The Queer Factor In “What We Do in the Shadows”

What We Do in the Shadows is undoubtedly funny and unapologetically queer.

Adapted from a 2014 film with the same title, and starring Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou as Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja, a trio of vampires co-habiting with their human familiar and later bodyguard Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) and their energy vampire roommate Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Were this a simple review, I would highlight all the absurd and bizarre adventures they get up to along with a supporting and guest cast of equally chaotic characters. However, since this piece is intended to focus on what makes What We do in The Shadows top-tier queer, I will not focus on what makes it a top-tier comedy, though that makes it worth watching on its own.

This piece is about a very specific part of the show, up there as one of the biggest reasons why I came to love it in such a short amount of time (watching 3 seasons in one day was in equal parts a great and terrible decision)- the handling of its queer characters, which to the uninitiated, is almost all the main cast.

As someone who has grown up craving queer media at a time when it was more normal to see obvious queerbaiting as opposed to actual queer portrayals, I was a little hesitant going into it. Was it really as unabashedly queer as I had heard it to be, or was I going to end up being disappointed? To answer that question, the lovely Nadja has only this to say:

What makes it queer is everything really, it is not so much that the characters just happen to be queer, or that their sexuality is some stand-alone characteristic that exists only in a romantic setting. Laszlo and Nadja, although married to each other, spare no expenses in detailing their sexual exploits with others, most notably the ancient vampire Baron Afanas (Doug Jones). Nandor, who was initially presented as The Straight GuyTM, reveals in season 4 that out of his 37 wives, some were men too, as it was perfectly normal for men to marry each other.

Out of all the characters, it is Guillermo who is shown to have his coming-out be an important character arc. While his sexuality had been alluded to over the course of the series, along with feelings he had for Nandor, Guillermo officially comes out to his family in the 4th season (P.S. there is also a reveal earlier that Guillermo, who wants to become a vampire, is actually a descendent of legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing who is perhaps destined to kill vampires, but that’s a subplot for another day).

Not that it wasn’t poignant, but a coming out scene that was chock full of emotion would actually have been uncharacteristic for the series. In a hilarious exchange, Guillermo is trying to keep his family (who have awakened the Van Helsing blood within themselves) from killing Nadja, whom he had earlier presented as his partner. There is a moment of tension from Guillermo’s end as he comes out and reveals, both to his family and to the viewer- that he is in fact gay (and that he wants to be a vampire, but no big deal). It quickly gets diffused with the comedic timing of the series, for the family’s larger concern is not that Guillermo is gay, apparently something they had always known, but the perhaps teeny-tiny bit more worrying idea that he wants to be a vampire. Because of the latter, Nadja is forced to wipe out memories of the night from their heads, inadvertently taking away the memories of Guillermo coming out too, but that doesn’t matter to him or to us. He was able to do it in any case, in a moment both comedic as well as cathartic.

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While thinking of how to construct this piece, I was stuck on how best to convey that yes, all these characters are really, really queer, and their queer arcs are written into the story as normally as their vampire arcs are- there isn’t ever a moment (save for the coming out scene of course) where the characters pause to think about what the implications for their sexualities are. They get as taken for granted as them being vampires, or comedic geniuses. Without a doubt, this was perhaps my biggest takeaway from the particular queer portrayals in What We Do in the Shadows.

(Picture Source- Reddit)

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