Hetero: The authentic Queer coming of age

Share this Post:
Image courtesy of Third Charm Films
Image courtesy of Third Charm Films

For so many, coming of age is something first experienced on the screen. Often, a first crush, a sexual awakening, or a glimpse into the glamorous lives of teens comes from those classic movies and TV sitcoms and dramas we all remember growing up watching.

Yet, more often than not, these fail to accurately represent the nuances of our particular kind of coming of age. At best, a Queer character is thrown in to support the journey of the heterosexual lead, or to function as a tool to teach audiences about tolerance, but their experiences are usually not front and center.

All of that is about to change, however. Local Seattle teen Kendall Kieras has just wrapped up filming of their very own Queer sitcom, ironically titled Hetero, a miniseries centered around five Queer teens who are trying to save their stuggling Gay-Straight Alliance.

"It's kind of like a mix of a coming of age and a comedy," Kieras told me as we sat down to discuss what the upcoming series will look like.

"It's like if you took any of your basic coming-of-age stories or sitcoms and then just made it really gay and over the top," they said, explaining how they drew inspiration from many of their favoirite comedies from the '90s, "I really just love the campiness and fun of that era, and I'm really just trying to bring some of that back with Hetero."

The goal of Hetero is to provide Queer teens with a show that reflects some of the unique experiences they have that shows marketed at straight audiences leave out. This mission is personal for Kieras, who, like many other young adults, grew up with paltry Queer representation in the media.

"When I was growing up, I was watching Blue Is the Warmest Color under my sheets," they explained, "which is a terrible movie, made by men, which is just, like, half porn, but it was the only lesbian movie I had... I feel like there is this weird unspoken agreement that there can be a queer character, but they have to be, like, in the sidelines, and they'll have one kiss, and all the little gays will just YouTube it forever and ever...

"I wanted Hetero to be the antitheisis of that. I wanted it to be literally as gay as possible." Kieras explained that Hetero is more than just a gay coming-of- age comedy. It's a show where all members of the LGBTQ community can see some unique aspect of themselves and relate to the teenage angst that comes along with growing up Queer.

"There's a lot of exploration of feeling alienated and experiencing things for the first time, and kind of that feeling of having this really small world — and then when bad things happen, you feel like it's the end of the world... I think [the show] tries to be an accurate and balanced portrayal of what it's like to be a queer teen these days, especially if you're not a white cis gay man," Kieras elaborated.

Born out of experience

Hetero was born out of Kieras's desires to see themself represented on screen. The opening scene, which is currently available on YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGyBdL5WD8A], was actually inspired by a real-life experience. In it, the five main teens are sitting in an English class, causing a racket over a classic Shakespearean sonnet that uses male pronouns.

"I was sitting in my English class learning that exact poem, and I was like, what if this was different? And that's just kind of where the start came," Kieras recalled.

"I started writing a long time ago, and a ton of it is based on my own experience, just because I led my GSA in high school, and I was writing for maybe two years, and then I met Bently [Eldridge], who's the other co-director, on Instagram, and the rest of it just kind of fell together."

Kieras and Eldridge wrote, directed, and cast Hetero, and filmed it last summer on Bainbridge Island. The cast is mostly made up of teens, and everyone involved with the show is Queer.

"We wanted to try and have queer teens play queer teens," Kieras said, noting the importance of representation, not only in characters but also in actors. "I was just kind of tired of this kind of representation that felt a bit like an uncanny valley, like these people were supposed to be like me but they weren't at all.

"I think that there's this feeling of euphoria when there's something on screen, and you just connect to it so much, and I just want young queer people to have that."

That euphoria is a feeling young Queer teens will begin to have more and more of, thanks to creators like Kieras and Eldridge who are doing more than just recognizing the gap in authentic LGBTQ representation — they're working on filling it.

Hetero is making waves as one of the first all-Queer-run and Queer-produced sitcoms, and will hopefully inspire more shows to dedicate space to the authentic and joyful stories of Queer experiences.

While Hetero is still awaiting distribution, the first episode will be available on YouTube for the month of June for a donation [https://www.gofundme.com/f/heteroseries], and updates on where to view the show can be found on Instagram and Tik Tok (both @thirdcharmfilms).