The University of Connecticut Rainbow Center tackled LGBTQ+ representation in television, movies and YouTube at its second Friday Night Social of the semester on Sept. 22 in the Student Union.
The event was hosted by UConn seniors and Rainbow Center staff Zane Carey and Lucas Larcheveque to help students connect with one another and recommend new television series and movies.
The attendees discussed the importance of accurate LGBTQ+ portrayals in mainstream media, from shows like "Grey's Anatomy" to "Modern Family." Event goers agreed that they are more drawn to shows with gay characters that have a storyline, just as a heterosexual character would. A few also chimed in on the idea that a same-sex relationship should be normalized in media. Subtle references made by a female character to "her girlfriend" were well-received in the group.
"Alien," a science fiction movie franchise, featured its first gay couple, Lope and Hallett, in its latest release, "Alien: Covenant." However, Lope and Hallett are minor characters and Hallett is killed off.
"Riverdale," the CW Television Network's dark twist on the classic Archie Comics, features an openly gay high schooler named Kevin Keller. While the show was praised for adding a more modern story line, Keller is mostly acting as the token "gay best friend" to Betty Cooper and Veronica Locke. It's these representations that are harmful to LGBTQ+ identifying students and sends the message that their stories are not worth being heard.
Carey and Larcheveque examined the list of winners at this year's Emmy Awards. While the award show has gotten better in terms of nominating actors, writers and directors who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, two categories stood out to Carey.
Both the Emmys for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special and Outstanding Television Movie were awarded to "San Junipero," the fourth episode in the British science fiction show "Black Mirror." The episode follows Kelly, a bisexual woman of color falling in love with a young woman named Yorkie.
"'San Junipero' had a relationship between two women, but that wasn't the focus," an anonymous participant said. "It was very powerful."
Many Rainbow Center events keep the identity of their participants anonymous, to ensure they can speak openly about their experience without judgement.
Two wins for queer and black women on national television was history-making, but "Black Mirror" wasn't the only show to do so.
Writers Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe of the hit Netflix comedy, "Master of None," picked up the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Award. In her speech, Waithe thanked her "LGBTQIA family" and the audience for "embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago."
While these historical Emmy wins are a step in the right direction for gay, black women, nothing on television is a perfect representation.
"We need to create content that doesn't feature stereotypes,” Larcheveque said. "We need to focus on intersectionality with value."
The next Friday Night Social will take place Oct. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in room 403 of the Student Union.
Leah Sheltry is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.