Atypical Isn’t The Lesbian Representation You’d Think

Casey and Izzie on Atypical
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Netflix has been all about the lesbian and bisexual representation, and their original show Atypical is no exception. Atypical follows Sam, an autistic teenager, and his family and friends. Among those family members is his sister Casey, who has her own storyline of self-discovery.

Atypical’s lesbian romance has been praised

Atypical has been praised in the past for being part of the larger gay and lesbian media revolution, as it highlights just what it means to come out during adolescence. From Casey’s relationship with Izzie, it’s clear that the two are struggling to find themselves through their sexuality, and figure out what being gay truly means to them. As teenagers, emotions run high, and there is still a lot for Casey to figure out. Casey experiences her first heartbreak with her boyfriend, as she leaves him to be with Izzie, but becomes heartbroken again from Izzie later on. Ah, high school, we don’t miss it!

Casey And Izzie | Atypical Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

So, let’s back it up a little bit. It’s your typical girl-meets-girl high school romance. Casey is dating her boyfriend but gets the opportunity to transfer to a private school. Once there, Casey is initially bullied by popular girl Izzie and finds herself wishing she never transferred. However, Casey and Izzie find themselves relating to each other’s hardships, and becoming quick friends. Naturally, they eventually kiss and begin to fall for each other, never having been openly attracted to women before. As the story usually goes, the girls leave their boyfriends to be together, and the rest is teenage drama-filled history.

Casey struggles deeply leaving her boyfriend; she truly loved him, and what they had together was important to her. This also leaves Casey’s sexuality open to interpretation as she could be bisexual, but her limited experience with both men and women doesn’t give her a lot to draw conclusions from. Regardless, we find Casey experiences the intensity of a first break up, as well as the passion of a newfound relationship.  This leads Casey to her coming out, which she does very confidently. Her brother Sam draws a picture of two gay penguins (an interest of his) and basically lets Casey know that no matter what, he will always have her back. Awww. Casey confidently steps foot into her sexuality, and coming out seems to be somewhat of a breeze for her.

atypical gifs

In contrast, Izzie is not so open and confident with her sexuality, which causes some issues between the two. Casey and Izzie argue because Casey wants to be able to hold Izzie’s hand at school and show off their relationship to the masses. Izzie, however, wants to remain private. The tension grows and the will-they-won’t they becomes clear as the two break it off over and over again. It almost seems at times that Casey wants to pressure Izzie to come out, or at least to acknowledge their relationship publicly; Casey is more than heartbroken over Izzie’s lack of affection and doesn’t feel comfortable being a secret. We can’t say we blame her as she took a big step to leave her boyfriend to be with Izzie, but we can’t blame Izzie either. These things take time.

casey on Tumblr

Izzie and Casey’s relationship is surprisingly… normal. AfterEllen recently covered Netflix’s original Trinkets covering Elodie’s strikingly similar storyline. Girl meets girl, one comes out one doesn’t, conflict and teenage dramatics ensue, girls get back together and live happily ever after. Thus begs the question, is Atypical as groundbreaking as people say? Are Casey and Izzie leading the lesbian revolution, or are they just another gay teenage couple navigating through life?

Seems like Atypical is actually pretty typical after all.

If we want to reach full lesbian representation in the media, we cannot keep playing out the same storylines. While Casey and Izzie depict relationship issues that do truly happen, as well as carrying the emotions and intensity of adolescent girls, not every relationship goes down this way. Atypical does Casey and injustice through this; by watering down her relationship and sexuality to fit into a typical lesbian relationship stereotype.

By writing Casey as a bisexual, or lesbian, it almost seems as if the writers were forcing diversity on to the show. Casey’s storyline is slow, and the writing seems lazy, as they force Casey to mold herself into someone she was so adamantly against in the previous seasons. Before, Casey was confident and committed to her passions. After Izzie, Casey becomes submissive, nervous, frightened, and honestly a little toxic. It is almost as if the show is trying to send some sort of progressive pro-LGBT message, without considering how that waters down the phenomenal characters in the show, making them two-dimensional.

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Despite Casey’s storyline being rather blahAtypical is worth the watch. If you have a neuro-atypical person in your life, the show does a great job of being familiar. Atypical highlights what having autism is really like and also what being a baby gay, especially at a young age, does feel like. While the writing seems rather forced and lazy in season three, it is still great TV. You wind up rooting for Casey and Izzie, despite what they go through, and you find yourself touched by Sam and his antics as well. We can still do better to create lesbian representation outside the well-trod paths that started with

The L Word, and Atypical is an example of that. Trying to normalize teenage couples is great, but writing the same story over and over makes it typical, and doesn’t emulate full representation. We can always do better!

All three seasons of Atypical are streaming now on Netflix.