The revelation last week about the character Shiro on Voltron: Legendary Defender and his sexual orientation received a lot of positive reactions. Many fans were delighted to hear such a strong character who represented Asians, amputees, and those who struggle with mental illness in a positive light, was also a representative of the LGBT community. The news has resulted in fans shipping for a particular pairing to come true. In the long run, this may not be the best idea.
SPOILERS For VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER Season 6
During the events of Season 6, it is revealed Shiro had essentially died, had been replaced by a clone, and his consciousness was locked in the black lion. In an effort to reach out to Shiro’s clone and break him from Hagar’s control, Keith tried to connect with the doppelganger by saying, “Shiro, please! You’re my brother. I love you!” Many agreed this scene was one of the best to come from the entire series.
Fans of the Keith and Shiro relationship (“Sheith” as the couple’s relationship is known) eagerly jumped at this news and hoped it would signify the two characters being together in the future. Most of the time, shippers need two characters to be in a room together or share a glance to signify they have a connection and bond. For one character to scream, “I love you,” regardless of the context it is in, a shipper can easily point to it and say, “This proves they were made for one another.” Unfortunately, this may not be the best idea. Why? Because Keith not being gay has the chance to deliver an even more powerful message.
To reinforce the opening paragraph, the reveal about Shiro being gay is awesome. He is a strong leader, a good friend, and a valuable member of the team. His sexuality doesn’t change these dynamics of his character in the slightest. This being said, Keith not being gay would help to showcase another important message which is just as critical: Education
The character Keith represents the loner. An angry young man who hasn’t had a family since he was a child, always felt out of place, and eternally searching for who he was. It took many episodes, life-threatening battles with his team, and years of drifting through space with his estranged alien mother to finally come to terms with being able to express his feelings. By embracing these feelings, Keith was able to conquer one of his great challenges in a battle which eventually saved the soul of someone he cares for as a mentor, friend, and brother.
Why is such a distinction important? It’s time to bring in a term many have heard about, but few know the actual definition: Toxic Masculinity.
The concept of toxic masculinity is used in psychology and gender studies to refer to certain norms of masculine behavior…associated with harm to society and to men themselves. Traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and homophobia, can be considered “toxic” due to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence.
Though Keith doesn’t entirely personify the idea of Toxic Masculinity, he does display some of the characteristics early in the series. Keith lost his father, didn’t know his mother, and his impressive skills as a pilot made it so his time in the Garrison didn’t challenge him or give him a way to break out of his shell. Though it could be attributed to turning off his emotions and not being able to connect with others, such a method led to him becoming aggressive and at times violent. It was only through Shiro’s help and mentoring, teaching Keith lessons like “Patience yields focus” was he able to become a caring and compassionate individual. Keith didn’t need a lover. He needed a mentor to help to show him how to properly present himself as a man. Shiro assumed this role and helped to sculpt Keith into a more caring and compassionate individual. The mentoring aspect of their relationship is why Keith loves Shiro like a brother.
If Keith and Shiro were to end up together, it would be a beautiful thing. They are a great pairing of a loner and the individual who helped him to understand it was okay to be happy and helped him be the best person possible. On the other hand, if Keith and Shiro remain friends, the show has a chance to provide a great example of how a man can change. It would show a man who was expressing several characteristics of Toxic Masculinity and evolved through positive relationships. Keith learned it was okay to have feelings for others, to be open, and care for something other than himself.
Still, there is something to be said about the idea helping to shape the interactions of men in media. This is why role models are so important. Keeping Shiro and Keith’s relationship platonic can show how a straight man can have a close, non-sexual relationship with a gay man without worrying about it becoming romantic. This will help to break down the barrier formed by individuals who foolishly believe having a connection with a gay person changes you. It will also help to move in the right direction to take down Toxic Masculinity. It won’t be a total defeat of the concept but it will be a positive step.
How men and boys act in today’s society is a tough topic to cover all at once, but the cast and crew of Voltron: Legendary Defender has a chance to send a profound social message which could resonate and start conversations. It is possible and acceptable to have platonic feelings for a gay person without being gay yourself. Loving others platonically helps to break down barriers, bring people closer, and make the world a little better in the end.
Do you agree with the article or do you still feel Keith and Shiro should still end up together? Leave a comment below and let us know.