Netflix film Alex Strangelove confirms the industry’s new commitment to queer storytelling
Netflix is waving the rainbow flag fiercely and ferociously: Queer Eye, Orange Is The New Black and 13 Reasons Why have raised the representation of LGBT+ people tenfold, and now a new film is dedicated to the teen rom com genre.
Alex Strangelove is a Netflix original which follows a trend set by the feature film Love, Simon by reinterpreting the coming-of-age genre for a queer audience.
The film tells the story of polished high school senior Alex Truelove, who epitomises young success and only has to lose his virginity in order to graduate with flying colours.
Problem is, there’s a hurdle in the way of Alex and his girlfriend Clare’s first passionate lovemaking, and his name’s Elliot.
Elliot is a confident, charismatic gay guy from across town who forces Alex to confront his sexual identity.
Netflix have promised a funny and touching exploration of young queer identity, but all we have to go on right now is the one still image at the top of this article. We’ll update when a trailer surfaces.
Netflix said in a statement: “Things get complicated when he [Alex] meets a handsome and charming gay kid from the other side of town who unwittingly sends him on a roller-coaster journey of sexual identity.”
The commission bolsters Netflix’s already keen eye for telling queer storytelling with depth and diversity.
Another eye-catching show commissioned by the channel has been the reimagined Queer Eye series, which leap-frogged from the early Naughties version of the show called Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.
Modernised, the show is an earnest and refreshing representation of queer culture, featuring five gay men who offer lifestyle advice to people struggling with all matter of issues.
Whereas the show used to only feature straight-identifying guests who the gay hosts would consult, the show now features gay and straight guests in a bid to acknowledge that in 2018 we’re less interested in sensationalising the differences between us, and more interested in humanising the points where gay and straight men connect.
The cast features five gay guys each with their own speciality.
Antoni is into food and wine, Tan knows fashion, Karamo knows culture, Bobby is all about design and Jonathan is an expert on grooming.
The popular rebirth of Queer Eye has since been given a second series which will follow the current pilot.
And suicide drama 13 Reasons Why, also on Netflix, features an equally ground breaking and cliche-free gay character we should celebrate.
Ryan Shaver, played by gay actor Tommy Dorfman self-identities as a “faggot” on the show, confidently demanding ownership of the derogatory term and controlling its use.
Ryan says he is a “a skinny faggot who writes poems” and when a co-star claims he shouldn’t use faggot, Ryan triumphantly reclaims it, stating: “You’re not [allowed to use it]. I’m allowed.”
In a revealing interview with i-D magazine, Ryan explained the langauge behind the scene: “I feel like as a gay person there’s an ownership to that word” he said.
“Like, taking on that word so other people can’t use it to harm me — not that it’s not painful sometimes.”
Another Netflix original, Orange Is The New Black which premiered in 2013 explores the now familiar tale of Piper Kerman’s memoir about her year in an all-female prison.
The show features a trans actor playing a trans character in Laverne Cox’s representation of Sophia Burnett, who became the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy.
The show has been praised for humanising prisoners and dealing with lesbian themes with subtly and grace, and has been commissioned for a seventh season.
This year’s most high profile queer feature film, Love, Simon, which is now on general release is a sweet coming-of-age coming out story which feels fresh because of its uncomplicated gay storytelling, much like Alex Strangelove.
Simon’s up-to-date family are hardly going to chastise him for his sexuality but even though his sexuality is accepted, his coming out isn’t easy.
The latest pioneering gay role is in Alan Cumming’s new televisual drama, Instinct.
In Instinct, openly gay Cumming plays a CIA operative, a complex character who is a spy-author and professor-detective – who is also gay.
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However his character’s sexuality – and the fact he has a husband – is eschewed from the plot to tackle the series’ main narrative of police procedure.
Alan’s character of Dylan Reinhardt is incidentally gay, with his sexuality only revealed in brief skits from his home life with his husband Andy.
Dylan’s sexuality is hardly noticeable, and in that sense it is truly ground breaking.
Alex Strangelove will be released directly on Netflix on June 8th 2018
Instinct airs on CBS in the US with a UK release yet to be announced