A photo from The Last of Us Part II of characters Ellie and Dina about to kiss.

Three Fictional Pride Icons

By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor

With June coming to an end, major events such as the second wave of COVID-19 and racial tensions are hot topics on our minds.

However, we mustn’t forget that June is also the month of Pride and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community will further contribute to the civil rights movements prevalent today, which work against discrimination and brutality based on race or sexual preference.

With that said, the following is a list dedicated to the fictional, yet most prominent Pride role models expanding LGBTQ+ representation in the media. I account in this article for both the relatability of the character to LGBTQ+ members, as well as the perceptual influence their depiction had on the general public.

Ellie and Dina in The Last of Us Part II on a bed talking.
Ellie and Dina in The Last of Us Part II. Screenshot by Andrea Mau.
  1. Last of Us Part II– Ellie

If you’re even the slightest bit interested in video games, you’ve probably been spending the last weekend held up in your room playing The Last of Us Part II (2020). The much-anticipated sequel to The Last of Us, received even greater attention when beloved lesbian protagonist, Ellie, was confirmed to have a female love interest in the new game.

The Last of Us Part II has been released as of June 19th and the widespread consensus is that the romance does not disappoint. Ellie is a revolutionary character in gaming for her courageousness.

Best known for her badass yet vulnerable personal growth within the popular apocalyptic series, Ellie has cemented herself as one of the most memorable characters of all time. 

Ellie is likable to viewers not just for her cheesy humor, but for her relatability and realistic representation of the LGBTQ+ youth. Just like any relationship, both Ellie and her new girlfriend, Dina, bring their unique abilities and disabilities to the mix.

In this most recent addition to the series, Ellie must face not only the problem of zombie hoards but the many challenges facing LGBTQ+ relationships in a unique horror setting.

Dil in The Crying Game.
Dil in The Crying Game. Image by Andrea Mau via screenshot.
  1. The Crying Game– Dil

The Crying Game (1992) directed by Neil Jordan shocked audiences at the time of its release with a major twist involving one of its main characters, Dil, turning out to be transgender. Now this twist is known as one of the very best and famous aspects of the film and is the source of praise as well as disapproval.

The film broke boundaries by presenting Dil as an alluring, mysterious woman capable of seducing a straight IRA agent. When Dil reveals her secret, she not only fooled the agent up to that point but the viewers as well.

The couple’s already forbidden relationship grows more complicated, and yet the agent still can’t help but love Dil.

This film’s portrayal of a trans-black woman shatters the homophobic stereotypes and traits associated with trans people at the time and now. Dil proves trans women are individually beautiful and can be desired as a woman by a man just the same as any other “normal” relationship. 

Shug dressed up in the movie adaption of The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
Shug in the movie adaption of The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Image by Andrea Mau via screenshot.
  1. The Color Purple- Shug

The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker is a critically acclaimed book, winning the first Pulitzer Prize for Fiction by a black woman author. Although the book is centered mainly around the abuse and racism of the early 1900s, homosexuality is also introduced by supporting bi character, Shug.

Some who have read the book would argue that Celie is a better case for an iconic queer character as the main character of the novel. However, Shug is arguably a better role model for LGBTQ+ issues because she mentors Celie through her sexual and religious discoveries.

Shug may act as a bit of a player through-out the book, but there is no doubt that she is unapologetically black, queer, and spiritual. Her attitude to stand up against abusers inspires Celie and readers alike and stirred plenty of controversy after the book’s release.

By no means does this article fully cover the complexities of each of these queer characters’ representations in their mediums or the backlash in response to them, but it’s a start and provides useful recommendations.

All of these characters are iconic for broadening the horizon of LGBTQ+ representation in their unique way. It’s hard to find a queer character in any entertainment, let alone a great queer character. Please support these stories to expand queer voices in the entertainment industry and on creative projects.

Featured image by Andrea Mau via screenshot.

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