With complaints of “long, tedious episodes, poor characterization, bad plotting and a general lack of focus,” being “both too much and not enough” and, broadly, “clumsiness,” the third and final season of Ted Lasso has thus far failed to garner the critical acclaim its first two seasons did. While I agree with all of those critiques, my biggest gripe with the season is the clunky, half-hearted way its queer characters are presented.
The first two seasons of the Apple TV+ show were rightfully called out as being overwhelmingly straight, but now, in the eleventh hour, the decision to highlight the queerness of not one or two, but three characters feels hasty, hollow and overcompensating. A review in Slate reads, “This season it seems to be throwing multiple examples at us. See? They're gay or bi! But none of its queer characters appear well-rounded. They won't get lasting love or happiness or escape trauma. The show is tolerating them, but their storylines are miserable.”
But this isn’t just a Ted Lasso problem; queer representation on TV often feels this way: LGBTQ characters are often relegated to supporting roles or stereotypical storylines. Even when they are given main character treatment, with robust and complicated backstories, many succumb to the ‘bury your gays’ trope, which refers to when queer characters are included in storylines but meet untimely, devastating deaths. (Think: Jodie Comer’s Villanelle in Killing Eve.) As an article in Screen Rant explains, “When TV and film only tell stories of suffering and death for their LGBTQ+ characters, it drives home the idea that to be queer is only to suffer.”
Queer book characters are, more often than not, a completely different story. Yes, there are still gay best friends or eccentric, ‘probably a lesbian but we’re never going to confirm it either way’ aunts, whose main purpose seems to be checking off an inclusion box, but there are so many books by LGBTQ authors that feature non-straight people who are complex and messy and happy and fully fleshed-out. They don’t feel like they were written to appeal to or appease a straight audience.