This past weekend, queer/LGBT geeks and their allies flocked to the Brooklyn Bridge Mariott in New York. For the third year in a row, FlameCon provided a space specifically for us. And for the first time, Gotham actor Robin Lord Taylor (known as the Penguin) acted as a major headline guest for the event. At his Q&A session on Saturday, August 19th, he took questions from fans about everything from the iconic limp to fan reactions to Oswald Cobblepot’s queerness.
Yours truly was present at the panel, and I recorded the whole thing on video, which is at the end of this article. In the meantime, though, here are some highlights and takeaways:
1) RLT refers to Cobblepot specifically as “queer” throughout the panel.
Hearing Robin Lord Taylor discuss Oswald’s sexuality is fascinating. Fandom discourse, especially in places like Tumblr, can get tetchy about a character’s sexuality. The word “queer” itself sometimes becomes verboten, despite its history of reclamation. An inclusive definition by nature, by defining Oswald as queer, RLT gives us a few things. First, Oswald’s preferences may not rigidly be for men. Secondly, the use of the word queer still gives Oswald an outsider, non-mainstream sort of vibe. I find this extremely appropriate for Gotham and its madcap, non-mainstream world.
A character like Oswald, who sits outside conventional boundaries of morality on a good day, deserves the term queer as much as any non-straight real person.
2) Ed Nygma is the first non-familial person Oswald has ever loved. Or, well, “loved.”
Another thing RLT was totally insistent on was the fact that Oswald’s conception of love is extremely twisted. He often used air quotes when discussing the subject, in fact. But he tells us that Oswald certainly believes he loved Ed, and that this love is the first love Oswald has ever had besides his parents, which is a different kind of love. Due to a childhood full of social trauma at the hands of peers, among other issues, Oswald has literally never experienced romantic or sexual love before. Asexual- and aromantic-spectrum Penguin fans, rejoice!
3) Robin Lord Taylor would love to get to use some of Penguin’s comics-canon gadgets in the future.
While he didn’t specify which gadgets, RLT told a story about how, after about the millionth time people pulled a gun on his character, he went to the producers to ask if Oswald could at least start carrying a gun. Additionally, he loved the knife in the cane from last season. Unfortunately, he didn’t hint at whether or not Oswald will be packing heat or using gadgets in Season 4 of Gotham, but here’s to hoping!
4) His least favorite reactions to Oswald being queer are the “But it’s not canon!” ones.
At the end of the panel, a Mystique cosplayer asked about reactions to Oswald being queer. RLT talked about how the reactions he hated most were variants on “But it’s not canon in the comics!” Mostly because they tended to come from the same people who simultaneously didn’t have a problem with Batman and Catwoman knowing each other “when they were tweens,” among other alterations the show has made to comics canon. He pointed out that if the outlier was the gay storyline, then the person with the problem may not know it, but they’re being homophobic. Definitely watch the panel to the end, though, for the best quote: “Are you kidding me with this canon sh*t?!”
Overall, Robin Lord Taylor is really well-spoken, incredibly charming, and extremely aware of his position, his character, and the importance of both what he does and what fans do. I’m glad to have seen him speak, and I’m looking forward to possibly seeing him again at FlameCon next year.
In the meantime, though, here’s the full panel: