I’m still obsessed with Arcane. It’s been weeks since the premiere of Netflix and Riot Games’ animated show and I still can’t check my phone without being ambushed by a new selection of fan art. The community is rabid, enraptured by a detailed world and nuanced characters that we’ve only just scratched the surface of. All of this sweet lore is great, but let’s be honest – we’re all in it for the queerness. These enforcers gay, good for them.
Vi and Caitlyn’s growing dynamic is delicious, so genuine in its depiction of a lesbian relationship that thousands have latched onto them and refuse to let go. I love it so much, and seeing the crew, artists, and viewers embrace it means the world. The most beautiful part of this growing popularity is how the fandom is undeniably queer itself, all of the biggest artists and authors identifying as LGBTQ+ as they sink into a show that throws aside the male gaze and seeks to depict two women in a relationship that understands the nuance that so few queer relationships in animation or otherwise are able to express.
I remember messaging our editor-in-chief (and fellow gay girl appreciator) Stacey Henley after previewing the first act and telling her. ‘Stacey… I think this might be gay’ with my excitement building to fever pitch as the second and third acts arrived to confirm my suspicions. Vi and Caitlyn begin as bittersweet rivals and grow into companions who aren’t afraid to flirt and confide in one another, yet their inner personalities are never lost as a consequence of this newfound romance, if anything it only serves to reinforce who they are and where they came from.
Vi grew up on the streets, subject to violence and petty crime, used to fending for herself and doing anything she could to get by. As a result she struggles to trust people, an outlook only further cemented by an arduous upbringing spent behind prison walls. Away from Powder, all she could do was get stronger. She escapes prison and is greeted by a changed world, once whose politics have moved on and left her behind while many of her loved ones sit in graves that have long gathered dust. From here, she finds comfort in the most unlikely place.
Caitlyn is a prim and proper lady with a rich family and a promising career, so the last person she’d associate with is a butch, pink-haired brawler who labels her as a cutesy cupcake the moment they embark on adventures together. Opposites attract, and watching them bond, bicker, and develop feelings for one another over the show’s nine episodes is awfully entrancing. Yes, I am a big gay disaster and you all have to deal with it I’m very sorry.
As I mentioned earlier, fan art of Caitlyn and Vi is relentless and very, very gay. Some of it is tasteful and erotic, while others are funny, touching, or introspective in ways you’d never expect. Yet all of them are excellent, igniting a spark of creativity I haven’t seen in the world of animation since The Owl House made Lumity canon. LGBTQ+ people are so accustomed to finding subtext in the media we love and conjuring representation up from half-baked character development or censorship that prevents pairings from coming true.
This picture is changing so much, and Arcane might be the most mainstream example yet of a show putting a lesbian relationship at the forefront with little fear in how it might be perceived. The second season better have a sex scene, and I’m not saying this because I’m a massive pervert, but it would show queer intimacy to be a matter of normalcy that can be placed alongside its straight counterparts without worry. Vi and Caitlyn have already embraced, sharing company before the world threatened to tear them asunder. Arcane can take it even further, and I really hope it does.
One of Netflix’s biggest shows of the year is helmed by two queer main characters, and the fandom has embraced this milestone in the greatest possible way. Sure, some of them attacked me for comparing Vi’s trauma to She-Ra’s Catra, but I can forgive them for that because I know I’m right, and the majority of people I’ve come across are lovely, respectful, and unbelievably talented. I’m used to taking whatever wins I can when it comes to queer representation, warts and all, but Arcane feels like it’s on the right path to being something special.
The second season isn’t coming until 2023 at the earliest, so it will be a while until we see Vi and Caitlyn’s relationship progress, but there’s a beauty in the slow burn, and seeing their romance develop overtime as they learn to love one another in the face of adversity and in spite of abundant differences will be worth the wait.
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