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Warning: there may be minor spoilers throughout, but nothing major, we promise. We would never do that to you.
LGBTQ+ representation in the media has come a long way in a few short decades. Shows like Glee and Will and Grace have gone from seeming ground-breaking to being stereotypical in less than 20 years. While there’s still work to be done, LGBTQ+ characters are being featured in more shows and movies than ever before - and much of that content is easily accessible to anyone with a Netflix account. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of ten TV shows and movies on Netflix with positive LGBTQ+ rep.
Sex Education is a Netflix original series that originally premiered in 2019. The show follows British teen Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), a sex therapist. Hijinks ensue when Otis starts using his mother’s sexual expertise to counsel his classmates. When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation, Sex Education is a prime example of both quality and quantity.
In addition to Otis’ best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), whose coming-out journey is both nuanced and triumphant, there are several fully-fleshed LGBTQ+ characters of varying identities that round out the excellent ensemble cast. None of the LGBTQ+ characters are tokenized or shoved into the story as props. They’re allowed to exist as real human beings. Now is a great time to get caught up with the students of Moordale Secondary School, since Season 3 drops September 17. Be sure to check out other 2021 fall TV premiere dates here.
The Half Of It
Many LGBTQ+ films tend to be heart-wrenching tales of struggle (there’s a reason the trope is called ‘bury your gays.’ We’re still not over Lexa, from The 100). While those stories are completely valid and necessary, it’s important to include LGBTQ+ rep in all film genres. The Half of It (another Netflix original) is sweet, fun, and just a bit unrealistic - everything a high school rom-com should be. It also features a queer Chinese-American main character.
Starring Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, and Alexxis Lemire, the movie follows Ellie Chu, a quiet student who starts ghostwriting love letters for her classmate, Paul. The only problem? Aster Flores, the recipient of Paul’s affections, is also Ellie’s crush. A little bit Love, Simon, a little bit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Half of It successfully adds a queer twist to an otherwise standard rom-com plot.
The Fear Street Trilogy
The horror genre tends to avoid representing LGBTQ+ people - and when they are represented, they tend to die early in the film or fall victim to the ‘bury your gays’ trope. The 2021 movies in the Fear Street trilogy (loosely based on the R.L. Stine book series of the same name) are different. The films were directed by Leigh Janiak, and star Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch, along with Stranger Things vets Maya Hawke and Sadie Sink. Madeira and Scott Welch play Sam and Deena, two teenagers whose romantic relationship is central to the plot. And, (minor spoiler ahead) even better, they get a happy ending. If you can name another horror movie that stars an LGBTQ+ couple where neither one dies by the end, I will be very, very impressed.
It’s one of the best shows on Netflix, but Bojack Horseman has very few actual LGBTQ+ characters. So, why is the story of an alcoholic animated horse on this list? Two words: Todd Chavez. Voiced by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, the 20-something slacker starts off as Bojack’s couch-hopping roommate and ends the series fully secure in his identity as an asexual man. Few, if any, television shows include asexual characters, let alone feature them or portray them in a happy romantic relationship.
Bojack Horseman allows Todd to come to terms with his identity in a realistic and affirming way. The only caveat is that Todd’s exploration of his sexuality doesn’t begin until halfway through the series. However, his character’s journey is handled so well that the last few seasons of Bojack Horseman should be required viewing for anyone seeking to write an LGBTQ+ character.
Pose generated a ton of buzz when it first premiered on FX, and for good reason. The show contained the largest cast of trans actors appearing as series regulars in television history. Leading that cast is MJ Rodriguez, who was just nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Pose’s third and final season. Other LGBTQ+ stand-outs include Dominique Jackson as Elektra, Indya Moore as Angel, and Billy Porter as Pray Tell. Pose delves into the New York City ball scene of the 1980’s that came to influence several aspects of modern LGBTQ+ culture. Come for the stunning costumes designed by Analucia McGorty and the bountiful LGBTQ+ rep, stay for the compelling characters and brilliant acting performances.
One Day At A Time
The original iteration of One Day at a Time was sweet, but definitely skewed towards the white and heteronormative. The Netflix remake took one look at that show and said no, we’re good. Rebooted with a Latinx main cast, the show features Justina Machado as Penelope Alvarez, a newly single mother with two teenage children.
Her daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez), realizes she’s a lesbian in Season 1 and starts dating Syd, a non-binary classmate, in Season 2. Elena calls Syd her ‘syd-nificant other,’ an adorable tidbit that sold me on starting the show last year. One Day at a Time was sadly cancelled after four seasons but remains a wonderfully endearing entry to the LGBTQ+ canon. Also: Rita Moreno. Need I say more?
Pariah is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), an African-American lesbian trying to explore her sexuality while also hiding her identity from her family. When she develops feelings for Bina (Aasha Davis), a local girl from church, Alike must decide if her family should know her truth. Beautifully shot and brutally honest, Pariah offers aching performances, especially from Adepero Oduye.
Most mainstream queer cinema tends to be very white, so this film is not just a refreshing change of pace - it’s necessary. Pariah was directed by Dee Rees, a black queer woman who created the semi-autobiographical story using elements from her own adolescence. The film celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year, so now is a great time for a revisit or a first watch.
Schitt’s Creek might be an obvious pick, but it’s an excellent show nonetheless. Dan Levy stars as David, a pansexual ex-art gallery manager forced to move to a podunk town with his affluent family after they lose their fortune. David’s identity is discussed but never becomes a point of contention. Dan Levy has said that he specifically omitted homophobia from his comedy to show a more accepting world than the one viewers live in now. Some fans claimed he was simply avoiding addressing social issues, but in reality, Schitt’s Creek gives viewers a model for how society could and should be. How can people create a better world if they don’t know what it should look like? The residents of Schitt’s Creek have problems, but they mostly have to do with Moira’s penchant for dramatics and Patrick’s ugly shoes.
Elisa & Marcela
LGBTQ+ people have always existed - they just tend to be omitted from history textbooks. The Netflix original movie Elisa & Marcela is based on the true story of two women who became the first same-sex couple to be married in Spain. Elisa (Natalia de Morena) and Marcela (Greta Fernández) are two women who masquerade as a heterosexual couple to get the church to marry them, with Elisa assuming a male identity. Elisa & Marcela admittedly glosses over the rougher aspects of the couple’s story, but the movie is visually stunning and offers enough drama to keep viewers entertained.
She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power
Yes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a Netflix reboot of the '80s He-Man spinoff intended for a target audience of kids 8-14. That being said, it also includes some stand-out LGBTQ+ rep that would have never been included in a cartoon when I was that age (and trust me, I watched a lot of TV as a kid). The lack of LGBTQ+ representation in kids media was so severe that Korra and Asami holding hands in the series finale of The Legend of Korra felt revolutionary.
The romantic relationship between Adora (Aimee Carrera) and Catra (AJ Michalka) is a testament to the tenacity of She-Ra creator Noelle Stevenson and the shifting mindsets surrounding LGBTQ+ representation. The show also offers diversity of ethnicity and body type, both of which are also sorely lacking in mainstream media.
Hopefully, with all of these choices, you'll have plenty to watch in the near future, but you can also check out the 2021 Netflix TV series!