Disney+’s “Willow” Has Multiple Queer Characters to Root For

The following contains mild spoilers for the first three episodes of Willow on Disney+

I’ll admit, the world of Willow was unknown to me until a few months ago when I learned of the upcoming Disney+ series. I was a mere one year old when the 1988 George Lucas and Ron Howard film, of the same name, was released, so I’m not too surprised that I hadn’t yet heard of the cult classic. I love all things fantasy though, so inevitably the show made its way onto my ever-increasing watchlist. However, all it took was a text from a friend that said “I don’t know if Willow is on your radar, but you will love it. It’s gay within the first 20 minutes!” to skyrocket it to the top of that very list.

The series picks up 20 years after the events of the film, and the pilot very handily begins with a quick recap of those events. There’s a Chosen One prophecy (like any good fantasy story), an unlikely hero (Willow Ufgood, the titular role!), and a princess (Sorsha) who turns against her mother, the Queen, to save baby Elora (our Chosen One) and ultimately bring about Queen Bavmorda’s destruction.

Once the Sorsha-narrated recap ends, we’re taken immediately to a cliffside training session between two of my new favorite TV characters, Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Jade (Erin Kellyman). Reader, the moment Kit took off her helmet and swaggered over to banter with “best friend” Jade, I knew that though she probably doesn’t need it, I would protect this queer child with everything I have.

jade smiling and looking at kit amid lush greenery

“I think I’m gonna like it here.”

Later the same night, Jade begrudgingly puts on a dress (which she hates) and accompanies Kit (who she very much does not hate) to an event being held in the latter’s honor, because you see, Kit is the princess and daughter of Sorsha (see above). She is set to marry Graydon, the Prince of Galladoorn (yes, that is the self-proclaimed best friend of Spidey in the Mr. Zendaya Spiderman movies), to unite their two regions. Because of course. It’s the age-old story of the headstrong princess who refuses to live a life she hasn’t chosen based on rules she hasn’t made. But in this story, our princess would much rather end up in the arms of her best friend.

Complicating those matters for Kit, is the fact that Jade will soon be leaving Tir Asleen to train to become the first ever female Knight of Galladoorn, something she’s dreamed about her whole life. Kit does not take the news well at all, and has an entire Gay Panic™ about it in front of half the queendom, before deciding her only available course of action is to run away. But before leaving, she stops by her “bestie”’s quarters to give her an entire kiss on the mouth, lest her feelings be unclear. It’s complicated for Jade though, because sure, she loves the princess, but she’s not about to give up everything she’s worked so hard for.

jade and kit kiss

My queendom for a well-lit wlw kiss.

But before they can have a real conversation about it, the castle comes under attack and Kit’s twin brother Airk is kidnapped. A mission to get him back commences, with Kit, Jade, and a prisoner named Thraxus Boorman making up the adventuring party (look, if a show puts a bunch of characters on a quest, I’m going to treat it as if it’s a D&D campaign, sorry about it). Also joining them on said quest? Airk’s secret girlfriend (who, spoiler alert, learns she IS ELORA), and a certain powerful sorcerer by the name of Willow.

The first three episodes of the series are filled with action, sweeping and lush green landscapes, and the kind of fantasy lore that can be a little totems schmotems, but that I love all the same. One of the things I’m most looking forward to in the remaining episodes of its eight-episode run, is how Kit, Jade, and their relationship will factor into the larger story. So far we’ve seen Kit as a cynical, rough around the edges, stubborn, and singularly-focused shunner of tradition, which yes, is incredibly fun to watch. But combine that with Jade, whose strong but seemingly wary disposition is rooted in her desire (and initial assignment) to protect Kit, and you’ve got a recipe for some dramaaaaaa! We don’t yet know a whole lot about Jade’s past; was she raised solely by her mentor-turned-possessed-bad-guy Ballantine? Were she and Kit always best friends? What led to her fierce need to protect? There’s a lot going on on this show, so I hope we get to learn more about how Kit and Jade became Kit and Jade.

jade and kit lie next to each other with their fingers touching

“I never get Bored of lookin’ at you ‘Cause every time I see somethin’ new”

I can’t help but root for these two crazy kids; for Kit to find her place in a world that demands she fill a role she doesn’t want; and for Jade to become the knight and protector she’s always wanted to be. Is it too much to hope that these two things happen hand-in-hand? The show so far hasn’t shied away from its queerness (Hannah Waddingham even shows up as one half of a lesbian-coded twosome) and I truly hope that continues as the rest of the series unfolds.

New episodes of Willow drop every Wednesday on Disney+.


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Nic

Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 44 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. I would enjoy this show more if I COULD ACTUALLY SEE ANYTHING! The lighting is terrible, half the time it’s literally a black screen and I just sit there listing to the dialogue and using my imagination to see the clashing swords. I’m only going to keep watching for Kit and Jade, tbh.

  2. I’m really enjoying this show! It’s silly and fun and it does feel like a D&D adventure. I give them a lot of props for having queer women as main characters and a lesbian kiss in the very first episode. Between this and Andor it feels like Disney is starting to finally get a bit better with representation. Also, I just really love Erin Kelleyman ever since she played “Space Lexa” in the Star Wars spin-off Solo. Also she’s gay in real life so that makes this show even cooler!

  3. Oh man. I’m very sad to see that the memeification of the historically loaded term “gay panic” has made it to Autostraddle. Why do so many people think it’s a joke? And please – don’t use the word “reclaiming” in response. That would suggest there was any intentionality behind the term when it was clearly a combination of ignorance and carelessness

    • Um, what? I’m old enough to remember when “gay panic” generally meant “violence against gay/lesbian/bi people out of fear that you might otherwise be seen as gay by association”. However, that’s not what the younger generations mean when they say it. Means something along the lines of “g/l/b people panicking/overreacting to romantically confusing/complicated situations that the straights would never have to deal with”. This meaning has existed well before it was “memeified”.

      As far as I can tell, there’s no real connection between the new and old definitions, it’s just a homonymic phrase. Similar to how “get out” can be a demand to go away, or an expression of amazement. This isn’t probably an example of reclaiming, and even if I’m wrong about that, “repurposing” would be a more accurate description anyway, because it isn’t referring to the same situation.

      Yeah, now that I think about it, I can see how it might be uncomfortable for some older people, even if they know the newer meaning. But despite being such an older person myself, it doesn’t personally bother me. The meanings are distinct, compartmentalized in my mind, and easy to determine from context. The target audience of Autostraddle skews younger, so you can’t reasonably expect them to cater to the sensibilities of the older generations, and it’s presumptuous to demand that they do so. You’re going to need to get used to things like this, or to stay out of spaces which aren’t made for you.

      (Unless you’re *not* an older person, in which case my only response is complete bafflement.)

      • I’m 29. “Stay out of spaces which aren’t made for me”? I’m a queer woman who’s been reading Autostraddle for 7 years and paid hundreds of dollars to attend multiple A-Camps. Clearly you don’t value taking LGBT history seriously, but I do and so does this site,
        so I expect more from Autostraddle. I don’t love encountering jokes all over the internet that use terminology associated with gay-bashing as if none of that history ever happened. And it’s certainly not the place of the largely cis queer women using that language to make a mockery of the murder of gay men and trans women. Using language that dismisses those assaults and murders just tells trans women that this space isn’t meant for them. Since you seem to be keeping a list of who is and isn’t welcome on Autostraddle, I suppose you already considered that?

        • Hey, I don’t know you but I’m going to go on good faith and assume you do care about the well-being of trans women like myself.

          I would greatly appreciate it if you didn’t get offended for us on our behalf. I honestly feel gross being used as a bludgeon against the phrase, “gay panic”. I can see why it’s upsetting for you, but it’s very low on the list of priorities for me.

          If you really want to help us, there’s plenty of anti-trans bills going around Texas and other states, please save your vitriol for those lawmakers. We could certainly use the help.

          • We don’t have to agree on priorities, Lavender. I’m secure in all that I’m doing for my community. But I certainly don’t see modifying my language to avoid a phrase that makes light of murder to be an especially taxing addition to that list. It comes pretty naturally honestly…

        • Okay, so “complete bafflement” it is, then. I lived through the latter part of that history and had to deal with the potential danger of gay/trans panic personally (due to being trans myself, with a history of having mostly dated men). And while obviously I can’t speak for everyone, I don’t understand why anyone would see that as disrespecting or mocking my generation’s experiences. This isn’t anything like when kids were using “gay” to mean something like “stupid” or “unpleasant”.

          Assuming that this is all in good faith: I really don’t know where this is coming from since this is the first I’ve heard of it, but it reminds me of the whole “differently abled / person first language” fiasco. A small number of very vocal disability activists didn’t like the existing language around disabilities and tried to change it, and recruited a lot of well-meaning people to spread the word… but the majority of us were all like “WTF, no, don’t tell us how to refer to ourselves” (as a deaf person, I personally felt like the proposed language was boundary-stomping my personal identity) and it basically went nowhere. In other words, I suspect that whoever is claiming that “gay panic” is offensive is a loud and misguided minority.

          Echoing Lavender in “please don’t get offended on our behalf”.

      • Gay panic mainly refers to a legal situation where a gay man or trans woman is murdered by a cis man, and he is using his fear of being seduced, touched in a homosexual way etc. as defence in front of a court. Thus when queer people who are neither gay men nor trans women use the term in a “harmless” or playful way, it might feel empathy-free to said gay men and trans women. Please keep that in mind.

  4. Nic, i love your bio clarification that buying books is a different hobby than reading them. SAME! You just explained a big part of my brain to me, so thank you! Every time I’m on vacation I’m always like, oooh! A bookstore! Let’s spend a few hours browsing! And my husbian and kids are like, “What? No! Why?” And Im like, “What? Of course! Why not?!”
    If I am visiting Portland, Oregon I require one entire day of my trip to browse (that word does not really describe the experience though) Powell’s Books or else I am in a snit.
    We spent far too few days in San Francisco a few years ago and I wanted to visit at least 3 bookstores based on their varying focus and history. We ran out of time to go to any of them. That was quite a snit, let me tell you!
    A good used bookstore? With books both in and out of print? I better have time to look at Every. Single. Title.

  5. Oh, also, I used to read The NY Times Book Review every week for years. I stopped a while ago, I guess it got overwhelming. But I felt like I was reading or sort of reading all the books I read about and that was cool.

  6. I have to disagree that the show hasn’t shied away from its queerness. Apart from the kiss in the first ep, and that little moment from Jade when they were sleeping, there have been no moments between them indicating anything romantic happening. I was excited about them in Ep 1, but after that, it’s felt pretty queerbait-y.

    • To be fair, they’re young and still trying to convince themselves that they’re “just best friends”, while also dealing with a lot of bad shit happening around them. It’s completely reasonable that they wouldn’t have too many overtly romantic moments when they’re still confused about how to handle what they’re feeling.

  7. I loved the movie, I love the story and the world it brought to life, and to some degree, the series continues that, which I also like.
    Kit and Jade are compelling, have great chemistry, and honestly so far the only pacing I enjoy in the series is their interactions.
    Everything else has so much potential but is incredibly rushed. There are hard cuts in the middle of conversations that are supposed to be meaningful, which lets them fall flat. Character arcs and introductions don’t get enough time or don’t have a dialogue to match the time they actually do get, and so even the important characters aren’t fleshed out the way they should be. This makes me sad and feels like an incredible waste.

    It seems like the filming for some key scenes was set up to turn these first 3 episodes into at least 4, maybe even 5. A lot of it feels wrong because of that. I will stay for the story in hopes that it gets better, and because I am a fan of Erin Kellyman, she is a great talent and makes the most of her roles, which helps immensely with the relationships portrayed here.

    • Takes over a show/material/movie that did not have gay characters in the original, not only adds them but makes that front and center then says “let us have our safe space”.

      Had you made a new fantasy movie or series, not hacked from something else, then you’d have your safe space. But no, try to grab an existing fan base of material nothing to do with gay or gay agenda, then hijack it, then cry when called out for it.

  8. If there’s an audience about a queer show, an original queer show should be made. Willow was never about queerness and gen z aesthetics. That’s why it flopped so bad, and that’s why it gets hate. The minority that likes these shows that are ”reimaginations” of beloved franchises can keep pointing fingers and call people homophobes and racists, but the facts speak for themselves. The vast majority of the planet hated this.

  9. Why is this queer thing important again? Is this supposed to be a fantasy TV show or a s#ftp#rn? Do I need to know who people have sex with all the time? Seriously I don’t give a damn. I don’t care who my children, friends or colleges (or politicians I vote for) sleep with, as long as they are treating my loved ones well. I mean did Willow ever have sex? Do we know? Do we need to? The show however is dull, with bad editing, uninspired camera, very american highschool sounding main casts, lazy written script and cheap costumes. I was shocked seeing that! And that’s something I do give a damn about. So if all it needs for you to celebrate such a trash is some teenage girls kissing then maybe you shouldn’t be a movie critic.

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