The Closet Isn't Just Subtext in Netflix's I Am Not Okay With This
The Closet Isn't Just Subtext in Netflix's 'I Am Not Okay With This'
Netflix's latest teen dramedy perfectly uses superheroism as an allegory for queerness.
Superheroism has long been an allegory for queerness. Many LGBTQ+ people have a lot in common with heroes like Spider-man or Superman who hide their identities from the world, harbor a deep-seated fear of not being accepted should their identities be revealed, and wear a public mask to keep your private life hidden for their own safety. For decades, we’ve seen ourselves in these stories, no matter how heterosexual they are.
With Netflix’s latest teen dramedy I Am Not Okay With This, we don’t have to look for the subtext in the storylines. Those parallel plots overlap in the case of leading character Sydney Novak.
Warning! Some I Am Not Okay With This season 1 spoilers ahead…
As soon as the show begins, you can easily peg Sydeny’s trope: the angsty teen girl who just wants to be left alone and hang out with her one friend. We begin to care for her as the layers of her story get pulled back. A year earlier, her father committed suicide and her still-grieving family is struggling to make ends meet.
It’s clear almost immediately that Syd has an infatuation with her best friend Dina and you can almost taste the resentment when Dina begins dating the aptly-named fuccboi/jock Brad. One might attribute her jealousy to abandonment issues, but as someone who wants every single character in every show to be gay, I suspected more.
The tension between the two girls reaches a head at some random party. The two are drinking, mingling and having a good time. At one moment, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield blares over the speakers, which many of us queers immediately recognize as the I’m-in-gay-love-with-my-best-friend anthem. Dina asks Syd to dance and they get up to awkward teen girl shimmy, but Syd can’t take her eyes off of her best friend. Just moments later, she decides to go for it.
Brad acts like an asshole at the party, as that brand of boy so often does, and as Syd consoles Dina in some random bedroom in the back, she leans in for a kiss.
Dina pulls back, which sends Syd spiraling and she hurriedly leaves the party and rushes into the woods. She screams to release the frenzied emotions bubbling over inside her, which triggers the biggest exertion of her powers yet, slamming every tree in a ten-meter radius into the ground.
From then on, Syd commits to keeping not only her powers secret, but her sexuality and feelings for Dina.
Obviously, it all blows up in her face. Stanley, Syd’s quirky neighbor who she only hooked up with to keep up with Dina’s social life, finds out about her powers and attempts to help her. Eventually, at the school’s big dance, Syd has to friendzone him and we get an interesting moment of gay panic. Stanley asks Syd if Dina knows her secret. “In what way,” she replies nervously, unsure if he’s referring to her abilities or unrequited love.
As a longtime viewer of superhero content, it’s titillating and gratifying to see the two sides of hiding who you are play out in one character. Hiding your sexuality, especially when you’re young and unsure of who you are or how people will react, can feel as if you’re harboring a bombshell. Unfortunately for Syd, the timer on that bomb is just about to run out.
The two girls let loose as they dance together and when the music slows down, they wrap their arms around each other. In an intimate moment, Dina admits that she kind of liked that kiss in the bedroom. The butterflies well up in our stomachs as it looks like they might kiss again and give their relationship a chance.
That, of course, is the exact moment when Brad barges in and ruins everything, threatening to kick open both of Syd's closets. It results in a modern-day Carrie moment that’ll have us talking about the show for years to come.
I Am Not Okay With This is on Netflix now. Watch the trailer, as well as PRIDE's interview with the cast, below!