Pop Culture Fix: “Degrassi” Is Adding Its First Ever Genderqueer Character This Season

This is your weekly Pop Culture Fix. If you are reading it I congratulate you for not going to jail for axe-murdering your neighbors for terrifying your dogs and cats with their dumb fireworks. 


Teevee

+ When Degrassi‘s new season lands on Netflix on Friday, it will introduce its first ever genderqueer storyline. In the first episode of the season four, fan favorite Yael explains to their friend Lola: “I don’t feel like a girl, or what everyone thinks is a girl. I don’t like makeup or stuff like you do. I really, really hate my boobs… But I’m definitely not a boy either.” Lola talks through gender-fluidity to Yael and even points them to one of her favorite gamers who happens non-binary.

+ Have you watched Danger & Eggs yet? You absolutely should be watching Danger & Eggs. It was already the queerest show in history, and then:

https://twitter.com/shadipetosky/status/882113629193162752

+ Well, here’s a promo for the new 11-year time-jumped season of Will & Grace, which lands on NBC on September 28.

https://youtu.be/9TU8u7Ib8BU

+ You won! Sense8 is coming back for a two-hour series finale!


Movies

+ Laneia linked this in Monday’s Also.Also.Also but I just really want to make sure you see it: AN ORAL HISTORY OF A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN ON ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY.

+ As you know, The Fosters has gone completely off the rails in the last season and half. It’s back again this summer for what will probably be its final run and so Freeform has rolled out a campaign where people share stories about how the show changed their lives. Executive Producer Jennifer Lopez joined in to talk about her aunt, who was the inspiration for her participation with the The Fosters from the very beginning.

The people she watched on TV didn’t represent her. Movies didn’t represent her. She thought she was alone. When the opportunity to produce The Fosters first came my way, I was a bit hesitant. I knew the show would be controversial. Being in the public eye, these sorts of things go through your head. But then I thought about Myrza. This could be that show she didn’t have growing up. A show that holds a mirror to society and shines a light on what love looks like. It doesn’t matter your race or sexual orientation. Love is love. It turns out I was right, The Fosters is about to celebrate its 100th episode. Myzra isn’t with us anymore, but I like to think she is proudly looking down on me from above … the way I always looked up to her.

+ From Bitch magazine: Speed Sisters make drag racing a feminist issue.

+ Dumbledore’s gonna chase after Grindelwald (in a gay way) in the Fantastic Beasts sequel.

+ Daisy Ridley is back as Rey in this Star Wars: Force of Destiny short.

+ Wonder Woman is DCEU’s most successful domestic release ever in history. From Jezebel:

The film opened to $103 million, which is less than what Man of Steel raked in at $116 million its opening weekend, and far less than the $166 million of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which introduced Wonder Woman as a character, or the $133 million made by the critically panned Suicide Squad. But, as opposed to Batman v Superman, which had a viewer drop off of 69% after opening weekend, Wonder Woman’s excellent word of mouth has led to only a 45% decrease in attendance. On Thursday night, the box office total domestically for Wonder Woman was $330.5 million, which surpasses Batman v Superman’s $330.3 million by a hair.


Queer Humans, Out and About

Roxane Gay: “If I was conventionally hot and had a slammin’ body, I would be president”

+ Nico Deyo over at Kotaku wrote about World of Warcraft’s first lesbian couple, a pair of NPCs that joined the series in last year’s Legion expansion.

Legion is not a perfect expansion, but in it, one can start to see the little cracks in WoW’s longstanding “neutral politics” facade, and one can’t help but think that more designers that are coming into Warcraft’s fold are helping shape the legacy of this 12-year-old game to make it slightly more meaningful. It’s why I still think it’s remarkable that there are now two queer elves in the game who, even dead or cursed, are still allowed to acknowledge their love for each other.

+ Fun Home lyricist Lisa Kron has weighed in on recent criticism that the Off-Broadway version of the musical has “de-butched” Alison.

Kate Shindle was up on stage in a ringer-t just like the one Beth had worn. She has a very different body than Beth Malone, however. She’s a curvy amazon, and on her frame the effect of this same costume was completely different – somehow neither swaggery butch nor, thanks to her character-appropriate sports bra, quite sporty femme either. Kate, total pro that she is, didn’t question the costume. I went to David Zinn, our costume designer, and said, “A butch woman with that build would not wear that outfit. Can we please find a new version of this costume that looks like what a butch woman with that long, tall, busty body would choose for herself?” He agreed, and that is how the decision was made to change the costume.

+ Like you, Gillian Anderson thinks its bullshit that The X-Files writer’s room and director’s chairs are all full up of men.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1139 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. Two years ago I would’ve been jumping off the walls with excitement about this Dumbledore/Grindelwald news. Now I just wanna cry rage-tears because johnny fucking depp. I don’t want to see Dumbledore fall in love with him. I don’t I don’t I don’t.

  2. I can see both sides of the argument regarding Fun Home, and part of me always wonders why people don’t send their comments directly to the show’s producers instead of doing a public ‘call out’. It’s possible that this is just a case of poor casting, where the new actor doesn’t quite fit with the part, and it’s not a secret effort to ‘de-butchify’ the character.

    Looking at the Lisa Kron response, I am struck by the way in which it is acceptable for femme and other non-butch women to use butch partners as a shield against criticism. If someone were to critique something I did for its portrayal of or inclusion of femmes, I would NEVER get away with saying ‘don’t worry, I love femmes and have a femme partner’ or ‘femme erasure won’t be happening on this butch’s watch’. I would be expected to understand that yes, my love for femmes doesn’t preclude my ability to misrepresent or marginalize them.

  3. So Degrassi already premiered in Canada, and let me say that there are some AMAZING queer storylines! –
    – So to clarify: Yael begins questioning their gender in episode 1, but doesn’t realize they are genderqueer until episode 6.
    – Yael’s coming out is supported by their best friend Lola, who helps Yael find their new look to match their gender.
    – Fan favourite Zoe and her girlfriend Rasha (a Muslim WoC) are PROM QUEENS!!
    – Zoe gets a really good ending to the saga with her homophobic mother: realizing her chosen family is her true family
    – Zoe and Rasha are ENDGAME and get an adorable happy ending.
    – Miles finally confronts his own internalized biphobia and proudly declares himself bisexual.

    idk Autostraddle doesn’t often talk about Degrassi, but this season had so many good moments and I’d love to see more Degrassi on this website!

    • I logged in just to pile on the Degrassi love. Despite it being a teen drama and my definitely not being a teen anymore, it still makes me feel seen in a way that few other shows do.
      To fangirl for a moment:
      – Zoe has come so far and her character has really grown. I just wanted someone to tell her that “chosen family” is a thing but I was happy to see her figure it out even if the phrase is maybe old fashioned now.
      – Rasha is the best girlfriend and also I am jealous of her haircut.
      – Yael’s storyline seems to have been handled well but I would love to hear what someone who is actually genderqueer/gender fluid thinks of how it was told. I loved their response to seeing themselves in the mirror for the first time after the makeover; it seemed true to how one would respond to the mirror actually being a true reflection for the first time.
      – Esme is still just the worst. I have yet to develop sympathy for her.

      • ::waves:: Genderqueer kid here to let you know how intensely I LOVED Yael’s storyline this season. Like, holy shit. If there had been something like this on TV when I was in high school my life would have been very different.

        “Okay, it’s like, if being a boy or a girl is made up, then you can be whatever you want.”

        !!!!!!!!!!!!!

        I wish I’d had a Lola to tell me that this was a thing & it was okay & that what mattered most was that I was comfortable in my skin & with how people refer to me.

        I’m not someone who shows outwardly how they’re feeling when watching something, like, if I were to do YouTube reaction videos they would just be me staring at a TV, but I gasped audibly more than once, & teared up so many times while watching Yael discover themselves.

        I also really liked that they showed the difference between people who know what’s up & swap pronouns no problem (Lola), people who are supportive & maybe have a hard time breaking habits, but do their best to be respectful (Baaz & Vijay), & people who just refuse to get it (Hunter), rather than just having everyone accept or reject them.

        I was hoping Hunter would show some growth & not be a douche, but I’m not surprised it didn’t go that way. Yael will get over him & be happy with themselves, or find someone better who can accept them for who they are.

        I’m so excited to see more of Yael’s story.

  4. “I don’t feel like a girl, or what everyone thinks is a girl. I don’t like makeup or stuff like you do. I really, really hate my boobs… But I’m definitely not a boy either.”
    Hm this really doesn’t sit right with me. I mean how many girls (and especially lesbians) felt that way? I know I did not like make-up and “girl stuff” but that doesn’t mean I’m not a girl? Isn’t it kind of reinforcing stereotypes to say “If I don’t like typical girl stuff, I am not a girl.”? I don’t know..

    Oh and about Depp as Grindelwald..fuck everyone involved with this decision!

    • I have to say I completely agree. Something I’ve struggled with a lot lately is accepting that I am a girl even when moments like that one in Degrassi have made me feel I should be non-binary or genderqueer. I’ve never worn make-up, hate dresses, hate my boobs, the whole bit, but I still really strongly want to identify as a girl. But as non-binary and genderqueer individuals are increasingly portrayed, I feel like directors don’t always get it and instead put out this narrative that somehow reinforces stereotypes. It reminds me about that whole argument about needing to “pass” to be “legitimate” as trans; there’s nothing wrong with a trans guy wearing makeup and dresses or what have you.

      Tldr I agree, spot on observation

    • I’m genderqueer myself, and this was a badly-written coming out – but it was a badly written coming out in the context of it being a fictional coming out designed to educate people about what being genderqueer is. People can dislike makeup and other feminine things without being genderqueer, AND people can be genderqueer without disliking makeup and other feminine things. It took me forever to figure out that I wanted to look into my gender identity, and part of that was because I don’t like many masculine things at all.

      But it also feels like you’re approaching the matter in bad faith, somewhat. The character in question talks about not liking the more female parts of their body, and feeling like their gender is in between. If they were a real person, it would definitely be helpful for them to look into things a little more, whether or not they had stupid beliefs about makeup. Real people, genderqueer and not, often have stupid beliefs about makeup, because living in a sexist society gives you stupid formative experiences. It’s possible for people to be put off behavioral femininity because of how it’s culturally connected to physical femaleness, and I don’t think it’s productive to assume that by default, people who feel that way are just being dumb about gender stereotypes.

      Also, the character in question, if you saw the clip, is definitely not a lesbian. They kissed their friend because they wanted to see if their gender issues could be explained by something along those lines, but they weren’t at all attracted to women (yes, this is stupid, but again, this was a badly-written coming out.) This isn’t an issue of a person who “should” be a lesbian being poached by a genderqueer identity – there are some people who start off identifying as genderqueer and then later realize that identifying as a lesbian suits them better, but there are also people who start off identifying as a lesbian and then later realize that identifying as genderqueer suits them better (hi), and there are also also people who identify as genderqueer AND as women. I don’t quite get it myself, as this is not how my gender identity works at all, but what seems to be going on is that these are people who don’t feel 100% like women on a personal level, but still feel a connection to womanhood (sometimes in being part-woman, sometimes in being something that’s similar enough to a woman to be included as one some or all of the time) and to communities of women (often specifically queer/lesbian ones). This isn’t entirely a modern thing, either – throughout lesbian history, there’s been a lot of theory and scholarship on whether lesbians (and often specifically butches) actually WERE entirely the same gender as straight women, and a lot of people believed the answer was “no”, because these people were looking at a lot of the different possible components of gender as a social construct. If that’s not how you see gender, that’s perfectly fine, but it’s a complicated enough concept that there’s room for reasonable people to interpret it in different ways.

  5. A Leauge of Their Own came out when I was 6 years old, and perhaps one of the gayest things about me is the sheer number of times I watched that movie on repeat between the ages of 6 and 10.

    To this day, that it’s one my all time “comfort food” movies that will instantly lift my spirits after a rough day.

    PS: Dottie totally dropped the ball on purpose. She did it for Kit. That’s the kind of sister she was.

  6. – I am sad to report that I actually gave up on The Fosters because my heart couldn’t handle the drama anymore :(
    – I totally agree they should recast Grindelwald! I would totally sign a petition if there was one!
    – Speaking of petitions…I totally signed the one for Sense8!!
    – And I must agree about the poor casting of Alison… I really loved the show and the story (I saw it when it was shown / toured here in the Philippines with our very own Lea Salonga as the Mom) and this issue makes me…sad…

  7. Honestly, that response from Lisa Kron makes me kind of angry?!?
    Plenty of tall, busty butches wear t-shirts and jeans. It seems to me the problem was more that of casting a woman who couldn’t portray butch in a way that read authentically.

    • Replying to my comment because I am really fired up… thinking about it more, why is she taking such a defensive posture about it. Most of the criticism (at least in my observations) has been from women who were excited about butch representation and part of that is the visuals. These are women, many of them butch, who feel let down by this and I think not acknowledging that is a mistake.

      • I hear you. I do think that the challenge to the show’s butch representation could have gone in another direction. Writing a public piece that accuses the show of actively ‘debutchifying’ the character assumes the worst of them. I can’t speak to the portrayal (maybe it DOES resonate with some butch fans) but let’s assume they are right and this actor isn’t as authentic as the last one. Maybe this was just a simple miscasting, which is unfortunate, but wasn’t done with the explicit intention of altering the character. It must have been really disheartening for people working on the show to read a piece that suggests they aimed to ‘debutchify’ the story. Writing a private letter to the producers would be diplomatic and avoid the awful shaming cycle of ‘calling out’ people they made no effort to dialogue with over an unfortunate mistake.

        But I also agree that the response was really defensive and Kron should have paused before that knee-jerk response. As I noted in my comment above, the ‘but I have a butch partner’ excuse is really weak given that most of us rightly have no time for ‘but I have a femme partner’. Plenty of people, including butches and femmes, have experienced erasure or disrespect of their gender from their partners. Being someone’s partner doesn’t mean you can speak to their experience.

    • I mean regardless of if you agree with her wardrobe change as authentic or not, I think the point of her response is more like “the outfit choice we made was not a result of a desire to de butch the character.” I guess as someone often accused of malicious intent when the truth is anythit but, I understand where she’s coming from.

      • Lisa Kron’s response made me, a masculine woman with a background as an actor, feel much better for a couple reasons. Usually in established shows like this, if you don’t look good in the costume (whatever that means) or if the costume doesn’t fit you, you don’t get the part. It’s a brutal world. Remember the part in [title of show] where Heidi went up against someone who sung “Greensleeves” for a Mamma Mia try out, which was weird, but the other person fit the costume so “no jobby for me?” I think about it constantly. And I’m glad that, having cast this actor, the production team isn’t doing that—it’s one of the ways the culture of making theatre is so toxic. I haven’t heard this actor sing this role or read these lines, but if the original creators are this involved in the tour (which I feel like isn’t always the case), I trust.

      • For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone at Autostraddle respond to criticism as defensively as Kron, even with people making ridiculous bad faith claims. She has a point, but her defensiveness detracts from it. After reading the call out I was prepared to sympathize with her but the entire conversation just looks sloppy and careless from both sides.

  8. I mean, there are good ways to butch up an “Amazon woman” (does she just mean a tall actor with big boobs/chest?) that don’t involve that weird layered stuff that the character was wearing in the photo I saw. Plenty of us have to work around/with those things in our everyday lives and they can certainly be butch. I just don’t think the costumers quite got it right.

  9. Is the Fosters really ending, that’s sad because it could’ve done so much better but then again send it off now instead of letting it go another 2 years of ridiculousness ala PLL.

    A League of their Own was my favorite movie back in the day and a couple of years later I actually met a lady who was a part of AAGPBL at my eye doctor, we got to talking and it was amazing to hear the true story, my following visit the doctor had a signed baseball card from her for me.

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