“Welcome to the Night Vale”
(Warning: Slight spoilers involving character development)
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”
Community radio host Cecil Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin) introduces listeners to Night Vale with these words, echoing the surreal calm that permeates the series. Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, local radio broadcasts reveal the daily life of an American southwest desert town and its bizarre normality. Episodes will sound familiar to fans of The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, and H.P. Lovecraft among others.
Twice a month, the events and happenings of Night Vale are told through Cecil’s reports and commentary. Topics range from the community calendar, news reports from the Mayor’s office, traffic, and ‘weather’. During these broadcasts, listeners learn more about the strange, and sometimes frightening, little desert town that are taken as a matter of course. Over time, listeners learn about the terrors of librarians, the Glow Cloud that randomly drops dead animals, and the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.
With all this, the fact that the lead character is a gay man is one of the most ordinary aspects of the show. Once in a while, Cecil can’t help but gush about what’s going on in his personal life, especially when it involves Night Vale’s newcomer, Carlos the Scientist. Cecil’s feelings for this man and his “perfect hair” are made clear from the start; on Cecil’s first glimpse of him at a town meeting:
“He grinned, and everything about him was perfect. And I fell in love instantly.”
But Cecil is a radio professional. References to his homosexuality are sparse throughout the show, hardly noticed against the rising death count of radio station interns, though it picks up as the relationship evolves. Not only that, it’s not a concern of anyone else in town either. This blasé acceptance has made the show a major hit with GLBT audiences.
Chances are, if a book or film uses a GLBT-identifying protagonist, that identity will be the main focus of the story. Titles like these are incredibly important, dealing with topics of coming out, acceptance, love, homophobia, and prejudice among others. But here, we find an example of a new stage in fictional storytelling for our community. Where we can be who we are, without it becoming all that we are. Love it or hate it, it’s a valuable addition to the variety of orientation in entertainment.
Welcome to Night Vale entered its third year this July, and is starting its European tour of live episodes in October. Look online for episodes to stream and download. Learn more at:
By Christopher Boire