These Man-Shaped Beings Are Gay and There’s Nothing Neil Gaiman Can Do About It (A Good Omens Primer)

In the near present you, dear Nichers, will likely be seeing a lot about the BBC/Amazon mini-series of Good Omens. You probably already have—it’s actually a little scary how many non-internet people I know who’ve asked me if I’ve heard about “this new show” like I don’t have every page of the novel inscribed in my brain forever. There’s just a few quick things I, a longtime and vocal fan of the novel, want to make sure everyone knows before it begins.

  1. Good Omens is a book by Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the apocalypse, published in 1990.
  2. It is a terribly funny book.
  3. It is also deeply moving.

But all this is besides the point, because, most importantly:

  1. It is gay.

Yes, yes, the kid Antichrist and his friends are cute, there’s some very clever Douglas Adamsian narrative, and friendship saving the day always gets me a teary-eyed, but let’s be clear: I’m here for the angel and demon in love, as are at least half of us, judging by the AO3 stats.

And honestly, dear Nichers, that’s what you’re here for, right? To know if it’s gay? Well congratulations to you.

Let us also be clear what I mean when I say, “It is gay.” I mean that it is accidentally textually true. It’s not reading between the lines to say that Crowley and Aziraphale love each other, it’s just reading the goddamn lines. That’s what I mean when I say it’s gay: maybe the authors didn’t necessarily mean it that way, but it sure as hell isn’t just subtext.

(Take, for example, the fact that angels and demons are “sexless” (read: genderless) unless they make an effort. Did Neil and Sir Terry, circa 1989, really mean to write two agender characters? I mean, kind of, but not the way we think of it today. Are they still both agender? Yes.)

We could get into Word of God, Powers That Be semantic arguments, because yes, the sentence, “Crowley and Aziraphale are in love, by the way,” never appears in the book, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in the book, Neil, and that doesn’t mean it’s not gay. It’s not just “essentially” or “in a way” a love story (though the press has already whipped out that favorite framing), it genuinely, obviously is.

I have read my copies of Good Omens cover to cover many times; I have read Butler and Foucault (and, more to the point, Kristeva and Barthes. Intertextuality is your friend, kids). These old married occult forces are truly textual canonically gay, and I have the eighteen and a half page paper (not including five pages of cited works) to prove it.

I could get into the nitty gritty, but as a primer (spoiler-free for at least the show), here are five people who figured out that Aziraphale and Crowley are gay and one time Neil Gaiman was almost one of them.

1. Anathema Device

First, I would like to clear up some misunderstandings: Anathema is the one who hit Crowley’s car, not the other way around. For the uninitiated, there’s a scene halfway through the novel where Anathema Device, witch and professional descendent, is biking around in the dark and hits Crowley’s car (who, in her defense, is driving around with no lights). Crowley and Aziraphale then give her a ride home, and after a few minutes of trying to figure out why she’s getting odd vibes from the two of them, she figures it out pretty easily, thanks to banter. From the book itself:

There was definitely something very weird about them, she decided.

Aziraphale bowed again. “So glad to have been of assistance,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Anathema, icily.

“Can we get on?” said Crowley. “Goodnight, miss. Get in, angel.”

Ah. Well, that explained it. She had been perfectly safe after all.

There are a number of aspects of Good Omens you could apply that age-old maxim, “If not for gay reasons, then why?” to, but this one takes the cake. Anathema’s entire character is that she knows what’s up. The first thing we learn about her is that she’s always been incredibly bright and “more psychic than was good for her” on account of her great-great-great-great-great grandmother being a prophet. She knows. I can’t keep talking about this or I’ll start screaming, right here, in my place of work, but I really need you all to know this is like God Himself saying they’re gay.

2. Whoever cut this trailer

Dear editor, please tell me you knew what you were doing. Please tell me you knew the power you held in your own two hands when you decided to slap “You’re My Best Friend” over top of that montage, that you knew it was a love song when you made that choice. (Editor, did you also put them under the clip of Anathema, talking about the man she’s prophesied to have world-saving sex with, saying, Everything is all leading me here. Now. With you,” while Buddy Holly sings about love like yours?) Was that you, Neil? Lurking in the background? Are you trying to tell me, after all this time, you too believe? Why not just say it then? You have that power, Neil. You’ve made it very clear that this is your story and no one else’s. You can just say it.

Song choice aside, it’s insane (though somewhat gratifying) that largely every bit of promo (and, apparently, the show itself) is about these two. They’re hardly in the book; by incredibly liberal estimates, either Aziraphale or Crowley is present for 3776 lines in the novel, or 111 of the 369 total pages in the 2007 HarperCollins edition (where a page is 34 lines). Their joint storyline (again, joint, because they never really do anything without each other) is barely a third of the book, and only 60 of those 111 pages have both. (I did math for you, I’m committed to my craft.)

Conversely, they’re everywhere, out here in the real world. Everywhere. The trailer? Aziraphale and Crowley. That fanart-esque Comic Con poster? Aziraphale and Crowley. The photos on IMDb? For many months, simple two shots of Neil Gaiman, and then all Aziraphale and Crowley. The little featurette teaser? Well, I guess Jon Hamm gets to say a sentence. I honestly still couldn’t tell you what the kids look like, and I only know Frances McDormand is playing God because I imprinted on Fargo as a child. I believe recently we saw Anathema’s face? I could tell you little else. Even the interviews ostensibly about the entire show and not involving either of their actors end up being about how Aziraphale and Crowley are “the real heart” of the show. It’s either a conspiracy formed to torment and taunt me, or people are starting to tune into the fact that they are the real heart of the story, and that heart is their hearts.

But someone out there is sitting in a production bay with handful of Queen songs and an endless pile of raw footage fodder for their fanvids, and to them I say: leak it, comrade. Take one more for the team. Give the people what they know in their hearts of hearts to be true. Or, at least, give us “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” in blazing quality. Please, I beg you. Send us a sign.

3. Michael Sheen

Did you know Michael Sheen (not Martin Sheen, no matter how many times I accidentally type that) not only has been a fan of Good Omens since 1990 but also has been out here reading fanfiction the entire time? Yeah, he sure has, and the whole time. He knows what’s up.

And it gets worse! In another interview, he said, “over time, they have come to an agreement. And then that agreement is turned to a friendship and that friendship is maybe turned to something even more deep that they can’t really talk about, I guess.”

It’s… a lot, for sure, but having read the book, I know he knows it ends with them just a little bit able to talk about it (albeit in incredibly circuitous ways), so maybe, perhaps, let’s talk about the love? Can we talk about the love? Please, Mac, I’ve been dying to talk about the love with you all day, okay?

Actors listening to how fans react to their characters and letting that inform their acting choices is actually kind of awesome. (Here’s looking at you, Burn Gorman and Charlie Day. You’ve had my back since day one and I appreciate that.) When not a late-night bit, it’s just people reading all relevant materials before coming to their own, well-informed reading of the character. You know. Like how forming opinions is supposed to work.

Sheen, however, more than just knows. He Knows.

In that same NYCC interview he says, in all earnestness, that every time he played Aziraphale he’d say to himself, “My objective in this scene is to not show you how much I love you and just gaze longingly at you all the time.”

That’s a bit farther than your average “actor who’s glanced over some fanfic” would go, but alright.

“There is a sort of wonderful love story in this.”


“…and it’s never explicit in this, but it’s there.”

Okay. That’s it. That’s what the rest of us have been out here preaching and saying. And then there’s…

4. David Tennant

…in the same interview, “But then Crowley absolutely loves Aziraphale,” and that they have “that sort of codepency and that kind of eternal relationship that has a mythical quality to it and yet is very human and very… mundane.” Which is ostensibly the premise of the book, right? (Everyone keeps saying it is, that they’re the “engine” of the plot, but again, guys, they’re barely in the book. 16%, guys. 16%.) It’s just… kind of a really gay way of putting it.

Now, at this point, I’m pretty certain that David Tennant wants me, personally, dead, but you know what? That’s fair. I probably deserve it. If you don’t semi-regularly fantasize that someone, anyone, will look at you the way Ten looked at Rose, you’re either delusional or weren’t a friendless geek in middle school.

Despite the godawful dye job and the increasingly baffling costume design choices (Crowley is supposed to look but not be cool, guys, you’ve failed step one), I hold onto the hope that just enough Tennant-ness will leak through to make Crowley the flailing over-enthusiastic geek so many of us have come to love.

More importantly, Tennant seems to also know what’s up:

It’s almost deeper than a friendship, because they’ve known each other for such a long time. For all of history. They’re almost like a marriage aren’t they? They’re two halves of the same being by the end of the story.

David. David. We know, buddy. We’ve all been there.

(Sidenote: that article is a crime in and of itself, but also: no more “(You know who you are.)” winks at shipping, please. Either stridently ignore our existence or engage with us on the level. Winks about the subtextual is two layers of implicitness too many.)

So, though I will put no more faith in straight white actors, I will put a little faith in Shakespeare Actor David Tennant because he’s in on it with the rest of us. It’s just nice to see them finally getting with the program a little.

5. Everyone else on the planet

To get a little personal:

When I first read Good Omens at the age of fifteen, I don’t know if I had ever read a book with a gay character in it. (Okay, wait, Pretty Little Liars, but those were so insane I think of them as a series of insane events rather than actual stories.) The only gay stories I’d seen were Glee, Torchwood, Welcome to Night Vale, and the reams of fanfiction I had consumed about other (decidedly straight) pieces of fiction.

But I read Good Omens, and… You remember that feeling when you first read Prisoner of Azkaban, and then Order of the Phoenix, and you knew, you just knew, there was something there in Remus and Sirius you didn’t quite get but nevertheless knew existed? And you started to figure it out, but then the next book came out and that whole thing with Tonks happened and you weren’t even disappointed because you couldn’t even process the concept, because obviously—?

I kept having that first feeling, vaguely waiting for the second part, but it never came. They fed the ducks, talked about the universe, and went off to lunch while that goddamn nightingale did its thing. I got to the end, and all the niggling bits (knowing that Freddie Mercury wasn’t straight, the fact that people who first meet Aziraphale think he’s gay and the only answer the narration gives is, “well, not quite,” that scene with Anathema, how he wanted to tell Crowley he ought to tell Heaven, “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” running through my head, dining at the Ritz, the Vera Lynn/Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett chimera voice adding that they were angels) were still there, never shot down.

Shipping them, then, felt wrong—or at least, not quite right. It was no longer defiance in the face of authorial intention, it didn’t feel, nor was it going along with the few gay romances fiction had given me thus far.

And then, as is my wont, I logged onto Tumblr, just to see if there was anyone else out there who’d read this book, let alone had the same unsettled feeling about these two. There were, hm, I wanna say three people? Something thereabouts, and miraculously they all felt the same, and they had a bit of an answer.

They told me, “Yes, there was no hamfisted heterodenial, no “no homo” tacked on at the end, and you know why that is? They’re gay.”

I spent over three months carefully submersed in the Good Omens fandom¹ for my research paper, and I watched everyone doing what they always had and more. What it came to was that this isn’t just fans being fans, with their transformative works and the like. What they’re doing is reading the book (maybe even more carefully than the writer himself) and coming up with a ship that’s not just adapting the text, but just plain understanding it. Just like the translators who always, somehow, end up making it gayer (my favorite being the French’s “Allez, mon ange, monte.”) are only reading the book know that it’s gay. Just like that Michael Sheen and that editor and Anathema are working with the material they’re given and know that it is gay. How much independent verification before it’s no longer a question? I’d say about this much. I’d say, again, it is gay.

¹ As opposed to my less careful, career five and a half years.

+1. Neil Gaiman

I know I said “one time,” but by now you should have realized that I can never promise brevity. Instead, I will provide a list of all the times Neil Gaiman (and Sir Terry as, though I’m wary of speaking critically of the dead, even they aren’t sure who wrote what) almost almost almost figured it out.

  • First off, the conceit of “two people who are supposed to be enemies but something draws them to each other and it turns out they’re more similar to each other than they are the people they’re supposed to side with” is inherently romantic (even Shakespeare knew that) and doubly so if it ends up that one of them literally runs into a burning building for the other
  • I know Aziraphale calls everyone “dear,” but the “Really, my dear,” gentle admonition when Crowley is dunking the ducks still should’ve tipped them off
  • “Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Two of these were wrong; Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets may have thought, and angels are sexless unless they really want to make an effort. But he was intelligent.”
  • Every time Shadwell calls Aziraphale a pansy
  • Again: When Anathema (who is able to see personalities in auras and generally is just very good at knowing things) thinks they’re gay
  • Honestly, even “somewhat fussy angel” feels egregious
  • Also when they mentioned for no reason that Aziraphale has “elegantly manicured hands”
  • When whichever one of them it was wrote this specific grammatical structure to both conceal and convey the real meaning, saying everything by saying nothing (which, as we all know, is gay culture)
  • Every time Neil Gaiman wrote fanfiction of his own book that was only ever Crowley and Aziraphale
    • Turns out he even did it for the show, so it’s not like he’s forgotten
  • When he budged up the time period of the series and updated parts to reflect changing social norms (because you’ll give them cell phones, but you won’t say they’re in love?)
  • All the times he the “your reading is your reading” card while still flexing authorial power in still controlling the bounds of canon
  • When he put “lots of people have chosen, not unreasonably, to ship [Crowley] with Aziraphale” in writing where the whole world could see it forever
    • And then when he went on to say that even if he were to “Pronounce on things not explicitly stated in the book” they wouldn’t be canon, even though he’s Pronouncing on things all over the place for the series anyway (and for updating and gay reasons as well!)
      • Honestly, at any point in that post he could have figured it out. One light bulb moment and we could’ve welcomed him open arms.
  • For the sake of my mental health I won’t go too deep into it, but suffice to say: the South Downs thing. I mean, Neil, come on…
  • Many things since on his Tumblr, which assaults me daily as I wander the internet. It’s at every turn, really, and too many to properly catalog aside from just gesturing uselessly at his entire archive.

Am I saying that Neil Gaiman is homophobic? No. Am I saying he’s a bit cowardly and late to the party? Well… maybe. A little. Yeah, okay, that’s what I’m saying.

Look, it’s 2019. It’s been a long thirty years, especially for queer people, and despite all of it, at the very least, we now get to exist in the public sphere sometimes (not as often as we should) in slow-increasingly small transmutations of subtext into text. The world has changed, and Good Omens has been willing to change with it, so again, I just have to ask: if not for gay reasons, then why?

It’s no coincidence that so many of us have convergently evolved to the conclusion that yes, Crowley and Aziraphale are in love, and that love is really the heart of Good Omens. None of us (well, save Anathema) are psychic, but we knew, because it’s true. And so, dear readers, I welcome you to Good Omens, a book and TV series that (no matter what they may say) is gay.

36 thoughts on “These Man-Shaped Beings Are Gay and There’s Nothing Neil Gaiman Can Do About It (A Good Omens Primer)

  1. Gale says:

    i LOVE this and was wondering if you would be wiling to share a link your research paper? i’d be fascinated to read it!

    i wanted to add a few more clear indicators of divine and demonic love because i am bubbling over with how gay these two are (please excuse my rambling). to follow on from your point about whoever edited the trailer, i’d also like to present a GLAAD award to whomever edited the blitz/church/nazi mark gatiss scene, the post-apocalypse-pre-coach scene (“You can stay at my place. If you like”), the post-swap scene, the 60s bit in the car, and the ritz scenes. i feel like there are more scenes where soft romantic classical music plays while the camera zooms in on their absolutely smitten faces but i probably blacked out during them due to the sheer, potent, homosexual energies.

    (i read this on tumblr, i’m not sure where it originated) BUT! the line about Crowley being able to do weird things with his tongue?? why was that necessary, Misters Gaiman and Pratchett, if not to.. you know… insinuate.

    another shout out to A&C for having not one, not two, but THREE ‘break-up’ scenes in the show, with one even being acknowledged by a clearly gay-coded passerby (“I’ve been there. You’re better off without him.”)

    also! that time when Gaiman went deep into the ineffable husbands tag, lurked for a bit, and replied to a text post bemoaning that Zira reads/does the crossword of the Telegraph due to its right-wing views. and conveniently ignoring the former half of the text post which is Very Clearly About these supernatural beings being Homosexuals! they don’t call him Neil “hate crimes’ Gaiman for nothing i suppose.

    anyway Thank You for this it is beautiful !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keaton Coleman says:

      thank you!!! you’re very welcome! I’ve actually not watched the show yet, this was written before it came out, but I know the david arnold score is going to rob me blind so if the tongue line (whose criminality has only increased with every time I’ve read a fic referencing it) made it into the show too I’ll truly riot. already the glimpses of michael sheen’s gentle face on a ten second loop I’ve seen on tumblr over and over are enough to put me into cardiac arrest lmao

      I don’t know if wordpress comments take html but you can read my paper here: & I’d love to hear what you think!


    • Keaton Coleman says:

      the amount of times fifteen year old me repeated the “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide” bit to themself can never compare to the reparations gaiman owes me for the sheer amount of homophobia directed at aziraphale in that book tbh

      Liked by 3 people

  2. glitterary (@glitterary) says:


    It’s been a while since I read the book but it always seemed to me that Aziraphale and Crowley are inherently queer–not just because they clearly love each other very deeply (and everyone can see it and often comments on it), but also in the way that their personalities and relationship reject the expectations put on them by heaven and hell respectively. They’ve built their own little community.

    But I also want to second the shout-out to Martin Sheen, because his portrayal of Extremely Gay And In Love Aziraphale is a delight. You can see the moment he realises he goes oh shit, I’m in love and there are so many beautiful little moments like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Peace & Love says:

    “If anyone decides that The Relationships in Their Fanfiction Are the Only True Fanfiction, it seems to me they are missing the point. The point is Fanfiction exists so that you can imagine, enjoy and fill in the gaps. The point is that you can change things and have fun with them. And the stories are absolutely true… for you.”
    -Neil Gaiman

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keaton Coleman says:

      “At a certain point stating that you, the author, are dead as your only response to fairly-leveled criticism (ex. people pointing out that adding new ‘homoerotic subtext played as a joke’ while continuing to dismiss queer readings as ‘individual interpretation’ comes off as homophobic) fails; it becomes not an encouragement of intertextuality and fan engagement but a cop out when it comes to actual allyship, coming across less as ‘its up to interpretation’ and more along the lines of ‘its only in your head, and only ever will be’ with every blanket repetition.”


    • Keaton Coleman says:

      also I’m not really talking about fanfiction! you can read my paper (linked in a comment above, I’m on my phone atm, sorry) but I’m actually talking abt a straightforward reading rather than any filling in of gaps: affirmative, rather than transformative. (looking back this may come off as aggressive/defensive, but I definitely don’t mean it that way! simply explaining)


  4. Gabriel Antonio says:

    I just finished the Amazon series without knowing there was a novel before I was born (blame my rural teenage context), and the love vibes are undeniable the whole time. Actually, the doubt about the untold romance is what brings me here, and I completely agree to your great analysis.

    But I’m a little curious about the paragraph where you mention Kristeva and Bartes, and Foucalt and Butler. Can you please give me a hint about what happened with them or what’s their story? As I am getting into social studies for my masters, I do not know much about them.

    Thanks and cheers from Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keaton Coleman says:

      hi! first, the book is wonderful, so I’d definitely recommend reading it if you can, it’s incredibly funny and touching no matter how many times I read it.

      so those authors are ones I used in my research paper that this was based on (which you can find if you scroll back further in the comments). okay, actually the butler and foucault bit was an age old inside joke, but they’re still fine authors. my paper was about intertextuality and how (good omens) fans use more “scholarly” textual analysis as well as the regular fannish work to create a gay canon where there wasn’t one intended. I used terminology from julia kristeva and roland barthes, two prominent literary theorists from france in the 60s who did a lot of foundational work on intertextuality (“death of the author” comes from barthes). so, for example, I used kristeva’s term “reading-writing” which describes how readers come to a work with their own understanding of symbolism, etc, and how that works especially for queer fans reading queer coded work (where there can be more than one set of symbols working).

      michel foucault is another theorist from the same era, who I mainly used in this paper in the context of another writer (kristina busse, a fan studies academic, also a founding editor of the academic journal by the same people who run archive of our own! I read her book framing fan fiction, it was super interesting). foucault has written on, like, everything under the sun—prisons and medicine and the history of sexuality and language—but in this context I was focused on how he frames the death of the author in a social and historical context, so the author is a “historical, political, national, social, gendered, and sexed being” who writes and is read in context rather than either dismissed outright or treated as a god.

      (judith butler I just read a lot of in general, but she’s one of the best known & foundational gender theorists. super hard to read, but well worth it. gender trouble is her best known work, but in general she writes about the performativity of gender, how and where and why it is created, etc.—also interesting in the context of good omens, where gender for angels & demons have is explicitly an effort! something I also think about a lot lol)

      anyway I hope that’s a helpful starting point; I wouldn’t necessarily outright endorse everything all these authors say, but they’re v generative for me (though that may be because I’m an english major and thinking about reading and language is all I do anyway lol). good luck with your masters!


  5. Lorelei says:

    so here I was last night waiting for my heavy duty sleep meds to kick in when I decided i NEEDED to look up if I was reading too much into Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in the show (I had already always wondered this when I was reading the book as a teenager and couldn’t work it out lol), which lead me to your post… cue me at 3am saying out loud “you know what?? THEY’RE RIGHT AND THEY SHOULD SAY IT”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hek says:

      The fact that you were wondering to begin with hammers home the fact that this isn’t the revolutionary queer rep and “love story” too many Gaiman fans are treating it as.


  6. oetpay says:

    all the romantic subtext in the TV series including the ones sheen and tennant are talking about came directly from Gaiman’s brief. All his tweets since the show are in defence of it being a romance plot.

    Is it possible you’re misreading a scattering of offhand blog comments when you rate what they say over the thirty year passion project that contradicts them?


    • Keaton Coleman says:

      I won’t say impossible because that would be foolish; I will say, however, that first I’m not arguing that there’s no romantic subtext—there’s a ton of it, I know, in both novel and show, and in the show I would even go so far as to say it’s intentional—and second that it’s more complicated than “a scattering of offhand blog comments”. what you see here is a (comical!) distillation of a research paper I wrote last fall, which itself was a culmination of over four months of research as well as my own experience in the good omens fandom since 2013. to say it’s cherry picking or anything like that just isn’t true: over the years it’s been pretty clear that aziraphale & crowley were not written as a romance and neil gaiman in particular has never seen them as such (with the eventual caveat of “but you can read it however you want, I suppose”).

      his remarks since the show has aired, yes, tell a different story, but like I said I find it, frankly, a cowardly one. to me it feels like an attempt to play both sides, like saying: I will gladly take the woke points and say sure, this character is non-binary, these two are gay if you want, but I won’t let them say or do anything in canon to confirm that so if homophobes want they can continue to ignore it or say it’s not there at all. to me, having seen his public stance on a/c play out in real time both before and after the show was written, let alone aired, that intent for it to BE a romance isn’t there. the intent for it to SEEM a romance? absolutely, but that’s a different story. the show may very well be the culmination of a thirty year passion project (I mean, it’s not necessarily, I think framing it that way makes it seem like a constant grind over three decades which it historically wasn’t) but that culmination is not an intentionally textual romance; it’s still only subtext to the author with the burden on the reader to treat it as text, as I said.

      as for the actors, I lay nothing at their feet. tbh I’m still not sure where I stand on “actors saying extratextually that they were playing it as a romance (whether it was written or not)” because on onehand it excuses the above described wishy washy “”representation”” with built in plausible deniability, but I also understand that they can’t necessarily control the plot, their lines, etc. in a kind of “resistance within the discourse rather than the impossible liberation from” foucault way.

      TL;DR: it’s a handful of comments versus a handful of comments either way, but the difference between subtext & text is what I’m talking about and I still only find the former as intentional


  7. Amanda Pike says:

    This is literally the first thing that comes up now when you Google Neil Gaiman and the word Gay so I felt someone should speak the truth.

    Context is your friend. Neil does NOT deny the characters are in love. He just doesn’t feel the word gay applies because they only present as male. Neil’s angels (check Sandman for confirmation) don’t have reproductive organs unless they will it. He also went on to say that a male and female presenting angel in a relationship would not be straight. Again, context is your friend.

    I wish this fad of righteous rage would end already… The GLAAD award winning author who gave us American Gods (and the gay Djinn) doesn’t deserve this.


    • Keaton Coleman says:

      context IS your friend, and I’d ask you to read again what I’ve written, which first was written before gaiman really started his convoluted no homoing in the guise of gender equality and second argues against that kind of extratextual word of god confirmation. as you can see above, the point is not what he does or doesn’t deny on twitter or wherever (sidebar: “does NOT deny” is incredibly weak justification) but what can be found by readers in the text without awaiting instructions from the author-god.

      the equation of non-binary-ness and desexualized alien/angels/robots/etc is something I, a non-binary person, personally want no part in, but even then that… has nothing to do with this. I feel like quoting the narnia movies right now: do not cite the Deep Magic to me, I was there when it was written. I’m fully aware of what the book says about making an effort, as I am aware that the book (which is what I am mainly concerned with) then demonstrates that they have made a gendered effort, referring to them both with he/him pronouns and describing them as men and man-shaped beings of the world. they are men, regardless of “reproductive organs” just as trans men are men, and if they are in love, they are gay (or queer or whatever, though there’s no evidence of them having any attraction to anyone else and aziraphale in particular (though crowley as well, from shadwell) is victim of a LOT of homophobia, specifically as a gay man). the equation of genitals with gender is transphobia at its finest, and just because an author has won an award for something doesn’t mean they’re immune from criticism or, even, correct. I would also caution you against using sandman as a paragon of trans representation, as there are a number of issues with how it portrays trans women in particular (which you can find discussion of elsewhere on the internet).

      this isn’t a righteous rage; this is someone who has been a fan of gaiman’s work for over a decade leveling genuine, detailed criticism of his actions. I guess by not worshiping at his feet I’m lying? someone bring me my lighter, I have pants to set alight.


    • Hek says:

      “The GLAAD award winning author who gave us American Gods (and the gay Djinn) doesn’t deserve this.”

      Being called cowardly in his queer rep or trying too hard to please both camps is hardly some horrific unforgivable accusation from which his honour will never recover, and the likes of which he doesn’t deserve. Get some perspective. How the hell do you even read “rage” into a calm, mildly disgruntled essay like that, anyway?


  8. madfashionista says:

    Excellent post! However, Gaiman did point out on his blog that the word f/ggot was in a book 30 years ago and that he has evolved somewhat. (Not an exact quote because I can’t locate the post right now). I haven’t read the book but have only seen the series.


    • Keaton Coleman says:

      whichever post you’re referring to (I can think of a couple off the top of my head) I’ve undoubtedly seen lol, and I agree that it’s good he’s evolved in that way at least—although from what I hear they left in at least one g*psy and, to be honest, the added moments of people thinking they’re together makes me wary all over again. my grief is with the fact that they took pains to change that, and to add more ~subtext, but still stopped short of just going for it. two more steps further and I would’ve been fine. …and also less lines easily seen as jokes about isn’t it funny how everyone thinks they’re gay pls.

      (it was twice in the book btw, once a kid at the birthday party levels it at aziraphale and the other newt uses it in the olde witchfinder bundle of sticks meaning but an american soldier takes it in the homophobic way. both good deletions! gold star for effort, neil.)


      • madfashionista says:

        Interesting! What do you think the next two steps should have been?

        I dwell in a few fandoms (the sane ones, I hope). The GO explosion has come in part because for once a male couple is shown as a couple. Not 100%, but enough that shippers can absolutely go nuts because the subtext is pretty much text.


      • Keaton Coleman says:

        my personal feeling is that if they were going to eventually claim it was written as a romance (which gaiman does, though his posts, etc leading up to it continued to insist a relationship between the two was merely fannish interpretation) they should have just made it explicit—take it out of the subtext and make it full on text. as it stands, the added nudges and subtext and so on read (to me, but to a fair number of others too) as hedging their bets: leaving plausible deniability for homophobes and so on while claiming to the receptive fans craving representation that they were on our side all along, wink nudge et cetera. I think if they knew they were going to say they wrote aziraphale and crowley as a romance that should be made clear in the text, with no room for interpreting otherwise, and no reliance on post hoc author comments. toss me some physical affection (which was abundant in the book and they cut?) or an “i love you” or two. no holds barred, baby!
        (which is not to say that subtle, nuanced gay stories shouldn’t exist, but in this specific case I think that knowing how the fans already reacted to the novel and taking the credit for such a great subtextual romance, if gaiman was going to make it text I would want it to be. actual text.)

        I too dwell in a few fandoms, one of them being GO, which I’ve been in since I read it uhhh almost six years ago? that sounds right. that’s the way the fandom’s always been, albeit on a smaller scale, and we’ve been going nuts with the subtext-that’s-pretty-much-text already lol. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that the series is a male couple shown as a couple (again, that plausible deniability bugs me) but yeah, of course (mostly queer) fans love finding material they can ship (again mostly queer). but to me the way the show was marketed and the way it’s been painted reads more as queerbaiting than just, y’know, promoting a story that happens to be queer. and I guess the abundance of new fans don’t share that issue but as one of the old guard (I guess? older, at least—I’ll save old for the early 2000s livejournal folks who came before me, and I mean that lovingly) I had higher expectations for the new, supposedly improved 2019 edition.


  9. madfashionista says:

    My god, you are so brilliant. I wish this was the place for a lengthy, nuanced discussion of gay relationships/’queer-coded’ relationships in fandom! House/Wilson was all over the place, as was Boston Legal (although they got married in the end). My latest obsession has been Jeeves and Wooster. I’m cis het, as is my spouse, who shares my feelings (please don’t read that as “some of my best friends” etc.). The whole text/subtext/death of the author subject fascinates me.
    P.S. I’m an older (post 2010) LJ user so I’m not hep to the kid’s lingo. Forgive any mistakes.


  10. Visconti says:

    They are an angel and a demon. Neil Gaiman hasn’t ever shied away from their relationship – but he has stated that they aren’t gay in the /human/ sense, because they don’t actually have gender. They aren’t male or female – indeed Crowley has certainly presented as both genders on screen, once as Nanny Ashtoreth, and once in female attire at the crucifiction. They aren’t gay or straight or bi or anywhere else on the romantic spectrum. They are celestial entities in love, and both Pratchett and Gaiman have been very clear about that from the beginning. I don’t think it’s cowardly of the authors – if the characters were mortal, then no doubt they’d have labelled them as gay. They are not mortal, and we should stop trying to humanise them – and see them for what they truly are – beautifully written, powerful characters who love this world, and are struggling, rebelling against authority to avert the apocalypse.
    I’m just happy that the actors and the crew and the entire show embraced their love for each other. No need to define it in the human, mortal sense. As they would no doubt say – it’s Ineffable.


    • Hek says:

      ” No need to define it in the human, mortal sense.”

      That is your stance on it. Other people can disagree, and point out that it’s an awfully convenient one for a cis straight creator to take.


  11. Nate says:

    I think the book explains it pretty clearly:

    “Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Two of these were wrong; Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets may have thought, and angels are sexless unless they really want to make an effort. But he was intelligent.”

    So Aziraphale isn’t really gay, but plenty of people perceive him as such. The book just flat out says it. Just as he isn’t really English. None of the angels are straight, either. They’re essentially asexual, from a human perspective. Also, if Anathema knew everything, that would make for a really boring book, and her psychic powers don’t make her always right.

    Of course, the fact that their love isn’t romantic or sexual doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. People love their parents, platonic friends, and lovers in all different ways, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Also, I’m sure Neil Gaiman approves of any fanfiction you want to read or write about them and thinks it’s valid. But the characters are pretty explicitly without sexuality.


    • Hek says:

      “Inherently asexual, from a human perspective”

      I’m asexual, and I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      I don’t understand these convoluted attempts to shield Neil from criticism behind such vague things as “Love is love, and there are different types of love!” Yes, everyone is aware of that. It’s still bad optics when you adapt out scenes of tenderness/acting like an old married couple but add “mistaken for gay” jokes as a source of comedy, and challenge your Twitter followers to hunt down the scene where they hold hands (as if the book didn’t already have an extremely climactic scene of them taking each other’s hands as they prepare to face Lucifer that you also adapted out).

      Cowardly is the best word for it. No, it doesn’t mean he’s a terrible person. But let’s not hide behind “It’s love, it doesn’t NEED to be shown explicitly to count 🙂 ” as if we’re not a mere ten years away from explicitly queer couples being taboo in children’s television, shall we?


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