Scroll To Top

Where Are the Gay Teen Rom-Coms Starring People of Color?

Where Are the Gay Teen Rom-Coms Starring People of Color?

Where Are the Gay Teen Rom-Coms Starring People of Color?

If we "all deserve a great love story," where are ours?


After the success of Love, Simon, Netflix is embarking into the land of gay teen rom-coms with the summer release of Alex Strangelove. Described as Superbad meets Pretty in Pink, we meet Alex (Daniel Doheny), an awkward high school senior counting down the days till he's losing his virginity to his girlfriend—until he meets the ever-so-charming Elliot (Antonio Marziale) and is forced to come to terms with his sexuality.

The Ben Stiller-produced flick is certainly chuckle-worthy, but despite providing a handful of laughs, feels shallow and uninspired, while doing a disservice to its minority characters. Watching it as a person of color, I couldn't help but feel...invisible. 

That isn't just an Alex Strangelove issue. Seeing a character like me reflected on screen is even harder to find than a top in West Hollywood. The film industry simply doesn't care to show our stories. 

LGBT films have been climbing in popularity and critical acclaim over the past couple of decades, but films like Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, and Carol don't exactly fit into the teenage romantic comedy genre. When we do get a rom-com (GBF, Another Gay Movie), they almost always center two white men falling in love while the minorities orbit around them.

When we do get a queer story featuring young people of color or women (Moonlight, Spa Night, Blue Is the Warmest ColorBlackbird), they're usually more of a greek tragedy than a feel-good flick. Surprise, surprise Hollywood executives: minorities are more than our trauma. 

Love, Simon gave us a taste of that potential rom-com with Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), but unlike the well-developed character he was based on in the novel, Bram is barely shown on screen, and the two are affectionate for approximately eighty-two seconds before the credits roll. There are plenty of queer teens in love on television (most recently the all-too-real collegiate romance of Netflix's Dear White People) but the only feel-good film I can think of centering queer people of color is Front Cover.

When asked about Alex Strangelove's three white leads, director Craig Johnson told The Advocate that the actors cast simply fit the characters best.   “Diversity will be a factor in my decision, but I'm always just looking for who the right actor for the role. And I'm very proud of the casting in this because I feel like everyone embraces their character in a wonderful way.”

But without intention, diversity efforts oftentimes default to whiteness. If a director already has an idea of what a character should be like, "colorblind casting" usually favors the neutrality of caucasianicity (Yes I just made that word up) while allowing producers to easily opt out of the conversation with a halfhearted "we tried." 

Instead of race not being a part of the casting equation, we need purposeful stories celebrating different identities - and not rely on tired tropes. When will we see two black teens fall in love without one of them going to juvie? Let's see a girl visit her family in India, bump into a cute barista named Anika, and realize that her feelings are more than just platonic and they have a wistful summer fling. There are transgender stories out there that go beyond transitioning! Or how about some brown gays in space? 

These diverse stories will come from diverse storytellers. According to the Washington Post, a 2017 study found that less than 14% of Hollywood's writers are people of color even though we make up 40% of the population. Less than 9% of showrunners are POC.

To make notable strides forward, we need people of color behind the scenes, in the writers room, directing and producing. Without them, we're just going to keep recycling the same stories from the 80s with a "gay twist."

There are so many love stories waiting to be told that aren't just about twinks downloading Grindr for the first time—so why hasn't Hollywood caught on yet?  

If Love, Simon's tagline rings true, and we do, in fact, "all deserve a great love story," where are ours?

Banner Image OneOut Magazine - Fellow Travelers

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories