There‘s no secret that queer representation in media is desperately lacking. Queer people want to see themselves in media that doesn’t kill off queer characters as soon as they appear. Someone has to pick up the slack, and that’s where “The Penumbra Podcast” comes in.
“The Penumbra Podcast” is a bi-monthly audio drama that has two main storylines and a few one-shots. My favorite storyline is that of Juno Steel. Steel is a jaded private investigator in Hyperion City, humanity's vast and corrupt city on Mars. Through his narration, we get to see him take on cases and go up against the criminal underworld, corrupt politicians and charming thieves.
The show perfectly weaves together the detective noir and science fiction genres. It turns tropes on their heads — as the podcast’s website says, "Your femme fatale might be an homme fatale."
Beyond the compelling story, what makes this podcast so incredibly special is how it fills the hole of LGBTQ representation. Audio dramas in general are great places to find representation, but “The Penumbra Podcast” is special. It‘s just so unabashedly queer that there is only one canonically straight person in the Steel universe.
Gender and sexuality are both very fluid in the show. Steel himself is bisexual and nonbinary, often refering to himself as a lady who falls for bad boys. This sort of nonbinary representation is hard to find even in the background of other media, but “The Penumbra Podcast” puts it front and center.
LGBTQ characters are movie moguls, master thieves, detectives, crime lords and plucky secretaries. It's not at all out of place for the mayor to use the gender-neutral honorific Mx. No one bats an eye when partners in crime are also girlfriends in crime.
It’s hard to find media that characterizes queer people as anything other than the token gay man. Being exposed to queer characters helps queer people better understand and explore their identity. With such a diverse lineup of queer characters, the podcast shows what a future of meaningful representation can look like.
“The Penumbra Podcast” is the best queer, trope-bending, science fiction, detective noir story you had no idea existed. It's a rich and entertaining story that defies stereotypes and proves that queer people can exist in any role of a narrative. Even after the third time listening to it, it still amazes me. Steel’s adventures gives me hope that someday such casual queer representation can be the norm.
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