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‘Everything Sucks!’ subverts the teen genre: A battle cry for LGBT youth

In recent years we’ve been inundated with a wealth of media that finally takes a reasoned & respectful approach to the LGBTQI communities. Gay & lesbian characters are now pretty much the norm when you turn on your favorite new show, plus series like Brooklyn Nine Nine, Orange is the New Black, Pose, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are finally coming around on queer, bi, and trans representation.

Queer supporting players are finding their voices at last, with a swell of TV representation that goes far beyond the shallow stereotyping of previous decades. Sex Education, for example, just told one of the best gay stories we’ve seen in a comedy for a long time, and the show is only on its first season of exploration.

Admittedly, it’s still rare for an LGBTQI character to take center stage outside the indie cinema scene, and many gay & lesbian characters are relegated to either a supporting role or put on equal footing with an ensemble cast. But no show in the last few years has given us a more perfect coming-out story than Everything Sucks!, the 90s-set dramedy whose charmingly awkward Kate Messner provides the emotional throughline for the short-lived series.

Set in the simpler time of 1996, a year before Ellen Degeneres made TV history by coming out on her own show, Kate is struggling to navigate a high school where homophobia is still rife. Unlike today, there are practically no LGBTQI heroes for her to look up to and, until she witnesses a lesbian couple making out at a Tori Amos concert, there’s nothing else in life that can possibly reflect the way she feels.

Kate’s starkly familiar experience retains its relevance today; there’s a reason the hashtag #IAmKateMessner was trending when the series dropped. Kate’s experience is familiar to nearly every teen & young adult in LGBTQI communities.

The truth is the overabundance of “acceptance” seen in modern counties today is still fairly new. And not everywhere in the world is as inclusive as some may believe. Everything Sucks! allows for an open dialogue about these homophobic tendencies without belittling Kate or her identity.

With so many modern shows featuring fully-fledged and well-adjusted LGBTQI personalities, it’s refreshing to see a period comedy that takes a step back from modern “inclusivity” trends to explore teenage sexuality still in its mercurial stages. Kate’s identity is celebrated and given breathing room to experiment and flourish, and the finale prompted a sigh of relief with its happy ending.

Refreshing & innovative at every step, Kate’s narrative is not the loud and proud self-declaration so common in lesser shows – as of Season 1, she has only come out to her best friend Luke – nor is it a tragedy set on punishing characters perceived as outside the norm will bullying and abuse.

Instead, Kate is given agency & security, a beautiful sense of permission to live her life as she sees fit, that is rare to see in LGBTQI stories both on the small and silver screens.

Despite Everything Sucks!’s timely themes & engaging characters affecting viewers in ways few other shows can, Netflix pulled the plug after just one season. Twitter was instantly rife with protest, not simply in hopes of saving a good comedy show, but from everyone who felt that palpable connection with Kate’s experiences.

Everything Sucks! had become an anchor of support for gay & lesbian teens everywhere and, though the season ended on a high, we have no doubt that series creators Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan have more stories to tell. Actress Peyton Kennedy, who played Kate with such flair and sensitivity in the show, concurred in an interview with last year that she feels her time with the character is far from over.

“I’m not finished telling Kate’s story. Kate has barely formed a relationship with Emaline, and she hasn’t yet come out to her dad. Those are important and I think people will relate even more when they see that.”

There’s also some hope that the fan campaign to get Everything Sucks! back on Netflix with a second season could lead to some much earned success. “Netflix is listening. They’re seeing all of the hashtags and the posts and the comments, and they’re definitely hearing it all.”

Everything Sucks!’s first season may be almost a year behind us now, but there’s still time to rally behind this deserving series. We’re not ready for the story to finish, and it sounds like the actors & writers aren’t done telling it either.

Everything Sucks! became the show of the moment for LGBTQI teens and young adults everywhere, doing that little bit extra to dissolve stigma and contribute another passionate voice to the growing movement. Netflix is missing out on something special every day that goes by without a new season in development, so we think it’s about time they wise up and give the show a second chance.

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