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Queer Teen Representation

by Liam Conway
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With the much-needed representation of queer teens and their relationships in recent shows and movies, I feel like I should compare and contrast three f the most recent shows. Of what they got right and what they missed the mark on.

The newest show on the market, “Heartstopper,” from Netflix, had a lot of great representation that I felt was lacking a bit in the media. Firstly, Nick being bisexual is actually very important. Many lgbtq+ stories focus on guys coming out as gay, with no real representation of bi characters. It allows queer teens to realize that sexuality is a spectrum. His being confused about liking both boys and girls and then google gay quizzes is such an accurate portrayal of people figuring out themselves. On top of that, Darcy and Tara have an interracial lesbian relationship, making for a refreshing take on teen love. Although their story takes more of a side plot, I personally feel like it is still such an important part to mention. Also, having teenage trans representation with Elle is so important, especially with actress Yasmin Finney being a black trans girl herself. It allows her to make a real connection to that character and allows trans youth to actually feel represented in the media, something that is majorly lacking in television and movies. I do feel like some negatives come from how the episodes aren’t the longest, leading to wanting longer episodes with more depth, but that might ruin the pacing, so it’s not that big of a deal. This show has so much more representation than other lgbtq+ teen shows, making it a lot better than the others.

Watch Heartstopper | Netflix Official Site

The next one up is from Hulu, “Love Victor.” This is a sort-of sequel to “Love, Simon” (even though that book has an actual sequel following Leah and her bisexual awakening, but whatever). Some positives include having a pretty diverse cast, as well as focusing on Victor, a queer teen of Latin descent. The soundtrack is pretty good, as well. Honestly, I do have a bit more complaints than I remember. Firstly, just like “Love, Simon,” the first season follows two in-shape masculine guys, making it hard for a lot of queer teens to relate to. Leah’s book literally touches on this, they could have used her story and rebranded it for a queer teen girl in Creekwood to have that continuity, but oh well. Yes, the movie did help me come out myself, but it did have some issues with my body image and personality after it. I didn’t feel fit enough, nor masculine enough. Also, the writing feels a little cringy at times, making it obvious older people are writing teenagers. The second season has a bit more positives, with the inclusion of Rahim, a Muslim LGBTQ+ character. Although he still fits a lot of the typical traits of being attractive, he’s more feminine, something that is seen as a negative in the gay community, which they touch on in an episode. It’s no secret he’s probably my favorite character, but I still feel a lot can be done with this show to help educate and reflect the real-life queer community. That would help so many teenagers accept themselves, and not have a subconscious feeling of having to have certain features to be attractive.

Watch Love, Victor | Full episodes | Disney+

The final one is Netflix’s Young Royals. Even though it’s almost a year old, I still think it really needs more attention. This show is so well done. The acting, writing, and lighting. Everything. It is for sure more serious than the other two, but I think that can be a good thing. If you want a happy ending, might wanna skip this. It feels more realistic, which is sometimes needed to not put so much romanticism on relationships, which can also be harmful to queer teens. They can’t always get a happy ending and find the love of their life right away, finding love can be painful. Having to move on from that is painful. That is fully captured in this show. Yes, it still has the cute little pieces of them holding hands and kissing for the first time, etc etc. Another thing that works really well for this show is the accurate depiction of teenagers. The two main characters, Wilhelm and Omar, have acne and skin blemishes and other very minor visual things about them that make them feel like real teens. “Heartstopper” has this to an extent, but “Young Royals” has more of it. Yeah, this may seem minor. But comparing the characters from this show to “Love, Victor,” it gives not only a sense of them being real teenagers but also allows queer teens to make the subconscious recognition of not having to have all of the perfect traits to have a relationship.

Review: Young Royals | Redbrick TV

Alright, some quick takeaways we can do. Queer teen stories should focus on realistic teens, like “Heartstopper,” and “Young Royals” (not the whole royalty thing having to cover up his romance, but like, being an actual teen, you know?). There should be more representation than just white queer boys, we should also get nice love stories, but also some that are heartbreaking to make it feel even and show different types of love, even the ones that won’t work out. Ok, rant’ss over.

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