Amazon Prime’s Good Omens, a mini-series adapting Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s book of the same name, has taken the internet by storm. While the central plot involves its cast of characters trying to prevent the end of the world brought on by the 11 year-old anti-Christ, at the heart of the show is the angel Aziraphale and his demon adversary-turned-friend, Crowley, portrayed by Michael Sheen and David Tennant, respectively. Having met atthe Garden of Eden, we are taken through time to see how Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship evolved over the course of 6,000 years, and the internet has taken quite a liking to their interactions. Fans have every right to latch onto their relationship, with the show making it clear how much the two care about each other. So, why did they not get together at the end of the series? Better yet, why do gay characters almost never get to have their relationship be unambigious in mainstream media?
Some avid defenders of the show will immediately take issue with the above statement. Recently online, especially on tumblr, the desire to see a gay relationship made canonical in a big-budget Amazon show is seen as taking things too far, and even acephobic/aphobic. They cannot be gay since angels and demons have no gender or sex, they argue. Why do they want everything to be gay? they wonder with an irritated eye-roll. They will argue that since Aziraphale and Crowley are asexual, agender beings, they cannot possibly be gay, or anything resembling non-platonic.
This is a cop out.
Firstly, people can be asexual, agender, and still fall in love. My asexual friends are in healthy, loving relationships, and it is absurd to suggest as absence of gender equates an absence in the capacity for romance. Secondly, fans in favor of a Aziraphale/Crowley relationship are not arguing for the two to have sex on screen, so what would their gender and/or sex matter? However, it must be noted that a man and woman, Newt and Anathema, have sex in the show. They get a make-out sequence, an implied sex scene, and wake up together, clearly naked under the covers. Funny how authors and show-runners have no issue with making their heterosexual side characters have sex the literal day they met.
But, if we are to discuss Aziraphale and Crowley’s supposed lack of gender or sex: the mini-series absolutely no mention of angels and demons being agender and/or sexless. There is nothing in the show which leads the audience to believe Aziraphale and Crowley are anything but male supernatural beings. In the book, as noted by Gaiman on his official tumblr, angels are “sexless unless they specifically make an effort”, and we receive no description of Crowley’s sex life. It is not a leap to assume Aziraphale, who looks and speaks as a man typically would and accepts male pronouns in reference to himself, made an effort, nor that Crowley would at least be open to sex. Again, this is only information given in the book, and we are discussing the mini-series. Aziraphale and Crowley’s gender, or lack thereof, should be a non-issue.
As a note, and it really is too serious to be considered a side note, insisting that Aziraphale and Crowley can be gay and asexual is not much more progressive, either, since desexualizing gay men is one of the most homophobic things to do in media. Gay sex is seen as disgusting, degenerate, and taking away what is most often used to justify hurting gay men is not, in fact, Woke. Sure, most fans are not arguing Aziraphale and Crowley should have sex on screen and are instead begging to settle for one kiss, one love confession, but ask yourself why Newt and Anathema got to, and no one had an issue with it, but the mere idea of our main male leads doing so sends people on the internet into fury, claiming that this sentiment is aphobic. Why must fans settle for gay relationships never being treated like straight ones? Why do fans, particularly LGBT fans, have to hope for one kiss, while straight ones have no shortage of media seeing characters just like they are enjoying love making scenes?
The answer is obvious.
Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the text itself begs for Aziraphale and Crowley to take that one last leap and actualize their relationship. We are given a couple scenes where Crowley swoops in to rescue Aziraphale from being killed (or discorporated), even going into a church and burning his feet to do so. In the same sequence, Crowley manages to save Aziraphale’s beloved books, and composer David Arnold’s music treats us to a sweet violin as Aziraphale’s features turn soft as he stares after Crowley. This scene, for the record, is when Michael Sheen believes Aziraphale realizes he is in love with him. In the show, Crowley makes it clear that he could get in serious trouble with Hell if they found out he rescued an angel, but he does it more than once. If he were to have risked danger to save a woman, people would have no problem seeing their relationship as a romantic one.
The same goes for when Crowley asks Aziraphale to run away with him to avoid the end of the world. He literally asks him to run away to another galaxy, away from their beloved earth. It would be the two of them, alone. How is this not romantic? To make things worse, Gaiman actually acknowledges this is exactly how it reads, when a passerby says, “You’re better off without him” after Crowley claims he is leaving and “won’t even think about you!” It feels like a break up scene, as does the scene where Aziraphale insists there is “no more our side” and “it’s over.” Watch the scenes again. Picture one of them as a woman. Would you have trouble seeing how they could be a couple?
Another damning scene is when Crowley rushes to rescue Aziraphale from the burning bookshop as Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”, written by bassist John Deacon about his wife, blares. After thinking Aziraphale is dead, Crowley screams out in anguish, and then Queen’s “Somebody to Love” plays as he exits the burning building, dejected. There is nothing, whatsoever, platonic about “Somebody to Love.”
Then, Crowley doesn’t run away to the stars to avoid the end of the world, because Aziraphale is gone. Again, imagine Crowley had been running in to save a woman from the fire, and drank by himself in a bar afterwards to cope.
Aziraphale also stresses that he would be in trouble with his bosses if they discovered he was fraternizing with a demon, but he does it anyway, at least until the pressure to obey authority is too much for him at the end of the 3rd episode. The main theme of the show seems to be making choices, and he ultimately does choose to defy Heaven, but Aziraphale’s character arc in particular could very easily have a queer reading applied. Once Heaven finds out he has been hanging out with Crowley over the years, they outright threaten him, call him a “fallen angel”, and then refer to Crowley as his “boyfriend in the glasses.” Aside from the fact that Gaiman yet again acknowledged that their relationship could be seen as a gay one, fearing what a higher, religious authority would do if they found out you were hanging around with someone who (for all intents and purposes) is of the same sex, and then being punished for doing so, fits in perfectly with the struggles religious members of the LGBT community must bear. On a related note, Aziraphale is so caught up in Heaven’s propaganda that a part of him does believe he is different and better than Crowley, and not meant to be around him. It takes the course of the whole show for him to accept that he is not what Heaven wants (obedient, or perhaps, straight), and he goes home with Crowley after realizing he is no longer on Heaven’s side. Denying what the heart truly desires through layers of repression and denial is exactly what Aziraphale does, and is achingly familiar to members of the LGBT community. It would have been infinitely more satisfying for the narrative to have concluded with Aziraphale and Crowley kissing and confessing how much they mean to each other, after 6,000 years of struggle, instead of them simply smiling fondly at each other across the dinner table.
Neil Gaiman has not been unsupportive of fans shipping them, but still quick to insist none of that really matters. Saying he wrote them as a love story on his tumblr does not mean much when there is no textual reference to this, and when he simultaneously asserts, “You can infer, and (more to the point) you can imagine, and lots of people have chosen, not unreasonably, to ship him with Aziraphale, but you are still Making Stuff Up. It could be Making Stuff Up that happens between paragraphs, or Making Stuff Up that isn’t mentioned at all, but it’s still Making Stuff Up.” Giving a half-assed blessing to write fan fiction does not make up for his insistence that, no, you silly fan, they are not actually gay, you’re making stuff up. At best, his attitude is patronizing, and at worst, liking posts that insist Aziraphale and Crowley cannot be gay.
In an attempt to deny they are gay but still gain Woke points, Gaiman made the weird assertion that they are not humans so they cannot have sexes, but they can be ace or trans. Does that not inherently imply that being ace or trans is inhuman? Personally, I do not believe Gaiman thinks so, but this is merely a result of him backing himself into a corner in justifying why they can’t be gay.
Telling people they can imagine all they want while telling everyone at every chance possible that they are not gay, and leaving their 6,000 year-old relationship in the realm of ambiguity, is not revolutionary. Since people on the ace spectrum can and do fall in love and kiss on the mouth, this truly is not asexual representation. It is not any sort of representation.
It‘s following the tired tradition of treating male relationships beyond friendship as uncomfortable and better left unsaid. How groundbreaking could this book and series possibly be when people online and in real life insist you’re reading too much into their relationship, or undermining the importance of platonic male friendship, if you dare to suggest they are in romantic, gay love? As long as their love cannot be seen by the average straight viewer, you failed as a writer to represent anyone or anything other than the hegemony. In this case, as a writer, Gaiman failed to follow this narrative through. People excuse the anticlimactic end to Aziraphale and Crowley’s arc by pointing out the book was written in the 90s, and it was a different time back then. Neil Gaiman wrote the script for the mini-series. It’s 2019. There is no excuse for ambiguity with, and only with, relationships between male-presenting characters.
Telling fans to write fan fiction is nice. Having actors say the characters are in love is nice, too. Making Aziraphale/Crowley canon would have been nicer, braver, and more satisfying in terms of writing. Instead, we are left with literary blue balls by the end of the story, knowing how much these two characters care for and need each other, but never seeing their love culminate into any expression of affection, verbal or physical. It may be 2019, but we need more media featuring fully-realized gay relationships. No, just saying it’s a love story is not enough. You have to actually say that in the script for it to make an impact outside of twitter and tumblr spheres. Yes, having them be gay, and not just queer-platonic ace, matters when people are still discriminated against for it in every part of the world.
Good Omens is a wonderful, engaging show that has complicated characters and themes. Too bad its writer queerbaited the audience. To fans who say they don’t need Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship to go there, question why. If you are amongst those fans and also part of the LGBT community, then for God’s-Satan’s-someone’s sake, stop settling for literary breadcrumbs and demand better.