“Orphan Black” is a sci-fi series that saves LGBT lives


And now an LGBT news update from last weekend’s 2014 Comic-Con convention in San Diego. I know…Comic-Con, LGBT news, last weekend…surely you jest. But no, this two day bonanza of elaborate cosplay and overzealous fandom did yield some relevant takeaways.

Case in point: “Orphan Black,” a sci-fi series on BBC America. I must admit, I’ve only ever read about this show; I’ve never watched it. And more precisely, I’ve only ever read about the lead actress’s (Tatiana Manslay) virtuosic ability to play thirteen different clones. There is a larger and darker subplot involving planned assassinations of said clones by the biotech corporation that created them, but let’s not go down that road.

The intriguing part of the show is that one of the clones Maslany plays is Cosima, an openly gay character. When Entertainment Weekly asked her about this character—and another named Felix, who is also gay—Manslay replied: “Yeah, that one means a lot to Jordan [Gavaris, the actor who plays Felix] and I both. I’m honored in any way to speak to [the LGBT]community…We sort of embrace the idea of every human having the potential to be anything, and I think that opens the door for all kinds of dialogue about sexuality and about gender.”

Manslay went on to say the role was exciting because it allows her to portray LGBT characters in a way that’s respectful. “And I don’t mean respectful in the sense of martyrdom. I mean respectful in the sense of flawed, complex performance and characters,” she said.

The real tearjerker at Comic-Con came during a panel discussion when a fan prefaced her question with this: “Before I started watching the show, I was really in the closet and I was totally ashamed of who I was. I hated myself. I started watching the show and seeing Cosima and seeing everything is not about her sexuality and that she is more than her sexuality.”

The fan explained that watching the show with her parents encouraged them to be more accepting of her sexuality. “You’re saving lives. That’s what you did for me,” she told Manslay and the rest of the “Orphan Black” cast.

Who knew that a BBC sci-fi series could save lives? 

To be fair, “Orphan Black” is actually filmed in Canada, and the cast mostly hails from our great neighbor up North. Gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 1999. Actor Jordan Gavaris says, “We’re in a different place than the United States right now, from a civil rights standpoint…on television now we find a lot of characters are being portrayed in a very politically correct way where they have great jobs and they aren’t effeminate. These are seen as the right way to do it. But that’s not necessarily fair. It’s not fair to the side of the community that doesn’t look like that.”

So hats off to “Orphan Black” for opening eyes and changing minds. And hats off to Canada for being so progressive—and an ideal place to unleash clones. Just for that, we agree not to deport Justin Bieber just yet.

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