Like so many films before it, Power Rangers promised a properly queer character then failed to deliver

The creators and directors of these stories, from Harry Potter to Beauty and the Beast, claim that they have gay characters so that they look progressive, but onscreen they present that queernees in a way that is so ambiguous it’s insulting

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The Independent Online

Last week I went to see the latest Power Rangers film. As a kid, I had always been a massive Power Rangers fan – I watched the back seasons, read the comics, created a team with my friends at school and even made my own power-morpher out of cardboard. And as a queer person who grew up in a “straight” culture, you can imagine my excitement when I read online that the newest yellow Power Ranger was going to be gay.

There have been 133 Power Rangers to date, and 4 per cent of US citizens identify as LGBT, so the odds are there should have been at least five LGBT+ Power Rangers by now. And considering that the original blue Power Ranger, played by David Yost, claimed that he left the show because of homophobic bullying by the production team, they owe it to the LGBT+ community to step up and make amends.

I went to the cinema with high hopes – the director called the yellow Ranger’s “coming-out” scene “pivotal”, after all. Finally there would be a cute girl who the yellow Ranger falls for, I thought, just like there have been so many heterosexual romances in Power Rangers in the past. So you can imagine my disappointment when her “queerness” was left so ambiguous that you could have easily left the cinema thinking she was straight.

This ambiguity would be fine if it wasn’t the norm – after all, you don’t see every straight character screaming about their sexuality from the rooftops. I’m not saying that I think all queer characters should be loud or “obvious” about their identity, whatever that means. But the problem is that this ambiguity around queerness isn’t an isolated incident – and when it happens all the time, it just implies that queer identities are better off hidden, and so are queer romances.

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It’s the same with JK Rowling claiming that Dumbledore was gay all along, or LeFou from Beauty and the Beast supposedly being Disney’s first gay character – the creators and directors of these stories claim that they’re gay so that they look progressive, but onscreen they present their queernees in a way that is so ambiguous their sexuality is left open to interpretation.

It seems to me that companies are trying to get the best of both worlds here – they’re trying to look progressive offscreen, but being careful onscreen so as not to upset any super-conservative, homophobic members of the audience.

Because let’s be real for a second here: if supposedly “queer” characters openly stated their queerness, some parents wouldn’t take their kids to go and see the film.

We all remember the uproar over the Finding Dory advert, where two women with short hair stood next to each other and half the internet was up in arms about a supposed “lesbian” couple. It’s happened time and time again – from the Teletubbies to Doctor Who to Noddy.

The sad truth is that queer characters will cause some parents to boycott films. And that leads to an inevitable loss of revenue for the film companies involved.

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That’s why I’m fed up of creators and directors claiming ambiguous “queer” characters to make themselves look good. Because if they really cared about LGBT+ representation, they would take a cut to their pay-cheques, and stand up for queer rights.

Instead they’re claiming to support us while doing the worst thing possible: hinting that queer identity does exist, but that it needs to remain closeted. I think that does more harm than good, and I’d rather they didn’t insult queer people by claiming to care about us in the first place.

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