Queer Characters in Jeph Jacques’ QUESTIONABLE CONTENT

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Ever since 2012, there’s been a dramatic shift when it comes to queer characters – there’s slowly more and more of them in TV shows, movies, books, but most prominently in webcomics.

However, for some fans, the question arises – how many queer characters is too many? What’s ‘believable’ for a single creative work? Jeph Jacques’s Questionable Content has been the target of many of these questions, especially in regards to his latest storyline, which puts the main female lead – Faye Whitaker – in a relationship with a woman for the first time.

bubbles, faye whitaker, queer characters

Questionable Content’s Queer Characters

Online and updating for almost fifteen years, Questionable Content has been through a number of changes in its long run. The comic was initially a ‘will they won’t they’ between the main characters Marten and Faye. It abandoned this format after the first 500 strips, and both Marten and Faye pursued other romantic interests.

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It’s never been a secret in the comic that its main cast includes queer characters; Dora has actively identified as bisexual since some of her earliest appearances. However, in the last few years, more and more queer characters have joined the main cast. Claire, Marten’s current girlfriend, is a trans woman, and Elliot (hapless bartender and gentle giant) recently revealed that he is bisexual.

Faye, however, has always been one of the more concretely heterosexual characters – at least in the eyes of fans. So as her friendship with a military robot blooms into something more, some readers have been taking offense.

It’s an interesting sight to see. One relationship was fine. However, Claire as the first trans character was ‘too far’ at the time. Apparently, Faye’s new relationship is ‘too far’ for many readers once more.

What does ‘Too Far’ Mean?

The backlash to Questionable Content, in context, is puzzling. While not all readers are coming from the same perspectives, accusations of the comic ‘no longer being realistic’ often fail to take into account the comic’s setting: Northampton, Massachusetts. The reality is that Northampton has the highest number of lesbians per capita in the entire country. This is before considering Jacques’s often-quoted assurance on the QC setting and how it is very much not our world, rendering complaints of realism more than a little moot.

“Something people do not often realize is that the world in which QC takes place is considerably stranger than our own. You’d think that with all the little talking robots running around everywhere that this would be obvious, but I am consistently surprised at how often people take it for granted.” – Jeff Jacques 2005

Furthermore, there are much queerer and stranger comics out there. It’s odd to hear how QC’s blended cast is ‘too gay’ when it coexists with indie comics such as Lumberjanes, other webcomics like Sister Claire (with, so far, nary a straight person to be seen), and the whole other host of diverse comics out there. By heavy contrast, Questionable Content’s main cast numbers in the several dozens. Only six of them identify as anything other than heterosexual and/or cisgender.

A careful reread of the earliest QC strips also shows most of Faye’s assertions of heterosexuality directed at Dora. While it’s been an awfully long time since those early strips, Dora made a habit of sexual advances towards Faye. Perhaps it’s not such a surprise that Faye’s attraction to women wasn’t immediately apparent, to herself or others.

Faye discusses this newly-burgeoning part of her sexuality with Marten below:

Queer Characters in Jeph Jacques' QUESTIONABLE CONTENT 1

Managing Expectations

It’s the constant maxim of creative work – you can’t please everybody. It’s doubly true for queer representation, where a choice that alienates some readers will attract others, and make even more cry from happiness.

https://twitter.com/jephjacques/status/996938956389343233

Jacques has made it clear which voices he wants to uplift, and he does it with gleeful, unabashed support for the queer community.

So for those readers still puzzled by how many queer characters there seem to be, not just in Questionable Content, but everywhere? It may be time to take a deep breath, relax and accept that this is rapidly becoming a new normal both online and offline. It’s the future, folks. And it’s a good thing.

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Elliott Dunstan
Elliott Dunstan is a semi-professional Canadian nerd with a special talent for reading way too fast, spouting weird trivia, and latching emotionally onto that minor character with a one-liner in the second episode. Elliott was born in 1995 and is mildly annoyed by this.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Outrage like this – specifically that it’s not ‘realistic’ to have so many queer characters in one place – ALWAYS surprised me. It was the same when people questioned the absence of non white characters in GoT (except when they’re savage Dothraki tribes). So many people defended the show saying it’s not ‘realistic’ to show black people in middle ages Europe. Really, in a show with zombies and dragons, you find non white characters unrealistic?

    Just to put this in perspective. I’m an Asian American. If someone said the reason some piece of media doesn’t have any Asian characters (even though it’s an anime adaptation) is because it’s not realistic to have so many Asians in one setting, it would be ridiculous. Everyday of my life I spend time with people who are just like me. Just because we don’t spend time with you doesn’t mean we don’t exist!

    There’s a single African American at my place of work, does that mean movies with more than a single African American character are unrealistic?!

    I’ve always seen the QC characters as people. I’ve never counted the number of queer characters, waiting to jump ship when it crossed some magical, reasonable number. I don’t actually know a single queer person IRL and it didn’t strike me as strange at all. I loved it! I wish more media would include a diverse cast, you know, like in real life?

  2. The bottom line is; is what Jeph Jaques doing gratuitously jumping on the LGBTQ bandwagon or just good writing? His story telling has always felt organic to me, and makes me want to see the next strip. QC has always been about relationships of all kinds. As long as the stories feel believable to me, I’ll keep reading.

  3. I’ve long thought that qc has done a fantastic job of portraying people, and not only their sexuality, in a positive, healthy light. I’m very happy Faye and Bubbles are finally addressing their feelings. They’re not queer, they’re people. In a comic. Think there are too many queers in one place? I have news for you: we tend to cluster with people who are also different, and open minded enough to accept us. And when someone’s friends don’t care what kind of gender they’re attracted to, sometimes people are willing to explore feelings they otherwise might be afraid to – even if ultimately nothing really comes of it.
    And it’s a comic. If you don’t like it, go read someone else’s.
    And remember, the comic doesn’t belong to you, just because you are a fan. It belongs to the creator, who doesn’t owe you a darn thing.

    • Absolutely. I think it’s worth looking at what kinds of reactions things like this get, but ultimately a lot of comes from a lack of understanding of what queerness does look like Out In The World – and one thing I didn’t touch on was how it really, really does look like this.

  4. Great article! I’ve been a longtime QC reader and this was a great perspective on it.

Comments are closed.

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