“Casual” has a complex same-sex teen relationship

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Hulu’s original series Casual hits me right in the sweet spot: it’s an acerbic but heartbreaking look at a dysfunctional family and the webs of co-dependency that string them together (aka my favorite subgenre of show). This series, like Transparent and Girls, is part of the new wave of dram-coms, i.e. half hour shows that, while containing very funny moments, are able to sneak in deep moments of profound emotion.

The series centers around Valerie (Michaela Watkins), a neurotic therapist who moves in with her irresponsible wealthy brother Alex (Tommy Dewey) in the wake of her divorce. She’s accompanied by her high school-age daughter, Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) a sarcastic teen who recently left her high school in the wake of a sex tape scandal. (It’s worth mentioning that last season, Valerie had a same-sex tryst of her own.)

After a failed attempt at home-schooling, Valerie enrolls Laura in an educational co-op, where she learns with a group of 12 other students in a looser, more organic environment. There she meets Aubrey (Dylan Gelula, who recently played a high schooler coming out as queer in First Girl I Loved). The girls immediately connect and end up in bed together at a frat party (gross, I know). Aubrey immediately assumes that they are in a relationship, but Laura is hesitant to label them. Sound familiar?

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The arc of Laura and Aubrey is very reminiscent of Claire and Edie’s arc on Six Feet Under (one of my favorite arcs on sexual fluidity/bisexuality ever) that deals with the fallout of a straight girl wanting desperately to explore her bi side, and breaking a queer girl’s heart in the process. Laura is sexually open but very scared of commitment, and her attentions quickly turn to Spencer, a boy in their co-op with terminal cancer. She convinces Aubrey to have a threesome with Spencer as an act of charity, a notch on his bucket list, and Aubrey reluctantly agrees. The final shot of their threesome captures the dynamic perfectly: Aubrey holds Laura’s hand, while Laura looks at Spencer.

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The next day, Spencer tries to initiate a round two, but Aubrey firmly tells him that the Make-A-Wish foundation is closed. Laura starts sneaking around with Spencer, and in a bid to stake her claim, Aubrey kisses Laura in front of Valerie. Valerie is mildly surprised but supportive and calls her daughter out on her emotional detachment. She advises Laura to talk to Aubrey about their relationship, but Laura would rather ignore her feelings.

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Later on, Aubrey confronts Spencer and Laura about them fucking behind her back and calls Laura out for being so cold. She tells her that she hopes Spencer dies before Laura can get bored of him too, and it’s cutting but not entirely untrue.

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With only a few more episodes left in the season, I’m curious to see if the writers will continue this storyline or not. In the meantime, chin up Aubrey! There’s plenty of other Sapphic fish in the sea.

Are you watching Casual? Are you as in love with Michaela Watkins as I am? Tweet me your feels @ChelseaProcrast.

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