Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Pride Month Spotlight: ‘The Legends of Vox Machina’

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2022 Pride Month Series! Each weekday in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ 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 LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media.

Animated Dungeons and Dragons adventure The Legends of Vox Machina is, quite possibly, one of the most inclusive animations that have graced our screens so far in 2022.

That shouldn’t be surprising, given the source material. The Legends of Vox Machina is an adult animated fantasy series produced by Critical Role Productions, Titmouse Inc., and Amazon Studios. Initially funded by a popular Kickstarter campaign, the runaway success of the project attracted Amazon’s attention, and the first season premiered on January 28, 2022. Season 1 has 12 episodes, with a second season already in the works.

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The Legends of Vox Machina is based on a storyline from the first Critical Role campaign, a web series that is best explained in the cast’s own words.

“[The Legends of Vox Machina] is a long-running web series in which our group of nerdy ass voice actors use tabletop roleplaying game mechanics as the medium to build a longform improvisational story in the vast and rich fantasy world of Exandria. The players are guided through the world by Matthew Mercer, an incredibly experienced Game Master. Essentially, this story is like a four-hour long improvised episode of television, with each campaign focusing on its own set of characters within the world.”

That “group of nerdy ass voice actors” includes Matthew Mercer (Overwatch, Attack on Titan), Travis Willingham (Avengers Assemble, Spider-Man), Sam Riegel (Ace Attorney, Duck Tales), Marisha Ray (Lego DC Super-Villains, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire), Liam O’Brien (World of Warcraft, Naruto), Laura Bailey (Fruits Basket, Monster High), Taliesin Jaffe (Mr. Mom, World of Warcraft), and Ashley Johnson (The Last of Us, Blindspot).

Notable guest stars include David Tennant (Good Omens, Doctor Who), Felicia Day (Mystery Science Theater 3000, Supernatural), Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Encanto), Gina Torres (9-1-1: Lone Star, Firefly), and Khary Payton (The Walking Dead, General Hospital).

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A lot could be written about the inherent queerness of Dungeons and Dragons as a medium and the huge popularity of the TTRPG amongst LGBT+ audiences, but it’s simple enough to say that Critical Role itself was pretty rainbow-colored, and that carried over into The Legends of Vox Machina — as it should, given that the show used the same characters that the Critical Role crew had crafted during their initial, 370+ hour-long campaign.

(Critical Role itself has such an array of queer characters over the course of various campaigns that they have their own entry in the Nerds and Beyond Pride series from way back in 2019.)

The Legends of Vox Machina is an animated series made specifically for adults, so it doesn’t skirt around the concept of sex and sexuality the way that many previous animations have done. This is evidenced in the very first episode, “The Terror of Tal’Dorei,” with the introduction of the main characters — during the montage, it’s quite possible that we see more of Scanlan’s bare butt cheeks than we do his face (which, for the character, was honestly a perfect introduction). He isn’t the only one from this show that is worth a mention, though, so let’s take a closer look at some of the whole rainbow of characters that The Legends of Vox Machina offers.

Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Legends of Vox Machina and Critical Role campaign 1.

Scanlan Shorthalt – Pansexual

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

While not given an official label at any point (which tracks, as Scanlan seems like the kind of character who would always prefer not to specifically label himself “just in case” he finds an exception to his very generous rules), gnome bard Scanlan is generally held to be pansexual — possibly also polysexual, though this has never been confirmed textually, only coded through the colors of his famous rainbow codpiece. Though, which gender Scanlan could be excluding with a polysexual label is another amusing topic for conversation; as fans commonly exclaim, the only encounters Scanlan would turn down involve goblins and doors.

While The Legends of Vox Machina does a great job of setting up Scanlan’s flirty, anything-goes personality, there’s not yet too much evidence of his sexuality on screen (that flamboyant codpiece aside). As season 2 has already been confirmed, viewers will be hoping for plenty more of Scanlan’s escapades. The character was known to have many, varied conquests in Critical Role, and during the campaign, there is an infamous scene involving Scanlan being victim to a love potion prank that could only cause him to fall for someone he could already be attracted to — and the recipient of his affection just happens to be Percy, a very male, human member of their party. The scene was hilarious, and in discussing the fact that Scanlan fell in love with Percy, his actor Sam Riegel famously said, “A human man? That was teenage years, baby. I’ve gone much further than that since then.”

Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar – Bisexual

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

The character of Vax, a half-elf rogue, is confirmed to be bisexual both by his actor Liam O’Brien and by his backstory. As a teenager, he dated a girl named Cyriel, but a few years before joining Vox Machina, he was known to be in a relationship with a man named Thorn.

In The Legends of Vox Machina, viewers get to watch him flirt with the other half of one of this character’s most popular ships — Gilmore. Upon entering the flamboyant tradesman’s shop, the playful tension between the two is palpable, in all its winking and dinner-promising glory. In Critical Role, their outrageous flirtationship continues for a quite a while, only ceasing (through an emotional, almost heartwarming conversation) when Vax finds himself in love with Keyleth.

Fans describe Vax as a disaster bisexual. O’Brien, in a Q&A, referred to him as “aggressively bisexual.” Either way, we’re looking forward to seeing how The Legends of Vox Machina develops him going forward!

Vex’ahlia “Vex” Vessar — Bisexual

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

Vax might be the twin that fans shipped hard with Gilmore, but the character of Vex is no less rainbow-hued!

She is seen to flirt with almost anyone, in both The Legends of Vox Machina and Critical Role. In the web series, she eventually ends up with Percy — a relationship that season 1 of The Legends of Vox Machina is beginning to sew the seeds of. Interestingly, Percy is another character that Critters have long heralded as “bi-curious,” though there isn’t enough textual confirmation for him to be included here. (If The Legends of Vox Machina wants to step up and provide that, though, it will only add to the series’ rainbow splendor!)

One of the best things about the Critical Role universe is how little fuss is made over the sexuality of any character, whether it be on-screen or onstream. It seems just as likely that any character introduced is queer as it is that they be straight. In fact, many Critters have joked that the only confirmed straight character in the main party is Willingham’s Grog Strongjaw, who — in his own words — “Prefers taco to hot dog.”

Representation isn’t restricted to what is brought about by Critical Role’s player characters, though, in this world. In The Legends of Vox Machina, viewers are treated to several more LGBT+ confirmed characters, all of whom were voiced by Mercer in Critical Role but were given life by an array of much-loved guest stars on the animated series. Can’t leave them out!

Shaun Gilmore – Gay

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

Shamelessly ostentatious, flirty, and fun, Gilmore is the owner of Gilmore’s Glorious Goods in Eamon. Voiced by Sunil Malhotra (Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS: New Orleans), Gilmore flirts outrageously with Vax every time the two of them share the screen.

Although Gilmore and Vax don’t end up together in Critical Role, so for now, we must assume that they don’t in The Legends of Vox Machina either unless something very substantial was to change, Gilmore doesn’t end up alone. In a later campaign, it’s disclosed that he is married to a shy man named Darius, who helps him with his affairs in Marquet and who Gilmore describes as “lovely.”

Lady Kima – Lesbian

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

Lady Kima of Vord, a halfling paladin of Bahamut, is voiced by the brilliant Stephanie Beatriz in The Legends of Vox Machina. Headstrong and a little bloodthirsty, she is renowned for her adventuring in the thirty years before the show begins. In canon, she is shown to be attracted to women; Grog’s attempts at enticing her fall very flat indeed, and eventually, she marries Lady Allura Vysoren of the Tal’Dorei Council. How this will be shown in The Legends of Vox Machina remains to be seen, but as one of the show universe’s most loved characters outside of the main party, Critters can’t wait to find out!

Lady Allura – Bisexual

Critical Role Productions/Titmouse Inc. and Amazon Studios

Voiced by Indira Varma, Lady Allura Vysoren is a human wizard famed throughout Tal’Dorei for her powers. The former adventurer is a member of the Council of Tal’Dorei. Kind and loyal, she is shown in Critical Role to have a devoted and romantic relationship with Lady Kima. The two of them marry later in the show.

The Legends of Vox Machina has only given us 12 episodes so far, but with the built-in LGBT+ representation that Critical Role gives and the unabashed adult theming of the animation so far, queer fans certainly have high hopes for what they might get in season 2.

To keep an eye on news for the next season, don’t forget to follow Nerds and Beyond!

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