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How ‘Umbrella Academy’ Crafted Elliot Page’s Onscreen Coming-Out Story
After Elliot Page came out as trans in December 2020, Umbrella Academy show-runner Steve Blackman was eager to bring the actor’s transition to screen. There was just one problem: Season 3 had already been mapped out, and the scripts were more or less set. Filming was due to start in just two weeks.
Against all odds, they made it work: This season, Umbrella Academy will re-introduce Page’s character with a new name, Viktor Hargreeves.
To help bring Viktor to life, the production brought on Page’s friend (and writer/journalist) Thomas Page McBee.
“By necessity, this was an opportunity to show a transition so organic, so fundamental to the character, that it could only work in concert with the existing character arcs, not eclipse them,” Page McBee wrote of joining Umbrella Academy specifically to help shape Viktor’s on-screen transition story, in an essay for Esquire from earlier this month.
“In this story, being trans is a context, a coming into focus, a sharpening of perspective that will only deepen the connection millions of viewers already have to Viktor and his family.”
Viktor’s coming-out is, as Page McBee puts it, “economical” in its execution—although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The only plot twist here is that such a neatly executed maneuver would happen on Netflix, a streamer that’s increasingly thought to be both anti-trans and also, too often lately, comically incapable of distinguishing good character development from utter trash.
At the beginning of Umbrella Academy Season 3—which finally premiered Wednesday—Viktor is feeling the loss of Sissy Cooper (Marin Ireland), who stole his heart after hitting him with her car. “She saw me for who I really am,” he tells his adoptive Hargreeves sister, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), at one point. “I’m not ready to give that up.” When they part, Allison calls Viktor a “good sister,” at which point the camera lingers on his pensive expression.
In the second episode of the season, Viktor squares off with Sparrow Academy member Marcus (Justin Cornwell)—one of the Hargreeves that Viktor and the gang’s adoptive father, Reginald, adopted in an alternate universe in the place of Viktor and his siblings. Although Marcus bluffs like he has the upper hand—and perhaps even believes that he does—Viktor cooly calls his foe “meat in spandex,” before reminding him which of them had already ended the world twice. (Indian: It was not Marcus.)
That conversation sets the stage for a confrontation between Viktor and his siblings, who aren’t sure who anointed him the designated Marcus wrangler. The sibling tiff also becomes the stage for Viktor to tell them who he really is, but only after revisiting Sissy Cooper’s memory one last time.
As he peruses old news stories in the library, Viktor comes across one that reveals that Sissy, whom he left behind in a different timeline, has died in this one. He remembers her telling him that he’d given her greatest gift of a lifetime: “You let me feel alive for the first time. You helped me find hope again. That’s a wonderful thing.”
After he leaves the library, Viktor finds himself staring at a poster of men’s haircuts on a barbershop window. Sissy’s voice rings in his head: You don’t even notice the box that you’re in until someone comes along and lets you out.
When Viktor approaches his siblings with a new, shorter, more masculine ‘do, his brother Diego (David Castañeda) pauses what he was saying mid-sentence. The pansexual Hargreeves sibling Klaus (Robert Sheehan) keeps things casual: “Love the haircut.” Five (Aidan Gallagher), the deceptively young-looking quinquagenarian of the siblings, says nothing but nods approvingly.
It’s not until someone asks who “elected” Viktor to speak with Marcus, however, that he makes a bigger point of his transition. When someone uses his old name, he corrects them: “It’s Viktor.”
“I am,” he says. “It’s who I’ve always been.” Viktor’s voice crackles with a hint of fear as he then asks, “Is that an issue for anyone?”
Diego and Klaus approve, as does Five—albeit with one caveat. “Truly happy for you, Viktor. But last time I checked, you don’t speak for this family.”
In that moment, the soft piano music that quietly set the fragile mood moments before breaks, and it’s back to business as usual.
We return to the subject one more time before Episode 2 ends. When Viktor comes out to Allison, she scolds herself for not knowing sooner—a display of self-flagellation that Viktor waves off gently, albeit with barely suppressed amusement. “You couldn’t have known,” he says, “because, I mean, I didn’t fully.”
Sissy, Viktor goes on to explain, “opened something in me. Showed me I’d never be free hiding from who I really am. And after losing her, I realized I just can’t live in that box anymore. I won’t.
“You know, I always hated mirrors. I thought everybody felt so strange in their skin. I guess that’s not true.”
And when Allison asks what he sees in his own reflection now?
“Me. Just me.”