Netflix shares a pretty complicated relationship with LGBTQ+ representation. While the streaming service has become more inclusive than any other platform, involving various queer filmmakers, actors, and crew assistants, and creating queer-positive content, it has faced backlash for airing stand-up specials that have been blasted for transphobic comments. Comedians like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais have been called out for their mindless comments on trans people but they have been defended by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.
However, these stand-up specials do not diminish Netflix’s relentless battle to create a safe space to begin meaningful conversations about sexuality and identity, especially in kid’s content. While most children’s films and shows have inculcated heteronormativity over the years – a boy and a girl fall in love, overcome obstacles and live a Disney-like happily ever after – Netflix is looking to venture beyond that and create a queer-positive environment for kids to embrace their true feelings and have a well-guided journey towards finding their identity.
From shows like Big Mouth and BoJack Horseman (which are essentially adult cartoons) to ones like Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Ridley Jones and The Dragon Prince, the streamer has contributed substantially to increasing representation in animated content, featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and pansexual characters and including more sexualities across the spectrum.
Recently, the streamer released a show called Heartstopper which was based on Alice Oseman’s best-selling graphic novel. Directed by Euros Lyn, the show starred Kit Connor and Joe Locke as the two main leads who forge an unlikely friendship and soon fall in love with one another. With a rare 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the series has amassed immense acclaim from critics and fans alike. It starts important conversations while dealing with the complex politics of identity and sexuality.
Netflix shows like Q-Force, featuring a groundbreaking queer cast, subvert masculine tropes by presenting a gay version of a James Bond-like character. With all-queer voice actors and creatives, it disrupts the classic masculine narrative in espionage films by including crude queer humour to showcase the struggle of these gay agents to prove their professional worth in an inherently judgemental society.
Netflix has also recently released the trailer for the upcoming kid’s show Dead End: Paranormal Park. Featuring a trans actor named Zach Barack voicing the trans male lead on the show, the series will have a host of LGBTQIA+ talent. Also hosting a series of trans guests, the kid’s show will focus on the quest for identity and start conversations about trans representation and acceptance while weaving it within the framework of the fantasy-horror genre.
By showcasing the various types of families and relationships and sexuality which exists beyond the cis-het realm, the streamer is constantly breaking down the shackles of heteronormativity imposed by the patriarchal society. By creating a queer-positive environment, not only do these audio-visual media help dispel prejudices and stereotypes but also help battle the inherent queerphobia that the heteronormative society subjects children to, often successfully erasing their quest for identity.
The Internet and these Netflix shows become sage spaces for queer kids and youth to feel less alienated. These films and shows can not only help them feel at ease and less ignored but also shun away the myths associated with the same. Besides, exposure to such content will also help others, who identify as heterosexuals, be more empathetic toward their peers and be respectful allies. Exposure to queer content will help shape a more open and inclusive perspective toward what is considered “normal”.
With Netflix’s relentless endeavours in increasing diversity, representation and inclusivity, the streamer’s eclectic collection of queer films and series as well as kid’s content has helped form a good space that educates, touches hearts and leaves an indelible mark on the minds of viewers.