As a queer child in early 2000s, LGBTQIA+ representation was few and far between. But every Sunday night for years, my family unknowingly tuned in to some of the most homoerotic shit I have ever seen. BBC’s Merlin, a show about a gay little wizard and his blonde bisexual jock boyfriend.
In case you were a cool child who didn’t watch Merlin, it was a British show which aired on Channel 10 in Aus from 2008 to 2012.
The show was based on the Arthurian legends, a collection of medieval British stories that first started popping up in the 10th century. Arthur is the mythic king of Camelot destined to save England. Merlin is his trusted advisor and a wizard.
But despite that, the TV show centres Merlin as its main character. It shows him rocking up to Camelot and hiding his wizarding powers because Prince Arthur’s dad King Uther hates magic. We all hate King Uther.
So far pretty classic 2008 fantasy-adventure stuff, you might be thinking! That doesn’t sound very gay at all, you might be scoffing! How on earth could this awaken the fires of homosexuality in a 10-year-old girl, you may ponder!
My friends, from its very first episode BBC’s Merlin hit a nerve in pubescent viewers around the world. They made one crucial plot choice: portraying Merlin and Arthur as enemies to friend (to lovers, IMO).
Behold this scene from episode one, where Merlin rocks up in Camelot not knowing Arthur is the prince. Arthur is young, hot and powerful. Merlin is young, hot and a secret wizard. And guess what guys? They fucking hate each other.
@ineffableidiocy and this is just episode ONE #merthur #merlin #arthurpendragon #bbcmerlin #merlinxarthur #arthurxmerlin #merlinedit #merthuredit #bbcmerlinedit #usher #ohmygosh ♬ Slipping Through My Fingers – From ‘Mamma Mia!’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Meryl Streep & Amanda Seyfried
@daniellesilverstone #greenscreenvideo this is ALL FROM EPISODE ONE !!! #merthur #merlin #merlinbbc #bbcmerlin #arthurpendragon ♬ original sound – Danielle 🐵✡️🧚🏼♀️✨
Merlin saying “how long have you been training to be a prat, my lord?” while dropping into a sarcastic half-bow? Gay. Arthur then appointing Merlin as his man servant? Gay. Merlin secretly saving Arthur’s life with magic at risk of death multiple times and never telling him? Gay. Merlin having to hide the fact he’s magic out of fear of persecution? G-A-Y.
It’s classic enemies-to-man-servant-to-friends-to-trusted-advisor(-to-lovers) shit right there.
Of course, this was 2008 so Merlin and Arthur didn’t get together. The show follows the plot of the original Arthurian legends where Arthur ultimately marries Guinevere, his half-sister Morgana’s maid.
In the show Guinevere is played by Angel Colby, whom I have loved since the tender age of 10 and will love until the day my withered corpse leaves this earth. I genuinely think Guinevere was integral to my gay awakening.
@helenaravenclxw she’s so pretty <3 #bbcmerlin #gwen #guinevere #guineverependragon #gwenedit #gwenpendragon #queenguinevere #edit #bbcmerlinedit #merlin #merlinedit ♬ original sound – helena <3
Plus, as the Merlin stans on TikTok know, there was definite sexual tension between Gwen and Morgana. Alas, Morgana ultimately becomes an evil sorceress who tries to destroy Camelot.
But in my tween mind? Girlfriends.
@looou1sa i think about them every day #gwen #morgana #guinevere #morganapendragon #guineverependragon #merlin #bbcmerlin #morgwen #edit ♬ original sound – louisa [on hiatus]
BBC Merlin unintentionally having not one but two intensely homoerotic friendships? We do in fact love to see it, especially if we are closeted 12-year-olds.
And the gay cherry on top is that Arthur literally dies in Merlin’s arms at the end of the series. Arthur dies just as Merlin finally tells him he can do magic.
@loverboyfallen what a lie. #foryou #fyp #foryoupage #merlin #arthurpendragon #merthur #morganapendragon #bbcmerlin #whatalie #xyzbca ♬ original sound – matthew
Completing the true gay TV show narrative: one of them has to die tragically.
Morgana actress Katie McGrath and showrunner Julian Murphy did a commentary track for the show’s finale in a DVD boxset for the final season. DVD boxsets? Streaming services simply cannot compete.
“We did, very genuinely, think of the episode as a love story between two men. Which is what I think it is, jokes and innuendo aside,” Murphy said.
As Arthur dies, he tells Merlin “just hold me”. Murphy spoke about that (gay) dialogue choice.
“He’s dying, the man he loves is dying, so he’s holding him,” Murphy said.
Is this even subtext anymore babes?
So whether intentional or not, thank you to the BBC for accidentally making the gayest show of the noughties. My tween self appreciates it.