Now entering its seventh season, the animated sci-fi series Voltron: Legendary Defender is a consistent hit for Netflix. It also inspired one of the most contentious fandoms currently in existence. While the show is mostly aimed at kids, its adult audience arguably replaced Teen Wolf as the go-to fandom for ship wars and controversy about queer representation. This all came to a head at San Diego Comic Con this weekend, when the showrunners finally revealed one of the lead characters is queer.
Aside from being exciting news for Voltron fandom, this is a huge deal for children’s TV in general. The character in question isn’t a member of the supporting cast, he’s the team leader, Shiro. He’s already had a complex story arc over the first six seasons, and he’s a hero and role model to the other characters. In other words, Voltron’s creators are putting queer representation at the forefront of the show.
Co-showrunner Lauren Montgomery revealed at SDCC that Shiro used to have a “significant other” called Adam, who played a key role in Shiro’s backstory. They also aired part of a flashback scene between the two characters, which has (of course) leaked online. You can catch a glimpse of Adam at the start of the new season 7 trailer.
“He’s not married yet,” said Montgomery, explaining that Shiro and Adam had been flight partners before Shiro left Earth. “But that was the road they were going down until Shiro made the unfortunate decision [to leave], and they drifted apart.”
Voltron fandom instantly exploded with excitement when this news broke at Comic-Con, unleashing a deluge of Shiro fanart online. Many fans had spent years hoping that the show would include queer representation, and this feels like a groundbreaking moment. It’s still very unusual for queer characters to take center stage in family entertainment, as evidenced by big franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, where we see some LGBTQ representation in spinoff books and adult-rated content (ie. Jessica Jones), but never in the lead roles aimed at kids. By contrast, straight characters and relationships are ubiquitous in children’s media.
This seems like the next step after Avatar: The Legend of Korra, which saw its lead character fall in love with a woman in the final season—but their relationship remained pretty ambiguous on-screen. With Voltron, Shiro will come out with two seasons left to explore his story. The show is due to conclude with season 8, with plenty of time for season 7 to introduce Shiro’s sexuality and relationship with his ex-boyfriend Adam—and possibly see them reunite when he returns to Earth.