shifting the blame? The EPs in theory could potentially benefit, but what would their employees gain when the blame game is going on above them?]
Unfortunately, Dos Santos and Montgomery still do not appear to understand the extent of the injury they caused. In their interview with AfterBuzz, when asked directly about Shiro’s abrupt retirement, they simply responded, “We saw it as ‘dude had been through a lot’,” but didn’t acknowledge the criticism from so many queer fans. Nor, when discussing the epilogue, did they acknowledge that they didn’t speak to a single gay person about the epilogue.
[The quote you are referencing above is actually “I mean, I don’t know, I think we saw it as like, the dude had been through a lot. You know, we, the circumstances at which we sort of arrived at that scene didn’t allow us, like a, we had like a day to really put that together.” at 33:45. When directly quoting a source, it’s important to ensure that the quote is correctly written, or marked as paraphrasing, or it becomes muddy for the reader’s understanding.
Is there any proof that the showrunners, writers, storyboard artists, and the other hands involved in creating this story did not discuss one aspect of the epilogue with a single member of the LGBT community?
Another point, Montgomery herself refers to the fan reaction after season 7 when she says during the March 4 ABTV interview, “it kind of snapped us and made us realize, ‘Oh yeah, this is what we didn’t see.’” This in turn shaped their attempt at giving Shiro a happy ending with his wedding and to make it more explicit that he’s canonically not straight. Montgomery recounts in the same interview, saying, “And we just tried to ultimately do what we felt was right, which was give the people who wanted it that legitimacy of yes Shiro, one of our main characters, is in fact part of the LGBT community.” Making the epilogue would have come after the edits to the final season were made to cut out so much development and after DreamWorks and the showrunners got hit with the fandom backlash about Adam being killed. Any developed relationships between Shiro and other characters got cut from the final season due to the edits, and the showrunners confirm that the wedding was, in their words, “clunky” and expressed remorse in the first half of the ABTV March 4 interview.]
Nor did they pledge to do better by involving more diverse voices in their creative process in the future. They even claimed to the AfterBuzz interviewers “we did the right thing,” despite the overwhelming evidence they did not.
[This is an informal fallacy: strawman argument (an opponent’s position is misrepresented in order to make it easier to critique). Cite the credible source. Also, this quote is taken completely out of context and is in fact in direct reference to how the showrunners feel that what they did wasn’t enough. The full quote from the March 4th ABTV Interview at the 38:00 mark is “I think we did the right thing under the circumstances given” (emphasis mine). Not only that but at 35:15 of that same interview, Lauren Montgomery says that the epilogue, and specifically Shiro’s portion of that, is “far from perfect.” Dos Santos and Montgomery are well aware that it is not enough, but DreamWorks giving the green light on the wedding was not enough to secure better representation, as DreamWorks only has the rights to produce with the Voltron IP. They do not own it. As such it makes no sense why DreamWorks would greenlight a gay wedding if they supposedly ordered Shiro’s emotional development to get cut after publicizing him as gay. There is only one power greater than a corporate giant in a contract: the owner.]
As media consumers, if we’re going to claim a show is actually groundbreaking, the staff should do more than simply tell us they care about diversity…
[While this is a true statement, basing an “editorial” around a single source that does not provide credentials or direct quotes while simultaneously contradicting multiple credible sources does not lend this statement any strength.]
…Regardless of intent, the fact that Dos Santos and Montgomery failed to follow even the most basic steps to ensure that the first gay male wedding in western animation was actually positive for gay men, and the fact that they, and their studio, ignored clear warnings, demonstrates an utterly broken content review process at DreamWorks, and a system in which executive producers and show staff are permitted to skirt responsibility for their failures by shifting blame onto external parties.
[Do you have any credible sources that back up the claim that the EPs were allowed intentionally or not by DreamWorks to blame the IP owner?]
DreamWorks and representatives for Dos Santos did not respond to our request for comment. We were unable to reach representatives for Montgomery. Additionally, in retaliation for this article,…
[This is an editorial and given the lack of proper citation and evidence for the writer’s claims and unnamed source, Mr. Hay is wise to not engage. The writer does not provide proof that the source he uses is credible, nor does he properly attribute the quotes and summaries from publicly named sources.]
…author Sean Z’s interview with DreamWorks’ Executive Producer Brenden Hay…
[His name is Brendan Hay]
…was delayed indefinitely.
Sean Z would like to thank GeekDad Editor-at-Large Ken Denmead and core contributor Jules Sherred for their support on this piece, as well as the sources who shared this information with us”
[So there is more than one source? Why were these multiple sources not specified and differentiated for the readers? What makes them credible?]
In short: Sean Z published an article on GeekDad.com with numerous claims on how the EPs and DreamWorks are at fault for the mistreatment of a queer character. While we do find the LGBT treatment to be deplorable and the fans are right to be hurt and incensed, we strive to use only facts and not veil conjecture in the form of truth to hold who was truly responsible accountable for these terrible decisions, our own personal hurts on Shiro and everything else aside. This rebuttal demonstrates just how little credible evidence is presented to back up that claim, and provides greater context for many of the quotes used. Returning the quotes to their proper context demonstrates that many of the ones he used as supportive actually directly contradict his claim. As someone who teaches 14-year-olds how to do this exact same thing, I employed the same methods I use to correct and educate my students to look through the article and find where Sean could use a little extra help with his sources and information. Due to the incredible number of times he either doesn’t cite a source, or provides cherry-picked information, I would not hold this article to be a credible account of what actually happened to Shiro as a queer character. While it is incredibly important to get to the bottom of what happened with Shiro, weak articles like this do more to hinder those efforts than help them.
If you’ve made it through this whole piece, congratulations! Thank you for your time and patience. If you are looking for commentary and opinions on what did happen with the queer content in Voltron, please check out LeakingHate’s Meta “Legendary Defensive, Editing the Gay Away in VLD” You can continue to follow the members of #TeamPurpleLion for more information and updates as we strive to reveal the truth behind, and secure the original cut of, Season 8 of Voltron: Legendary Defender.