“Warning; this column contains spoilers.” —–Anonymous
“Blast it, Madame!” —–Capt. Daniel Gregg
Two (or is it three) of the greatest fantasy TV series may have gotten overlooked in both the mists of time and the glut of fantasies available for viewing now. And they have some (not-that-obvious LGBT connections.)
First off; “Avatar, the Last Airbender,” a Nickelodeon cartoon created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko takes place in a mythical world based on Asian and martial-arts imagery, with just a bit of “The Wizard of Oz” thrown in (maybe unintentionally.)
In the world of Avatar, the Earth is home to four nations based on images of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, each with its own color scheme. Some people in this world can control, or “bend” their respective elements. The Avatar is reincarnated through the generations and is able to control all four elements, and is supposed to “maintain balance.” But the story opens with the Avatar having been gone for a century and the world slipped into a chaotic war brought on by dictators of the Fire Nation. When the new Avatar is discovered, he’s only twelve years old and has no idea how to bend any element other than air. So, he (and his new friends) must travel through the nations to find Bending Masters who can teach Aang (the young Avatar) how to control those elements and hopefully end the war.
The series features excellent worldbuilding and characterization; mastery of the elements comes only through hard work and effort which is conveyed throughout the series’ three seasons. For a show that is aimed at twelve year olds it deals with some adult themes; Aang is the survivor of a mass genocide, although the word is never used. The war has touched everything and everyone and once-great cities are slums run by shady politicians. All this from a kid’s show that is not supposed to mention death.
The sequel, “The Legend of Korra” takes place seventy years after the first series as the world is rebuilding after the war. The reincarnated Avatar is now a young woman named Korra. A few of the characters from the earlier series reappear (although much older) in the sequel and there are some nice callbacks, especially with a young man being named Mako in honor of the actor who played Uncle Iroh in “Avatar” and died during the run of the series.
Both series benefit from stretching the storyline over multiple episodes. When Korra is poisoned, she isn’t all better after the last commercial, she deals with it for the rest of the season and faces psychological trauma for much of the series. All this from a kid’s show. And a very well-done one at that.
Especially in “Legend of Korra” there are indications that some of the characters may be on the LGBT spectrum. We find out that Korra is either gay or bi; her awkwardness around Asami (who she winds up with) is a big hint.
“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” ran for only two years over two networks, starting in 1968. Based on the book and 1947 movie, it was a sitcom about widowed Carolyn Muir (Hope Lange) who moves her two children and housekeeper into an old seaside house, known as “Gull Cottage,” rented by high-strung realtor Claymore Gregg, played by Charles Nelson Reilly. But the house has been haunted for a hundred years by Claymore’s Great-Uncle, captain Daniel Gregg (the perfect Edward Mulhare) in life, a cantankerous sea captain who appears to Mrs. Muir and demands that she leave (“I never once allowed a woman on board my ship.”) The ghost and Mrs. Muir come to terms and a very chaste romance forms, the Captain realizing Mrs. Muir (who he always formally addresses as “Madame.”) is the woman he searched the world for when he was alive. Their relationship is sweet and funny and just a bit sad, predating the spate of modern paranormal books, movies and TV shows by decades. The ghost delights in frightening Claymore and causes thunder and lightning when he gets angry (which is often.)
Claymore’s character is the interesting thing. Openly gay actor Reilly plays him the way he played most of his TV roles, just this side of flamboyant even though Claymore is presented as straight. Were the show being done today, Claymore might be presented as gay or bi. But not in 1968. More than one contemporary observer of pop culture has wondered if Claymore was closeted, if not very well. Claymore’s lasting relationship is with his money, but some episodes present a deeper side to the character. In the episode “A Pain In the Neck,” written by Joseph Bonaduce (yes, Danny’s father) Claymore injures himself at Gull Cottage and becomes the landlord who came to dinner, waited on hand and foot by the family, an arrangement he doesn’t want to end. Mrs. Muir says of him: “Lifelong bachelor set in his ways, getting a little eccentric as the years pass.” This could be taken as coding for Gay.
But this was the sixties, not the era of Gay marriage. Stonewall happened as the show approached its second and last season. But it was never an issues show. That would be “All In the Family” which appeared the year after “Ghost” was canceled.
The show still is funny and sweetly romantic, even in the second season when the network toned down the romance and put in more comedy. “Muir,” by the way, means “the sea” in Gaelic.
So, there are two LGBT connected SF/F series.
Whew! That’s a lot of initials.
Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror on or about the thirteenth of every month. He has been published in “The Necronomicon of Solar Pons,” Queer SciFi’s “Innovation” and “Amazing Stories,” among other places. He lives happily with his husband Darryl, and they both watched “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” first-run. He posts fiction on his blog https://authorjeffbaker.com/ and can be found on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907