While LGBTQ+ Representation In Media Improves, Lesbian Representation Takes a Back Seat


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“Paper Girls” is a sci-fi series that premiered on Amazon Prime Video on July 29, 2022. The story starts with four young girls setting off on their usual delivery routes the day after Halloween in 1988. The girls decide to team together for safety even though they barely know each other. During their time together, the girls realized that they somehow came in contact with time travel and end up in the future. These twists inevitably will change their lives forever.

New LGBTQ+ characters are popping up everywhere in shows, books, and movies in a variety of sexualities and genders. With this increase, however, many people have found that lesbian representation is starting to be pushed off to the side.

Out of 30 LGBTQ+ shows that were canceled or ended in 2022,  around two-thirds of them featured women-loving women characters. Ranging from “Paper Girls” on Amazon Prime Video to “Gentleman Jack” on HBO Max, the majority of the shows that contain LGBTQ+ couples or characters all have one common factor.

“I think that Netflix and a lot of bigger streaming services decide that lesbian shows, or anything that shines a light on lesbians in general, aren’t as prioritized as shows with straight or gay couples,” freshman Tobias Wright said. “They have a tendency to renew shows that people don’t want to watch, but cancel the ones that they do.”

In the past, Netflix hasn’t renewed many of their more popular lesbian shows after their first seasons, leaving watchers on cliffhangers.

“All of those shows had a lot of hype,” Wright said. “I still see people months or years later talking about how much they wish they were renewed.”

The Netflix series, “First Kill,” is an American supernatural teen drama created by Victoria Schwab. In the series, a teenage vampire, Juliette, has to choose her first victim. Her first kill will let Juliette take her place among her powerful family. She decides to choose the new girl in town. Ironically the new girl, Calliope, is a vampire hunter. While facing these odds, Juliette and Calliope end up falling in love with each other. While both girls are tasked to make their first kill, they also make an effort to find a way to be together. The question is will their effort be enough to save their love? (Netflix)

“First Kill,” a show based on a lesbian adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” racked up around 97.6 million viewing hours after a month of it being on Netflix. “Heartstopper,” a show surrounding a male gay relationship, got 53.4 million viewing hours after three weeks. Even though “First Kill” got more streams than “Heartstopper” overall, the latter got renewed for two more seasons and the former got canceled. 

“I don’t think that it should overshine the shows more focused on lesbian characters,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of bias towards it, especially since the two leading characters are men.”

“Enola Holmes” is a set of two movies based on a series of seven books written by Nancy Springer. Although Enola has a female love interest in the books, the writers of the show decided to give her a male love interest instead.

“A lot of shows are different from the books, but it’s never really in that sense,” Wright said. “People usually say it’s a different rendition of the story, but they’re purposely removing representation and changing her sexuality.”

Not all media containing lesbian relationships are axed though. “Fear Street” is a movie trilogy that was filmed back-to-back and released on a weekly basis in July 2021.

“The main character is a lesbian and she’s in a relationship with a bisexual,” freshman Dominique Zamora said. “The story itself doesn’t revolve around their relationship, and they’re only really significant in the first and third movies.”

The first season of “Warrior Nun” premiered back in 2020. There are two seasons in total. The Netflix show is about an orphaned teen who wakes up in a morgue. When she wakes up she discovers that she has superpowers. With these new superpowers, the teen gets stuck in a battle between good and evil. (Netflix)

“Warrior Nun” contains a relationship between two bisexual women, but the action-packed story doesn’t revolve around their romance. The series was supposed to get a third season, but it didn’t get enough viewership to get renewed.

“There were so many different shows this year, like ‘Warrior Nun,’ that I was very invested in,” GSA advisor Charmaine Renee said. “There were parts of myself in those shows that I never really see anywhere else.”

A good majority of the shows that portray lesbian characters are directed and written by men. “Warrior Nun” was created by Simon Barry and was based on a book written by Ben Dunn, who are both male. 

“Homophobia and misogyny go hand-in-hand,” Renee said. “Lesbian portrayals in media have started to shift beyond being a part of the male gaze, but it’s what we had for a long time.”

Now that light is starting to shine back onto lesbian media, it’s essential for people to make their depictions of these lesbian characters both realistic and less stereotyped.

“I think that when lesbian relationships are portrayed, it’s not done very well,” Wright said. “I’m still looking for shows that I can watch and relate to, and it’s hard to do when the shows that I’m actually interested in watching are canceled after I get invested in the stories.”