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Ten On-Screen Queer Representations that Transcend Stereotypes

Thanks to Pride month, the streaming space has been abuzz with content geared specifically towards LGBTQ+ themes. The genres are wide ranging–Netflix for instance, offers a teenage romance like “Heartstopper” along with a supernatural drama such as “First Kill”. We were looking for characters that do not follow a set script where they are seen through the heteronormative gaze, invariably have a coming out scene, and are battling with internalised shame or queerphobia. Realistic as these portrayals often are, a majority of them fail to fully tap into the opportunity for radical change that popular media provides. Queer characters on-screen deserve to be treated as the norm now rather than the exception.

We found some interesting queer portrayals that didn’t resort to stereotypical tropes:

Locke & Key (2020-) – Fantasy drama

Available on Netflix

Created by Carlton Cuse, Meredith Averill, and Aron Eli Coleite

This is a fantasy series about a family that can make magical keys that have different powers. Duncan Locke (played by Aaron Ashmore) is the supportive uncle that the three siblings look up to as he encourages their adventures. In the second season, he announces his engagement to his partner, Brian (Milton Barnes), at the dinner table. The series is a refreshing addition to the genre of supernatural horror–it allows Duncan an entire character arc instead of making him a token gay character.

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Aarya (2020-) – Crime Thriller

Available on Disney+ Hotstar

Created by Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi

An adaptation of the Dutch crime thriller “Penoza” (2017), Aarya follows the eponymous character’s (Sushmita Sen) transformation from an innocent homemaker to a criminal mastermind. ACP Younus Khan (Vikas Kumar) is a sharp cop trying to outmanoeuvre her. The nonchalance with which his character wears his gayness is pleasantly surprising. In a scene at the police station, his partner, Ajay, brings him food during work hours. Khan’s subordinate asks him whether he should close the room’s door, to which Khan simply replies, ‘no’.

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Luna Nera (2020-) – Historical fantasy

Available on Netflix

Created by Francesca Manieri, Laura Paolucci, and Tiziana Triana

Set in 17th century Italy, “Luna Nera” is a historical fantasy premised in women being tortured and persecuted for witchcraft. History–and by extension historical fiction–is replete with excommunicated and disempowered queer characters. It is immensely satisfying therefore to see the power couple of Tebe (Manuela Mandracchia) and Leptis (Lucrezia Guidone) command a powerful coven of witches that puts up against the ‘benandanti’ or witch hunters.

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Dead To Me (2019-) – Comedy Drama

Available on Netflix

Created by Liz Feldman

This dark comedy about accidental murders, grieving, and second chances is helmed by frenemies, Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini). The plot primarily revolves around the unlikely friendship of the two women protagonists. In the second season, we see Judy in a same-sex relationship. Even though Judy was seen in heterosexual relationships in the earlier season, the creators don’t try to over-explain her bisexuality. There are no sudden queer awakenings, no raised eyebrows about Judy dating a girl. If anything, Jen congratulates her for moving on from her toxic exes.

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Mare of Easttown (2021) – Crime Drama

Available on Disney+ Hotstar

Created by Brad Ingelsby

This slow burn thriller is set in a small town upended by a series of gendered crimes. It follows the eponymous cop, Mare (Kate Winslet), as she tries to solve a mysterious murder while avoiding her own grief over the death of her son. Mare’s teenage daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) is gay and goes through her routine share of break-ups and new romances, like any other teenager. Their fraught relationship leads to lots of shouting matches, but Siobhan’s queerness is never the centre of any conflict.

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The Umbrella Academy (2019-) – Science Fiction Drama

Available on Netflix

Created by Steve Blackman

Seven children with superpowers are adopted and trained by the eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves to become “the Umbrella Academy”. Their misadventures begin after the seven estranged foster siblings unite at his funeral. Klaus Hargreeves (Robert Sheehan), also called Number Four, has psychic abilities. Able to communicate with the dead, he seeks perpetual inebriation to avoid being plagued by the visions of the dead. Thanks to time travel, Number Four experiences being a cult leader in the sixties and a soldier at the Vietnam War. Flamboyant, irreverent, and androgynous, Klaus’s overt queerness is not grating in the least but just an extension of his general zaniness.

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Sacred Games (2018-2019) – Crime Thriller

Available on Netflix

Created by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap

Sacred Games heralded the arrival of OTT content in India. It was a trailblazer in many ways including in its treatment of queerness. Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the eccentric gangster who gets the ball rolling, is queer. His queerness is an organic part of his character with no additional footnotes. He falls in love with the trans character Kuckoo (Kubbra Sait) and is infatuated by the Guruji’s (Pankaj Tripathi) hypnotic charm with the same ease. The creators do not limit his queerness to any labels.

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Snowpiercer (2020-) – Dystopian Thriller

Available on Netflix

Created by Josh Friedman and Graeme Manson

In a post-apocalyptic dystopia, the mega-train Snowpiercer keeps moving around the frozen planet to keep the survivors inside it warm. The different levels inside the luxury train serve as a metaphor for class inequities. Against this backdrop, third-class passenger Bess Till (Mickey Sumner) goes on a class odyssey. From being a guard, Till moves to becoming a rebel leader and finally the train’s detective. Her relationship with a second-class passenger, Jinju Seong (Susan Park), presents itself as a study of class difference instead of being just a token queer relationship.

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The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) – Gothic Romance/Supernatural Drama

Available on Netflix

Created by Mike Flanagan

A creation of Flanagan’s brand of subtle horror, this is equally a story about love. The narrative is set in the English countryside, where Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) arrives as a governess at Bly Manor. Amidst the supernatural occurrences, she finds herself falling for the gardener, Jamie (Amelia Eve). Ill-fated from the beginning, the sincerity and passion of their love is a cinematic gift set against beautiful soft lighting. The queerness is just a lovely plus.

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Mrs. Fletcher (2019) – Comedy Drama

Available on Disney+ Hotstar

Created by Tom Perrotta

This sex-positive series confronts cishet male entitlement as it tells the story of Mrs. Fletcher’s (Kathryn Hahn) sexual awakening once her son leaves for college. The show’s highlight, however, is Mrs. Fletcher’s creative writing teacher, Margo (Jen Harding). Compassionate, witty, and giving—Margo falls for one of her students. And oh, she is also trans. Margo’s transness is addressed solely in an exceptionally well-written scene, which also doubles as a manual of what not to say to trans folx. Apart from that, she is just living her life.

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