Comic-Con: Penny Dreadful Panel – Sexuality and Gender Analysis


The Penny Dreadful panel at San Diego Comic Con predictably focused on sexuality and gender, something that the online fandom has discussed at great length (including on this very website).  The panel also endeared me greatly to John Logan, the creator of the show, who has a way with words that’s befitting of a writer of a Victorian era show.  Logan has been contemplating this series for over a decade and it’s very clear that he considers everything on this show to an extremely refined level of detail.  For the majority of the panel the other three guests – Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadwell, and Reeve Carney- would often completely defer to him on practically every question and would watch him with the same amount of fascination that us, the viewers, watch the show.

IMG_6485The topic of the fluid sexuality of the characters came up in at least three fan questions.  Logan replied that, as a gay man, he felt it was important to represent all sexualities.  To him defining their sexuality was “irrelevant.”  He concluded that comment with the simple statement that “it’s 2014.”  All of the characters have the potential to love each other, which means future relationship development between the characters next season will probably be very interesting.  With Brona ‘dead’ and Ethan in an emotionally vulnerable state anything could happen.

It was very clear from the actors comments that they’re equally committed to representation in the series.  When Carney was first informed that his character would have a sexually charged scene with the character Ethan, he specifically requested that they cast a “hot actor” in the part.  He went on to say that they did, unashamedly admitting that Josh Hartnett is an extremely attractive man.  These men are clearly comfortable in their sexualities, able to call each other “hot” and perform in sexually charged scenes without a second thought.  Hartnett even stated that “human sexuality is what human sexuality is.”  The attitudes of the cast and crew is incredibly refreshing

Gender was also a hot topic of discussion.  At one point Logan said that Ethan was a “slave to the moon” and the panel host, Aisha Tyler, quipped “girls know what that’s like.”  Many giggles were had at the perfectly timed menstruation joke.  Not all conversation regarding gender was as light hearted, though.  Two separate fans asked about Logan’s portrayal of female sexuality and how it often comes off as depicting it as “evil.”  The women in the show tend to have bad things happen to them shortly after engaging in sexual activity, particularly the protagonist Vanessa.  Each time he insisted that he didn’t think he was portraying female sexuality in a negative way, but since it came up twice it’s very clear that a segment of the fanbase is definitely interpreting it as such.  While he was very insistent that it wasn’t his intention to do so, now that it’s been pointed out to him it’ll probably be something that he’s more consciously aware about moving forward.  For someone who obviously values depictions of sexuality in the media, I get the feeling this isn’t something he’d just dismiss as fans misinterpreting his work.  That’s something we’ll have to wait to see in season two.

Speaking of season two, we were given lots of little hints about what’s to come next season.  They’ll be exploring Ethan’s history more, emphasizing Madame Kali as an antagonist, and answer questions about Vanessa’s possession.  We even got a deleted scene of Madame Kali from this season that gave us hints about how she’ll come into play next season.  Despite these little tidbits, the panel most focused on analysis, which Mr Logan seemed extremely keen on discussing.  Logan’s brain is a very interesting place and I’m glad I got to sit on this panel.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They identify as queer.

Help support independent journalism. Subscribe to our Patreon.

Copyright © The Geekiary

Do not copy our content in whole to other websites. If you are reading this anywhere besides, it has been stolen.
Read our policies before commenting. Be kind to each other.

4 thoughts on “Comic-Con: Penny Dreadful Panel – Sexuality and Gender Analysis

  1. I want to go and hug Logan for the amazing job he has done with the show…considering the era it’s set in he could’ve easily made that an excuse to not explore fluid human sexualiy

    Being a gay man he wanted to show it and he did, the same for the exec producers for The Flash who will be bringing two gay characters in the show…the only odd one out is Jeff, who really hasn’t done anything for LGBT portrayal in the show, considering TW is set in modern times and BHills is supposed to be homophobia free

    really looking forward to next Season of Penny Dreadful…the female sexuality being negative did come across as surprising..but if fans are seeing this and raising questions and there must be something im not seeing…Venessa and Brona are kind of ‘doomed’ characters…i guess the whole cast are ‘doomed’ characters and that’s why i never linked their having sex to something bad happening to them.

    Going by what Logan has said in the panel and shown in PDreadful i think he’ll think of something to satisfy the fans who are seeing this in the show.

    1. Yeah, agreed on everything. I hadn’t considered the negative portrayal of female sexuality either, but if at least two people brought it up clearly it’s an issue people are thinking about. I feel like the Penny Dreadful fandom and John Logan are much more capable of taking this criticism, considering it, and adjusting based on it rather than getting angry or dismissing it. The maturity involving this fandom and the creators in regards to sexuality and gender is so incredibly refreshing.

Comments are closed.