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OPINION: Elliot Page’s Gender Transition Shouldn’t Be Inserted Into the Plot of 'Umbrella Academy'

Incorporating the actor’s coming out into the show does a disservice to fans

Netflix’s sci-fi superhero series Umbrella Academy dropped its long-awaited third season yesterday. It was announced in March that the actor playing Vanya Hargreeves (also called the “White Violin” and “Number Seven”) would return to the role as Viktor Hargreeves.

The decision to incorporate the character’s gender transition was meant to reflect Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, coming out as transgender four months after the release of the show’s second season in July 2020. Page’s transition began in the early stages of filming the third season, which posed a question to the showrunners: Can Page still play a female character?

The Umbrella Academy series is adapted from the comic written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame. The series ought to stay true to the characters Way created, even if writers take some liberties in the plot.

There is ongoing controversy surrounding actors playing transgender characters if they don’t identify as trans themselves. In 2018, Scarlett Johansson withdrew from a role playing a transgender man in the film Rub & Tug after receiving backlash for possibly excluding transgender actors from casting consideration.

But if transgender actors want fairness in casting decisions, it isn’t too much to ask that the character of Vanya continue being portrayed as a woman. Elliot Page identifies as a man in real life – that shouldn’t affect the actor’s ability to perform as the already established female character. Changing the storyline of Umbrella Academy to conform to the inconvenient timing of Page’s real-life coming out feels awkward and forced.

Page recently appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to talk about the reactions to coming out and how Umbrella Academy’s writers handled the actor’s new public image. The Canadian actor revealed that showrunner Steve Blackman “seemed really excited to incorporate it into the show,” and brought transgender author Thomas Page McBee on board to assist in writing Vikor Hargreeves’ transition into the script.

Page also joined co-star Emmy Raver-Lampman on Good Morning America yesterday. The 35-year-old said that the reaction to introducing Viktor Hargreeves has so far “seemed really positive, which makes me feel happy in terms of the representation and hopefully it meaning something to people.”

The audience for Umbrella Academy didn’t set the expectation for Hargreeves to represent all transgender people simply because the individual playing the role came out. Elliot Page and Steve Blackman appear more excited to signal solidarity with transgender viewers than produce an engaging story, which is unfortunate news for Netflix’s biggest independent superhero franchise since Marvel’s departure from the streaming platform. 

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