Voltron: Legendary Defender showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos is aware the animated series' handling of Shiro's sexual orientation was not perceived by many as originally intended.
In an online statement through Santos' Twitter account, the executive producer explained the rationale behind how the Netflix series portrayed Shiro's relationship with Adam and the frustration fans felt how the show's first confirmed gay character was ultimately depicted. Santos' full statement is below:
If you've chosen to read this please know that due to the influx of DM's I've had in relation to season 7 I've had to make this an "open letter". I usually try and give an individual reply to anyone who takes the time out of their day to drop me a note but in this instance it's just not possible. Also know that the views in this letter are solely my own. I use the words "we" and "us" a lot. That should not reflect or infer how anyone else who I have shared an experience alongside perceived the situation.
First, I'd like to say we created this version of Voltron with the intent of being as inclusive as possible within the boundaries given. Are there still boundaries? Well, for this type of "action adventure/product driven/traditionally boys toys" the answer is unfortunately yes...Have those boundaries widened since we first started the show? Yes. Is there still a TON of room to grow? 100% YES. If we can find the positivity in any of this it's the fact that the "target audience" for whom animation is currently being created for is evolving and growing daily and along side it content and inclusivity is evolving as well...Maybe a bit slower than we'd like...But it's moving forward. In the months and years to come I think we'll see some truly awesome strides.
With regards to season 7 itself, if anyone for any reason took away from this season that our intention was to queer bait the VLD fandom I'd like to personally apologize. I can only speak to our intent and I can truly say we did not intend to bait anyone. I know that is not any consolation but it is the truth.
We were incredibly excited and proud when news broke (post SDCC) of Shiro being revealed as a gay man. The story of how eventually arrived at getting the green light to confirm Shiro and Adam is a tale we'll unfortunately have to tell another day. At any rate, the flashback story of Shiro being in a long term, committed relationship with Adam that ultimately came to a conclusion when Shiro decided to go on the Kerberos mission was the device we settled on to deliver that info to the audience. From a character perspective it served two purposes. The first set up Shiro's sexual orientation (obviously) and second, to demonstrate that Shiro was dealing with some heavier stuff long before he ever got wrapped up in this crazy alien conflict. The hope was that, that type of life experience and perspective would (hopefully) help reinforce Shiro's position as team leader beyond allowing the viewers to look back and see Shiro in a deeper light.
Likewise, from a purely story perspective, having Adam be a part of the garrison, and take part in Earths initial (ultimately futile) wave against the galra allowed us to step up the stakes in as simple a way as possible. From our POV, despite having Shiro and Adam split we knew seeing a familiar face bravely make the sacrifice along with the squadron he led (and countless others) would help get across the gravity of this invasion. We were aware of the "bury your gays" trope but hoped against hope that our struggle to confirm Shiro's orientation would take center stage here. We had not intended for Adam be interpreted as a recurring character or someone that would come back into Shiro's life. That is not me attempting to turn this around and place the burden of expectation on anyone. This is not an excuse. We crafted this entire series around the themes of sacrifice and loss and at the end of the day we have to take responsibility for our creative decisions. We knew people would be affected by the loss of Adam we just could not have predicted how profound that loss would be.
All of this of course comes with the understanding that VLD fans are an incredibly passionate lot. We are honored to have been embraced so tightly by the fandom, more specifically the LGBTQ segment of the fandom. Amongst the insanity of this war torn storyline (as well as the general levels of insanity going in on the real world around us) we really wanted this to be a moment of positivity. We're proud to say that the archetype of "battle hardened soldier" which for decades had been occupied by a pretty stereotypical "buffed out, heterosexual dude" was, in our show occupied by a LGBTQ man.
As the fandoms reaction to season 7 began to trickle in it was clear that a good number of folks were being adversely affected by our decision to kill off Adam. The reactions were varied with some expressing disappointment while some others were quite a bit higher on the emotional Richter scale. For that reason I attempted to lay low on social media as to not exacerbate the situation and allow cooler heads to eventually prevail. But my curiosity got the better of me and I was having a tough time keeping myself from looking at my phone. As the debate raged on and at times became more heated I gave into a combination of emotion and frustration and hit "like" on some of the arguments that I thought were shedding light on some elements of the POV I shared. In doing so, I not only did a complete 180 on what my intentions in laying low were (by further exacerbating the chaos) but also gave an unclear picture of exactly where I stood personally. And that was a pretty irresponsible and insensitive thing to do given my position...Basically it was a jerky move and for that I apologize as well.
On the flip side of this I do have to express my concern for how some in the fandom have chosen to express their frustration and who that frustration is being directed towards. It goes without saying that aggressive behavior (verbal or otherwise) is just not doing anyone any good. Taking out frustration (warranted or otherwise) on staff and/or the performers on the show is not the answer. Do they work on the show? Yes. Are they integral to shows high level of fidelity? Absolutely. Are they involved in the story decision making process? No. I'd also like to add that each and every one of them has been a champion for inclusivity and acceptance so I promise they are on your side. We're all human, we all get emotional and at times we lash out. But there is a much more constructive path to delivering that message than through aggressive behavior.
With regards to romance/relationships moving forward in the VLD universe (and without getting too spoilery). We've said from the beginning of this show that we did not intend for romance to be a major aspect of the series. That's not to say it won't be present, heck with 78 episodes it's virtually impossible to avoid. Characters evolve, grow closer, are seen and begin to see others in a new light etc. But I urge anyone rooting for one ship or another to not hang their hopes on that singular aspect of the show as I truly believe you run the risk of missing all the other really amazing things this show has to offer. That being said, don't let me saying that stop you from shipping these characters til the Kaltenecker's come home.
There is no way for me to take away the hurt some of you have felt with the loss of Adam and from a bigger perspective how we fumbled a potentially larger positive social message. What I can say is that we're riding an ever moving, fine line here and trying to navigate as best we can while still moving the conversation forward. We are incredibly proud of the strides we were able to make thus far. The fact that there is a vocal audience demanding for the conversation to be pushed farther and faster is ultimately an incredibly positive thing and a lesson we'll take moving forward.
Love and respect,
The first seven seasons of Voltron: Legendary Defender are available to stream on Netflix now. The eighth and final season of the popular animated series is expected to premiere by the end of the year.