The Venture Brothers Is The Gayest Show On Television … And Proud Of It
You wouldn’t think, of all shows currently on the air, the one with the most gay characters would be a cartoon, and yet, here we are. When it began, The Venture Brothers was a pretty straight ahead (no pun intended) parody of old Johnny Quest cartoons and similar action oriented kiddie cartoons, with a decidedly adult slant. But the world and character building began to get more complex by the end of the first season, and by the second season, it was well on its way to becoming its own thing. Part of being its own thing meant introducing characters who weren’t just straight, and were a bit less than rigidly binary.
When Brock Samson, the impossibly lethal bodyguard, found out his old mentor, Hunter Gathers, had a sex change operation, seemingly to avoid the kill policy of their old spy outfit ( the OSI), he wasn’t all that shocked, and the show treated it as just something that happens.(The fact that this would turn out to be part of an extreme deep cover operation, and Hunter’s gender would be reversed by the fourth season, doesn’t really diminish the treating of a sex change operation with a shrug. In this weird world, a gender swap is surprisingly pedestrian.) The same is also true with the fact that there are gay heroes and villains folded into the cast as well. While arguably the first gay hero introduced on the show was the Six Million Dollar Man lookalike Steve Summers (with the grumpy, dickish Sean Connery lookalike Colonel Gentleman a very close second), and the first gay villain the tragic yet horribly violent King Gorilla, they were just the opening salvos of gay characters that would be on the show. Eventually the list would include the heroes The Alchemist (laid back magic practioner, and member of The Order of the Triad) and Shore Leave (flamboyantly lethal Navy SEAL equivalent, or, as I like to describe him, Buddy Cole if he were an assassin), with some questions hovering around other characters. (The relationship between Billy Quiz Boy and Pete White is one of unrequited love, but Pete would never admit that, especially since I suspect it’s lopsided, with Pete needing Billy far more than Billy will ever need him. And the doomed bromance of Henchmen 21 and 24 was one of the more touching stories woven through the early episodes.)
The thing about the Venture Brothers is, everything is pretty much welcome. The Monarch and Doctor Girlfriend (now Doctor Mrs. The Monarch, I think? I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten used to her new name – she’ll always be Doctor Girlfriend to me), the two main enemies of Doctor Venture, may be married, but they swing, and if a glimpse of a ball gag, leather chaps, and a sexy cheerleader outfit suggest anything, it says they’re not very vanilla. And would you want them to be? He dresses up like a butterfly, and flies around in giant hive! If he was vanilla, it would be really disappointing. Sky Pilot, a member of Hunter’s and Brock’s rogue OSI group, went deep undercover with Shore Leave, and they pretended they were “ex-gay” superheroes with a Godly bent. (This was later revealed as an extreme undercover op, like Hunter’s sex change.) Sky Pilot claims to be straight, but, as Shore Leave pointed out, he never objected to having sex with him, so who knows what Sky Pilot’s sexuality is. Colonel Gentleman, in his tell all book, admitted to having sex with superheroes and villains alike, although you have to wonder if he was exaggerating a bit about some of him. Of course, the real Sean Connery was quite a player, so why not an animated gay one? Everybody has a freak flag, and this show pretty much demands you fly it high.
But sexuality and all the bromances set aside, The Venture Brothers is about damaged people who come together to find a sort of family, be they hero or villain. Identities which can switch on a dime, depending on circumstances and motivations. Maybe the best thing about the gay characters on the show isn’t just that they’re all different people, although they are, it’s that they’re as broken and messed up as the heteroes. In the world of the Venture Brothers, you must be screwed up if you want to be a hero, and you must be really screwed up if you want to be a villain. And you know what? That’s okay. Odds are, you’re not alone.
If there’s a message to The Venture Brothers – besides the themes of failure that seems to come off Rusty Venture like a stench – it just might be that you can make your own family, and be all the better for it. Never mind that your family might be your cloned sons, the world’s deadliest bodyguard, and an emotionally and sexually stunted wannabe “superscientist” who really isn’t all that super. We all have our flaws.