I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday (in this case Saturday) for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! I take on television’s biggest stories through the rainbow lenses, and with the winter TV season kicking into full gear, there’s a lot to discuss. So, in no particular order, let’s dive into the wave of LGBTQIA+ content that’s been shaking up the small screen in recent weeks.
Here’s the good news: the kids may not be alright on Hulu’s “Marvel’s Runaways,” but at least murder and mayhem aren’t putting the kibosh on teen romance. Karolina Dean’s (Virginia Gardner) crush on goth girl Nico (Lyrica Okano) finally culminated in a heartwarming first kiss after a season of nerves over who-likes-who. The metaphor of the good church girl with some rainbow secrets (literally, she glows like a radiant unicorn) was the perfect touch to Karolina’s coming out arc this season, and it’s always a plus for a teen show to talk about the difficulties of labels. Karolina and Nico haven’t settled on a specific title for their relationship or their sexual orientations, instead of running off into the proverbial sunset arm in arm. After all, who has time for labels when your parents are murderers, dinosaurs love bedtime songs and a power-hungry alien is trying to kill you?
Hulu has also been holding it down with its “black-ish” spinoff “grown-ish,” with Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) heading off to study at Cal-U. The series hasn’t shied away from tackling real-world issues, including episodes dedicated to the massive collegiate basketball system making money off the backs of young athletes, drug use to pass classes and virginity in the era of Instagram and friends with benefits. But the tea’s also been piping hot in regards to bisexuality, with Zoey’s friend Nomi (Emily Arlook) struggling with stereotypes about bi men and women.
She first runs into trouble on a first date with a lesbian, when a cute guy at the local college bar offers to buy Nomi a drink. Nomi’s date is irritated by the random stranger who sexualized them, leading Nomi to ask if she’s taking things a bit seriously; Nomi soon reveals she’s bisexual, which is the kiss of death for the rocky date. The girl dismisses Nomi’s bisexuality as an “experiment,” stomping off after telling her to call her “when you’re done going through this whole “bi-phase.” At this point, Nomi’s HAD IT with her, yelling at the girl’s retreating back, “Wait, did you just say ‘phase’? She just said ‘phase,’ you guys. I heard it. You know, it’s LGBTQ. Respect the letter, b*tch!”
The situation’s an obvious call out to the folks in the LGBTQIA+ community who believe bisexual people are lying to themselves or don’t want to admit they’re actually gay. As Teen Vogue points out, there’s a deeper double-standard for bi men in the community, as Nomi’s next lover brings up. After the date goes awry, Nomi accepts a drink from the boy at the bar, and the pair begins dating. Soon, Nomi finds out her new beau has “messed with guys,” which makes her visibly uncomfortable, despite the fact that she’s also bi. Nomi eventually breaks up with the guy because he’s slept with men, in a hypocritical move that highlights society’s discomfort with fluid male sexuality in juxtaposition to its embrace of girl-on-girl love.
As it turns out, Nomi needs some time to learn how to respect the B in LGBTQ herself. As Teen Vogue notes, all bisexual people face stigma and discrimination from the queer and straight communities, but stereotypes about bisexuality are also specifically gendered, with bi women being overly sexualized and bi men treated as gay men who don’t want to completely step out of the closet. The first season of “grown-ish” is clearly taking on the nuances of bisexual identity in ways that call out stigmas in both straight and queer society, and I am here for it.
And then there’s “Star Trek: Discovery.” I have only one word for the recent episodes: WHY. It took over 50 years for a canon gay couple to finally make it to the final frontier, and less than 12 episodes to kill one of them off! A needless, random death that treats LGBTQIA+ characters as expendable red-shirts! Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) deserved better than this, and I’m sorely disappointed by the show’s latest developments. While Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Paul Stamets looks like he’ll survive in the alternate dark universe, it seems like nobody will be going back in time to save Hugh from the Death for Plot Development. If things keep going downhill, I may have to jump ship with the rest of my fellow Trekkies and watch “Orville” instead. I trusted “Star Trek: Discovery” to protect the space husbands, and CBS has let me down.
And now, we come to a hopeful ray of light this winter season: “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Dr. Parker (Alex Blue Davis), a quick-thinking intern with a background in tech. When Grey-Sloan Memorial is taken hostage by internet hackers, Dr. Parker comes in to save the day. However, Dr. Parker can’t take any of the credit himself, having previously gotten into trouble with the law for hacking the DMV for reasons unknown to Chief Bailey (Chandra Wilson). Dr. Parker is the man who single-handedly saves the hospital and its patients, cracking open the locked blood bank with a crash cart and eventually taking back control of Grey-Sloan’s systems via Chief Bailey’s computer.
After the entire mess is set to rights by the new intern, Bailey asks him why he hacked into the DMV. The reason? The Department of Motor Vehicles wouldn’t recognize Dr. Parker’s gender, so he had to fix it himself. When Bailey asks him why he didn’t just explain from the top of the episode, he responds, “I’m a proud trans man, Dr. Bailey. I like for people to get to know me before they find out my medical history.”
The moment, while absolutely breath-taking, was made sweeter by the work behind the scenes to bring Dr. Parker onto “Grey’s Anatomy.” Showrunner Krista Vernoff rewrote Parker’s coming-out many times, according to THR, and worked closely with GLAAD and Davis, who’s a trans man himself. The episode was worked and reworked to tell Dr. Parker’s story without only focusing on his gender, something that moved Davis to tears at the episode’s first table read. At a time when trans rights are still called into question by America’s Commander-in-Chief, “Grey’s Anatomy” has done as its always done: elevated LGBTQIA+ voices with nuanced, stereotype-free storytelling. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Dr. Parker and, according to Davis and Vernoff’s interview with THR, a love interest for the intrepid intern.
And finally, Thursday marked the return of reality television’s crown jewel, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.” Since the show premiered Thursday night, I’ll avoid spoiling the episode. But I’m curious: who do you think will take the crown, and what do you think of the surprise queen returning this season? Tell me in the comments below.