Everything Sucks was one of the best shows that ever streamed on Netflix. For a season, lesbians of all ages – but especially those of us who grew up in the 90’s – got to see a reflection of ourselves that was relatable, intimate, and true. In Kate Messner (Peyton Kennedy) we were given a character we immediately came to love, and to root for. We understood exactly what she felt when the cool girl she crushed on so hard flashed her that smile in the theater. We felt her embarrassment when her dad walked in the room in what we’ll call an awkward moment, and we got how it became even more awkward when he mistook her desire for girls to be a desire to look like them. Oh, dad. No.
Kate is the coming of age young lesbian who fumbles and wins and loses and hopes and dreams, and she’s entirely lovable and real. She isn’t necessarily the girl you were in love with in high school or even the girl you wished you were. She’s more than that. Kate Messner is YOU, in all her charm and beautiful flaws. That’s what made us root for her. And for a while, that felt amazing, because the show decided to gift the lesbian community with not only a character we could relate to, but one who gets a happy ending. There was no #BuryYourGays trope here.
Now, here comes a spoiler so stop reading if you haven’t already binged through the show. Not only did we get an entire season with no dead lesbians, but our girl Kate is a gay character who actually GETS THE GIRL. When she finally kisses Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) our hearts flew out of our chests in elation. YES, KATE, YESS! She deserved this happiness. We all did. Because when, on TV especially, does the awkward teenage lesbian get to date the aloof, popular chick who has a history of only dating the even more aloof, popular guy? It doesn’t happen very often. Thank you for that, writers.
Kate Messner is special. At least, she was. Season one felt like it was too good to be true, and sadly, Netflix announced they won’t be renewing Everything Sucks for a second season. And that sucks. That really, really, really sucks. It sucks on multiple levels actually, and here is why.
First of all, the show was set in the 1990’s, making it the first time people my age have seen their former, younger selves on the small screen since My So-Called Life. If you’re a woman of a certain age, you’ll have flashbacks of short plaid skirts, black Doc Martens, Nirvana and calling your friends from a landline on a phone with a cord. I can almost see Claire Danes’ quivering chin as she sulks around leaning into walls, hugging her oversized green and black flannel shirt like it’s her only real friend. The 90’s were full of angst. Angst and apathy, that is. But even if we didn’t care about anything else in this sucky world, we cared about Angela Chase, because she was one of us. She knew everything sucked. Claire Danes played the part so well that she will always be associated with the role, and that’s a good thing. Back in those days, we would not have dared dream of lesbian representation, so that wasn’t even on the table. We were thankful for Angela Chase, regardless of sexuality.
Flash forward to a 1990’s show made in 2018, and it’s a brave new world of lesbian representation. Peyton Kennedy as Kate Messner is everything we 90’s gay kids wish we’d had. She’s a happier version of the 90’s character we once knew, plus she’s super gay, and dreamy. Now imagine if we had Kate Messner back in 1995? I was overjoyed that Netflix released this show, not just for the walk down Gen X memory lane, complete with all my favorite music (please give us an Everything Sucks soundtrack!) but because it meant this generation of girls who are either gay or questioning at least have that positive representation. They need that. We all need that. We just want to sit with you sometimes at lunch, dear Netflix.
Netflix is now hearing the outcry of fans who lost something they feel was taken from them too soon, and I don’t think they get it. They surely understand that when your favorite show gets canceled, it always sucks. But this is so much more than that. What Netflix and the larger heterosexual world we live in doesn’t recognize, is that lesbians are so rarely represented, that when we lose a show like this, it feels personal. Because it IS personal.
We wait years, even decades between shows where there are characters like us, where we can smile and say, “ah I know what that’s like!” and cry with them and fall in love on screen with them – with our same sex, as nature dictates. Straight people are so used to having all of that relatability (at least on a basic instinctual level whether they identify with most shows or not) they don’t notice that for us, getting a lesbian character who gets to LIVE means that we’re no longer invisible, we have a voice… we can finally communicate who we are to the world.
Please close your eyes for a minute and imagine what it would mean to you if there had never been a My So-Called Life, never a St. Elmo’s Fire, never a Wonder Years, or any other show you ever saw yourself in. Without them, there would be a great void in your culture. It’s almost like erasing your memories. That may sound dramatic, but when the arts are silenced, the culture of the people who respond to it is lost. Lesbians are already so underrepresented in media that it’s a wonder we have a culture at all. We do, despite everything, because we are a resilient community. We had to fight for love, and that always makes you stronger. You won’t find a more loyal viewing audience when you give us shows we love, and we love Everything Sucks. So, please, Netflix, let us have a cultural reference for this generation. Give us a beacon of hope. Let us have a voice, even for just a little while longer. Renew Everything Sucks.
Follow Peyton Kennedy on Twitter and her hashtag campaign #IAMKATEMESSNER to keep up with the movement. I will be chatting with her tomorrow to find out more about her experience on the show and the campaign to save it.