Recently, Stranger Things’ Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) responded to questions about his characters sexuality where he said Will’s sexuality is “beyond the point” and while I agree with his sentiment, it also reinforces the very true fact that there are very few kids on television of the non-straight variety. Even Mic.com’s coverage could only name ONE instance where a gay kid exists on the small screen after claiming “[i]t's not unusual for young characters to be queer or questioning anymore.” It is. Very unusual. But why?
Ever notice all those shippers out there who make Max & Shred or Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street or Drake & Josh more than platonic stories? I’m sure you’ve noticed, even if you were only innocently Googling for word on a new episode or season. Now, did you ever wonder why these straight(ish) characters are reimagined as romantic pairs? I’ve got a feeling it has more to do with a major lack of under representation than some perverse urge for boy-on-boy spin-the-bottle.
The Fosters made a huge statement when Jude Foster and Connor Stevens – both thirteen – made with the kisses on screen for all to see. Yeah, some bigots were all angry and made stupid complaints but there was another group more than happy to see this; LGBT kids, who rarely if ever see themselves on TV actually had two whole people to relate to.
What The Fosters did took guts and while I commend them for going there, I also wonder why it still needs to be considered brave when we're in freaking 2016. Shouldn't we be beyond this sort of thing by now? Sadly, we're not and the dearth of gay and bi boys on television is a sad and painful reminder of that.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE GAY BOYS GONE?
As I’m sitting writing this, I’m having trouble thinking of other young same sex couples and I watch a lot of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. When networks devoted to entertaining the young ‘uns can’t be bothered to include a certain portion of their audience in stories, it sends a bad message that, in 2016, shouldn’t need to be addressed.
Yet here I am, addressing it.
Both Disney and Nickelodeon, though they’d be hard pressed to admit it, has had a number of “gay vague” characters that in all but name could’ve been homosexual if only the powers-that-be would have allowed such a thing to appear on their family friendly shows. Now, that could also just be an attempt to have less stereotypical boys running around creating havoc but those fan fic writers felt the need to take those traits and turn them into full on not-straights.
If the writers are willing to use those stereotypes for straight characters why can’t they just go all the way and showcase an LGBTer here and there? Yeah, it’d be super swell if they created someone more dimensional and based their traits on something other than their sexuality, but it’d be a start.
GROWING UP DIFFERENT
It can be tough being attracted to other boys, even as the world around us becomes more enlightened. You don’t have to be personally oppressed to notice the lack of people, both real and not, to look up to. It’s a huge deal when someone famous comes out, even though it should be nothing, because gay and bisexual boys need that positive reinforcement; they need to see someone like them being loved and accepted so they know that no matter how bad their life might be at the moment, there is hope that thing will actually get better just like that campaign promises.
It doesn’t matter what show you watch; if there are young folks a part of it, someone’s getting’ all crushy at some point and that crush is 99.99999999% guaranteed to be opposite sex-like. Out of a population of about 325,000,000 people, between 3.5% (11,375,000) and 7% are LGBT (22,750,000) and as younger generations become more open and accepting of non-straight impulses and relationships, that number may very well grow. So the fact that out of all those shows aimed at boys and young men so few feature boys in healthy same sex relationships is more than a little unacceptable.
The reasons why gay and bi boys are treated as non-entities in TV are pretty stupid, too. I’ve heard such startlingly bad arguments as “oh, they’re too young to know” to “that gay stuff is inappropriate; I don’t want my child seeing two boys kiss” and to all those who say these meaningless things I say “shut up.” We see straight boys kissing straight girls all the freaking time and have for years, so I call nonsense when it’s about a show of bidding sexuality; what’s normal for one is normal for all. The truth is, it’s either bigotry or fear of what bigotry will do to ratings but as The Fosters proved your show can survive something as “immoral” and “corrupting” as gay teenagers making out. Television needs to stop making kids feel like there’s something wrong with them when it’s the jerks that go on hatin’ gay love who have the serious issues.
There’s a very easy way for shows to include gay and bisexual characters – include them. Trust me, it’s super easy to write someone who is not straight and I’ll even tell you how: think of a boy… and make him not straight. Boom. Done. Now, if you want to add in stories about the struggles of being gay or bi in a world obsessed with super heterosexuality then go for it and I’ll even offer my services as an advisor; feel free to contact me.
Maybe some writers think it’s too difficult to write gay and bi youth because of some weird idea that not being straight somehow makes one impossible to understand but the truth it sexuality doesn’t make you different; it’s the way others treat you that makes one feel different. Ignore the stereotypes and just write a gay or bi boy as any other character and you’ll do just fine. And, as an added bonus, those boys who feel lost and alone might feel a little less so if they see someone on screen they can relate to.
THE QUESTION OF WILL MYERS’ SEXUALITY
Yes, the argument is valid in certain ways but when compared how gay and bi boys are ignored by the whole of televisiondom, the question takes on an even bigger snf far more serious meaning.
People ask about fictional characters sexualities for two reasons; they’re either afraid the gays will wake over the world or they want to see that what they are worthy of representation. I fall, and have always fallen, in with the latter; when I was very young and just realizing my sexuality, I did want to see kids like me living normal, happy lives and be head over heels with the cutest boy in school. I didn’t live in a sexuality-inspired Hell but that didn’t make my desire to see me on any of those shows I was addicted to; I just wanted to be treated the same as anyone else and I promise the thought I had as a young ‘uns are still present in the newly not straight boys still coming to terms with their truths.
Maybe Stranger Things isn’t the place for LGBT boys to find what they’re looking for and that’s okay but when will that place exist? When will boys who like boys turn on the television and see boys who like boys? There’s more to life than boy meets girl; there should be more than that on television, too.