Alison Lowery

Why these top 5 LGBT+ Netflix characters matter

The media is meant to reflect and represent everybody in society – either as a form of escapism, to watch a series and immerse yourself in a different world. But this is hard to do is you are significantly underrepresented, or made a token character. This is typical of most minorities such as the black community, but also the LGBT+ community.

These are 5 fictional characters from shows which can be streamed on Netflix who I believe are influential representations. Their roles and story lines in their respect shows bring to light important and often trivialised topics and issues faced, as well as the pride and embracing of ones sexuality…

  1. SYD – One Day at a Time (portrayed by Sheridan Pierce)

One Day at a Time focuses on the daily life of a Cuban-American family, the Alvarez’s. It is significant to note and praise the show for the representation of a key character, Elena Alvarez, a daughter in the central family, who is gay. However for me the most praiseworthy LGBT+ character is Syd. Syd is a non-binary love interest for Elena. Although Syd is a secondary character in the show, not yet a part of the core cast, they are a reoccurring character who represents people who identify as non-binary. There is a serious lack of non-binary representation in TV and Films, and One Day at a Time and the outstanding portrayal by Sheridan Pierce certainly normalises and brings this to the fore in a popular show.

2. ERIC EFFIONG – Sex Education (portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa)

The new Netflix Original Sex Education has been highly praised and is incredibly popular. A main character in the show Eric Effiong is openly gay at school, but closeted at home. Effiong is also black, bringing the important and often strenuous relationship between sexuality and race into view. Effiong goes through some traumatic experiences throughout the shows first season. This includes getting beaten up whilst in drag leaving him devastated, traumatised and a brief repression of his effervescent personality and sexuality. Effiong is also regularly the target of the school bull – though it is never explicit that he is being picked on because he is gay it is strongly inferred. The character of Eric Effiong is a complicated but an important representation of sexuality during high school, race and the subject of violence targeting the LGBT+ community.

3. OMAR – Elite (portrayed by Omar Ayuso)

Whilst Elite is a show perhaps not as popular or widely seen as others in this list I believe it to be equally as important. It features a homosexual relationship between a privileged white high school athlete Ander, and a more deprived Muslim student Omar. The narrative of this relationship follows Ander who comes out as gay during the series, and Omar who is comfortable in his sexuality and hooks up with guys from a dating app. However Omar keeps his homosexuality a secret from his parents, who are strict practising Muslims. it is interesting to see a gay relationship play out between two individuals involving religion which is not Christianity. It is a moving and powerful insight into repression of identity because of your parents religious beliefs.

4. THEODORA ‘THEO’ CRAIN – The Haunting of Hill house (played by Kate Siegel)

The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most talked about and popular shows on Netflix when it was released. The show follows the Crain family who suffer serious disturbances at the hands of Hill House. Whilst the show covers mental illness, suicided and difficult family relationships, it also features a daughter who identifies as a lesbian. Although the show doesn’t massively focus on this aspect I personally think it interesting how they wove it into Theo’s narrative as an accepted normalised part of her identity, almost incidental to her character – something which doesn’t define or disable her in the hauntings. This does much to reinforce that identifying as anything other than heterosexual is normal and accepted without hostility by the family – in this sense Theo is very lucky.

5. AMBROSE SPELLMAN – The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (portrayed by Chance Perdomo)

The show based on the Archie comics of the same name was released around Halloween 2018 and was really well received. Ambrose Spellman is a pansexual warlock, as part of the core cast and family, as well as the main character Sabrina Spellman’s cousin. Much like Eric Effiong and Omar previously mentioned, Ambrose is an ethnic minority as well as being pansexual, illuminating a combination rarely, if ever seen in Hollywood. What is well done in the writing and performance of Ambrose and the shows writers and directors is that the characters pansexuality is not used as a buzzword or a token way to draw in a bigger audience. Ambrose’s pansexuality is simply a part of his personality, and the relationships he enters into play out like any other relationship going through ups and downs, big wins and big losses.

There are lots of shows on or off Netflix which feature amazing LGBT+ characters. These are only a few (not in any particular order) which I believe to be interesting and significant representations of the LGBT+ community on mass media – something we need to see more of!

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