There’s no better way to celebrate Pride month than the return of Hulu’s hit show Love, Victor(2020), a groundbreaking story that champions the LGBTQ+ community. The show was inspired and set in the same world as the award-winning and first major studio produced gay teen film Love, Simon (2018).
The entertainment industry has always been condemned for its lack of representation, equality, and diversity when it comes to portraying certain groups and demographics on screen. As a result of monumental movements and campaigns in the recent years, the voices of underrepresented groups are now being recognized and society is finally taking note of these important social issues. When Hollywood joined the conversation, these voices have been further amplified and have been positively changing the course of history for future generations.
The Game Changers Who are Rewriting the Narrative
These are some of the ranges of shows that cater to different age groups and changed how the LGBTQ+ community has been represented on screen over the past years.
Arthur(1996) is a long-running animated series entertaining and educating children for generations. This show made history at PBS as the first cartoon to feature an openly gay character and wedding in the premiere episode of its 22nd season. LGBTQ+ representation in kids’ TV shows is a huge leap and an essential step in cultivating the minds of the young in understanding sexual identities and processing their own self-discovery or awareness.
RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009) is an Emmy Award-winning reality competition that showcases the transgender community, particularly those who express themselves through drag performance. This show has created a wider exposure for drag queens and at the same time imparts “important life lessons of acceptance, body positivity, diversity, and love. It is OK to be gay, transgender, Muslim, Persian, from a small town, survivors of abuse, different, skinny, in between and fat.”
Orange is the New Black (2013) is considered one of the pioneers that paved the way for LGBTQ+ stories on streaming platforms. The story starts off when a bisexual upper-class white woman is incarcerated for selling drugs for her ex-girlfriend. It’s one of the first binge-worthy shows that put a spotlight on social issues that women face in regards to racial discrimination, white privilege, sexual identity, addiction, police brutality and violence. It’s also worth noting that Laverne Cox was dubbed as the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award because of her memorable role on this show.
Special (2019) chronicles the life of a young gay man who has cerebral palsy and his battle with coming into terms with his disability and figuring out how to live an authentic life free of society’s judgement. Creator Ryan O’Connell expressed in an interview with Variety, “This might shock you, but putting a gay disabled lead on TV isn’t an instant sell. It takes time, perseverance and a sprinkle of delusion.” But this is exactly the reason why this show became a hit and was renewed for another season. It’s a story that gives a voice to the disabled community especially to those who are still in the process of discovering their sexual identity.
Love, Victor (2020) follows the life of a Latinx high school student, Victor, and his journey of self-discovery as he struggles to come into terms with his sexual orientation. What’s great about this show is the way they depict different perspectives of what teenagers from minority groups go through as they grapple with their sexual identity and at the same time knowing how the people around them such as their conservative family and friends process and deal with their coming out. Furthermore, it also puts into perspective how Latinx queers do not have the same privilege as many white queers in terms of being accepted by their respective communities.
The Importance of Appropriate LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media
The LGBTQ+ community has been kept in the dark for too long and it is the duty of those who have the power or means to give a voice and a platform to honor and represent the community as authentic and genuine as possible. The stories and characters we see in films or TV series are some of the most influential forms in shaping society, and in the past it was difficult for those who belong in the community to relate to characters portrayed on screen or to put a name to what they were feeling because of the lack of appropriate representation.
Sure, there were films and shows such as Friends (1994), Queer as Folk (1999), The L Word (2004), Brokeback Mountain (2005) among others, but it was mostly focused on the lives of adult gay men and lesbians, failing to tell the stories of other members of the queer community. Today, doors have opened and major studios are expanding their slates and investing their money in queer stories that cater to kids, teenagers, adults, and the elderly.
Why is it important to have appropriate representation on screen? First of all, appropriate representation is the first step in fighting and breaking down stereotypes that can destructively affect people’s lives. When a group is underrepresented or is depicted negatively, this affects the perception of an entire community as well as the way people see themselves. Authentic representation can increase positive feelings of self-worth as well as eliminate the barriers, widen perspectives, and help educate our society.
Secondly, exploring LGBTQ+ stories and characters will help society have a better understanding of the complexities that queers deal with on a daily basis, allowing for more compassion, acceptance, and support from their communities. Not only will the LGBTQ+ community feel seen and understood, but also show those who are skeptical that they are also humans who have the same emotions and rights as straight people. Then maybe, we could fully eradicate and condemn homophobic hate crimes, offensive punchlines, and unwarranted discrimination that have devastatingly taken away countless innocent lives.
appropriate representation is the first step in fighting and breaking down stereotypes that can destructively affect people’s lives
Lastly, clinical psychologist Jennifer O’Brien, Ph.D emphasized that there is another facet of LGBTQ+ representation and visibility that we should take into account. She articulated, “If most LGBTQ characters that are represented in the media are played by white actors, this drastically misrepresents the true racial makeup of the community and can leave LGBTQ people of color to be rendered invisible by society.”
The way to address these issues is to let diverse LGBTQ+ writers, directors, producers, actors, and crew take center stage and allow them to tell their stories. By doing so, we will see more original, genuine, and richer characters that truly represent every facet of the queer community. While there’s still so much work to be done in terms of queer representation, we have already made significant growth and changes that are worth acknowledging.
We must constantly strive to be on the right side of history and be an ally in the fight for justice, equality, and human rights so that future generations wouldn’t have to hide in the dark, suppress their authentic self, or be afflicted with fear for simply being who they are.