There’s something powerful about hearing your name called in a place you want to be recognized, a bell of emotion that cannot be unrung. Schitt’s Creek, a TV series about a wealthy Jewish family who loses everything and has to move to a small town they once purchased as a joke, offered me one of those moments. While every character is the butt of a joke at one point or another, identity is never sacrificed for a laugh, and a moment of on-screen acknowledgement left me seen.
LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD.
When I first had Schitt’s Creek advertised to me, I had no intention of watching it. It looked like a bad rip-off of Arrested Development, and I tire quickly of attempting to sympathize with rich people’s problems. After a work event where my boss, a perceptive and terrifyingly successful woman, told me she could see me in the show, I tried an episode. And then I devoured it.
The identity of importance to this piece is David’s, played by Dan Levy, who is also a creator and writer of the show, alongside his father and co-star Eugene Levy. Dan Levy plays a pansexual man, which is rare on television. David Rose is played as a feminine, fashion-forward, neurotic man, and his first love interest on the show is Stevie, the woman who manages the motel the Rose family now live in. Their first kiss, while intoxicated, is not “funny.” It’s hot.
I may be a butch, but David’s storyline has meant something to me. As the softest, most crybaby butch I know, it’s so much easier to see myself in his movements and decisions and feelings than in so many lesbian options I’ve been given.
After David and Stevie sleep together, Stevie checks in with David about the event and his sexuality. She uses the metaphor of wine, “I’m a red wine drinker. I only drink red wine … and, up until last night, I was under the impression that you too only drank red wine, but I guess I was wrong?” David explains that he is, in fact, interested in all wines, regardless of the label. Stevie is instantly accepting of this, and they return to their teasing friendship.
Yes! May all of my future conversations about the intersection of my butchness and my queerness go as smoothly!
Pansexuality means that sexual interest is not limited to a particular gender. In a time when sexuality is often erased in media and bisexual/pansexual characters don’t get to vocalize their identity, this was a welcome deviation from the norm.
In the same episode as the wine discussion, David’s father, Johnny, explains to the town’s sheriff, Roland, that his son is pansexual:
Johnny: [David] is pansexual.
Roland: Uh huh. I’ve heard of that. That’s, uh, that cookware fetish.
Johnny: No. No, no. He loves everyone … I’m his father and I always wanted his life to be easy … pick one gender and maybe everything would have been less confusing?
Roland: Well, you know, Johnny, when it comes to the heart, we can’t tell our kids who to love.
The sexuality is not the joke here. Roland’s ignorance about the term is amusing, and a moment for education—for both Roland and Johnny. However, I’m not pleased by the way trans identity is discussed in this episode. It’s very brief and too steeped in “becoming” language (“I tried a merlot that used to be a chardonnay”), but, again, identity isn’t the joke, the metaphors are.
The episode of David’s “reveal” is also not treated like a Very Special Episode. There are other schemes at hand, characters each are absorbed in their own dramas, and the “pansexual” label, while important, is not the focus of everyone’s attention. No one has to be won over, and life goes on just as it was before. It was refreshing.
Since his brief fling with Stevie, there have been a few other relationships, all with men. He and Stevie both date the same man for a small arc, and, while there are antics, the character’s bisexuality is never judged or dismissed. Later, an ex-boyfriend of David’s comes to town and when he sees David standing with a woman he assumes she is David’s girlfriend. Again, this acknowledgement of that possibility is handled without judgement.
At the end of season three, David was developing a relationship with a man who’d never been involved with another man before. Here’s to hoping that this coming out story is handled with as much care and thoughtful humor as David’s identity has been given. I have faith that this will be the case, given Levy’s clear dedication to a realistic and nuanced portrayal of a sexuality so often dismissed.
So, now I just have to wait for this season, which began on January 9th, to reveal what’s in store for David Rose.