Why Everything Sucks' Coming Out Story Matters

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Everything Sucks! season 1.
If you take a look around television, there are adults figuring out their sexuality all over the place. Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) just came out as bisexual on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner) has been gettin’ bi on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for seasons. The gay lovebirds of Grace And Frankie only started living their best out lives in their 70s. And, yet, there is a real dearth of teen coming out stories, save for the beautiful, complex one gifted to us by One Day At A Time’s Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez).
Well that is until now, with the premiere of fellow Netflix comedy Everything Sucks!, a '90s nostalgia-fest in the vein of Freaks And Geeks. While the coming of age show gets off to a legitimately rocky start — mirroring most of our high school experiences, to be honest — it’s clear the real draw of the series is watching a romance blossom between A.V. club wallflower Kate Messner (Peyton Kennedy) and drama club queen Emaline (Sydney Sweeney).
In a landscape dominated by the impossibly sexy teens of Riverdale, Everything gives us the messy, bumbling, and honest coming out story the world needs.
We first realize female lead Kate might be more interested in girls than her new pal Luke O'Neil (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), who instantly falls for Kate, when she steals a softcore porn magazine out of his garage. She doesn’t want it merely to compare herself to the buxom, nude women splashed across its pages, as her dad Ken (Patch Darragh) obliviously assumes. No, Kate wants to use it to masturbate, as we actually see in premiere “Plutonium.” The intimate scene itself is a much-needed rarity in pop culture, reminding us à la Big Mouth teen boys aren’t the only ones exploring self pleasure.
From there, Kate’s budding sexuality only gets more complicated. She gawks at then-bully Emaline in the girls’ locker room and subsequently enters into a relationship with Luke to throw off any LGBTQ+ suspicions… before finally admitting to her boyfriend she’s a lesbian in episode 4, “Romeo And Juliet In Space.” Luke still thinks they should date as Kate figures things out. Thanks to a series of story-moving events, Kate and a heartbroken Emaline, who become friends, eventually end up in a motel room alone. Kate takes the opportunity to tell her real crush she’s “the most sexy and attractive person” she’s ever met. The pair almost kiss, but are interrupted by another oblivious person.
By the series finale, “We Were Merely Freshmen,” Kate and Emaline, now both single, share a sweet first kiss and a private slow dance backed by Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World.” The boys pining over them — respectively, Luke and his nerdy sidekick McQuaid (Rio Mangini) — simply have to get over it. Absolutely none of this is simple or easy, because, despite certain progressive pockets around America, the process is rarely simple or easy.
“It’s just really nice because teenagers who are struggling with their own sexuality are going to watch it, and they’re going to identify with Kate and Emaline,” Kate’s portrayer Peyton Kennedy told Refinery29 during a recent interview in New York City. Emaline’s alter-ego Sydney Sweeney, who has the habit of finishing Kennedy’s sentences, agreed, adding, “Especially where Emaline doesn’t know anything, really. Both of them are going into this uncharted territory, and they have no idea what’s going to happen next.”
Speaking of not knowing what’s going to happen next, the actresses point out the fact that Everything’s 1996 setting truly leaves their characters out on a ledge alone with their emotions. ”Now there are so many [options]. You can Google and you can go on websites and you can…” Kennedy began before Sweeney filled in the blank, saying, “Instagram! [Kate and Emaline] have nothing — just each other. They have to figure it out. There is no one. They don’t feel like they can talk to anybody.”
Although sexually unsure young viewers at home might be able to Google until they understand their feelings, it’s likely more than a few will still identify with the characters’ emotional isolation.
Similarly, the cast, who proudly confirms Everything Sucks! is “absolutely” aimed at teens, hopes young male viewers will walk away from the comedy with a new lesson learned: you can’t make a girl like you back. This is a hard truth Luke is forced to accept throughout season 1 and one that leaves McQuaid devastated in the last minutes of the finale. But, as Kennedy said, “I really hope [teen boys] are able to see you can’t coax someone into turning straight. You can’t make someone like you by repeating gestures.”
Thankfully, many of the teen actress’ male co-stars already are on board. “You can’t own any person. I don’t know why, along the [way], we got this weird, screwed up, mindset that you can do [that] to a woman,” Jahi Di'Allo Winston, who brought Luke to life, said of guys who want to control female sexuality. Elijah Stevenson, who plays Emaline’s bad boy ex Oliver, agreed, saying, “No one likes not being wanted by someone else. And I think a lot of young men take that to heart … [But] oftentimes there’s nothing you can do. If you can start understanding that and being okay with that, that can really build upon your character.”
That’s why Luke’s eventual acceptance and ardent support of Kate’s sexuality, despite his own romantic yearnings, feels so necessary. Or, as Sweeney explained, “It’s such a great thing for people to learn that even if you get rejected or hurt, to still be there for that person who is going through something.”
So whether you’re an LGBTQ+ girl or one of the boys to accidentally fall for them, Everything Sucks! has something to teach you.
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