Welcome to the 11th installment 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. Today’s profile is Jesper Fahey, the wisecracking criminal with a heart of gold (and a slight gambling problem) of Netflix’s latest hit series Shadow and Bone.
A note: This article presents the version of Jesper Fahey from the Netflix series Shadow and Bone rather than the Six of Crows book duology. There are some spoilers ahead for the Netflix series.
Jesper Fahey is a beloved character for fans of the Grishaverse, and his introduction in the television adaptation of Shadow and Bone is a spectacular one. Jesper quietly sits at a gambling table watching a man play with counterfeit coins … which he promptly exposes by shooting a hole in one of them in a breathtaking camera move.
A talented sharpshooter with a flair for the dramatic and a passion for fashion, he functions as the comedic relief in his band of thieves with Kaz and Inej. When Kaz decides to go after a dangerous job across the Fold due to its promise of untold wealth, Jesper accompanies him, always one for a challenge and some fun. His quick wit and skill with a gun make him an indispensable asset, even though his gambling addiction can cause trouble. When he is tasked with buying coal for their mission across the Fold, he gambles away all the money and ends up stealing the coal instead, coming up short on the amount needed to successfully cross. But they make the attempt anyway, and as volcras swarm the train car, all seems lost.
But Jesper proves his worth by killing the volcras that attack the train in a fantastic action sequence (while protecting his new best friend Milo the goat, which is truly the sweetest friendship on this show). He’s also an enthusiastic participant in the heist on the Little Palace to kidnap the Sun Summoner, proving he’s mostly in this business for the fun when he and Inej pose as performers to join a circus troupe that will be their ticket inside. He even finds time to flirt and have a romantic tryst with handsome stablehand Dima while plotting their escape after the heist.
But Jesper isn’t just a fun character. When Inej is torn between her shot at freedom from the Menagerie and staying with the Crows, Jesper is the one to reassure her that he’s behind her whichever path she chooses and that she deserves to be the one to make that call. He’s fiercely loyal and supportive, the glue that holds the Crows together. Jesper is bursting with life and an engaging on-screen presence who adds a lot to the series and the Crow storyline in particular. Watching him interact with Inej and Kaz with his trademark sarcasm and one-liners is a joy, and it’s an added bonus that he is also unapologetically bisexual.
Jesper’s bisexuality is such a natural part of him that it’s unsurprising when we see him with Dima. It’s also not a surprise to the other characters and is barely remarked upon other than Inej pointing out that the middle of a heist really isn’t the time for romance. Jesper is also mixed race, which along with his bisexuality makes him a rarity in the world of fantasy. But Shadow of Bone is unique in the way sexuality is not something any of the characters have to hide in their world. Jesper is free to be who he is, as actor Kit Young pointed out in an interview with Games Radar.
“One of the big, exciting things for me was that as a mixed-race Black and white person, I wasn’t going in going, ‘Oh, I’m a minority here.’ That stereotype doesn’t exist in this world. And similar with your sexual orientation, like Jesper’s bisexuality — it might be a surprise to the viewer if they didn’t see it coming, but it’s not something that has to be hidden. It’s not something in our world that is frowned upon. These are just facts of life where a large number of people are accepted for who they are, and who is oppressed might be surprising.”
This intentional centering of underrepresented groups leads to a more interesting story and a world that closely reflects our own (aside from the magic, of course). Author Leigh Bardugo, who helped adapt her novels for the series, discussed how Jesper and the other Crows represented chosen family within the story in the same interview with Games Radar.
“‘Shadow and Bone’ is very much a chosen one story, and ‘Six of Crows’ is very much about people who aren’t chosen, who don’t have royal blood or grand destinies, and who the world views as expendable. And through these two, very different series, I think there’s a common link of a desire to belong and find your place and your people in the world. So, it felt quite organic for us to take it on, although it was certainly a challenge.”
Jesper Fahey is not just a great character sure to be a huge fan favorite. He’s also a perfect example of excellent LGBTQIA+ representation, and we hope we see more of him on our screens soon! Shadow and Bone season one is streaming now on Netflix, and be sure to check back tomorrow for another Pride Spotlight.