The Umbrella Academy handles Elliot Page’s transition brilliantly, sensitively | Web Series

When Elliot Page publicly came out as a trans in December 2020, he was one of the most high-profile names in Hollywood to do so. As an Oscar nominee and star of X-Men franchise and Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, the actor is a respected name in the industry. As many wondered how this will affect his career, some asked specific questions about The Umbrella Academy. By 2020, two seasons of the show had aired, in which Elliot had played Vanya Hargreeves, one of the protagonists. Fans wondered how the show would deal with the actor’s transition. Last week, the third season released and I must say, The Umbrella Academy has set the standard for how an artistic public project should deal with something this sensitive. Also read: Elliot Page becomes first trans man to star on Time magazine cover

I’ll admit I am late to the party. The third season of Umbrella Academy began streaming on June 22, fittingly during Pride Month. I only started watching it once the initial buzz died down, to have a more balanced take on it. Prior to this, the makers had already given a glimpse of how they were transitioning Elliot’s character from Vanya to Viktor, mirroring the actor’s life.

The Umbrella Academy is about six individuals with unique abilities or superpowers, who have been raised by an eccentric millionaire Reginald Hargreeves to fight crime. But the ‘family’ of misfits has fallen out with each other and gone their separate ways. Elliot plays Viktor, formerly Vanya, also known as Number Seven.

Elliot Page as Vanya Hargreeves and Marin Ireland as Sissy in The Umbrella Academy season 2.

The move to transition Viktor is important not because it casts a trans man in the role of a trans man, but because it does not force a trans man to play a woman, something he doesn’t want to do in real life anymore, let alone on the screen. It respects Elliot’s decision and gender identity and includes it in the show’s narrative. But doing it smoothly and organically was important. At no point should this feel like a gimmick or the entire purpose is lost.

And that is where the show truly succeeds. In season 2, we saw Vanya find love for the first time in Sissy, a single mother in Dallas. The establishment of Viktor as an LGBTQ character was done very organically. Season 3 takes this forward. Immediately, in the first few episodes of season 3, Elliot’s Vanya is not quite feeling themselves. Up until now, we see them in long hair and partially feminine clothing, just like the previous seasons.

At one point, they enter a saloon, get a haircut and change clothes and return to the family with one simple announcement, “I’m Viktor, always have been.” It’s the reaction of Viktor’s siblings that makes this sequence special. While one responds, “That’s cool,” another says, “Really happy for you Viktor.” Nobody opposes it, nobody even makes a big deal about it. They organically and fluently go from referring to them as their sister to brother.

When Luther aka Number One discovers , he wants to mark the occasion with a party “so that Viktor feels loved”. At this, Number Five asks Viktor straightaway, “Do you feel loved?” As he replies yes, Five says, “Good because that’s true.” And then they go back to saving the world, having understood and conveyed that when someone comes out, they are not looking for celebration but acceptance. And yes, one can make a big deal out of that transition but only if the person themselves wants to. If they simply want to live their life with that change, let them. Do not remind them how big a deal it is. Trust me, they know! Also read: Apurva Asrani bats for Elliot Page, fends off trolls

And this way, a show about superpowered teens and time travel managed to show the world how to sensitively handle and portray the coming out of a transgender person. This is the second time a mainstream pop culture show has surprised me with its handling of a sensitive issue. Between how Ms Marvel depicted the Partition and The Umbrella Academy’s depiction of Viktor, it would seem these popcorn entertainment shows are doing much better than most ‘serious’ films and shows towards representation. And given that these shows will be watched by a larger number of people than any award-winning film on the subject, it is heartening to see them get it right.

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