Laura Molloy reflects on recent releases of Coming-of-Age LGBTQIA+ TV shows and their importance for young viewers.
The ‘Coming-of-Age’ genre of television has been gripping the hearts of teenagers for many years. From love triangles and secret romances, to the cheerleaders, the jocks, and the nerds, and everything else in between, this genre has tugged on teenager’s heartstrings for decades. The angst, the tension, the laughter, the jokes. What’s not to love? In recent years, a new sub-genre has emerged, with an increase in teen shows that focus on young people within the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s recap some recent releases from this sub-genre and their importance for young viewers.
1. Heartsopper (2022-)
Based on the popular series of graphic novels, Heartstopper tells the love story of Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson and their individual struggles with coming out and finding love. Nick’s story is centred around his internal conflict between his sexuality and reputation as the star rugby player. Nick feels pressured by his peers and also the men in his family to fit the stereotypes of being strong and masculine, and most importantly – straight. The show highlights how harmful this pressure is to a young person struggling with their sexuality and sense of self. The release of season two last month also sheds light on the experiences of young trans people. Elle is accepted into her dream art school but is torn between pursuing her passion or prioritising her new relationship with Tao. This season sees Elle discover new friends that she connects with and presents her at a place where she feels fully confident and empowered within her identity, regardless of her relationship status, to encourage and empower other young trans youth with similar experiences.
2. Sex Education (2019-)
The show includes many different queer relationships - including Eric and Adam’s. The couple’s arc has garnered mixed reviews from viewers over the years; you either love them or you hate them. What began as a bully-and-victim narrative quickly turned into a story of acceptance and forgiveness. Adam and Eric first experience sexual intimacy together during a detention session, leading them to begin a romance where Adam is forced to reckon with his behaviour towards Eric. Adam’s projection of his insecurity onto Eric shapes the dynamic of their relationship, and paired with the hostility of Adam’s father, as opposed to the affection of Eric’s mother, the pair begin to clash over their differing relationships with their sexuality despite their evident love for another. Though many have criticised their relationship, it remains important that fictional queer relationships are entitled to the kind of complicated representation that we have seen in other heteronormative teen shows for years.
The success of these Netflix original series indicates that streaming services are overall producing more and more LGBTQ+ centred shows. Other notable recent releases include Young Royals (2021-) and Xo Kitty (2023-). It’s encouraging to see the industry take such representation seriously, as this is not only validating to the young members of the LGBTQIA+ community watching, but these texts also foster important values like community, friendship, and allyship among the diverse cohorts representative of our modern young society and culture. As we begin to see more and more inclusive representation on our screens, hopefully, we get closer to feeling validated by our society.