TV

‘Schitt’s Creek’ Was A Gift To Queer People

"Schitt's Creek has created a better world than the one we live in"

'Schitt's Creek' David and Patrick

I spent the first couple of seasons of Schitt’s Creek subconsciously waiting for a hammer to fall.

If you’re a queer person, you know exactly what that looming hammer I’m referring to is, and exactly what it’s like to fear it — and more specifically what it’s like to expect it. I mean, I’m clearly talking about homophobia — the only thing that queers automatically fear will happen to them, apart from couple-dressing (although I did spend a lot of my life expecting a very scary goose to jump out at me, but on average, queers are more worried about homophobia than geese).

It sounds dramatic, but I have literally never walked down the street while holding hands with a boy I’m seeing without expecting **something** homophobic to happen, and it often has. And it’s less about fear, than it is about a kind of certainty. It might not ALWAYS happen, but there’s ALWAYS the chance that it will.

So, it’s not like I was expecting Schitt’s Creek — which quickly established a set of gorgeous queer characters, and a notable and gorgeous queer romance from one of the main characters — to BE homophobic towards me.But I did expect it to tackle homophobia, for the characters to experience it within the story, for it to be a part of their world, as it is in mine. I assumed at some point that the beautiful bubble of David and Patrick’s romance would be threatened by the needle of homophobia.

I waited as their love story progressed for some kind of trope to pop its ugly head in — Patrick’s disapproving father perhaps, a plot about looking for apartments together where people assume they are just friends, being shot at by a bikie gang — whatever.

But Schitt’s Creek never did. Without fanfare, without struggle, Schitt’s Creek wrapped up their six seasons while depicting a world entirely without homophobia, completely without any depiction of it.

It was not only quietly revolutionary, it was a beautiful, beautiful gift.

A World Without Homophobia

That “hammer” never fell, and it’s not something I’ve ever experienced before in TV — a complete lack of homophobia, of queer tragedy. My shoulders un-tensed, my skin cleared up, and I stopped worrying.

“It just would never have occurred to me that it’s better to do a show where there is no homophobia, than to do a show that speaks to it, and talks about how it does, but like, what a paradigm shift,” says Emily Hampshire, who plays Stevie in the show.

The quote comes from the Schitt’s Creek documentary Best Wishes, Warm Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell, a gorgeous behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the last season of the show on Netflix.

“Writing David as a queer character was something that I just wanted to do, I didn’t do it to make a political statement, it was just who he was in my head,” says Schitt’s Creek co-creator Dan Levy. “And I was shocked at how novel that seemed to people.”

Levy has talked about how he made the decision consciously to just let David be queer, without turmoil or strife from his sexuality, earlier on in the show. As a consequence, it very swiftly turned Schitt’s Creek into a whole new world for queer viewers — who like David, were able to just enjoy this tiny queer utopia without being overtly aware of having to enjoy it. The show is not preachy, it is not forceful — it simply is. It gently sets up, without comment, the potential for this reality.

While there’s always a time and place and need for shows which aggressively bang the drum of queer equality and politics, it’s also just delightful to be be spared that for a moment. To take a true break from the harshness of reality. It’s the gentle benefits of a show including queer people, written and performed by queer people.

Also notable in terms of this kind of representation is just the beauty of David — David isn’t simply a gay man, but rather a queer one, and his famous speech about labels manages to condense an idea about sexuality both simply and pithily enough that people have started to use it in real life.

“I do drink red wine. But I also drink white wine. And I have been known to sample the occasional rosé… I like the wine and not the label, does that make sense?”

But David is also a *queer man* — fashionable, camp, flamboyant, even arch and sarcastic, possessed of many of the qualities usually attributed to gay men — and it means a lot to see that kind of queerness represented on screen as not only gay. It’s unusual to see someone with those “gay” characteristics as someone desiring and desirable of women, and not just men, and who does sleep with both women and men during the show.

You’re Simply The Best

But this still little gay oasis in the awful desert of the heterosexual world didn’t just stop here — they also gave us one of the most beautiful queer love stories on TV.

And you know, queer representation on screen is still rare enough — or at least dominated enough by the same tropes, by the same heterosexual lens — that the ups and downs of a perfect rom-com scenario, that simply happens to be between people of the same gender, is something to marvel at.

As journalist Phillip Picardi, formerly of Teen Vogue and them, explains: “When you see gay relationships on screen, they’re often portrayed through a lens of tragedy, or strife, or struggle, right? It’s like, look at all we had to overcome to love each other, you know? And so it felt like this moment where we got to see ourselves just being in love and being joyful.”

Schitt’s Creek has created a better world than the one we live in”

This world is obviously appreciated too, as this letter (which will make you cry) written by the parents of queer children to the cast of Schitt’s Creek can attest to.

Just being in love and being joyful doesn’t sound like too much to ask, but across the arc of David and Patrick’s romance — which goes through the initial courting, a proposal, a much lauded and indescribably gorgeous serenade, and ending with the wedding that makes up the finale of the show — we’re given the full extension of what being queer and in love, without tragedy, can look like.

I mean — there’s a reason the clip of Patrick serenading David with a cover of ‘Simply The Best’ has gone viral. It’s a gorgeous moment, and one that just gently re-affirms that queer people can have romance. Soppy, disgusting, non-tragic, heartwarming romance. A gorgeous reminder. Another gift.

“I’ve never thought the show was laying out any kind of message. It just is,” says Catherine O’Hara, who plays Moira Rose. “It’s just an example of how life can be, and you’re laughing.”

Schitt’s Creek is available in full on Netflix.


Patrick Lenton is the Editor of Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.