Boobs on Your Tube: Why Did “Stranger Things” Sideline Robin in Season 4?

Quiet week on the TV front — until today! There’s so much goodness for you in here! But first, this week, Heather wrote about Amity and Luz’s groundbreaking kiss on The Owl House and also recapped Gentleman Jack. And Riese rolled out this month’s guide to what’s gay on streaming on all the platforms!

Notes from the TV Team:

+ Top Chef concluded its 19th season last night and Jo Chan, one of the show’s queer cheftestants, returned to serve as the soup chef to Evelyn Garcia for her final presentation. Working together, they created a four course tasting menu that bridged the gap between the Mexican dishes that Garcia had grown up with and the Southeast Asian flavors she’d grown to love. Though Garcia would come up short in her quest to be crowned Top Chef, the dishes she and Chan put forward were amazing, particularly the second course of crystal shrimp and corn dumplings. — Natalie

+ Outfest’s second annual LGBTQIA+ television festival, The OutFronts, kicks off this weekend and if you’re a fan of queer television — which, I mean, obviously — you’ll want to make time for the festivities. In addition to some live, local panels, this year’s event features panels on our favorite shows that you can watch from the comfort of your couch. Be sure to make time for The 4400′s panel, featuring the show’s creators, cast and incredibly queer writing team, moderated by Autostraddle’s own, Shelli Nicole! — Natalie

+ One of our favorite shows of 2020 is finally back: P-Valley debuts its second season tonight on Starz. We love Uncle Clifford but here’s hoping that the Pynk adds a few queer ladies to its roster in the new season. If nothing else, you can guarantee that the soundtrack will be absolute fire.Natalie


Stranger Things Season Four, Part One

Written by Carmen

In a still from Stranger Things, Robin and Vickie are sitting side by side in their 1980s green marching band uniforms. Vickie is smiling off to the left of cameras and Robin is staring upon the side profile of Vickie's face intensely.

My favorite 80s lesbian Robin came back for Season Four of Stranger Things and not to get too far into the weeds of spoilers — it’s hard to explain the twists and turns of the Upside Down anyway, plus now maybe there’s ghosts!?!? — but she had very little to do.

In our first scene with Robin, she’s riding around with Steve (who’s turned into a surprisingly effective lesbro? Did not see that coming!) lamenting that she still hasn’t asked her crush, Vickie, out on a date — because this is the 1980s, in a small town in Indiana, and asking the wrong girl that question can get very bad, very quickly. Steven reminds Robin that because of their job at the Family Video (our spooky bbs have upgraded from their jobs working as ice cream scoopers), they know that Vickie is G-A-Y, because she always returns her movies frozen where the women kiss. So. There’s that.

(Also because Vickie is played by Anne with an E’s Amybeth McNulty.)

I felt a lot of hope way back then, at the start of episode one, but as I slowly binged my way through all eight episodes that spark went out entirely. Don’t get me wrong, Maya Hawke is still one of the best things about the show, with a easy charisma on camera that cannot be taught (shout out to family genes! Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke!) but that she skillfully deploys like a true master of her tools. And they do try and play up Robin’s crush on Vickie, who’s also in the band. But for all of the sci-fi mystery whodunit’s and ghost stories and Russians and demogorgons and travels into the Upside Down universe — all of which make excellent use of Maya’s comedic timing and appeal, finding time for Robin to have a girlfriend was simply asking too much.

I think on its own, it would have bothered me less. Admittedly I think Stranger Things 4 is struggling with a bit of cast bloat overall, no one is getting their proper time to shine. And arguably, none of the Stranger Things kids had huge love stories this year. Everyone’s busy as the main mystery unfolds (and whew does it unfold! When all the pieces slotted together in the final episode of Part One, I had full body chills).

But Maya’s sidelining doesn’t happen on its own. Will, who’s character’s disappearance kicked off to the entire franchise, is obviously struggling with gay feelings of his own — and his apparent crush on Mike. Will’s been clocked as gay by Stranger Things fans for years now. I was excited to see Will finally deal with his feelings on screen. Instead, much like with Robin, early hints of an exciting gay storyline just fizzle out with time. In recent interviews Noah Schnapp, who plays Will, hasn’t given much hope that this will even be addressed later — saying that Will’s sexuality “is up to audience interpretation.”

Stranger Things 4, Part Two drops in July. And I’m hopeful that these loose threads of gay get picked back up to a satisfying conclusion before the summer’s over! But for right now, it’s left a real bad taste in my mouth. We’re talking about Netflix’s most watched property! (I can’t help but wonder if that’s one of the reasons why the gay characters are getting sidelined). It’s like swallowing a bitter pill to watch them botch this so royally. It’s hard not to feel like in a sci-fi alternative universe where demon dogs raise from hell and telekinesis is just an average Tuesday — it was the gays that were bridge too far.


Lovestruck High Season One

Written by Natalie

Sin and Jody discuss going to the Homecoming Dance together, near their lockers.

Can I be honest? I did not expect to write about Lovestruck High. I mean, the show was ridiculous…and terrible…and I didn’t want the fact that I’d spent even an hour indulging in it to be memorialized in any way. But, as the show wrapped up its season this week, I found myself walking away with two thoughts: first, despite all the cringey moments you have to suffer through to get there, there’s something touching about what — however unwittingly — ends up being the show’s overall message: love can defy all expectations. Second, and perhaps more importantly: there should be more dating shows featuring queer people. Hopefully those dating shows that are way, way better than this one but still…this show is made infinitely better by the presence of queer people. More shows should follow its lead.

Okay, I should back up and explain what this show is…

Lovestruck High brings together 15 UK singles to live out the American high school experience…or, at least, something like it (classes mostly end up being an excuse to flirt/make-out or throw shade at others). While they’re in school, they’ll meet and interact with one another and, hopefully, spark a love connection. If the couple can successfully navigate the landmines of high school — including the show’s periodic expulsions — and earn the votes of their peers, they’ll be crowned Prom Royalty and take home a $100k prize. What’s different about Lovestruck High is how queer it is: of the show’s 20 contestants, half of them are queer. And if that weren’t enough? Who’s there to guide you through all the cringe-worthy nonsense but the bi-con herself, Lindsay Lohan. Unsurprisingly, Mean Girls references abound.

Lovestruck High starts with four queer women: Sinae “Sin” Prendergast, Jody Williams, Charlie Curtis and Jess Doolan. Without getting too specific, I can tell you:

– One of the queer women gets eliminated.
– One of the straight women? Not so straight, as it turns out.
– Two of the queer women end up going down unexpected romantic paths.

Who ends up with whom? How’s everything shake out? Check it out for yourself: Lovestruck High is now streaming on Prime Video.


Charmed 411: “Divine Secrets of the O.G. Sisterhood”

Written by Valerie Anne

Charmed: Roxy and Mel kiss in the bar

If this is the last time we ever see Roxy, I *will* rage.

This week opens at Dev’s funeral, where the Charmed Ones are unaware that elsewhere, the Unseen are using the stolen Book of Shadows to recreate the unity bowl in their quest to resurrect the Lost One. Devastated, Kaela decides the life of a Charmed One comes at much too high a price and she storms off. Maggie tries to follow, but when she gets back to the manor, Kaela and her bus are gone.

Mel stays back at the bar with Roxy, because she’s trying to be better about not prioritizing witch business over relationships, and Roxy needs help finding her tiny band. They go to their wee house and find one of them dead, so they follow tiny footprints to find their bandmate.

On the road, Kaela’s bus breaks down and she meets one of the original Charmed Ones (like, in history…not Phoebe, Piper, Prue, or even Paige.) Her name is Ishani and she wants to help Kaela and her sisters avoid the mistakes she and her triad made. The Lost One is an original Charmed One.

Eventually Mel and Roxy learn that the missing Beebop murdered his bandmates for the Lost One, and Mel runs off to find her sisters. Before she goes, Roxy kisses her and tells her she’ll miss her, but Mel doesn’t get the message and promises to be right back. Before she does get back, though, Roxy leaves Mel a voicemail saying she’s not hard to be with, then climbs into her coffin for another seven-year slumber.

After Ishani convinces Kaela that the magic chose her and she has to choose it back, Kaela rejoins her sisters, just in time to watch the Lost One rise. The Lost One wants to end the concept of the Charmed Ones. She drinks of the Unity Bowl and takes back their power; she wants to be the Source. I think? Honestly her past and present motivations are a bit blurry to me but all I know for sure is: the Charmed Ones are in trouble.


Legacies 418:”By the End of This, You’ll Know Who You Were Meant to Be”

Written by Valerie Anne

Legacies: Hope and Lizzie aka Hizzie link arms and walk down the hall

I just need you to know that Lizzie and Hope have linked arms in this scene. They walk down the hall WITH THEIR ARMS LINKED.

The Super Squad is still ramping up to fight the Ken Doll God; Cleo is learning that her visions are more…tactile than she realized, and that when she started interfering with her Oracle visions, she became a Fury.

Ben tells the Squad they need, quite literally, fire and brimstone, so the wolves get to work. (Including Finch! Hi, Finch!) Hope trains and avoids answering the question of who has to set off the brimstone explosion because she knows that person will likely die.

Now, I have been fully skipping recapping the underworld storyline except when Hope popped down there because it feels like an entirely different show, but this week’s revealed one fact I felt was worth sharing: Death is a woman. Okay, specifically the Ferryman is a Ferrywoman, a god, and she is played by Tasya Teles, who I love.

Okay, back to business: Lizzie tells Hope that she loves MG but was afraid to ask herself if she loves him back, and Hope understands; she asked herself the question she’d been avoiding and the answer was worse than she feared. The person who has to set off the explosion and probably die? It’s Lizzie.

Between being able to siphon Ken, and by nature of being a Heretic, she has the best chance of both defeating Ken and maybe even surviving. It’s truly their only hope. Lizzie is proud of Hope for actually considering the best course of action instead of trying to martyr herself, and Hope is proud of Lizzie for being so calm and rational in the face of chaos.

The school throws them a pre-victory party, maybe for the ones who might not live to see them win. But in Hope’s speech she makes it very clear: they will win. And she sounds like she almost believes it. Almost.

But unbeknownst to them, the battle has already begun, and Kaleb is the first casualty. I’m REALLY hoping they (or maybe Jen?) can undo that somehow, because Kaleb is one of my faves and even though this show is ending, I don’t want that to be his fate.


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Natalie

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 278 articles for us.

Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 423 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. It’s bonkers that Stranger Things tries to present queerness in the 80’s without even mentioning HIV/AIDS!?! I love Robin as a character, but her coming out to Steve and him being cool isn’t realistic for the period sadly.

    • GenXer here. I didn’t watch the show but I was a teen in the 80s and yes it was a really homophobic time but it wasn’t uniform. Teens did come out to their friends and it wasn’t always a big deal. I didn’t come out until college but my brother’s best female friend came out in high school and he was cool with it.

  2. It sucks that Robin got sidelined but the show sidelines characters constantly as y’all pointed out not sure it has potentially anything to do with her being gay. Jonathan was also seriously sidelined this season as was Max last season. And Lucas. Who both get more to do this season. And as you pointed out no romantic arcs really get any time this season. Plus you’re point about Will and Robin getting sidelined only works if Will is actually even meant to be gay. I mean people originally interpreted him as gay cause he was angry that his friends had girlfriends and weren’t playing d&d with him. Which definitely isn’t a foolproof way to judge if someone’s gay or not. I guess let’s hope robin gets more time with Vickie moving forward.

    • STRANGER THINGS SPOILERS BELOW

      I’d argue that Will’s line to Mike in episode 5 when they are alone, “sometimes I think it’s just scary to open up like that, to say how you really feel, especially to people you care about the most, because what if they don’t like the truth?” — doesn’t leave much room for interpretation.

      And I’m definitely not the only writer who felt that Stranger Things is banging up these gay plots: https://www.cbr.com/stranger-things-season4-lgbt-arc-failure/

      But ultimately we all get to feel what we feel about it! Sadly, my feelings are disappointment. I agree it’s not really a show about romance, it’s about friends fighting monsters in that classic 80s Goonies way. And it should be! But I think if you’re going to introduce queer themes, you should follow through on them. I really do hope the show finds some more of that balance in the next set of episodes.

      • that is true they definitely made it more clear about Will this season. Gotta say I personally was sorta hoping he was asexual. I think my main point is that I just don’t think it’s particularly unique to the shows queer characters for them to get dropped or not immediately followed up on or for them to get sidelined. The show sidelined many characters this season and in past seasons who were not queer. We just might focus more on the queer characters cause we are queer tv viewers. And I gotta say I was disappointed too I’m just not sure if we should try to read into it too much. Tho I will say I’m not entirely sure what the show is doing with Will.

          • Damn I totally forgot about that. Yeah I guess not that subtle lol. Steve also calls Jonathan a fag in season one I believe tho.

  3. I don’t know if “sidelined” is the right word — we saw a lot of Robin in season four part one. The Hawkins plot was the best of the main plots, and she was one of the best parts of it. All of her scenes with Nancy were a highlight. I’m disappointed that she hasn’t kissed any girls yet too, but there are four hours left in this season, so there’s time. Sounds like Will’s sexuality isn’t actually going to be left up to interpretation, either. The Duffers just did an interview with Variety and were asked if they plan to directly address it. They said, “The full arc of the story hasn’t come to pass yet because we really are in Episode 7, it’s what we call the end of our second act. So there’s a lot more resolution in the story; we’re trying to do the same with the characters’ arcs. And I would say that applies to Will’s arc. So it’s going to be much easier to talk about for everyone — the actors and us — once those final two episodes have played. But certainly, his journey and arc is far from finished.”

    • I completely agree with you and I take a little bit of umbrage with the header about sidelining Robin (I waited to read the article until I finished it tonight in case of spoilers). Robin was featured quite heavily and I liked that they’re fleshing out her character and making her a part of the main group. She even arguably got more screen time than other main cast members this series. I feel like I’m just happily enjoying her character right now and it just feels a bit negative to nitpick that she can only be a good character if she’s kissing other girls. She’s more than her sexuality, and making her a rounded character. I don’t feel that’s bad representation or sidelining.

  4. I kinda sorta think there’s a reason Robin’s story has been sidelined…and I think they’re developing her with Nancy more than with Vickie. Think about it for a sec, Steve explains that Vickie stopped Fast Times because the actress in the movie is taking off her bikini to show her boobies (*not* girls kissing was the reason she stopped) and we all assume it’s because of that Vickie is a Lesbian. But what if it’s the opposite? Plus I don’t think that was a great conversation starter with Steve’s muppet joke. It should be Robin’s joke, and that’s what Steve said to her just be herself around a girl. I see way more chemistry with Nancy and I’m afraid that I’ve just gone down the rabbit hole to queerbaiting Land 😂 because all that Robin said that she doesn’t understand social cues, she’s sort of clueless when it comes to the right girl, she babbles around her crushes and she does it exactly to Nancy. Well not the crushes part but Nancy sort of understands, and Robin is still clueless. I hope they don’t die.

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