Welcome to another of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great 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.
When it comes to representation in today’s media, few are doing it as well as Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. Based on the Dark Horse Comics series written by Gerard Way, The Umbrella Academy follows the seven Hargreeves siblings collected by Sir Reginald Hargreeves to become the superhero team he’d always wanted. Except, they aren’t …
In this team of merry screw-ups is Number 4, Klaus, who is by all definitions, an absolute dumpster fire. But for all of his flaws and his chaos, he is above all else, endearing and lovable, even if he doesn’t think so.
When we meet Klaus in season 1, he’s a flamboyant drug addict, wearing tight leather pants and feathered jacket, then a pink boa and his sister’s skirt holding his pink bordered umbrella with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth at his father’s funeral. But the confirmation of his LGBTQ identity isn’t revealed until later in the season, when he falls in love with a young soldier in Vietnam, Dave.
Dave is ultimately lost in the war, and Klaus makes it back from his little step back in time, but Klaus is forever changed.
The beauty of Klaus’ season 1 arc, however, was that his sexual identity was never the main focus of him as a character. It was simply just who he was with no spotlight or cliches attached. So often in media, the sexual orientation of a character is so deeply intertwined with their storyline that you can’t separate the two, but that was never the case with Klaus.
Klaus’ story was always one of lost love and the steps one would take to get them back, and in Klaus’ case that meant finally getting sober in hopes of utilizing his medium powers to see Dave once again beyond the veil. Klaus loved, and he lost, he overcame his addictions because of that love, and he was forever changed by it. The tragedy of Klaus and Dave was never a tragedy based upon “gay” love, it was just love, plain and simple.
When creating this Klaus, staying true to the character and his journey was important to actor Robert Sheehan, who had a hand in creating Klaus for the screen ahead of season 1, and the showrunners. Keeping true to who Klaus was and why always has and will always be the story’s top priority. While Klaus has no official label in the show, although he has been known to have relations with men and women, sometimes at the same time, Sheehan pegs him as pansexual, but also open to other interpretations as the viewer sees him.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Sheehan made it known he didn’t want his character to be known only for his sexual orientation, but instead for his truth, his heart, and his growth.
“It’s very, very lovely that maybe young people who are embarrassed about the fact that they’re gay and they’re keeping it to themselves, can feel a little less uncomfortable about it by seeing a character like Klaus who is very out there and very colourful and unashamed about the fact that he is pansexual, or whatever you want to call it. But I just wanted to play the truth of it, man.”
While LGBTQ representation is sorely lacking in media, LGBTQ relationships and characters that aren’t dependent on their LGBTQ status and subject to stereotypes are even more so. The Umbrella Academy continues to excel showcasing these relationships without falling prey to the mistakes others have made. Their stories and characters are consistently true and authentic, making it a leading force in today’s media.
Netflix has renewed The Umbrella Academy for season 3, which is currently in production. Stay tuned for news about the upcoming season and for more Pride spotlights throughout the month!