The Rumour Come Out. Does Varus Riot is Gay??
Twas few nights before Christmas (25 to be clear)
When the dev peeps of Riot, made something quite dear
Through the vid to the comics, their message was clear
In the year which we live in, Varus was queer;
Well not quite, for you see, in his new shiny Lore
It is now clearly stated that he’s two people more
Kai and his Valmar, those be the gays
Who then merged with the Darkin, through mysterious ways
To be fair, we can’t know
Of the Darkin’s own heart
For perhaps he too also
Likes his men tall and smart
(Or at least)
(Those he won’t tear apart)
So rejoice on this day!
When a step forth was made
For the game and the people
Who have long since League played
We hold hope that in future
They’ll be adding more queer
But for now we’ll be merry
And sing gaily with cheer
Alright, yes yes, I know I’m a month late but I just had to talk about the recent Varus story update (and the many many conflicting thoughts I have on it). So! After 8 years of the utmost straightest of heterosexualities (not counting the queer short stories during the Progress Day event), Riot has finally decided to include a champion who’s (66%) gay! And for a game with League’s reach and …uh, colourful community that is a huuuge deal. Even more huge is the overwhelmingly positive reception and support Varus’ new lore was met with, which will undoubtedly prove pivotal for future plans to include more queer characters in Runeterra. So, on that account at least, the new lore is a good thing! I mean sure it teeechnically plays into the very old, tired and hurtful “ Bury Your Gays” trope (or I guess “Bury and Soul-Merge your Gays?”) but we’ll get to that later.
For anyone who has yet to read the comics (seriously go read them now), Valmar and Kai are two beast hunters from Ionia who are just so in gay love you guys and I love them. In the first comic we see them making their way to Valmar’s home so he can introduce his lovely boyfriend (aka “Heartlight”) to his family. Also, as a sidenote, kudos to Riot for coming up with and using a gender neutral term for significant other (which they maybe could use for nb and genderqueer characters in the future, wink wink nudge nudge).
But anyway, there’s a temple and a Noxian invasion and Kai gets very badly murderfied and Valmar throws him in a big pool of water hoping that will somehow make everything better. And then they both get trapped inside a demon, ensnared in a constant state of anguish while desperately holding on to what little control they have by their fingertips. Fun stuff. Now, I understand that As We Fall resonated very strongly with a lot of people (including queer people) and that a lot of people uuuh… enjoyed? The love story of Kai and Valmar, despite its tragedy? But, even though I would definitely count myself as one of those people, I still take issue with Riot’s approach to adding queer characters. Not in a bitter, vitriolic-y way but in more of a “next time, please don’t murder the gays and trap them in a demon bow until they break” kinda way.
Generally speaking, having some entity mentally disassemble a queer couple on-screen so it can siphon their souls and merge into a creature of hate and vengeance, is arguably not the best way to handle your first two, canonically gay characters (again, not counting the Progress Day short stories). As I’ve said, the whole “gay tragedy” thing is overdone and while you can have stories in which queer characters experience some manner of struggle, ending them in tragedy is… inadvisable. Because perpetuating old, tragic tropes when it comes to queer people in fiction tends to do more harm than good. There’s already a broad excess of sob stories surrounding LGBTQ+ characters, so why further that harmful narrative when you could make happy stories instead? Stories where queer characters get a good ending, where they don’t end up losing everything they hold dear for the sake of drama. If Riot is truly aiming to inject some much-needed diversity into their game, shouldn’t they focus more on designing alive, non-tragic LGBTQ+ characters?
Okay, technically this is slightly unfair on the devs since their initial concept was just “Tragic story” and not “Gay tragic story”, until someone in the room said ‘But boy oh boy, do we have to make the characters in our Tragic Story straight? Can’t they be gaaaay instead?’. And then everyone took a thoughtful pause and decided that yes, the murderified tragic victims could, indeed, be of the gay variety. Which is not to say that Kai and Valmar’s stories are intrinsically bad, but they do perpetuate a toxic trope that has been done to death by now. On the other hand, if Varus’ reworked lore was yet another run-of-the-mill, straight couple story, we wouldn’t have gotten any queer representation (or hot hunky boys) and that would have been the real tragedy.
So that’s why I have my reservations about the rework. And also why I have reservations about said reservations. I will say, the new Lore is definitely an improvement on Varus’ past backstory and it even manages to tie into the Darkin stuff. Though, predictably enough, there was a small, irritatingly vocal, small minority of weird people who took issue with Varus’ new backstory. No, not because it’s gay now (or so they claim), apparently these gremlins are absolutely livid at the prospect of his old lore getting replaced. Remember Varus’ old lore? I certainly don’t, in fact I had to look it up just to make sure it hadn’t already been reworked into something actually interesting while I wasn’t paying attention (hint: it hadn’t).
For the sake of posterity, here lies the old Varus lore:
Varus was a human temple guard near a small village. He also had a lovely wife and child, who were presumably named. I say presumably, because their actual names never get brought up. In fact we don’t know anything about them other than their familial ties to a murder machine of vengeance and death.
Anyway, Lady Varus and her spawn were busy being Varus’ living blood relatives, when suddenly a rampaging plot-device (in the form of a Noxian army) decided to pay their village a quick visit. Hilarity ensued.
Varus, being the lawful neutral and 100% un-generic character that he was, decided to stay near the temple and die guarding the magic bow inside. Then he killed everyone anyway and vowed revenge on the people who savagely murdered his pog collection and/or friends & family. Truly a moving tale like no other (*cough Kratos, Max Payne, Thomas Wayne, Kivan, fucking Lucian etc etc cough*).
(On an unrelated note, did you notice how a small bridge formed between Kai and Valmar while they were in soul torture mode and how that symbolized the emotional bond between them??? Because I haven’t seen enough people talk about the animation and frankly that’s criminal)
So yeah, I’d say all in all I’m very happy about the Varus story rework (though it’d be nice if he also got some new voice lines to fit with his new lore). I’ve watched both the As We Fall and the behind the scenes videos several times now, to the point where I can’t get that goddamn song out of my head. It’s good that Riot is taking some small steps towards making their game more diverse. But, personal reservations aside, they should look for more opportunities to add queer characters in the future. Yes, Valmar and Kai are amazing and I did love reading their story and watching their music video and reading all that fanfiction on ao3, but there’s a lot more Riot could do. Oh and ALSO. WHY DID YOU MAKE MY TWO GAY SONS UGLIER IN THE ANIMATED VIDEO RIOT??? Like geez, Kai looks about 30 years older than he should be:
As a final note (and as a response to the homophobes who soiled their undergarments in frustration when the new lore was released) I’d like to end this with a quote from one of Riot’s creative development producers, Tyler Eltringham:
“In a world where a space dragon visited your planet, and someone just threw a flaming teddy bear at you, two dudes kissing isn’t going to make anyone bat an eye.”
Woop woop there it is.
-The Fairy Wizard
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