I have never seen a teens show that would feature a young gay love story. Sure, there were series that had queer characters in it. However, they would face drama, suffering, and family members struggling to accept them. It seemed that it was going to be like that for a long time. Then, the iconic Kenny Ortega comes through and gives us Julie and the Phantoms – a Netflix masterpiece.
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details regarding Julie and the Phantoms.
Julie and the Phantoms is a feel-good series that features young gay love
Based on the Brazilian television series Julie e os Fantasmas, the series revolves around Julie (Madison Reyes) trying to get over her mother’s death. She tried to clean her mothers’ studio to finally try and move on. So, she played one of the CDs that she left behind. However, the music summoned the ghostly figures of the 90s band Sunset Curve – Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Patrick Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada).
At first, she freaks out over their existence but later creates an unquestionable bond with all of them. Singing and playing the piano used to be Julie’s bonding session with her mom. So, when she passed away, it becomes hard for the young girl to do anything that reminded her of her mother. With encouragement from the guys, she goes on stage and sings again. When Julie sang, the band suddenly appeared on stage playing their instruments.
People can see the band as long as they play music with Julie. When the song ends, the band vanishes. Overwhelmed with all the changes going on in his life, Alex walks away and literally bumps into another ghost – Willie (Booboo Stewart). Immediately, Alex looks at the crop top wearing long-haired skateboarding dude and finds him cute.
Willie and Alex 4ever.
Although gay couples became more common in the media, it remains significant to see an out and proud gay couple in a youth-oriented series. It’s a breath of fresh air that Willie and Alex’s storyline didn’t have any grief or trauma about them being gay. Even the way we found out about their orientations was another refreshing change.
In the second episode, Luke just blurted out that when they were still alive, Alex’s parents didn’t accept him for being gay. That was it, that was how we found out that the band’s drummer was openly gay. The fact that the creators of this show made it seem as if being gay carried on as a normal and common occurrence made my mouth hung in both surprise and awe.
Kenny Ortega on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
In many of his works, Kenny Ortega would always have a character with a quality that made us all wonder whether they may be part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. We always asked ourselves if Ryan in High School Musical is gay or not and we always have a ‘maybe’ answer. It turns out that Ortega and Lucas Gabreel would actually have discussions about this certain character.
Like all teenagers, Ryan also remained in the progress of figuring things out in high school. He felt really excited about theater, art, dance choreography, bright colors, and ridiculous hats. Gabreel, then, revealed, “But he also liked Kelsey, and he really liked Zeke. He didn’t need a label, because he wasn’t ready for that.”
This time, Kenny gave us an openly gay character and we are here for it!
“I felt it was important that it was not a coming out story. But, that we could play the normality of being a guy who just happens to be gay. Then, put him in a more enlightened world with friends that just, accept him 100 percent. So, it was just really thrilling for me to be able to be a part of the development of that story.”
“Then finding, Owen Patrick Joyner to play Alex and then seeing the chemistry that happened with Booboo Stewart. And, how comfortable and at ease and relaxed these guys were at every single moment. They were so open to any direction that I might throw at them. They enjoyed these characters so much. It was a joy the whole time, always.”
Willie and Alex are endgame. Let me know if you agree!
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.