It has long been a staple of the genre, and a running joke among the LGBTQ+ community, that LGBTQ+ people have tragic lives in film. No homosexual man on the silver screen can be just homosexual—they also must be thrown out of their house at the age of fifteen and bullied to severe psychological effects. No lesbian couple in a television show can end up happily ever after—they must have a rocky marriage that ends in divorce. Lesbian romances in all media have long been depicted with tragic or unhappy endings—at least until the release of the genre-shifting book “The Price of Salt,” by Patricia Highsmith, and the subsequent movie. In “The Price of Salt” (and the movie based upon it, “Carol”), there are many difficulties in the relationship between Therese and Carol, including but not limited to the following: age difference (another common factor in LGBTQ+ films, for unclear reasons), Carol’s impending divorce, Therese’s prior relationship, and the fact that their relationship status is considered a sign of mental illness by the law, which threatens to separate Carol from her only daughter. Despite these problems, “The Price of Salt” and “Carol” rip their way out of the restraints of the genre by giving the lesbian couple a happy ending. Both creations were quite literally game-changing, but “Schitt’s Creek”, produced by the Levy family, has taken the progress a large step forward.
It is unclear exactly why so many movies and shows have depicted LGBTQ+ people in an unhappy light, but we can probably narrow the reason down to two culprits: unconscious homophobia/transphobia, and a belief that the tragic depictions do justice to the real-world struggles of LGBTQ+ people. Speaking as a member of the community myself (for otherwise I wouldn’t give my opinion on the matter), we don’t watch romance movies to see homophobia, because that’s what documentaries are for. While producers may genuinely believe that they are being respectful to the community by making things realistically difficult for their LGBTQ+ characters, they are really ruining the very reason that we watch fictional productions: For an escape. If you’re shooting a gay wedding movie, make it as happy as you would any wedding movie, because the purpose of the movie is to make your audience happy.
“Schitt’s Creek,” a Canadian television show now streaming on Netflix, does this in such a beautiful way that the show itself has become a phenomenon among the LGBTQ+ community. One of the main characters of the show, played by Dan Levy, is pansexual, or capable of attraction to all genders. Not only is this “not a big deal,” but there is no significant coming out scene and other characters do not react in shock or surprise to his sexuality. The only mention of it is in a scene where he compares his sexuality to wine while talking to a friend, famously saying, “I like the wine and not the label, does that make sense?”
Later in the show, Levy’s character is portrayed in a public relationship with a man whom he eventually marries. The show is set in small town with characters that look like they could be quite conservative, and, as the stereotype goes, homophobic. However, not once throughout the show is there a display of homophobia from a single character. Levy’s character and his boyfriend face everyday couple problems, but no more. At one plot point, his boyfriend does have to come out to his own parents, but he is accepted with love and affection. Critics may say this is unrealistic, and thus irresponsible—but you would be hard pressed to find a single LGBTQ+ person who minds this at all. Instead, the utter lack of homophobia, as well as the expression of love toward the couple portrayed in the show, is incredibly refreshing and actually made me emotional. Countless parents and their children have written to the writers of “Schitt’s Creek,” thanking them for the LGBTQ+ phenomenon they have created. Suddenly, I feel my fingers itching to do the same.