First, a quick introduction to this month’s feature:
This Pride Month, I decided I wanted to use SeriesFuse to amplify the varying voices of the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, I wanted to hear how in relation to television, an LGBTQ+ character, actor, relationship or even show has impacted each individual.
Representation is an important aspect of all of our lives. If you’ve never had to actively search for a character that represents you, you’re one of the lucky ones. LGBTQ+ representation has been a widely discussed topic for years, largely because it hasn’t always been done right and can be hard to come by. You can’t just tune into any TV show to find a character that reflects you, you’ve got to dig it out. When you finally find a show, you’ve then get to hope that they aren’t a) killed off in the next episode b) a background character and c) portrayed/written awfully. Thankfully, many shows have got it right and many of us have found that character, actor, pairing or show that has truly impacted our lives.
Throughout Pride 2020, I’m going to be either speaking to those people and sharing their thoughts, or hosting the content that they’ve put together themselves.
Today’s feature comes from Liz, otherwise known as majesdane on Twitter, who has chosen the fictional couple Raelle and Scylla from the FreeForm TV show ‘Motherland: Fort Salem’.
1. Who are the couple you’ve chosen?
Raelle Collar (Taylor Hickson) and Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm) are from the FreeForm TV show Motherland: Fort Salem, colloquially known as Raylla. The show is set in an alternate universe where Sarah Alder, a witch, signed the Salem Accord back in 1692 in order to escape prosecution for herself and all witches. All witches are bound by law to serve in the US military.
Raelle is a Fixer (ability to heal) and a new recruit at Fort Salem. Scylla is a Necro who is in her second year. Both Raelle and Scylla are considered outcasts due to their parents: Raelle’s deceased mother married a civilian and Scylla’s parents were executed by the military due to being Dodgers (witches who attempt to avoid conscription). The two quickly develop a deep attraction to each other which blossoms into romance by the end of the first episode.
2. Do you remember how you felt when you first discovered, or were introduced to this pairing?
I first found out about this couple via a friend on Twitter, who posted a promotional photo of Hickson and Holm together.
Initially, I was intrigued enough to watch the first episode (“Say the Words”) when it aired on March 18, 2020. I didn’t know anything about the characters at all, but I was immediately taken by the instant chemistry between the two. It was unbelievably exciting to see all of their flirting throughout the episode, culminating in them making love. My jaw absolutely dropped at that, since it’s rare to see f/f couples built up that well and that quickly in the pilot episode of a show. I was instantly in love with them!
3. Is there a certain scene that pulled you in, or that means a lot to you?
The first scene that really pulled me in was in the first episode where Scylla convinces Raelle to try Salva with her – Salva being a drug in the Motherland universe that witches use to help them levitate. The scene is a gorgeously backlit night shot where we see Ralle and Scylla floating, surrounded by fireflies and reaching out to each other as they bask in the joy of this stolen moment. Hickson and Holm have spoken (see here) on how much work went into this scene, and it truly shows. Besides everything else, the lush soundtrack (“Raelle & Scylla”) really encapsulates the mood.
4. Out of all the couples out there, why does this one mean the most to you?
One thing that stands out to me about Raylla is their importance to the show and how prominently they are featured both on the show and in promotional material. Although their romance is one of many stories, it is neatly threaded throughout nearly every major plot on the show, and even in episodes where the characters don’t interact (1×06, 1×08 and 1×10), their romance is still a driving force on them and other characters in the show.
I’ve watched many shows with f/f couples and Motherland completely blows almost all of them out of the water. This is a show where 2 of the 4 lead characters are LGBTQ+. Raelle is a lesbian and Scylla is bisexual; they are completely comfortable with their sexuality and exist in a universe where LGBTQ+ phobia is not an issue. The fact that they are not afraid to be openly and frequently physical with each other – and that the writers and actresses are not afraid to do it – is truly wonderful to watch. There’s a genuineness to their relationship because of it, and you rarely see two actresses on TV who welcome the chemistry between them and intimacy between their characters.
As Raelle and Scylla are both leads and that their relationship is the romance of the show, it means that much screen time (particularly in the first five episodes) is devoted to developing their characters in this relationship. It sincerely is mind-boggling to see how much time in the show is dedicated to their romance, as f/f couples are usually regulated to background romances and given only minimal development and screen time.
Lastly, the fact that Hickson and Holm are so devoted to Raylla is just the cherry on top. From their many interviews it’s clear that they have a solid friendship built on mutual respect for one another, which allows them to be comfortable in their scenes together and act naturally as a couple. Both are always happy to speak at length about Raylla, and always in the most gushing, heartfelt terms. It’s very clear they’re as devoted to Raylla as the fans are, and it’s wonderful to see Hickson and Holm – as well as the rest of the cast! – whole-heartedly embrace their LGBTQ+ fanbase and Raylla as a storyline.
5. Do you think this pairing provide positive LGBTQ+ representation?
Absolutely! Besides the fact that they are a major feature of the show, as mentioned above, Raelle and Scylla are both fully-realized characters who feel like real people. They are not perfect people – especially not Scylla, who is a member of The Spree, a radical terrorist group/freedom fighters in Motherland – but the show presents them without judgement.
Motherland works very hard to point out that nothing in the world is black and white and that someone’s sexuality is completely separate from the choices they make. In fact, the show goes out of its way to humanize Scylla and make you understand why she does what she does. The writers take negative lesbian and bisexual tropes and flips them on their heads.
It’s important to have LGBTQ+ characters who aren’t portrayed as being perfect, family-friendly sexless beings. Not only are Raelle and Scylla allowed to be openly affectionate with each other, but they’re allowed to be imperfect characters. In order to have real, genuine representation on TV, it’s important to show all facets of humanity – while, of course, also taking care to avoid pervasive stereotypes/tropes. In my opinion, Motherland does all of this.
6. How has their storyline helped you? (specifically with your identity but not limited to)
As a 32 year old lesbian, I’ve always been drawn to wlw characters and f/f romances, but it’s typically very difficult to find ones that are treated with respect by the writers and actresses. As I mentioned, typically wlw characters and f/f relationships are relegated to background pieces. But in Motherland, especially with Raelle, LGBTQ+ characters are positioned as lead characters whose storylines matter and drive the show’s overall plot. Yes, there are and have been other TV shows with lead lesbian characters, but Raelle is just special. Her character and her romance with Scylla feel genuine, they feel lovingly crafted, and that’s something I’ve rarely seen before. It makes me hopeful that other showrunners will take note and want to do the same.
7. Is there anything else we’ve not discussed that you’d like to add?
Motherland: Fort Salem has been renewed for a season 2! Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the girls to be back. Although Raylla ended season one apart, I’m excited to see where Raylla’s story goes in season 2, as their eventual reunion is bound to be overflowing with all kinds of emotions. Besides that, their individual character arcs – Scylla’s especially – will be very intriguing to dive into.
Thank you Liz for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I think everyone can see how much passion you have for this relationship and it helps to emphasise how important these stories are for the community.
You can follow Liz on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/majesdane
If you also love Raelle and Scylla, or just the show in general, share your thoughts in the comments!
You can also get in touch to be featured in a post just like this by sending a DM on Twitter here.