From Netflix’s Atypical via Black Lightning, to F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Sex In The City
BY GEORGIA BUTLER. IMAGE ATYPICAL/YOUTUBE
What do we want? Diverse and accurate LGBTQI+ representation in the media. When do we want it? About 25 years ago, maybe..? Things have come a long way since the first issue of DIVA was published way back in 1994, and representation improves each year in film and television, but there is still a long way to go.
In celebration of the progress thus far, we’ve rounded up just a few of the shows who are really getting it right – as well as those who, well, haven’t…
Netflix series Atypical has won our hearts. Not only is its depiction of autism moving and explorative, the development of non-binary actor Brigette Lundy-Paine’s character Casey, and her changing relationship with best-friend Izzy, is a warming love story. The TV show explores the idea that sexuality can be fluid and at no point attempts to confine Casey in any sort of label. There is no talk of her being a lesbian or bisexual. She is just a girl falling in love with another girl, and that’s pretty damn beautiful.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine just manages to do things right time and time again. It’s representation of diversity is impeccable, and not only that but it is a TV that (finally) gives some visibility to bisexual and queer people of colour. Rosa Diaz changed our lives when she came out as bi. Her hesitancy and the authenticity given to the role by the actress Stephanie Beatriz, who is also bisexual, caught us right in the emotions. This, along with openly gay Captain Holt, makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine well deserving of its place on this list.
Black Lightning has it all. Super powers – and a primary character who is a woman of colour and queer but isn’t solely defined by either. Unlike most of the other examples on our list, Anissa is already out before the series even commences. There is no dramatic plot twist based on a sexuality reveal. She is just… gay. And fierce (You break that sink girl.) Anissa’s character is grounded on her activism, her fight against evil, and last but not least, her badass super powers. She is a role model to women of colour, queer women and, scratch that, women everywhere.
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is Netflix’s equal parts scary and steamy take on the old classic Sabrina The Teenage Witch. The remake enters the world of satanic witches where hedonism rules and sexualities remain ambiguous. We all know that scene, you know the one, the one with the orgy. (You don’t?) Oh yeah, that’s because there are multiple. Not only do we have Ambrose – Sabrina’s pansexual cousin – but throughout the series you also see her best friend transition and live his authentic self as Theo. Spellbinding.
And (the best of) the worst…
The last episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S aired 16 years ago and, while for many it’s a treasured series, it’s important to remember the fact that it is a TV show set in New York City, in the 90s, without a single lead character who is LGBTQI+, or a Person of Colour. Just let that sink in for a moment. It’s certainly of its time… but society has progressed and F.R.I.E.N.D.S cannot be argued to have that “timeless value” no matter how much we might wish it did.
Sex And The City
Oh, Sex and the City. I do love you. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it… The show is rife with sexism, queer stereotypes and problematic storylines. To name a few issues… but it is a wonderful guilty pleasure. Let’s talk about it: the lesbian storyline. Let me preface this by pointing out that the season in question aired in 2001. (That isn’t even a very good excuse, but still). Samantha’s explorative relationship with Maria honestly painted queer women as over-dramatic, crazy, and of little value beyond an experimental fling… (Also, for the record, that is not what squirting looks like).
Did someone say queer bait? Killing Eve is dramatic, it has great characterisation and the storytelling is superb, with strong female characters played by lez/bi actors to boot. Okay. So maybe it’s not the worst… And maybe it should be enough that it tells an exciting and dramatic story. But what it definitely does not bring, is a fulfilling queer hook-up between lead characters Eve and Villanelle and we’re just a little sour about that…
Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is a show that started promising but went slowly downhill. Frankly, by the end, it seemed like the writers were desperately grasping for storyline. Sorry – no offence guys. Emily’s character discovers her queer identity in the first season, slowly navigating her way around it. But something about her storyline never seemed… genuine. It lacked a realism that perhaps other TV shows have managed. What exactly is missing, we can’t put our finger on. But this one gets a miss. (A solid effort, though…)
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