The National Champion of Kissing: Kate and Emaline of “Everything Sucks”

We started with 64 couples and their first on-screen kisses, across four regions, and went through six rounds of voting, with nearly 50,000 votes cast, all to crown a National Champion of Kissing. And, now, we have our winner: Congratulations to Kate and Emaline of Netflix’s Everything Sucks on being selected as the best first kiss by Autostraddle readers.

The perennial underdogs from Boring High School advanced quietly through the early rounds — I kick myself for not seeing #KEmaline coming when they bested Karolina and Nico of Marvel’s Runaways with ease in the second round — but announced their formidableness when they bested Adena and Kat in the Elite 8. The fandom, led by the show’s stars, Peyton Kennedy and Sydney Sweeney, would not be denied. The underdogs became the favorites and managed the win the whole damn thing in overwhelming fashion.

The victory is bittersweet after news broke on Friday that Netflix decided not to renew Everything Sucks for a second season. Fans across social media are urging Netflix to reconsider and give the show a much deserved second season. Fans are hoping that, rather than begin consigned to the history books of coming-of-age shows who only got one shot at pulling in the ratings, Everything Sucks will be more like Timeless, the time-travelling show that was cancelled then revived by NBC. If you’re interested in joining the effort to #RenewEverythingSucks, you can share the hashtag on social media or add your name to the petition calling for renewal. After seeing the tenacity of the #KEmaline fans in this contest, you’d be a fool to doubt their capacity to change the show’s fate.

The funny thing about Kate and Emaline’s kiss in Everything Sucks, at least in my estimation, is that it’s the second most significant same-sex kiss on the show. The most important kiss happens between a couple whose identities we don’t know but who Kate notices holding hands and dancing to Tori Amos’ “Silent All These Years.” They don’t notice her — they’re in their own little world — but Kate sees them and she sees herself in them. The couple nuzzles lovingly against each other and happiness registers on Kate’s face — the future she’d barely dared to imagine was standing right there, right in front of her. It existed, they existed, she existed. But then she watches as the couple kisses gently and, it’s enough to take Kate’s breathe away. She swallows hard as the full range of what’s possible hits her and her eyes glisten with tears that never fall.

It’s the moment when everything changes for Kate… when pretending that this thing that she has with Luke is a viable substitute for a real relationship becomes unacceptable… when muffling her identity — lesbian — for fear that someone might overhear is no longer her chief concern.

“My whole life, I have been the freak. The girl who nobody picked for dodgeball. The girl who didn’t have a mom. The girl who dressed funny because it was her dad buying her clothes,” Kate admits. “And then, tonight I looked at these people, and I thought maybe there’s a future where I don’t have to be a freak. Maybe I can be who I am and that’s okay.”

But for that moment of voyuerism, Kate doesn’t confess all these thoughts and feelings she’s had about Emaline. Without seeing that kiss, Kate doesn’t confess to liking Emaline back in the stairwell or end up on that stage, swaying to the dulcet sounds of Duran Duran, kissing the girl that’s she’s wanted to kiss for so long. The perennial underdog — the closeted lesbian, member of the A/V Club — got the girl in the end, all because she saw a kiss. That’s the power of representation.

In the wake of the cancellation of Everything Sucks by Netflix, Kate Messner’s portrayer posted this:

The “I am Kate Messner” hashtag made its way around Twitter over the weekend, eliciting incredible stories from fans of the show that had seen themselves in the character.

Everything Sucks was the rare show that both gave you LGBT representation and showed you why that representation matters so much. Kate and Emaline’s first kiss is going to be to some young girl what that couple at the Tori Amos concert was to Kate. Not just a chance for her to see herself reflected on screen but where she can begin to imagine a future where she doesn’t have to be a freak… where she can be who she is and that’s okay.

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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 396 articles for us.


  1. As a teen who only felt comfortable at “friendly” musical venues in the 90s, my heart danced when I watched that scene for the first time. I hope Netflix reconsiders. If not, I’m grateful for one sweet season.

  2. I voted Petramos because I am very much invested in that show and Petra’s bisexuality but after reading this it seems like this kiss is also a deserved winner and I might have to watch the show!

    Thanks for organizing this contest!

  3. Congratulations, Kemaline! Your show should be resurrected right this bloody second! It has been three days since it got cancelled…

  4. i didn’t even vote for kate/emmaline and i’m fuckin’ crying over hereeeeeee

    <3 <3 <3 to all the young 'uns and to my past self

  5. Netflix cancels shows so fast now! And for some reason, I always feel personally responsible for a show getting canceled if I didn’t watch it. Like, I was the one extra viewer that would have saved it. So, thanks for all the guilt, Netflix!!

  6. Yeah, sure, have your Emmaline. I’ll set over here with my Deanoru and listen to “Ocean Eyes”.


  7. Surely the combined power of the lesbian media, compelling polls such as this one, and maybe a word from Lesbian Jesus (please?!?) will make Netflix come to their senses.

  8. Their kiss was fine, but that moment at the Tori Amos concert where she looked around and saw happy gays and realized she could have that someday should win EVERYTHING ALWAYS.

      • I am way too shy and socially awkward in large groups to think that going to A-camp would be a good idea. But this comment makes me want to reconsider.

        • I’m not going to lie – the large groups of people at camp ARE overwhelming for me! But personally, it is still worth it. I do spend some time walking alone, I spend a lot of time with a few close friends (note: if you are new, even if you are a quiet type, YOU PROBABLY WILL MAKE THOSE FRIENDS), and I sometimes avoid the most crowded spaces depending on how vulnerable I’m feeling. But there is room to do that! And everyone I’ve met has been so incredibly respectful of everyone’s feelings and experiences at camp, it’s not the kind of space where I worry about being bumped into by a zillion people like at Dinah or something, and also not the type of space where I worry I have to be or look a certain way. Hope that helps! :-)

    • “I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you. I think I was twelve. It took me three years to pluck up the courage to speak to you. And I was so scared about the way I felt, you know, loving a girl…”

  9. What’s that you say? Wayhaught won and Petramos took second place? Sounds about right!

  10. so happy and so sad at the same time. I really hope Netflix sees the error of their ways and resurrects this show or maybe some other network, streaming service can. I was talking with my co-worker and I said that I think Netflix should always give their shows 2 seasons because it is a bingeable show and so it takes a while for word to spread on it. Usually people get interested to binge the first season when others are excited that the second season is coming out.

  11. Mix a cutie lesbian girl with a cool bisexual girl and you get Kemaline! <3

    What is better than two young girls first kisses (on Emaline's side first kiss with a guuuurl)? Cuuute.

    I hope that the petition changes Neflix's mind. But honestly, my hope is not very big.

  12. Um I expected this to just be a fun ~contest/voting situation, but your write-ups about each show were so good all along, and then this!! Gave me so many feelings.

  13. Im sorry but am I the only one who has a problem with the fact that irl the actress that plays Kate is 14 while the actress who plahs Emaline is 20 years old? For a show or not how is this possibly okay?

    • You’re not the only one, I really enjoyed the show but looking it up afterwards just kind of sucked all the enjoyment out of it and replaced it with discomfort. The only people I’ve seen actually talking about it said it probably wasn’t as bad as it seems because the actresses must have been comfortable with it which is… very optimistic. I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy a second season honestly.

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