In the comedic Canadian YouTube series Gay Mean Girls (2019), the personal is political. The series protagonist, Lucy Ching, is depicted as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian girl from a working-class immigrant family, while her best friend Miranda is a white, wealthy out femme lesbian student with a popular YouTube following and internalized homophobia. Lucy is initially shown attempting to understand her queer identity through Miranda, yet Miranda’s racist behaviours are a prominent tension in their friendship (and eventual relationship): for instance, in Episode 2, Miranda tells Lucy reading books is “so Asian.” Over the series’ eight episodes, Lucy is portrayed as struggling with her feelings about Miranda, who is gradually framed as an antagonist. Gay Mean Girls does not follow North American trends in media gaystreaming, where queerness is mediated through white, wealthy, and apolitical characters (Ng 2013). Rather, using Lucy’s toxic relationship with Miranda, Gay Mean Girls imagines a comedic queer text where Lucy and other queer of colour characters disidentify with homonormativity and challenge the idea of “queerness as a white thing” (Muñoz 1999).
Miranda’s characterization is used to show how white, wealthy North American queers often use their queerness to plagiarize or erase queer of colour labour (Yep 2014). In the series’ first episode, Miranda is too busy taking selfies with her YouTube followers to notice that the homophobic class president, Clara, is chastising Lucy for Miranda’s Gay Prom petition. Clara tells Lucy, "Do you know how many people you're excluding? This is Canada. We're living in a democracy where everyone's voice is heard." Here, Clara positions Lucy's status as a racialized queer migrant as always already read outside of Canada as a colonial project. As Lucy tells Clara she is homophobic, Miranda does not intervene but secretly begins filming the fight. The next shot reveals that Miranda has uploaded the video onto her YouTube page, which has been spliced with her own “reaction takes” where she sips tea (appropriating a Black Twitter meme referring to gossip). Miranda’s impassioned interpretation in the reaction video, liberally lifting Lucy’s monologue, criticizes the “oppressive and marginalizing” nature of homophobia in Canadian secondary schools. Here, portraying Miranda’s plagiarisation speaks to a long legacy of white North American queers claiming queer of colour perspectives as their own (Chávez 84). Though Gay Prom is approved, the video becomes viral, and it is Lucy who receives a suspension, not Miranda.
Lucy eventually forms friendships with other queer of colour characters, which are marked as important in her disidentifications with white queerness. In episode 5, she befriends Jamie, a non-binary Asian-Canadian student who gently tells Lucy: “It’s easy to put Miranda on a pedestal because she’s white and being white makes it easy to get what she wants.” This moment serves as a turning point in the series. Lucy ends her relationship with Miranda when she realizes that Miranda’s internalized homophobia and racist behaviours are toxic. Though the series showrunner, Heyishi Zhang, admits that the series’ representation is “far from perfect” (Liszewski, “Gay Mean Girls”), Gay Mean Girls marks a turn where mediating queer world-making does not necessitate whiteness.
Chávez, Karma R. “Pushing boundaries: Queer intercultural communication.” Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, vol. 6, no. 2 (2013), pp. 83-95.
Liszewski, Bridget. “Gay Mean Girls Puts A Priority On The Stories Of Marginalized Voices.” The TV Junkies, 21 June 2019, https://www.thetvjunkies.com/gay-mean-girls-series-preview/. Accessed 13 May 2020.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of color and the politics of performance, U of Minnesota Press, 1999.
Ng, Eve. “A ‘post-gay’ era?: Media gaystreaming, homonormativity, and the politics of LGBT integration.” Communication, Culture, & Critique, vol. 6, no. 2 (2013), pp. 258-283.
Zhang, Heyishi. “Gay Mean Girls | EP 1: The Queer Monarchy | KindaTV.” YouTube, uploaded by KindaTV, 18 January 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ_fjqyoJ30.
Zhang, Heyishi. “Gay Mean Girls | EP 2: Liang Liang | KindaTV.” YouTube, uploaded by KindaTV, 19 January 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjL3A0qm_eA.
Zhang, Heyishi. “Gay Mean Girls | EP 5: Spicy Discourse | KindaTV.” YouTube, uploaded by KindaTV, 22 January, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJoo4c2DWGI.