A couple of months ago, right before the season finale, my editor Jen asked me if I wanted to write a piece on what Wynonna Earp meant to me as a queer woman. I said “Of course” and her only advice was to write what I feel and not write it like it is an English essay.
Well, it took me two months and change to figure out how to do that, and I am pretty sure that this will still read like an English essay.
Wynonna Earp makes me feel at home–a home filled with warmth, love, and appreciation all wrapped in a blanket of acceptance. I have said throughout many of my reviews and pieces that TV has played a very important part in my life, but more importantly, it played a large role in me coming out to myself. It wasn’t until (and I cringe at how cliche this is) I watched The L Word in high school that I realized I was gay. While I was watching, all of the feelings and thoughts that had been floating around in my head just came together like a puzzle. The catalyst wasn’t any specific scene or storyline, but instead it was the normalization of queer women. The show helped me put my growing feelings into context. Prior to watching The L Word, my emotions toward other girls was more abstract. It was something I knew I felt but I had neither examined it nor questioned what it meant. But then I saw this world with Bette and Tina, and Alice and Tasha, and it all made sense. That is what I had been longing for.
While that realization was powerful and important, the next step was to accept and understand what this meant for me. Among other things, this included searching for and devouring every lesbian storyline on TV I could find. Unfortunately, for every amazing storyline of substance that I found (e.g. Bad Girls, South of Nowhere), there were ten more that were really bad. Many lesbian stories were all too brief, treated as meaningless flings where both girls ended up going back to straight dudes, disappearing or, well, dying.
After over a year of scouring the internet for these stories I stumbled upon an amazing international online community where women from around the world would share the lesbian storylines from shows in their country. Together, those within the community donated their time and effort to translate clips and write subtitles for the videos in several different languages. Because of their hard work and dedication I have watched storylines from over fifteen different countries, from Germany to Argentina to Israel.
The fact that this community came together demonstrates two very important things: first, we crave to see ourselves represented in the media that we consume and second, that there is such a dearth of content that we have to search around the world just to find that representation.
Back in the present, a time years after I came to find this online community, Bury Your Gays is still very much a common occurrence. I don’t really want to get into the issue directly, though it does play a role in the interaction between the LGBT community and showrunners. What seems to happen when the community gets upset about an LGBT character’s treatment on TV is we are sometimes demonized and considered to be unreasonable. And while sometimes it is justifiable, other times it is not. The reason that I bring this up is that the anger and hurt comes from wanting to be represented. We want to see our stories on TV and instead we’re left to watch our characters die or be exploited. It has come to the point that when a lesbian character I adore dies, I blame myself for allowing myself to get emotionally invested when I knew it would most likely end in heartbreak. Wanting to see our stories told on TV is why this online international community came together. And while I am glad that this community was created to share queer stories from around the world, I am sad that a global collection of TV clips was the only way we could find representation. So while some people see a community that gets “enraged” at show runners, I see a community that has banned together.
All of this is why Wynonna Earp is home to me: it makes me feel represented. Not only as a lesbian, but also in the strong, awkward, and flawed lead, Wynonna.
Then, of course, there is Wayhaught, the relationship between Officer Nicole Haught and Waverly Earp. The show could have easily led Wayhaught into several lesbian tropes, starting from Nicole Haught’s introduction. Officer Haught is a confident, self-assured lesbian attracted to the adorable town sweetheart Waverly. A lesser show would have used Nicole’s authority to portray Nicole as a predatory lesbian confusing a small town girl, but Wynonna Earp did not do that. While Nicole made it clear she had feelings for Waverly, she was never forceful. This much is evident when Nicole turns to Waverly and says, “Waverly, I would never ask you to be someone you’re not.”
Waverly is a girl who has spent her whole life in a small town trying to do what she thought everyone wanted her to do. She was working at the local bar and dating the same stupid boy since high school who didn’t respect her. And then she met Nicole and her world changed; not just because she was attracted to a girl, but because she realized that there was so much more to life. She deserved more than a guy who thought pretty people do not need to be smart. She deserved someone who adored her and she adored back.
**Warning: The next paragraph contains a spoiler of one event that happens in the finale**
At no point during the show did I feel like the show writers were pandering to the community. Instead they took the most overused trope and flipped it on its head. In the season finale of Wynonna Earp Officer Haught gets shot, and when Wynonna and Waverly go to check on her they rip open her shirt only to find that she was wearing a bulletproof vest. I have watched this scene over and over again and everytime I do I can’t help but smile. The show was telling me that they have my back. With that scene they looked their queer female viewers straight in our eyes and said “We see you. We understand your pain. You matter to us. We care.”
The love story between Nicole and Waverly is organic. It feels normalized. But more than that, the chemistry between all of the main characters is amazing. The one liners are hilarious. And lastly, the cast and crew genuinely seem to appreciate their fans. All of them. They interact with fans on Twitter, log on to live video chats after the airing of episodes and seem to enjoy it. So, when I think about what it feels like to watch Wynonna Earp, it feels like home.