The spinoff of the hugely successful To All the Boys I Loved Before franchise premiered on Netflix last week, and social media has been buzzing over the unexpected sapphic romance in XO, Kitty.
Firstly, what is queer-baiting?
Queer-baiting is used as a marketing technique for TV shows and films to capitalise on LGBTQ+ viewers without actually providing any genuine queer representation. Often, the trailer or teaser will hint at an LGBTQ+ relationship or character, however, the show itself will have very little queer content, or remain ambiguous about the sexuality of the characters. Shows such as Stranger Things, Supergirl, and Sherlock have all been accused of queer-baiting by fans. Sadly, queer-baiting is everywhere and not just limited to film and TV. Every June, companies who have been silent on LGBTQ+ rights for eleven months of the year whip out rainbow versions of their logos for pride month. Even the music industry has used queer-baiting; Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl, and Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera kissing on-stage at the 2003 VMAs, for example.
Therefore, viewers were shocked when the reverse happened; the XO, Kitty trailer had “straight-baited” fans, making it look like the main characters would be heterosexual. The show stars Anna Cathcart as Kitty Song Covey, Lara-Jean’s little sister from the original films, who we follow as she moves from her hometown of Portland, Oregon, to a prestigious independent school in Seoul, South Korea. After discovering that her mother, who passed away when she was a young child, attended the same school as her long-distance boyfriend, Dae (Choi Min-young), Kitty gets accepted for a scholarship to attend KISS (Korean Independent School of Seoul) for her junior year. Excited to surprise Dae and have a relationship beyond emails and texting, Kitty arrives in Korea only to find that Dae is part of the school’s it couple with the principal’s daughter, Yuri (Gia Kim).
However, Yuri is a lesbian, and in a relationship with Juliana (Regan Aliyah), who was sent away by Yuri’s family after they discovered their relationship. Yuri’s character has been a huge hit amongst queer fans. Her preppy pink outfits and initial mean demeanour have placed her on high ranks alongside other beloved mean lesbian characters, such as Santana Lopez from Glee and Cheryl Blossom from Riverdale.
Yet, the most shocking aspect of the show came in episode six, when Kitty begins to develop feelings for Yuri. After coming out to her mother and breaking off the fake relationship with Dae, Yuri and Kitty’s friendship begins to blossom as they try to solve the mystery of their mothers' intriguing friendship. Kitty is faced with the reality that Dae may not be the person for her, as her infatuation for Yuri grows. This has thrilled fans to have a sapphic Asian lead on such a big Netflix’s show.
Yuri and Juliana are not the only queer couple, international students Q and Florian have numerous cute moments together throughout the season, with Q providing support to Kitty as she begins to question her sexuality. The show, although a light hearted teen rom-com, deals with lots of important topics for a younger queer audience. From figuring out your sexuality, to coming out to your family and friends, to dealing with homophobic parents; there’s a great deal of important representation in this seemingly cheesy Netflix series.
There is currently no news of whether XO, Kitty will be renewed for another season. Netflix has a long history of cancelling TV shows with sapphic main characters, and the bisexual and lesbian leads have fans concerned that the show will succumb to the same fate as many LGBTQ+ shows that have come before. Fate: The Winx Saga, First Kill, and Warrior Nun are just some of the shows with sapphic leads that Netflix has cancelled in the past year. Despite breaking viewing records and receiving viral acclaim, shows with LGBTQ+ leads - particularly queer women - regularly fail to be renewed by streaming services. Netflix has faced significant backlash for this, and hopefully XO, Kitty will be the show to break the cycle.
Image via Decider
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