“Good Omens” Radical Take on Non-Binary Representation
Good Omens brought twenty million non-binary angels and demons into their world, and in the process created a diverse level of representation we hadn’t seen in popular media.
I was working from home around a month ago when a friend messaged me and asked if I’d seen Neil Gaiman’s latest tweet. Our small, non-binary group had been contemplating the vagaries of Crowley’s behavior in Good Omens for the last month. We had noticed he wears what appears to be feminine garb not only in the nanny scene but also at the crucifixion when there was no way it could be taken as a joke. The cosplayers in our group had noted that even modern Crowley was clearly wearing a woman’s scarf, glasses, vest, and tight pants to accent the more traditional masculine appearance, as if even if presenting masculine, he wasn’t quite comfortable settling into a binary gender role.
In short, the non-binary people I know had looked and seen themselves reflected back, myself included. But we dared not hope overly much. Queerbaiting is still common in media, and none of us had expected any sort of in-depth main character non-binary representation in the near future. The concept was too new and too foreign for the mainstream. While we appreciated what we were given, the overall belief was it probably wasn’t fully intentional therefore was not fully ours.
All of us knew the experience of being laughed out of a fandom thread after posting our LGBTQIA+ headcanons. This isn’t something anyone can discuss without bracing yourself for backlash. Especially not without overt support from the creators.
Then Neil Gaiman responded to an irate fan with a truth that we were not expecting to so clearly be stated (Source on Twitter).
Neil then doubled down a few days later on International Non-Binary People’s Day, reminding us that not only are Crowley and Aziraphale canonically non-binary, but all of the angel and demonkind are too. And of course, we’d be remiss to leave out Pollution, a being who was repeatedly they/themmed by God herself. Being non-binary is not just an angelic or demonic experience.
I happened to be in public when the tweet came across my screen for International Non-Binary People’s Day. Much like Crowley, I had to excuse myself briefly as I was certainly having a moment.
It also did not escape my notice as I followed the tweet for the rest of the day that Neil Gaiman seemed to find every single response by a non-binary person and like them. He also shut down the transphobes in the comments. Neil, if you ever happen to read this, thank you for not only seeing us but taking the time to acknowledge and defend us as well.
In one unexpected mini-series, the non-binary community was given not one but multiple forms of representation. Because much like the cis community, we are not a homogenous group. While many will identify with Crowley’s casual use of whichever gendered or non-gendered items he wishes, many will identify in other aspects. Aziraphale’s comfortably masculine appearance throughout the majority of the show contrasts directly with Michael’s feminine, and yet neither are any less non-binary simply because of presentation.
Somewhere in between lie Beelzebub, Uriel, and Pollution themselves in various forms of more androgynous appearance. There is no standard in regards to clothing, body shape, age, or race. Not even pronouns! Crowley and Aziraphale represent many human enbies by sticking with the familiar he/him. Pollution represents those of us who embrace they/them. There’s even a place for “neopronouns” according to a post by Neil Gaiman. When asked what Beelzebub’s pronouns were, he responded “probably zzzzzzir” which is an appropriately buzzy adaption of the more traditional gender-neutral pronouns ze/zir/zem/zeir.
The non-binary community itself is utterly diverse, and Good Omens seems to not only understand that but embrace it. The creators saw us and rose to the challenge of not creating a group of casually androgynous people but a group that is beautifully diverse.
In one scene in which Aziraphale is in Heaven, the angels in the background could have easily stepped out of a gender-neutral fashion show (albeit, with very monochrome color choices), reminding us that not only does the non-binary status apply to those we see on screen but the entirety of Heaven and Hell.
Both Beelzebub and Gabriel mention armies ten million strong, implying that there are over twenty million non-binary beings inhabiting this beautiful world. Not counting, of course, all the non-binary humans sure to be found around the globe.
All of this, of course, doesn’t touch on the fact that within the Good Omens world, God is voiced and addressed using feminine pronouns by Aziraphale, though still addressed as Father by Jesus in the crucifixion scene. Truly, the gender fluidity in Good Omens runs to the very core of the story.
While the representation runs rampant, the love story between Aziraphale and Crowley is the heart of Good Omens and works as an allegory to a large portion of the non-binary experience. Many of us are walking the line of either Aziraphale or Crowley. Some, like Crowley, have been literally cast out from their families through no fault of their own. Others like Aziraphale are trying to walk the line of doing right by the families they come from while realizing how very much they no longer belong.
The echoes of found family within the Good Omens universe are strong, whether it is Aziraphale and Crowley choosing each other or Adam choosing his adopted parents over the celestial calling. When Aziraphale and Crowley finally both opt to choose “our side” they are making the choice that so many need to make to be their authentic selves, regardless of consequences. As I consider the found family around me, I can’t help but be as grateful as I’m sure Crowley was to have Aziraphale by his side again to face whatever may come.
I can’t overstate the changes I’ve seen come about in my own community due to Good Omens. I’ve seen people come to a better understanding of their own gender. I’ve seen people have their first experience of looking at the screen and finally seeing themselves. Seeing someone who is their particular flavor of non-binary. I’ve seen multiple people take a sweet breath of fresh air in the middle of drowning because now we don’t feel as much pressure to fit the expected mold.
I personally came out publicly for the first time within hours of seeing Neil’s post on Non-binary Day, and I am doing my best to be more visible because all of this has made me realize that we can’t cause change through being in the shadows. My coming out post was greeted by significant support, and a fair amount of amazing Good Omens gifs, further cementing that art is a subconscious language that inspires staggering feats of impressive courage.
I don’t know anyone in the non-binary community who has not at some point doubted themselves. Who has not at some point hesitated due to the hate-filled rhetoric of their gender is not only made up but a hilarious joke. Who has not been silenced at some point because of that doubt. It goes bone-deep when the majority of the world does not understand you, and others like you are hard to find because we walk in the shadows in day to day life, never knowing when it’s safe to be ourselves.
I relate to Crowley on an integral level. His particular flavor of mostly masculine-presenting with flair happens to fit into my own personal aesthetic, and the confident swagger with the underlying fear of rejection in part due to past history hits close to home. A propensity for asking a few too many questions with a touch of justified mischief explains a good portion of my chaotic good personality. I didn’t expect to get the extra benefit of him being non-binary. But it was the push I needed to push to the next, better version of me I’d been holding back on for a variety of reasons.
Thanks to Good Omens I now have a demon on my shoulder reminding me that it’s okay to be myself. In the last month, this has resulted in major changes in my own life and I foresee only more going forward. Sometimes visibility in media means the real-life visibility grows stronger, and I hope this is the start to the non-binary community coming together in a way it hasn’t previously.
Representation in media matters.
Representation in media changes things.
To all those who were involved in Good Omens, thank you. Thank you for giving us someone we could see that was like us for the first time, and not only in a minor role but as a hero with a happy ending. A special thank you to Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Michael Sheen, and David Tennant. I’m aware that this is the tiniest portion of the list of all who were involved. Thank you to all the actors, set designers, costumers, and myriad of other jobs I’m not even aware of. We noticed the detail and love that went into this show, and it made it so much stronger for it. It made it not only be representational, but beautiful. Thank you.
And to my non-binary community, go be you. Whether that’s an angelic, demonic, or human incarnate version of you, be the most amazing you that there is. Because beauty doesn’t lie in a binary. It lies in all the colors swirling together to create something truly magnificent.
Author: Jaime Casillas
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