Before we dive in, let’s briefly recap Che Diaz‘s appearance in episode 7 of ‘And Just Like That…‘.
After not replying to Miranda’s Instagram DM for three months, Che and Miranda run into each other at an auction event organised by Charlotte’s kids’ school. Miranda tries to act cool and chill, even though she’s understandably feeling rejected given Che’s lack of response.
Che asks Miranda why she’s being weird, and Miranda says she doesn’t know how to act, because Che never responded to her.
After finding out that Miranda DM’d her three months ago, Che explains that she’d “done a bunch of weed” and “can’t even remember what she’s done three hours ago”. She continues to explain that given the sheer “volume” of DMs she receives, she just didn’t clock Miranda’s.
Okay pausing here to say that if someone I liked ever used doing “a bunch of weed” as an excuse to not replying to me, I would be far from impressed.
Then, Che tells Miranda to ask for what she wants, because it’s a turn-on (they’re not wrong), and then proceeds to tell Miranda what they want: to go somewhere with her and take all her clothes off.
This seems to convince Miranda and off they go to do just that.
Part of me is super happy for them. Well, for Miranda, mostly, who is getting to live out her queer self-discovery. However, they are then shown in bed post-sex, and Miranda says that she thinks she’s in love with Che.
Che says: “No, you’re in love with yourself, with me.”
Although I thought this was a clever line, highlighting Miranda’s endorphin rush as she discovers a new side to her sexuality, this relationship dynamic is one that is often portrayed of queer relationships and it’s not completely fair.
Miranda — the one who is at the beginning of her queer journey, in this case — is portrayed as deliriously falling in love with the first queer person she has sex with (who, in this instance, is Che) as a direct response to the rush that comes with f*cking good sex.
Che, meanwhile, is portrayed as afab (assigned female at birth) but outwardly masculine, emotionally unavailable, a bad influence (re: the weed and alcohol), and just all ’round; a bit of a dickhead.
The character of Che Diaz reminds me a lot of Shane McCutcheon from The L Word — one of the first fictional TV shows openly representing lesbians. In The L Word, Shane was the irresistible one, the one that all the “straight girls” fell for, the one women would cheat on their husbands with, while Shane herself, would act unphased. This character is strangely reminiscent of every ‘bad boy’ portrayed in a teen drama, similarly emotionally unavailable and in-control in a way that makes them desirable.
Now, not only do I kinda wish these characters didn’t exist, because maybe then we wouldn’t all be suffering from this ‘why do we find ‘bad boy’ characters so enticing?’ complex, but I’m intrigued as to why, when presented with an opportunity to portray a queer, non-binary and bisexual character, that the creators of And Just Like That… chose to make them this tired stereotype?
“These non-binary characters that are being presented right now, feel like gateways into the queer world,” my friend Lu tells me. Lu identifies as queer and non-binary, and was assigned female at birth.
“It’s like the stepping-stone-to-becoming-a-lesbian; hooking up with this androgynous character, with an ambiguous gender.”
Especially given the fact that Che is non-binary, to me, it doesn’t feel as though they’re being portrayed that fairly. Instead of making them unique, they’ve been categorised into androgynous, ambiguous, mysterious, forbidden, forward etc, much like the way other afab queer characters have been portrayed in mainstream media to date.
“Non-binary is being treated as this third gender, which is not how I feel at all,” Lu continues, “My idea of being non-binary is breaking down gender stereotypes, not attempting to create a new one.”
“These stereotypes of non-binary people written in shows and film, seem to be giving straight audiences what they want; this slightly masc, androgynous asshole character.
“The whole thing for me about being non-binary, is not being expected to present in any specific way, as I’m trying to break down gender stereotypes, which is opposite of what’s being presented with the character of Che Diaz.”
My friend Chelsea, who identifies as a lesbian, assigned female at birth and uses she/her pronouns, thinks that toxic masculinity being presented through queer or non-binary characters on-screen, is a direct response to Hollywood not understanding queer relationships.
“They just sub in a masculine and feminine dynamic, because they don’t truly understand queer relationships,” she explains.
“I think they often present queer characters as an extreme version of toxic masculinity; non-committal, can’t talk about their emotions, treat women as sexual objects… because it feels comfortable, a familiar dynamic that they know audiences will respond to.”
But where does this stereotype of queer relationships come from? We understand why this exists in straight relationships, as we’re familiar with misogynistic ideals that led us to prevalent toxic dynamics between men and women. But, with so many people in the world that identify as non-binary and queer and bisexual, it seems strange that creators would rather fall into these stereotypes, than invest in understanding the realistic dynamics of queer relationships.
Chelsea thinks it could have something to do with ‘queer-coding’.
“In the 1960’s, queer characters were heavily discouraged so instead, they coded them into villains such as Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) and Jaffar (from Aladdin).
“Queer people were seen as ‘villains’ who, therefore, had to be punished,” Chelsea continues. “I’ve always wondered if the whole ‘bad boy’ approach when it comes to queer characters come from that; because people who treat someone badly in a relationship, then deserve to be punished, too.”
This gives an insight into how queer people have been viewed in the past, and how they’ve historically been portrayed in mainstream storytelling.
It’s only recently that queer characters (that go beyond a male gay best friend and a butch lesbian) are being explored in mainstream media, so perhaps we’re asking for too much, too soon.
“Although we’ve grown and minds are more open than ever before, I don’t think Hollywood understands the dynamics between women in a relationship still,” Chelsea says.
This could very well explain why when writing in a queer character, they’re often portrayed in a hyper-masculine way, such as Che Diaz in And Just Like That…
It’s integral that we continue to acknowledge all of the incredible work that goes into making these characters possible on mainstream TV and film. Given that we live in such an evolved time even compared to a few years ago, it’s important to recognise that we’re moving forward when it comes to diverse representation in mainstream stories.
However, our work is far from done. Just like it’s important to acknowledge that these stories are being told, it’s vital to talk about how they can be improved. We always have more room for growth, and yes, pride and representation for the LGBTQIA+ community has opened up exponentially, but we can’t afford to get lazy now.
Let’s continue to invite open conversation around representation, especially involving those that live in this community. They deserve to feel fully represented and seen.
And Just Like That . . . is now streaming on BINGE and you can catch up on all of our coverage, here. See you next week!