Season 3 of The Umbrella Academy premiered on Netflix on Wednesday, and there’s a lot to talk about. The new episodes pick right up from where Season 2 left off, with a new timeline and a new Academy of superheroes to deal with. But there was also a big change in the cast: Elliot Page came out as transgender in 2020, and this season is the first since his transition was made public. So how did the show handle it, and what does this mean for trans representation going forward? I think it changes a lot, and Elliot Page’s impact will be clear to people for years to come, especially trans fans like me.
Viktor Hargreeves in Season 3
When Elliot Page came out, fans praised Netflix for changing his name in the credits of Umbrella Academy immediately. But a big question still remained: what was the show going to do about his character? Number Seven, or The White Violin as they’re known in the comics, had always been represented and portrayed as a cis woman. Although, Page’s influence allowed the character to be more masculine on the show than they’d been before. For more than a year, fans of the show speculated about how the story would change.
It turns out that Season 3’s solution was simple. In the second episode, Viktor remembers a conversation he had with Sissy, the woman he had a relationship with in Season 2, and goes to get a haircut. Later on, he has a short coming out scene with his brothers, and a talk with Allison. After that, the action of the series progresses without spending much more time focusing on it.
The simple acceptance Viktor gets from his family is a breath of fresh air in terms of coming out scenes for trans characters, which are often angsty, drama-filled affairs. Viktor says it best– when Allison asks him who he sees in the mirror, he says simply, “Me. Just me.”
Trans Representation Before Now
The Umbrella Academy is the first major American TV show to have a lead actor transition during its run. However, they aren’t the first to feature a trans cast member. And they are definitely following in a long line of sci-fi and fantasy leading the way. Star Trek is well-known for having the first interracial kiss onscreen, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first TV show to feature a lesbian kiss. However, these are both very different from dealing with an actor’s identity directly, out of necessity. The Umbrella Academy also set itself apart by refusing to involve Page’s identity in fantasy elements of the plot.
Trans characters aren’t unheard of, but they are much more rare than queer characters in general. Shows like Orange is the New Black, Shameless, and Sense8 have all had trans characters played by trans actors. These shows have been praised for handling the topic respectfully. But arguably, Umbrella Academy is the first to do it on this level, and without planning it in advance. Elliot Page is also only among a handful of transmasculine actors in Hollywood, a group that is often ignored in discussions of trans rights.
The Umbrella Academy Adaptation Issues
Some fans aren’t thrilled that this is the direction the show took. They cite the comics as reason enough to not have Number Seven transition, but rather simply recast Page. The issue of adaptations straying from their source material is definitely a sore one for many readers everywhere.
But this definitely isn’t the first time The Umbrella Academy deviated from the comics. Many of the most popular and visible aspects of the show are different from the comics. From the action-packed musical sequences, changes to the siblings’ powers and other aspects of Viktor’s character and storyline, this is just one more change. It’s one that shows respect to the actor and sets a great example for years to come.
What It Means For Representation
I’ve been a fan of The Umbrella Academy, and Elliot Page, for years. I’m also transmasculine, and have always connected to Page and to Viktor before even knowing about his identity. I think many people who don’t often get to see themselves in media find this storyline important. Trans characters, especially trans men, are rare, and when they are represented they’re usually written, and played, by cis people.
Viktor comes out without having to go through some tragic storyline, and is an important character for reasons that have nothing to do with being trans. Additionally, the show brought on Thomas Page McBee, an award-winning transgender author, and involved Elliot Page in the writing of the character as well.
Getting to see a major character on a popular television show transition and their story be treated with respect is huge for me and for trans representation in the future. Elliot Page himself agrees, stating,
I’m really proud with what we came up with… So far it seems really positive which makes me feel happy in terms of the representation and hopefully it meaning something to people.”Elliot Page, to Good Morning America
Hopefully, The Umbrella Academy will pave the way for more shows to do the same if they are faced with the same decision. If so, it will have a big impact on trans representation for years to come.
Read more about The Umbrella Academy‘s season 3 here.