Pride Month Spotlight: ‘Critical Role’
Welcome to the 24th issue in our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is an excellent example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Looking for a new show? Have 800+ hours to spend watching a show that will bring you laughter, tears, and a genuine feeling of wonder?
What if I tell you that show also is one of the most inclusive fantasy shows ever?
Critical Role is a weekly actual play game of Dungeons and Dragons, played by “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors,” helmed by dungeon master Matthew Mercer (Overwatch, Attack on Titan). The rest of the cast consists of Travis Willingham (Avengers Assemble, Spider-Man), Marisha Ray (Lego DC Super-Villains, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire), Liam O’Brien (World of Warcraft, Naruto), Sam Riegel (Ace Attorney, Duck Tales), Laura Bailey (World of Warcraft, Spider-Man), Taliesin Jaffe (Mr. Mom, World of Warcraft), and Ashley Johnson (The Last of Us, Blindspot).
You can watch the show live on Twitch every Thursday at 7 pm PST, and the VOD is available right after the game for their Twitch subscribers and on YouTube the Monday after the stream every week. You can also listen to the show as a podcast anywhere podcasts are available, on a one-week delay.
Warning: there will be spoilers ahead.
Since the show started streaming, the cast have raised money for charities multiple times, and they have been a supporter of the charity 826LA since the start. For Pride Month this year, they are selling a special pride shirt, where 100% of the proceeds during the month of June go to the Trevor Project, a non-profit that provides crisis and suicide intervention for LGBTQ+ youth.
One of the first things I noticed when I started watching Critical Role was how open and accepting everyone on the show is. Some people might put this down to just being a natural side-effect of a show based on group storytelling in a fantasy-based world, but there is a warmth and kindness that permeates the entire show that is impossible to ignore.
Not once when a character comes out as anything other than straight is there an exclamation of surprise, or even a comment that is could ever be something other than normal. And it is so refreshing to see this in a world where LGBTQ+ representation in media seems to focus only on the LGBTQ+ aspect of the person. On Critical Role it doesn’t matter, your sexuality or gender identity does not dictate who you are or what you can accomplish, and every single character is allowed to be multifaceted.
In campaign one, we meet Vox Machina. The main adventuring party consists of half-elf druid Keyleth, half-elven twins rouge Vax’ildan and ranger Vex’ahlia, gnome bard Scanlan, goliath barbarian Grog, gnome cleric Pike and human gunslinger Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III. (You can call him Percy.) The show starts when they have all known each other for a while, since the game had gone on for about 2 years already at this point.
Three of the main party members are openly bisexual: Vax, Vex, and Scanlan. Though Scanlan and Vex don’t really have any same-sex relationships with any named characters while on stream, Vax dates Shaun Gilmore, owner of Gilmore’s Glorious Goods, the local magic shop in Emon. They do break up later, due to Vax’s growing feelings for Keyleth, but the entire party remains fast friends with Gilmore.
We are also introduced to several LGBTQ+ non-playable characters (NPCs) during campaign one, all played by DM Matthew Mercer.
Long standing allies to Vox Machina, lady Allura Vysoren and lady Kima of Vord get married toward the end of the campaign in a “very small, very private” ceremony on a whim. They had realized the future was uncertain due to the attacks by the dragons in the Chroma Conclave, and that they’d rather get married now, than miss out on acting on their feelings for each other.
When Vox Machina go to Ank’Harel to seek further aid in their fight against the dragons, they meet J’mon Sa Ord, the centuries-old leader of the city. During their first encounter, the party learns that J’mon mostly uses the pronoun they/them, though during following meetings they also switch between he/him and she/her, giving a quite clear indication that they are genderfluid. The group ends up passing the trial J’mon sets up, and Vox Machina gets a promise of further help from them when facing the dragons.
In campaign two, the positive representation continues. The party that will soon be known as The Mighty Nein consists of half-orc warlock Fjord, human monk Beauregard, human wizard Caleb, goblin rogue Nott, tiefling cleric Jester, aasimar barbarian Yasha, tiefling bloodhunter Mollymauk, and later, firbolg cleric Caduceus.
At the time of this writing, Beau and Yasha have been confirmed as identifying as lesbian, and Molly was bisexual and genderfluid according to Mercer.
Beau flirts with Yasha as soon as she gets the chance, asking her to hold her for the show at the circus. Yasha brushes her off, claiming that that is an extra charge, but she can do it for 5 gold pieces because her “arms are worth a lot.” This kind of throws Beau off a bit, but she still occasionally flirts with her. Since learning more about Yasha, however, Beau seems to have set her aim at being her friend first and foremost. A few episodes into the campaign, Yasha gets kidnapped along with Fjord and Jester. And during the search for their lost party members, The Mighty Nein meet up with a dwarven woman called Keg, played by guest Ashly Burch. Keg and Beau hit it off, and end up spending the night together once they managed to save their friends. Beau also spends a night with “companionship” in her room at an inn, and upon seeing the bruises on her neck when she arrives at breakfast the next day, Nott asks if she was in a fight and who won. “I’d say we both won,” is the reply Beau gives, along with a grin.
Yasha is from Xhorhas, a country that is known for being savage and tough. She is not really one to share a lot about herself in the beginning of their journey, but while the Mighty Nein are out at sea, she tells some of the party members about her wife, Zuala. They got married in secret, due to Zuala not being the partner chosen for Yasha by her tribe, but they were found out, and Yasha’s last memory of Xhorhas is her escaping from the tribe as they are executing Zuala.
Mollymauk was vibrant, flamboyant and always up to raise a little hell. He had a mysterious past that he and the party had only just started to learn about when he ended up dying in battle. He lived life every day to his fullest, and left places brighter than he found them (even though he might not have known it at the time). Long may he reign.
There are tons of LGBTQ+ NPCs in campaign two as well, all of them played by Mercer.
On the way from Trostenwald to the larger city of Zadash, the Mighty Nein come across the small town of Alfield, where they get hired to help with an ongoing invasion of gnolls by the watchmaster for the local crownsguard, Bryce Feelid. Bryce uses they/them pronouns and was confirmed as genderfluid by Mercer.
When the party gets to Zadash, they soon encounter a rebellion that is rising up against the corruption on the city council. They are lead by Dolan Thrym who soon enough enlists the Mighty Nein to help with their cause. Through this, Dolan introduces his partner, Horris Thrym, who is fully supportive of his husband’s endeavor but understandably nervous when it comes to their dealings.
As campaign two is still ongoing, with episode 68 just having aired, I’m sure we will see even more positive LGBTQ+ representation in the future.
Critical Role has helped so many people find their tribe, and it truly warms my heart to see so much representation. In the stories they tell, it becomes clear that anyone can become a hero, and you can do so much more than you think you can.
Stay tuned for our next installment in our 2019 Pride Month Series tomorrow, and read up on the rest of the series here.