The Red Pen Series: VLDS8 E3 “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”

Episode written by: Erik Bogh

This piece is a continuation of #TeamPurpleLion’s Red Pen series, in which @dragonofyang​, and @felixazrael​, and myself grade each episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 8 as though we were grading the creative writing project of a student.

If you are looking for the previous episodes you can find them here: Episode 1 and Episode 2

[An interesting choice in title. The Prisoner’s Dilemma refers to a hypothetical situation in which two prisoners would benefit from cooperating with each other rather than the authority figure imprisoning them, but are convinced by the authority figure that the benefit of turning against each other outweighs the reward of staying silent on an individual level. The authority figure appeals to our selfish nature over our altruistic nature, even though altruism would yield the greater benefit. I’ll look forward to seeing how this relates to your thematic material.]

– [alarm blares] 

Lahn: What’s happening? 

[Ooh, I remember this fellow, it’s always good to see side characters returning!]

Unnamed Galra Soldier: Six hostile ships have entered the system, sir.

[Is this Mr. LoCascio? It sounds like him, at least. How odd that his main role Lotor plays such a small role so far in this season. I do hope we’ll get answers for that soon, especially since we got an episode dedicated entirely to his life in flashbacks and how it ties to Honerva/Haggar’s own.]

Lahn: Prepare armaments and power the satellites. How did they make it past initial detection? Keith: This is the Voltron Coalition. Lay down your arms and–

Lahn: Open fire! 

Lance: Well, that didn’t take long! 

Hunk: Fighters launching! Six o’clock low! 

Keith Remember, shoot them down if needed, but try to avoid collateral damage on the ground

[Are they shooting down fighters with live Galra inside? Are they killing the Galra soldiers? I thought this was a peace mission?]

Shiro: Shield status.

Iverson: Holding steady at 95 percent, but the ground cannons have us targeted.

Shiro: Let’s give the Lions some backup. Adjust our heading down to one point zero five.

Coran: Adjusting course.

Shiro: Lock on to the ground cannons.

Iverson: We have weapons lock.

Shiro: Fire! 

Iverson: Prepare for launch Once you’re locked in, you’ve got three seconds. Anticipate, but don’t jump the gun.

MFE Pilots: Copy. 

Shiro [though it’s labeled as Griffin]: Team, we’ve got to clear a path for the rebel ships. Let’s move 

Keith: Paladins, let’s take out their reinforcements.

Lahn: Damage report! 

Unnamed Galra Solider [MAYBE AJ?]: We’ve suffered little to no casualties, sir, but half the fleet has been rendered inoperable.

[No casualties seems pretty fortunate considering that multiple fighters exploded.]

N-7: Pulse emitters set. Detonation in three, two, one.

Unnamed Galra Solider: All power is down across the base. Only the emergency power generators remain active.

Lahn: What about the satellites?

Galra Soldier: They should still be operational.

Lahn: Good.

Shiro: Does anyone have eyes on where these lasers are coming from? 

Pidge: I’m not seeing anything on my scanners. Trying to locate point of origin now.

Allura: I’m on it. I’ve got visual on two cloaked cannon satellites.

Hunk: How did we miss those?

Pidge:  It looks like we wormholed right past them.

Keith: Paladins, on me! Form Voltron!

Shiro: Great job making quick work of the satellites, Paladins. We’ve successfully gained control of the base.

Griffin: This one says he’s the leader.

Hunk: Whoa! Oh! [laughs] Holy Kaltenecker! What are you doing here? It’s me, Hunk. Remember? Paladin of the Yellow Lion? – We worked together.

Lahn: I remember.

Keith: Wait, you know this guy? 

Hunk: Yeah, from the Omega Shield. Oh, that’s right, you were on a space road trip with your mom. Keith, this is our friend Lieutenant Lahn.

[Excellent way of framing the callback so that your audience isn’t just being rehashed the whole episode. It’s quick, but still fills in the gaps that your audience might have forgotten.]

Lahn: It’s Warlord Lahn now, and you and I are not friends.

[Well, this is a sudden shift, especially given the end of the episode in question and Hunk’s friendly attitude.]

Hunk: Oh. Okay, uh I just thought we bonded by working together as a team to fix the Omega Shield and save your planet, you know? A Galra-occupied planet, no less. We saved it. It’s cool. No big deal.

Lahn: Sendak only attacked the Omega Shield after we pledged loyalty to Voltron. Then you disappeared and left us vulnerable to more attacks. I vowed to never let that happen again.

[We’ve gotten times where Voltron has broken promises before, like with the planet where they were meant to visit on Clear Day, but not to this scale, especially since it was the Galra who suffered this time rather than the Galra perpetuating violence. The season 6 finale was obviously a huge turning point in your story, it’s good to see the fallout continuing through here and getting some questions answered about what was going on with the Galra. I do hope we’ll see more of this fallout as the story continues.]

Allura: It was not our intention to be gone for so long. But we’re here now.

Lahn: To claim victory over us? –

Allura: No! 

Shiro: We didn’t come here to argue. Warlord Lahn, we’re asking you to join the Voltron Coalition to help provide stability to the universe.

[This seems like a pretty hostile way to invite someone to your peace-giving, stability-bringing coalition] 

Lahn: What’s the alternative?

Shiro: If you want peace, if you want to end this war, there can be no alternative.

[Shiro is sounding an awful lot like Lotor here. I’m reminded of his speech to Throk in S3, when he says that those who side with the Galra should be permitted to join their ranks but those who resist should be crushed. Are you meaning to draw a comparison? If not, Voltron’s presentation of and either/or situation is going to come off as hypocritical.]

Lahn: You’ve attained victory, and I accept defeat.

Keith: It doesn’t have to be victory or death.  I know it’s the Galra way, but –

Lahn: And what do you know of the Galra?

Keith: My mother is Galra. She’s a member of the Blade of Marmora. So am I. 

[So what? Keith has passed as strictly human — specifically a white human — for the vast majority of his life. Being half Galra has only been part of Keith’s identity for a couple years, so he is out of his depth regarding Galra matters. I think this could be very important social commentary given in a manner your young audience can relate to and understand IF we see Keith come to a realization regarding the privilege he has experienced that other Galra have not.]

Lahn: The mutinous Blades have all but perished. Are they so diminished in numbers that they’re forced to enlist a half-breed and his mommy?

[This is the same way that the Galra treated Lotor, as a “half-breed” which somehow makes him “less”. Are you trying to draw a parallel between Lotor and Keith, or are you juxtaposing them? If it’s the second, please be careful that you don’t create a “good half” and a “bad half” between the two.]

[This is definitely a callback to S3E1 “Changing of the Guard” where we’re introduced to Lotor. The pejorative still stings, and coming hot on the heels of “Shadows” it hurts even more for those who empathize with Lotor or Keith. Given the racial coding of the aliens, you need to tread lightly so that you don’t fall into “good/bad” dichotomies based on race, especially since characters don’t choose their heritage.]

Pidge: Guys, incoming communication.

Shiro: Patch it through.

Distorted male voice: Yordam bering exus. Yordam bering exus. Yordam bering exus.

[Your creation of the Galran language is impressive. I hope we get to see new language from not only the Galra, but from other species across the stars.]

Lahn: It’s an emergency protocol built into the sentries when they’re under distress. Has your Voltron Coalition attacked them as well? 

Keith: No, we didn’t.

Shiro: Pidge, see if you can reopen the hailing frequency.

Pidge: I’m trying, but no response. I’m locating the transmission’s origin, but the EMPs we set off have done a number on the communications systems. – [rapid beeping] – Huh? We got a comm signature. Do you recognize this ship? 

Lahn: Yes, it’s Klytax V-Three. It’s one of the 15 ships I sent on an assignment six phoebs ago. They all disappeared. We assumed them dead.

Keith: It looks like they’re not dead after all. We need to get out there. Shiro, how long before the Atlas is ready to launch again? 

Shiro: Hours. We still need to process all the Galra and prepare the planet to continue operating on its own. This is our mission. We need to see this through.

[They need to “Process the Galra”? Are they prisoners? They’re setting up this planet to join the coalition and preparing the planet to operate on it’s own, so why do they need to “process” the Galra? You might want to check your phrasing here if you don’t want that negative image of not only the Galra, but the Voltron Coalition for treating them that way.]

Keith: Then Voltron will go.

Lahn: Voltron is going to save the Galra? My fleet would never believe Voltron was there to help. They’d fight you until their last breath.

Keith: That’s why you’re coming with us.

[Given the earlier phrasing of “processing” the Galra, this reads rather… ominously to be coming from a protagonist. It leaves no room for arguing and makes the lines between who’s good and who’s bad blurrier.]

[Kosmo growling] 

Keith: What was this fleet’s mission when they left? 

Lahn: They were out gathering munitions.

Allura: Weapons? Were you buying or stealing them? 

[This reminds me of how Allura responds to finding out that Keith is half-galra. It gives off a racist vibe, be careful with that. The way it’s heading, you’re regressing Allura’s character development, rather than progressing it.] 

Lahn: The Galra Empire is at war with itself. We have to do what we can to survive. But if you must know, they were salvaging weapons from an abandoned Galra base.

Pidge: I have visual.

Keith: Everyone, stay alert.

Lance: What happened here? 

Hunk: Uh, Warlord Lahn, didn’t you say there were 15 cruisers? Where are the rest of them? 

Pidge: I’m not detecting any signs of life or biorhythms on the closest two ships, but there are some signals coming from the ship at the end.

Lahn: That’s Klytax V-Three, where the call came from.

Keith: Hailing Galra Cruiser Klytax V-Three. This is Keith, Paladin of the Black Lion of Voltron. Do you copy? [static hissing] 

Lahn: This is Warlord Lahn, your commander. Do you copy? 

Distorted male voice: Yordam bering exus. Yordam bering exus.

Keith: Whoever’s in there, we need to find them and get them out.

Pidge: If I can access the ship’s security network, we should be able to find out what happened here.

Keith: Paladins, Lahn and I are gonna head in first to make sure the entry point is safe. You guys jetpack in behind us.

Paladins: Copy.

Keith: We’re all clear. Lahn, open the airlock doors. Pidge, are you picking up any signals? 

Pidge: There are multiple biorhythms, but they’re intermittent, almost random. It doesn’t make any sense.

Keith: Okay, we’ll need to split up to find any survivors. Hunk and Lance, clear the aft of the ship. I’ll take the bow and work my way toward you. Pidge and Allura, take Lahn to go through the security logs. Find out what happened here.

[I’m getting Scooby Doo Fred vibes from this. It’s entertaining.] 

Lahn: I don’t like taking orders on my own ship.

Keith: Duly noted.  Nobody’s here.

[electronic chirping] – [alarm blaring]

Lahn: [sighs] It’s useless! The ship is in lockdown and the systems can’t be rebooted. We’ll need to contact my base for the security keys.

Pidge: Okay. Or we could just do this.

Allura: What’s wrong with it? 

Pidge: I’m not sure. It appears to be corrupted. Let me see if I can clean this up.

Lahn: Everything I’ve spent years fighting for, taken away in an instant.

[Hmm. Kind of like how Lotor worked for 10,000 years to save the Alteans and then find a stable quintessence supply for the universe, but had it all taken away by Voltron. Hmm.] 

Allura: I, too, have lost everything. My planet, my family. But when the Paladins arrived at the Castle of Lions– 

Lahn: You’ve never had to earn power. It’s always been given to you! You’re looking for something you once had: security, peace, happiness. Those things have never been part of a Galra soldier’s life. You and I are not the same. 

[Once again, I’m reminded of the difference between Lotor and Allura, and of the impression I am meant to draw a contrast between the two and their life experiences. Perhaps Allura is also supposed to be considering this as well.]

Allura: You want something to call your own. Believe it or not, I understand that. But there are other ways to get it than through force. That’s what the coalition is offering.

[With Allura being the one to reach out, as opposed to Hunk, it almost feels like this is a conversation that should have happened between Allura and Lotor. Lahn and Lotor have had similar experiences in their lives, fighting and struggling and the comparative ease and luxury Allura knew before she took up her father’s war, and ending the conversation with an outreach for peace over force is a marked step away from how her last interaction with Lotor went. This conversation feels like a microcosm compared to the greater overarching plot, to which I give you kudos, but it’s very important you use this as the groundwork for the payoff of the greater plot through foreshadowing and enlightening your audience to what they should be learning from this interaction.]

Hunk: The escape pods are still here.

Lance: Yeah, but the Galra aren’t. Everyone is gone, but no one escaped in one of these things.

Hunk: Ugh, that’s creepy.

Hunk: [whimpering] [whimpering] [screams] It’s a massacre! We got to get out of here! – 

Lance: [screaming] It’s all over me!

Hunk: Me, too! Lance, get it off of me! Get it off! Ah! Oh, wait. Wait a minute. It’s food goo! 

Lance: It’s not coming off! [screaming]

Hunk: Oh, it’s rotten food goo! Gross! [gags] 

Keith: What could have done this? – [distant banging] – [gasps] [whirring and banging continues] [gasps] [whirring and banging] – [electronic chirping] 

Pidge: I think I’ve got something. The soldier is here, but after the flash, he’s gone. But now the shadow is on the other side of the screen.

Allura: Perhaps it’s from another soldier.

Pidge: I don’t think so. That’s less than a tenth of a second. Hold on, it looks like the trajectory of the lighting angles combined with the proximity to the soldier are distorting the shadow’s shape.

Lahn: What is that thing? 

[creature snarls] – [both gasp] [snarling continues] – [gasps] – [screaming] [rumbling] [roars] 

Pidge: Guys, be on the lookout for a giant, deadly monster.

Allura: We believe it’s what attacked the crew. Avoid at all costs.

Pidge: Lance, Hunk, do you copy? [roars] [both screaming] Guys, are you okay? Lance? Hunk? Hunk: We’re okay.

Pidge: Keith, we just contacted Lance and Hunk. They saw something. Be advised – [computer crackles] [snarling]

Pidge: Keith? Keith, can you hear me? 

Allura: Are you two okay? 

Lance: Yeah, we’re fine, but we need to get out of here now! 

Pidge: Why? What happened?

Hunk:  It was a monster. Ah. Blue flash. Almost died. I got rotten food goo.

Lance: Wait, where’s Keith?

Keith: Hello?

Sentry:  What are you? What are you? 

Keith: My name is Keith, leader of Voltron, Paladin of the Black Lion. Wait. Yordam bering exus. Is that you? 

Sentry: Where are the rest of the Galra? 

Keith: They’re still on planet Ryker. Why? 

Sentry: Planet Ryker.

[roaring]

[This episode has quite a horror theme to it. Please be sure to be mindful of your rating. While it’s been known that your achieved audience is much older than your targeted audience of 6-11 year-old boys, your rating is still Y-7 nonetheless.] 

Pidge: Keith and I were in communication right before we got disconnected. It must have been that thing. You said you saw the creature, right? 

Lance: Oh, yeah! Face-to-horrifying-face! 

Lahn: We just watched that thing take out one of my men in an instant. How did you two manage to escape unscathed? – [rumbling] – 

Hunk: What’s happening now? 

Pidge: The ship’s moving, and it’s headed towards Lahn’s base! 

Hunk: Oh, Keith! Good, you’re here. There’s a monster on the ship! 

Keith: The base you sent this fleet to plunder, was it Warlord Ranveig’s? 

Lahn: Yes, it was.

Keith: Unbelievable.

Allura: Keith, what’s going on? 

Keith: The creature on this ship is a superweapon designed to destroy the Galra, and only Galra.

Lahn: Warlord Ranveig would never create such a thing.

Keith: Ranveig found the creature in the Quantum Abyss and experimented on it with Lotor’s Quintessence. He trained it to take out his Galran enemies, but he could never control it. The beast couldn’t differentiate between adversaries and allies.

[Okay, you’ve name dropped Lotor instead of just using generic Quintessence, so we’re supposed to be thinking of him. Moreover, this creature was created using Lotor’s Quintessence and was made to take out Galra enemies, but its master couldn’t control it?… This reads like a call-back to what happened to Lotor in S6. He created Sincline in order to deal with his Galra enemies, but when Allura and Voltron attacked him and he became overexposed to Quintessence, resulting in his mental breakdown, he lost the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe. Since you’re drawing the comparison early in your plot structure, it also suggests we are going to see this topic come up again later in your narrative.]

Lance: Wait, how do you know so much about this super-monster-weapon-thingy? 

Keith: Because Krolia and I let it loose so we could escape Ranveig’s base. This is all my fault. I’m sorry.

[Since we’ve had Lotor name-dropped, his story harkened back to both with Lahn and “the monster” (which Lotor himself gets called in season 6), and now we have Keith owning up to a hasty decision made that was made at the expense of the lives of people left behind unable to escape. This is a very strong parallel storyline you’ve created, and by having Allura try to relate to Lahn and Keith apologizing for a mistake he was at least partially responsible for, it’s demonstrating growth on their part but also leaves a lot for the audience to wonder about our heroes and what this means for Lotor, regardless of whether he’s a hero or villain. After all, you gave us an entire episode of flashbacks about him that all paint him sympathetically, so tread carefully and make sure the narrative here also reflects the larger plot and the characters continue this growth.]

Lahn: It’s what you’ve wanted from the beginning. Something to get rid of the Galra for you. 

Lance: I don’t know what it’s gonna take to get it through your skull, but we’re not your enemy.

Keith: Pidge, can you initiate the self-destruct protocol? We need to destroy this ship and the monster with it. And we need to do it immediately.

[“The monster”. This is the fourth time we have heard the beast referred to as “the monster”, which is what Lotor is accused of being in S6.]

Pidge: Okay, I’m on it. Once I initiate, we’ll have two doboshes to exit the ship.

Lance: Two hours? Isn’t that too long? – 

Others: Minutes! 

Lance: What? That’s not enough time!

Pidge: Let’s move! 

Sentry: All Galra must perish.

[Is this a callback to Lotor’s line in S6E6: “I’m ready to wipe the universe clean of all my enemies. Voltron, Haggar, and the rest of the Galra”? We know this beast was made with Lotor’s quintessence, are you trying to make a parallel to Lotor here?] 

[roaring]

Lance:  Ah! – Come on! How much time before the ship explodes? 

Pidge: Sixty ticks.

Hunk: We’ve got to get them out of there.

Pidge: This should do it. That thing overrode my protocol! 

Lance: We can take it down with our bayards.

Allura: [This sounds like Pidge here, though it’s labeled as Allura]: Keith! 

Lance: We’re coming for you!

Hunk: Stand away from the door! 

Lahn: Victory or death! 

Keith: Do you trust me yet? Paladins, clear the hallway. We’re coming through! Let’s go! 

[beeping]

Pidge: Ten ticks!

Allura: The carbo bay where we entered is the nearest exit point!

[zaps] [growls]

Pidge: Five ticks! We’ll never make it!

[rapid beeping]

Lahn: The Galra Empire may be decimated, but its warriors are still needed to maintain stability. Twice, the Paladins of Voltron have risked their lives for me, and yet I questioned their intent. I was wrong. I pledge loyalty to a united front with the Voltron Coalition. And I encourage you all to do the same.

[Again, it seems we are meant to draw a comparison between Voltron and Lotor. Lotor specifically risked his life for the Voltron paladins twice. Once on Naxcella and once when defeating Zarkon. I find it interesting we are being asked to see Voltron through a similar lens through which we see their former antagonist.]

Pidge: I downloaded some intel from that cruiser. There might be another one of Honerva’s beasts out there.

Lance: Another one? 

Allura: This is just what I feared. Shiro, we need to adjust our mission’s objective and track down where these things are coming from. 

Shiro: How certain are you that it’s a Robeast?

Pidge: I’m not positive, but according to the message logs, some Galra have spotted a giant robotic mech that fits the description. The logs even refer to a similar weapon.

Allura: There may be another Altean piloting it. We must investigate.

Shiro: Thousands of innocent souls are waiting to be liberated from what remains of the Galra Empire. We can’t just change course.

Keith: Maybe you don’t have to.

Shiro: Keith, what are you saying?

Keith:  We’ll split up. The Atlas will continue working with the Galra while Voltron searches for Honerva and her beasts.

Shiro: You’ll be out there on your own, without backup.

[Shiro has always been very supportive of Keith being the leader and taking care of Voltron on his own. It’s odd to see him suddenly doubt Keith, and the rest of Voltron.]

[This is definitely a shift in Shiro’s character, in fact he’s been rather distant from the whole team lately. While he has a new role in relation to Voltron, that shouldn’t cost him the close relationships he’s built with the rest of the team.]

Keith: We’ll be okay. Voltron is stronger now more than ever.

[Dialogue-less scene: Honerva, outside the Temple at Oriande, opens a wormhole for another Altean-piloted mech to enter into. Screen pans out to show a barren Oriande.]

[This is an interesting final visual for the episode, Oriande was where Allura and Lotor discovered the temporary boon of the heroine’s journey, and they had to work at earning it. Here we see the product of Honerva effectively cheating to gain the knowledge the Life Givers have to offer, and it’s quite interesting that we see a maternal figure in a barren landscape. When Allura and Lotor went, it was lush. The visuals imply many facets of how fertile and/or barren each character is, their emotional strength, etc. And for Honerva to be leading the Alteans from a place of barrenness when they textually have been life-givers and healers really lends a thrill of danger to this scene, especially since we’ve seen Alteans twist themselves before with “Hole in the Sky” in the alternate reality. There, we as the audience could brush it aside as a fluke, but now we see just how easily one can become a monstrous version of oneself, like alternate!Allura, or Lotor when he got overexposed to Quintessence, or Zarkon even. With Zarkon living and dying through Quintessence, and Honerva seemingly mastering it, I’m curious as to where this will continue to develop and what it means for our heroine and band of protagonists. You’ve put a lot of groundwork down, and since this is going to be your final season, you haven’t given yourself as much time for the payoff, so this experience with Lahn and the Galra-hunter need to really pay off narratively so you don’t waste time.]

6 thoughts on “The Red Pen Series: VLDS8 E3 “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”

  • July 2, 2019 at 10:30 pm
    Permalink

    Great content! Looking forward to more of these critical analyses and reconstructions of S7 and S8. My only question is with a comment: where in text or interviews is Keith referred to as white? As far as I can recall, he is the only human character (along with his father) who does not have their race made explicit (aside from being Galra-human mixed). Of course, this does not invalidate the concerns that there were unfortunate implications made regarding the dichotomy between Keith and Lotor’s respective Galra identities. Still, I think it’s a weird thing to refer to Keith as white when his race and ethnicity are not explicit in VLD, and in previous iterations he has been either Japanese or mixed (but not white). Maybe “racially ambiguous” is a better label for him?

    Reply
    • July 3, 2019 at 12:28 am
      Permalink

      Hey there, Anonymous, thanks for the comment, you actually spurred quite the discussion for the team about the topic. Part of the confusion tends to lay in the fact that there are several different fronts that race can be addressed in VLD, like discussing how Allura as a woman of color is significant in the extra-literary context (i.e. IRL impacts or in comparison to other versions of Allura or women of color in stories), as opposed to how the alien races/species impact each other and the intra-narrative aspects (such as Galra = bad, Earth/Altea = good).

      I’ll be posting a more detailed essay soon about this subject (thank you for spurring me to revisit a draft I’ve had on the topic!), but I want to leave you with a two-fold response that’ll get expanded on in the near future:

      In the metatextual sense of how the different alien races are coded, it’s a longstanding tradition in science fiction that aliens–particularly those with fantastical skin colors–are presumed to be non-white. Generally in American fiction, they’re coded as black, but any ethnicity that isn’t white is generally fair game in the sci-fi world of old (and thankfully as writers become more cognizant of these issues, they’re being addressed). Aliens that look human or could be confused as human are generally coded as white, so in the case of Galra and Altea, the Alteans, being very human-looking, would be considered white, while the Galra are coded as nonwhite. So in this sense, Keith, being half human and passing as fully human, would be white because that’s the general racial framework of the genre and VLD, to put it shortly. That said you’re right that he’s racially ambiguous, since his in-universe ethnicity is never confirmed, so simply leaving it at “Keith is white” is oversimplifying the issue. However I’d like to also point out that in American media and literature, unless a character is explicitly stated as being non-white, they will almost always be perceived as white, even if they are heavily coded otherwise, and even in some instances they’ll be textually non-white but still portrayed as white in movies or TV shows. One notable example is how Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy is very explicitly described as having olive skin and black hair and looks very different from her blonde-haired and blue-eyed mother and sister, yet Jennifer Lawrence herself is white despite her character being strongly coded as a person who doesn’t look white.

      I realize it’s a big subject to try and provide a small answer for, and while I can’t possibly cover the sheer depth of race in VLD in one comment, I do want to try and expand on this idea further in a proper essay, so I hope I can answer your comment and many other facets in full, and look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject!

      Reply
      • July 4, 2019 at 10:10 pm
        Permalink

        Thank you for the reply! I’m glad this sparked a discussion amongst the team.

        I guess, for me, I’m still not 100% on board with a lot of discourse surrounding racially-coded characters… It seems difficult to articulate my reservations, but statements such as “Alteans are white-coded versus Galra nonwhite-coded” do not sit well with me, probably because I do not think they fit so neatly in the oppression/marginalization and race politics of or existing in America. It also creates contradictions, considering we have seen dark skinned Alteans (such as Allura and her family…or two of the Altean colonists who exhibit Black coded features such as dreads and full lips) therefore are not visually white (and coding can manifest through visuals) or Keith, who is part Galra yet passes as human. Because he can pass as human he is considered white-coded despite his Galra side making him non-white coded, according to the above framing. What does it mean to be white-coded versus non-white coded? I hope I do not sound combative in my reply. This is a touchy subject for me, as a nonwhite mixed person. I have a rocky relationship with (American, as that is what I am most familiar with) science fiction and its handling of race, both textually and metatextually. (Anime, too, can also exhibit some troubling messages but it has more to do with xenophobia/otherness existing in a predominately homogeneous society than the racism exhibited in America.) Oversimplification does tend to crop up in these conversations as well…it is quite the complex topic to tackle. And the issue of “perceived white unless otherwise explicitly stated” mainly comes from an audience/society who/which are deeply accustomed to whiteness as default and creators who unfortunately fall into those trappings, too. It is an unfortunate pattern that, I hope with time and education and implementation, becomes obsolete.

        (I actually had this strange conjecture that Keith’s human race was not made explicit so as to not alienate any faction of fandom, sort of in the same vein of Pidge – staff writing/viewing her as a cis girl but not discouraging different interpretations from the trans community – or Shiro – whose sexuality is left unlabeled in-universe in part because of censorship and in part because staff did not want to discourage fans’ readings of the character. Likely the targeted audience of dads (cough and WEP cough) who were fans of the show subconsciously viewed DOTU Keith as white, so the same reading applied to VLD Keith… Staff kept it ambiguous to keep everyone happy.)

        Sorry for the rambling… I look forward to that essay of yours! I’ve learned a lot from Team Purple Lion with regards to narrative conventions, which reignited my dormant love for analyzing stories.

        Reply
        • July 5, 2019 at 6:32 am
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          Honestly, that’s totally fair. It’s not exactly very precise language given VLD’s layers with regards to race, since there’s the in-text races (species), in-text human ethnic races, and the resulting metatextual discussion that happens with the genre itself and how the races in VLD translate to our world and our understanding and what they represent.

          You definitely don’t sound combative! You’re very articulate and I understand your reservations and reasoning perfectly clearly, and I empathize, as I’m also mixed, albeit I occasionally pass as white myself. That’s part of why I want to do justice to this topic and honestly, when we’re ready to start accepting guest posts on this site, I’d like to invite you to express your thoughts on the matter! We’ll make an announcement when we’re ready, but consider this an open invitation to join in the discussion (under a pen-name if you’d prefer) and we’d be happy to host your essay here and promote it. That’s part of why we’ve been doing this, to give people a research-based foundation to build their arguments from and help people find their voice.

          But in the instance with Keith, to give a brief idea on how I’d go about it, I’d probably break down how he is perceived in the text, his in-text heritage, what that means for the story, and then how he’s been perceived largely by the fandom, how he’s treated by said fandom, and what that means for those who share identity markers with him (such as white-passing mixed-race people) and the metaliterary context. So for Keith alone there’s an essay right there with those subjects, and that’s just the topics off the top of my head, and like you said it’s very contradictory, which is definitely worth exploring in-depth and giving it as much care and research as we can.

          And don’t worry about rambling, we love hearing feedback and learning what others think of what we’re publishing! It helps us see what we might have missed before, inspires us to tackle new topics, and gives us a chance to engage with fans of VLD and get a much more intersectional understanding as we push to get the original season 8. 😀 I’m really glad to hear we’ve reignited your love for literary analysis, too!! We love good stories and are ecstatic to be able to inspire and reignite that same love in others!

          Reply
          • August 31, 2019 at 10:05 am
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            I also think the fact that the franchise itself has that cross cultural element to it, being originally an amalgamation of two Japanese anime that’s Americanized into Voltron, which is then remade into VLD where the EPs and writers admit to have also borrowed/been informed by Beast GoLion and deliberately wanting to diversify the cast, muddies everything from being so clear cut. I think that may be why I’m hesitant to view this series under the same lens as I would with, say, Star Trek, a quintessential American science fiction/fantasy series. And I think the VLD writers were trying to go for a more gray approach regarding this topic instead of rehashing the same good/bad dichotomy from the 80’s before executive meddling axed that plan.

            I’d love that! Thank for you the invitation!! There really is a treasure trove of topics within the VLD universe/lore to deep dive into, so I really appreciate there’s a space to do that. I’ve had some difficulty finding my niche in this fandom, as I’m not keen on the ship wars/hyper ship focus or the bashing of the creative staff.

            That is interesting to note how our backgrounds and different life experiences would inform us on how to approach this topic. Being Black and Korean, I see myself in Keith (and Lotor) as he’s rejected by the Galra because he doesn’t look like a traditional Galran and he wasn’t raised in Galra culture, in the same way I’ve been rejected by both of my communities because of my physical appearance and being primarily disconnected from Black culture (a loaded topic in of itself re: personal identity versus social and political identity). I can pass as neither, just like Lotor cannot pass as Galran or Altean. The Galra also share this protective nationalism/preservation of identity that borders into xenophobia that I see in Korean communities, both overseas and in America, and in Black communities. And to me, Keith looks like a lot of characters you see in anime where it’s more than fair to assess as Japanese than not, so that’s also why I don’t read him as white. And it’s interesting to note how fandom reads Keith’s ethnicity because when the show first aired in 2016 I saw many people consider Keith Korean based on his voice actor Steven Yeun; but once the narrative shifted towards him becoming the Black Paladin and the anti movement became much more vocal on the shipping side, there was a switch in fandom’s reception of Keith and him being labeled as white started cropping up more frequently, his now perceived whiteness treated almost like a pejorative to me. That was my personal experience, not saying it was the only one. (Also, side note: it was weird to see people justify Keith being white because his dad, also racially ambiguous in text, had a strong Southern accent, which baffles me as my own Korean mother has a Southern accent so the argument is a tad faulty imo hahaha)

            Gosh, I am really grateful for Team Purple Lion’s existence. I love evidence and research based analyses on fictional stories. I just wish I could compile my research faster to churn out my essays but alas, I find so many connecting dots I get lost and overwhelmed! But it’s really fun to explore this story, because as many of y’all have demonstrated, the craftsmanship of this series was phenomenal and it’s such a travesty that things like profit and appeasing TPTB with archaic ideologies tampered with that. I don’t want to lose hope on recovering season 8 and season 7, but it’s hard to keep the momentum when I’m surrounded by fans stewing in anger and bitterness at the creatives or for the story going in a different path than they would’ve liked.

        • August 23, 2019 at 7:06 am
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          I have never perceived the Galra or the Alteans as race like with human beings. They were different species. The Galra were very fixated on heritage, but looked completely different. There seemed to be different races within the Alteans, too. I honestly don´t care if Keith should be white or not. My problem with Keith is rather that everything was handed to him. Keith had it rough, but he is the Cinderella in this story. Even more so than Allura, the princess. Hunk´s fate may be alright, but Shiro or Lance? Completely out of character.

          Reply

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