Representation of pansexuality in three beautiful Netflix series

All series and films reviewed below can be found on Netflix. There are no big spoilers in the reviews, as I merely focus on the parts on pansexuality. All of them are definitely recommended.

PODCAST VERSION

reading time: 10 min

Cable Girls seizoen 4 in augustus naar Netflix - Netflix België - Streaming  Films en Series on Demand

Cable girls (Las chicas del cable)

Cable girls takes place in Madrid in the first half of the twentieth century. The series made a beautiful and well-thought representation of pansexual identity through the character of Carlota Rodríguez de Senillosa. Carlota is a strong feminist cis-gender woman who knows what she wants. In the beginning of the series she has a boyfriend, Miguel. She wouldn’t call it a serious relationship because she doesn’t want a man deciding on her life ever. Then she falls in love with Sara. Miguel is upset and jealous, and Carlota tries to involve him in the relationship. For a while they have a throuple, but the connection between Miguel and Sara is missing so this relationship structure fails. Miguel and Sara both fell in love with Carlota, but not with each other. Miguel is heterosexual, Sara is lesbian (although this changes later when she comes out as trans-man) and Carlota is pansexual. Even though these specific terms are not used in the series, the expression of their sexual and gender identity is clear.

Carlota’s sexual identity signifies that she falls in love with people’s personalities and not with their biological sex or gender expression. The way she embodies and expresses her sexual identity tackles several prejudices on pansexuality. First of all, her self-determination and clear articulated will undermine the preconceptions on pansexuals as confused people who can’t make up their mind. She is the least confused character of the group, the one who always knows what to do and where she wants to be in life. She knows whom she loves and she doesn’t let any societal pressure affect her feelings. There was no acceptance at all for pansexual, transgender or polyamorous identities in Madrid a hundred years ago. No words for neither. But the strong feminist personality of Carlota wouldn’t let this negligence of her and her lover’s identity affect their love.

Secondly, Carlota debunks the myth of pansexuality as an inherent promiscuous identity. After the end of the throuple relationship with Miguel and Sara (she/her), she doesn’t stop caring for Miguel. Carlota continues her stable and monogamous relationship with Sara, also after Sara’s coming-out to Carlota as Oscar (he/him). Carlota loves Sara/Oscar for his soul and person, not for his gender (which is what pansexuality is about). She tells him that his gender transition won’t change her love. They stay together throughout the whole series. In the last season Oscar is obliged to dress again as Sara due to political repressive circumstances. Even though this causes trouble, their love is unbreakable and they continue together. Carlota repeats that she loves Oscar for who he is, no matter how he looks or dresses. His gender expression is important to Oscar himself, but not to Carlota.

In conclusion, the series Cable girls positively represents pansexuality within the character of Carlota and takes the existing prejudices on pansexuality (and polyamory) into account. Carlota’s personality debunks the harmful myths on pansexuality about confused and promiscuous individuals. She is a strong and self-decided woman who knows what she wants in life, and with whom she wants to be. She won’t let societal prejudices decide on her love life and relational structures, but her behaviour is not considered promiscuous. Promiscuity or confusion are not wrong, but the stereotypes of pansexuality and polyamory as promiscuous or confused are damaging.

Netflix-serie 'Sex education' geeft "eindelijk een realistisch en  niet-stereotyperend beeld over seks” | Radio 1

Sex Education

This series was a big hit for many people, so you’ve probably already either seen it or at least heard of it. It’s a British teen series about – as the title obviously says already – sex. It’s fun to watch, but also tremendously good in educating about so many important topics related to sex and gender. Up until now there are two seasons, but a third one has to be coming. If you haven’t seen it, definitely recommend it.

Otis is an awkward teenager who lives with his mum who’s a sex therapist and quite a particular woman. He starts his own little business in sex therapy on school, and many things start happening and are being discussed. Masturbation, female pleasure, fetishes, insecurities, anal sex, dirty talk, sexual trauma, and so forth. One of the topics that is being depicted very good is sexual assault and the underestimated long term effects it can have on a person’s mental health and relationships.

Another topic is bi- and pansexuality. Ola is in a relationship with a boy, but develops feelings of attraction and love towards her best friend at school (who’s a girl). After recurrent dreaming of kissing her, she talks about her doubts and feelings at work with her colleague Adam. She does a test on her phone and finds out she’s pansexual. ‘Hmn, cool, I didn’t know that this sexuality existed but it describes exactly how I feel’. Her response will resonate with any pansexual watching and remembering the moment they found out about pansexuality.

Besides, Adam who’s listening to her doubts, finds out for himself he’s bisexual as he can’t figure out whether he feels attracted to either girls or boys. So in the series the difference between pan and bi is made and explained too.

It’s a recognizable representation of pansexuality and the way of finding out about how one feels sexually and romantically. We find out through lots of trial an error, lots of doubts and wondering what’s going on and why we feel different than both our heterosexual as our homosexual peers. When we find out, we feel relieved and surprised that there is actually a word for it, which takes away the confusion. It’s fine now.

Also in terms of myth busting, Ola does a great job. She is not a confused type, even though she’s confused by her feelings for a while, when she knows she knows. She is not promiscuous neither. Once she has chosen for someone, she chose for that person. The myth of pansexuals being confused, non-loyal, and promiscuous is definitely bunked by her representation.

Though I do want to make a small note here on pansexual polyamory. Polyamory also has its stigma and prejudices similar to pansexuality’s stigma: unloyalty, promiscuity, confusion. So whilst applauding this series for debunking pansexuality myths, I don’t intend to enhance stigma on non-monogamous relationships, quite the opposite. It’s certainly a big minus for Sex Education to not have included an example of non-monogamous relationships, but they still have a chance for this in the third season – hint to Netflix.

Feel Good op Netflix - Netflix België - Streaming Films en Series on Demand

Feel good  

The first, and until now only, season can be binge watched in three hours. It’s a playful drama-comedy with important topics like fluid gender identity, heteronormativity, mental health, addiction, emotional abuse, co-dependent attachment etcetera.

Though classified sometimes as a lesbian romance, it is not. Mae is genderqueer and comes out as non-binary, though they always tends to fall in love with straight women. George, a straight woman, falls in love for the first time in her life with a person who’s not a cis-man.

George becomes confused about her own sexuality, as she fell in love with Mae but thought her sexuality was straight. So is she bisexual now, or lesbian? But if Mae is nor a woman nor a man, then what about George’s sexuality?

Besides personal confusion, the stigma prevents George from coming out to her friends which seriously affects her relationship with Mae who’s hidden as someone to be ashamed of.

Mae’s personal quest for their gender identity and George’s quest for her sexuality are central in the series. George makes heavy observations like “The only reason you’d chase people who aren’t attracted to your entire gender is because you hate yourself” and “I’m going to be left watching The L Word and googling ‘Am I gay?’ while you barnacle yourself to the next straight girl you meet” whilst Mae struggles with uncertainties and insecurities: “I’m not a boy. I’m not even a girl. I’m like a failed version of both.”

Here, George is the pansexual person, though she struggles accepting it for herself and finding her way through the world outside of the safety of heterosexuality. Some would say that sexuality is not fixed and a person can change throughout their lifetime. Partly true. In a culture where heterosexuality and binary-gender-assigned-at-birth are the norm, every way of feeling or being different does make you doubt and the stigma is not to be underestimated. It is real. The makers of Feel Good created an adequate representation of the quest to identity when gender or sexuality differs from what society expects.

Author: Maysa Mariposa

The reviews are in the opinion of the author.

UNDIVIDED for KU Leuven

UNDIVIDED is an intersectional student organisation in Leuven. We work on decolonization of academia, LGBTQ+ right and anti-ableism through research, policy, activism and community-building. Stay updated on our socials, participate in our events or reach out to us to join the team!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s