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Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

Welcome to Night Vale

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




"A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."

As someone who spends a lot of time on tumblr, I had seen many people discussing a bizarre podcast. There were mentions of dog parks and hooded figures and a horrible place called Desert Bluffs everywhere, and soon enough my curiosity got the better of me. This incredibly strange production seemed like something I should listen to, so I did.

I listened to episode 1 at night, and then forced myself to wait until the following day to listen to anymore. I needed some sleep, after all. Over the next couple of weeks I rationed myself to two episodes per day. It would have been so easy to blast through every episode of this odd, fascinating, sometimes creepy show in one go, but it was too good for that.

The writing is perfectly on point. Lying in the darkness, some episodes should just be terrifying, but always when it reaches that point something happens to make you laugh, or smile, or want to squeal with delight. The story is complex and slowly emerging; listening back now to the first few episodes I can see things unravelling and unwinding. Tiny mentions of relevant characters, hints of the role that some people will have to play, small details that inform where the story is now and where it might go in the future.

There is also the fact that the world is so recognisable as our own, but so twisted and spun around and tweaked. You can identify with the characters and the setting, and see some normalcy in it, but at the same time everything is just so different. A five headed dragon and a faceless old woman run against each other for mayor, the council spends billions of pounds on an invisible, teleporting clock tower, there's a city of tiny people living under the pin retrieval area of the local bowling alley, and street cleaning day strikes terror into the hearts of the local residents (as does valentines day, incidentally).

It's a strange place, which sets the perfect background for the two characters at the heart of the story. Cecil (the esteemed radio host who narrates the story), is in love with beautiful, perfect Carlos the scientist, a newcomer to the town, and it is the least odd thing about the place. Nobody in the city bats an eyelid when Cecil waxes lyrical about Carlos on the radio, and it's a revelation.

It is a sad fact that in most fiction, whether it's a TV show, film, book or anything else, the presence of an LGBT character is usually not only a rare occurrence, but also a tokenistic one. When there is one around, if they aren't being used for comedy value, then they're often being pointed to as a shining example of how inclusive and forward thinking the show (or film or book) is. These characters are, upsettingly, often stereotyped, not given equal treatment, and are sometimes just there to be 'a gay character'.

Cecil Baldwin (the actor who is the voice of Night Vale's favourite radio host) recently talked about how when he was younger all the fiction where gay people were mentioned was defined by the fact that it was gay fiction, and it revolved completely around being gay. In explaining why Welcome to Night Vale is different he said: "here is something where being gay is just one aspect of a much larger world that we live in... Like, just one aspect of Cecil is his sexuality, and on top of that, in this crazy world of Night Vale, his sexuality and his relationship with another man is the least weird thing to happen on a daily basis."

The podcast includes a romance plot line, and it's treated just like every single other romance story that has ever been written. Cecil and Carlos, rather than being two gay men, are simply two people, and it's really rather refreshing. It shouldn't really be something that's difficult to do, but judging by the majority of fiction, it must be. Welcome to Night Vale shouldn't be achieving anything revolutionary, but it is, and on the days when I feel disillusioned and alone it not only provides an entertaining escape, but it also makes me feel that maybe there is hope.

There is hope that maybe in future the rest of the media will realise how easy it is to write gay characters that are so much more than just that, and there is hope that communities everywhere could one day move beyond the genders of couples that are part of them and support them all equally.

In the mean time, if you want an excellently written, inclusive, bizarre, funny, adorable podcast that will really make you feel something, Welcome to Night Vale can definitely be recommended. I defy you not to fall head over heels for this perfectly imperfect show.
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