I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week, I take on some of TV’s biggest stories through the rainbow lenses, and this week, “One Day At A Time’s” Elena Alvarez and “Black Lightning’s” Anissa Pierce are repping lesbian power on all fronts.
Season 2 of Netflix’s “One Day At A Time” hit the streaming platform last week, bringing back the family sitcom whose coming out storyline made waves last year. Elena (Isabella Gomez), the outspoken feminist who came to terms with her attraction to women last season, struggles with the joys– and pitfalls– of being an out and proud lesbian. She quickly finds that acting on her feelings is a bit more complicated than expected, as most baby girls-who-like-girls discover in their first year out of the closet.
Her abuelita’s (Rita Moreno) advice about giving a cookie to Elena’s crush was a particular highlight: asking someone out is hard, but trying to figure out if they even like women? Ah, Elena, we have all been there and received the *oooh* of rejection. Luckily, things eventually come up roses for our heroine, and she begins dating Sid, a fellow nerdy cutie who prefers gender-neutral pronouns. Season 2 follows their budding relationship, with the pair often struggling to make the first move (again, the struggles of a baby lez are deeply felt by this reporter).
But Elena’s strength in confronting her homophobic dad was the one of the biggest wins for the series, after Season 1’s devastating quinceañera finale. Elena’s father, Victor (James Martinez) left his daughter to stand alone during the father-daughter dance, in clear disapproval of her “gay phase,” and while her family quickly came to her aid, the moment was a major blow to the young spitfire. When Elena discovers her little brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz) has kept in contact with him, Elena shows up at his doorstep to confront him. She makes it clear that he’s neglected his one job as a father, to love her unconditionally, in an angry, beautiful speech that moves both of her parents to tears. Watch the moment below (and maybe have a box of tissues handy).
Over on network television, one of the best comic book based shows to see the small screen has hit the ground running. “Black Lightning” is everything a DC fan could want from a TV adaptation, with good dialogue, quick-paced action, fully-developed characters and a topical plot that doesn’t turn real-world issues into an after-school special. Meshing the electric powers of the titular hero (Cress Williams) with his everyday job as a well-dressed, respected educator nicknamed “Black Jesus,” “Black Lightning” is a hero who uses violence as a last resort, preferring peaceful negotiation until it’s no longer an option. Or someone threatens his family. Better still is the absolute badassery of Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams), a self-rescuing lesbian princess who’s got some powers of her own.
Canonically, Anissa (who later adopts the superhero name Thunder) is an out lesbian who’s set to inherit a super-powered legacy. The show has snuck in nods to Thunder’s comic book origins in this week’s episode, with Anissa’s new girl-crush and canon Outsider Grace Choi (Chantal Thuy) even handing her an “Outsiders” comic and telling her to read up. So far, it looks like they’re keeping their canon relationship on the new show. I’m already excited. Anissa is still learning how to use her powers, spending her time throwing washing machines in junkyards and saving sales clerk from midnight holdups. While she’s still in the dark about her father’s powers, the show is clearly on track to make crimefighting a family affair, just like the comics.
Anissa’s inner struggle between her public life and coming to terms with her secret powers parallel life in the closet, a common trope of the comic book superhero that LGBTQIA+ youth latch onto. The average super is often a bullied young kid who finds out they’ve got a superpower that can take down bad guys, but has to hide their truth from everyone in their life. Sound familiar? “Black Lightning” has drawn some obvious links between hiding one’s sexuality and secret superpowers, including an “I love you no matter what” heart-to-heart between Anissa and mom Lynn (Christine Adams). While Anissa may not be ready to take on Freeland’s gangsters just yet, get ready to see the rise of black lesbian power the likes of which we rarely see in mainstream media.