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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

From movies to characters, here’s what Netflix has to offer the LGBT community

Exploring different television shows, movies that feature LGBT characters, storylines


“I Am Not Okay With This”

Following the hype of “Stranger Things,” Netflix cast the popular Sophia Lillis to play Sydney Novak, a young teen struggling to cope with the dangers of high school, her sexuality and superpowers. Sydney, who is 17 and lives with her mother and younger brother, struggles to cope with the death of her father after he dies by suicide. 

The show is about representation. It’s about giving young women the ability to see themselves as a powerful character that can be the main character, that can have cool superpowers and be gay.  

“Atypical” (Season 2)

Atypical” follows Sam, a penguin-loving teenager with Autism, who suddenly decides he’s ready to get a girlfriend. This fun comedy shows Sam’s story as he navigates his way through romance, highschool and dealing with his overprotective younger sister. The show gives an admirable amount of plot to all of the characters in Sam’s life.

“Atypical” was a beautiful Netflix show with a short run of four seasons. Cassey’s story picked up in the beginning of Season 2, and although a lot of her choices were questionable, I found myself more angry with her than favoring her. She gives a new voice compared to the LGBTQ characters we have previously seen. In popular shows, LGBTQ characters are often the ones without any depth, those that are simply “good.” “Atypical,” however, throws away this problematic idea and gives Cassey dimension, allowing her to move the plot forward. 

“One Day at a Time”

The small Alvarez apartment houses three generations of Cuban-Americans. With a spunky grandmother, a divorced mother, a closeted teen and a popular tween, the house gets a little crazy with everyone running around. The sitcom finds itself touching upon modern subjects that most comedies avoid. The divorced mother is a military veteran who, after deployments to Afghanistan, struggles with PTSD, all while her oldest child is struggling to come out to their religious family. 

Elena Alvarez is stuck with a religious Cuban family — quite possibly the worst combination for a lesbian. The show highlights what it means to live in silence when you’re afraid of coming out, not only to a highly Hispanic family with traditional roots, but to a Catholic family with a God who frowns upon homosexuality. The show brings in episodes of Elena having to face coming out to her family, being rejected by people that she loves and being afraid to go out in public with her girlfriend.

LGBT Directed Movies: 

“Other People”

This autobiographical film focuses on the struggle of losing a family member. After breaking up with his boyfriend and having an overall terrible year, David moves back to his tiny hometown to take care of his dying mother. While David deals with his dysfunctional and homophobic family, everyone struggles to cope with the thought of losing a beloved family member. 

The movie is loosely based on writer Chris Kelly’s life after the death of his mother in 2009, when he was four. Kelly was a writer and director for Saturday Night Live. He has received eight Emmy nominations for his work on SNL and wrote “Other People” for the opening at the 2016 Sundance Festival. 

“Paris is Burning”

This 1990 documentary focuses on drag queens trying to make it in New York City. The film speaks to the “house” culture and its ability to provide a comforting sense of community for those individuals who are commonly outcast. The documentary took seven years to make and sheds light on individuals we don’t normally get to see on-screen: gay people of color, drag queens and transgender women as they compete in shows. The film alternates between the colorful lives they portray on stage and candid interviews discussing prevalent topics in drag such as racism, classism and beauty standards in the industry. 

“The Half of It”

When the golden-hearted but dim Paul Munsky hires shy Ellie Chu to write him a love letter, things get a little out of hand. Paul loves the popular Aster Flores, but so does Ellie. In a religious town, the pair of friends find the friendship they never had while Ellie decides exactly who she wants to be. 

Having a slow, non-sexualized lesbian romance is rare. But adding a mixed racial lesbian romance is completely mythical. The movie showcases a kind of LGBTQ representation that is not frequently seen. Often, we are given white LGBTQ characters on a silver platter, so a mixed race couple is unspeakable if one of the individuals isn’t white. Lesbian filmaker Alice Wu brings a nice change of pace for young girls who are now able to see themselves in a movie.

“Holding The Man” 

This film, adopted by Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir of the same name, features a 15-year romance between Tim and John, a high school drama student and a star football player who fall in love. Conigrave was an actor, playwright and LGBTQ activist, and his memoir won a Human Rights Award for nonfiction in 1995 from the Australian Human Rights Commission

Director Neil Armfield took this story from the pages to the screen. Armfield connects to this story personally, as he knew Conigrave before he passed. Ultimately, their connection was a familiar one in the LGBTQ community, of friends lost to AIDS. 

“Alex Strangelove”

In this slightly cringe-inducing, coming-of-age movie, Alex Truelove is ready to have sex. He sets out to lose his virginity to his girlfriend, but plans change when he goes to a party and meets a charming boy from outside of town. 

Director Craig Johnson found that Alex’s story reflected his own coming out story. He admits that the tale of the Truelove boy is largely autobiographical and he wanted to shed light on what a realistic coming out story looks like. The movie came out in 2018, but was in the writing process for over 10 years. 

“The Way He Looks”

The Way He Looks” is a Brazilian film and, like so many LGBT films, a coming-of-age story. The story focuses on Leonardo, a blind teen who wants his independence. His friends help him through school as the love he has for one of his closest friends blossoms. 

The movie is Daniel Ribeiro’s feature debut and is based off the 2010 short film “I don’t want to go back alone.” Ribeiro’s film won the Teddy Award for best LGBT-themed feature. 

Written by: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org


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