In the sixth episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender, a secret is revealed.
One that the viewer was aware of, but not the other characters.
That all changes when Hunk tells the team to “man up,” and Pidge becomes uncomfortable.
A moment later, before the team embarks on its latest quest, Pidge lags behind, then calls for the team’s attention before speaking to them all.
“I need to come clean,” says Pidge, “and I’m afraid this may change the way you all think about me. Just so there are no secrets between us anymore, I can’t man up.”
Then Pidge pauses, before delivering the punch line of the speech, “I’m a girl.”
Pidge continues, stuttering a bit, “I mean, I can man up because that’s just a figure of speech. I don’t have to actually be a man to man up, I just have to be tough.”
And indeed you are, Pidge. Indeed you are. You did what needed done to help your family, and no one can fault you for that. And you revealing your secret to your team? Even braver, because you’re right. They might have seen you differently, because previous to this point, you presented yourself to them as a boy. They might have changed how they treated you.
But they didn’t.
And that’s what makes Voltron: Legendary Defender an amazing case study in how to treat someone who changes their gender, for whatever reason. In Pidge’s case, the trope of a girl masquerading as a boy in order to do something otherwise prohibited to her is responsible for her actions. There may be more to this, as the internet will argue about forever, but that’s not important now.
What is important is that no matter the reason for Pidge’s actions, she is accepted by her team, and that’s what counts. Not only is she accepted, nothing changes for her after her revelation, which is just marvelous.
With the notable exception of Lance (And who could expect more from Lance, really?), every member of the Voltron Force just nods and moves on.
In fact, again excepting Lance, the team already knew or at least suspected that Pidge was not quite what she seemed, and they simply didn’t care. Not only that, they respected her enough not to confront her or tell her secret. They instead waited until she was ready to face it herself.
Here are their reactions, proving this point:
Princess Allura says, “I’ve known for some time. But I’m glad you shared it with everyone.”
“Yeah, I figured,” mumbles Hunk, nonchalant as can be.
Keith nods and agrees (and I give him the benefit of the doubt, though being Keith, I’ll grant you this might be false bravado), “Oh, yeah. Me too.”
“Wait,” says Coran, “We were supposed to think you were a boy?”
And then there’s Shiro, who knew all along, but honored Pidge by not saying anything.
“Pidge, owning who you are is going to make you a better paladin.”
And that was that.
The end. The team ran off to battle monsters and attempt to free the universe from the evil Zarkon. All in a day’s work. Pidge’s gender never came up again. She didn’t change her name. She didn’t dress or act any differently. She continued to be the resident tech genius and pilot of the green lion.
No one mentioned her reveal again.
Did you see what I wrote?
No one mentioned it again. Ever. In the next seven episodes, it never came up.
It remained a non-issue. There was no armor change. No voice change. No skills change. No acting surprised that Pidge was the same competent member of Team Voltron as before her secret was revealed. Heck, her breasts never even showed up through her shirt or her armor! She wore the same suit as every other paladin, just like before! Amazing!
This was the most refreshing thing about Pidge’s change to me. Sure, adding another female member to Voltron is great, but it’s this absolute lack of reaction to the change by the other characters that make it truly awesome to me.
Because gender is a non-issue. Or at least it should be.
Who cares that Pidge is a girl?
Clearly not Keith, Hunk, Shiro, Coran, or Allura. Sure, Lance had to be Lance about it for a bit, but even he never brings it up again after his initial few minutes of gaping (which play as comic relief and to be fair, he had just come out of a coma, so maybe I’ll cut Lance some slack here). He doesn’t even make a joke when Pidge proclaims “It’s good to get that off my chest” after her admission.
And if Lance can control himself given that bit of ammo, surely us viewers can not care about it, too, right? Right, because the rest of Voltron kicks butt, and the gender of one character is trivial to the plot.
But it’s not trivial to diversity and representation, and it’s not trivial to me.
Because Voltron did need more female characters for our young people to look up to. It was pretty lopsided toward the male end of the spectrum.
And because, even as an adult, it sure feels good to have a character like me in a cartoon. A character who is female but doesn’t look the typical part and doesn’t appear to care to at this point. A girl who is defined by her nerdiness and her skills, not by her clothes and body. A girl for whom gender is a moot point, because her friends are awesome. I only wish the lack of reaction that Pidge got was more present in the real world, especially for our youth.
I also wish this version of Pidge had come along when I was young and often mistaken for a boy just because of something as trivial as the hair and clothes I chose for myself, but I love her too much to care that she’s about thirty years late for child me to experience her.
Because I’ve loved Voltron for a very long time, and if one cartoon gets to have a “me” character in it, I’m glad it’s this one.
See, I named my imaginary brother Keith when I was a kid (yes, my imaginary friend was a brother who piloted a robot lion – it happens). That’s how much I loved Voltron. Without knowing what it was, I wrote Voltron fanfiction in my head. And I’ve had a Voltron cosplay on my costume goals list for years. When I wrote that list, I meant the giant robot, but now?
Screw that. I’m cosplaying Pidge.
GS Blogger: wabbit