Positive queer representation in media: The OA///Bonus: UNHhhh
A light analysis of The OA and queer representation
I just finished watching The OA (finally). Shout out to everyone who was like, “HOW HAVE YOU NOT ALREADY SEEN THIS” and convinced me to gather up my attention span. So, some spoilers but nothing huge.
Although it’s not a very salient storyline, Buck’s presence as a transgender teen actually played by someone transgender is super important. He serves as a supporting character who just happens to be trans. Which is great.
As All Stars 2 reigning queen Alaska said, “Any time a queer person is on TV not as the butt of a joke, that’s an A+ for me.”
Too often trans/nonbinary/gender nonconforming characters, when they’re even present, play out tired gender tropes. These include — but are certainly not limited to — characters who are a joke/comedy device, perpetually suffering (Hello, OitNB), or fulfilling the evil crossdresser trope, to name a few.
It’s nice to have a character whose entire storyline isn’t reduced to one unexplored facet of their identity. Granted, identity is multifaceted and affects just about everything. But this doesn’t feel like the writers just marked off another square on their diversity checklist.
Buck’s conflicts are more in depth and subtle than the obvious struggles he faces as a transgender teen who is in the process of transitioning to a more masculine presentation.
IMPORTANCE OF BUCK’S CONFLICTS
[These are the non-spoilery spoilers]
- He gives up access to hormone shots so the abandoned house can be used as drug-free meeting place, therefore allowing French to attend without violating his scholarship’s “character clause”.
- This gets into the complexity of transitioning as a minor. Without support from his parents, Buck cannot access hormones through a legitimate source.
- His choice also speaks to Buck’s diverse identity. In this moment, he values solidarity with French since he’s also a racial minority subject to moral scrutiny not applied to his white peers.
2. We quietly hear (or read, if you watch with subtitles) Buck’s parents arguing in the living room while Buck is upstairs. His father refuses to use Buck’s chosen name and pronouns, insisting to his wife, “You can’t keep calling her a him.”
- These behind the scenes arguments are common for LGBTQ kids. It’s definitely harmful when experienced directly, but I appreciate that the writers gave a glimpse into the damaging microagressions queer kids face.
OKAY SO WHY DO WE CARE?
It’s important to see yourself reflected in media. It makes it feel okay to exist. To be alive. If you never see anyone like you, it can start to feel like you’re doing something wrong.
Rejecting the mainstream is one thing. Being excluded from it entirely is another. Buck’s presence is normalized. He isn’t excluded from the group for being openly trans. He isn’t mocked.There’s probably less than five minutes total that detail Buck’s trans-specific struggles, but that’s part of the magic.
BONUS MAGIC FOR YOU
Speaking of magic, if you’re not keeping up with drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya’s show UNHhhh, get on it. Here, let me help you. Oh and uh, NSFW at all.
Part one of their latest episode, though admittedly pretty dark, really stuck with me. They’re discussing magic when the following exchange happens:
Trixie: Maybe that’s your magic trick!
Katya: Not killing myself?
Trixie: That honestly is your daily magic trick.
Katya: That’s actually, that’s a lot of people’s daily magic trick.
Okay, sure this sounds a bit alarming and/or cliche. But it really is true. At the bare minimum, for those of us struggling with depression/anxiety/mental illness/identity crisis/whatever else, every single day, staying alive really is your daily magic trick.
Having something to look forward to that makes you happy about being alive is crucial. Friends and family are great for this. But media plays a larger role than we might want to admit.
This is why ~*positive queer representation in media*~ matters. Feeling validated, like other people support and understand you, is important to the process of self-acceptance.
I’m embarking on a quest to chronicle positive queer representation in media, and this is only the beginning. (Aka I finally found the motivation to start.) Stay tuned for more analysis, and hit me up with any thoughts.