Once the question occurred to me, it completely changed how I looked at the Fables universe. Instead of enjoying the series, as I had for the most part the first time I read it last year, I was suddenly and irrevocably sadden by the realization that I had yet to run into a LGBT character while trying to re-read and then catch up on past Fables issues for the last two weeks.
See, I can’t quite afford to buy The Wolf Among Us yet. What I thought I’d do instead, then, was re-read those issues and volumes I did have of Fables and then completely catch up to the current story. Having really gotten into them last year, I knew the basic ideas and remembered most of the overall plot and characters. This was to be a refresher of how these worlds and their (often loose) rules worked.
But then I was hit with the episode of Once Upon A Time two episodes ago and it got me thinking. After all, I’ve been a shipper for a Mulan/Aurora relationship for awhile. I wanted that back when we met them during “Broken” (2×01) and was thrilled, if not equally annoyed, at the fairly recent “Quite a Common Fairy” (3×03) partial admission of feeling between Mulan and Aurora. And if Disney and ABC can do it, why can’t Fables?
Of course, I’m skipping a few steps here.
When I first thought of the question several days ago, I immediately went into denial. There has to be at least one, right? I mean, I thought to myself, somewhere there is a gay or lesbian character. Has to be. This is a universe of magic and people can change forms. Transgender has to be in there somewhere too. We are, after all, talking about the entirety of Fable mythology from Eastern to Western tales crossing hundreds if not thousands of years of stories re-imagined into this shared Fables universe.
Although I admit to not having read Jack of Fables, Fairest, or 1001 Nights of Snowfall, I couldn’t find much to answer the question fully. Even after a great deal of research, the closest I’ve come is notes on a romance between Rapunzel and Tomoko (a Kitsune, “fox”) as part of one issue in one story within Fairest. But that doesn’t amount to much. In the thousands of pages across multiple series, one possibly bisexual character. One?
And even after catching up to issue #133 (latest is #134, I’m one behind) recently, I haven’t seen anything to change this. In fact, the longer I’ve thought about this, the more it has become annoying me. In all of these worlds, in stories with talking animals and fantastic worlds, there doesn’t seem to be any gay or lesbian characters. Maybe there is bisexual character in Rapunzel. Maybe.
For as many stories about people being transformed into animals, objects and even plants, both purposefully and in some cases against their will, transgender doesn’t come up at all either. For a universe populated (and possibly due its existence) by magic, switching genders hasn’t come up at all. Neither has gender performance either.
I find this in particular frustrating for the simple fact there is an entire story line of Rodney and June who, having been made Wooden Soldiers (think Pinocchio), seek out their creator to become who they were meant to be. Finally, they are made human (with the price that they act as spies) and even have a child together. Theirs and other stories of a similar nature (of which there are many) provide the perfect framework to show transgender in a good light.
The universe of Fables seems to both poke at but ultimately support a very medieval worldview. There has to be a king ruling a kingdom. Queens must make the decisions. Even with the voting for a president of Fabletown within the early issues, even that form of republican government is set aside for war-time leading. Those with power determine the fate of others. One ring to rule and all that.
And with this emphasis on such Western stories comes the encoding of its ideals too. Divine right and, even without naming it as such, ‘Christian’ rules sneak into the text. Even if not expressed as such, there is a very present systemic pressure to the worlds. Characters must perform their roles and live out as told. Norms of sexuality and even beauty (see Mrs. Sprat to Leigh) are heavily enforced.
Yet, and this is what keeps me looking if not always hoping, there are so many storylines about overcoming your birth or original places in society (Cinderella and most others). Cross-species romances (i.e. Snow White and Bigby) are even possible and accepted. But not LGBT characters. At least, that is, not yet.