‘AJLT Gets Non-Binary Representation Really Wrong’

The only two gender nonconforming characters on AJLT were written to be narcissistic and entitled, writes Emma Flint.


by Emma Flint |
Updated on

Ever since And Just Like That started, fans have waited for it to come into its own, to capture classic Sex And The City moments with a dash of something new. Yet, the finale left a lot to be desired. For me, it tried to wrap up every loose end in a neat little bow but ended up unravelling under the weight of all the work it had to do. Among the touching, heartfelt moments that transported us back to SATC heyday glory, there was chaos and disappointment, most notably in the portrayal of Che and Rock.

Yes, the show is still getting non-binary representation wrong. Really wrong.

As a viewer, I was so excited that the SATC reboot was embracing narratives beyond the lives of cis-het white women. Nonbinary viewers were finally getting the representation we wished for on a show like this... only to be given characters who, while unashamedly themselves, are two dimensional at best - which undoubtedly contributed to the heavy criticism of the shows only non-cisgendered characters: Che and Rock. This consistent backlash of both Che and Rock has dogged the show, but it was their scenes in the finale that really incited fans.

And you know what? I'm not surprised. Their characters were portrayed as narcissistic, entitled messes.

Let’s start with Che, who has been the most divisive character of the show by far. In a truly spectacular display of narcissism, they performed a song in front of their family and Miranda to announce them moving to Los Angeles. Just let that sink in. Instead of maybe giving their partner a heads up that a huge change was coming, one that would heavily impact them as well (hello, Miranda cheated on and left her husband for this relationship), they decided to put on a show. Even the most extroverted person has to admit that’s a level of uncomfortable few of us ever want to experience. It was true to Che’s over the top personality, but it annoyed the fandom greatly.

The issue with Che isn’t that they’re not likeable – plenty of people aren’t – it’s the fact that non-binary representation is so lacking in AJLT that such a limited character feels doubly offensive. In a series where most of the cast is cis, to have only two gender non-comforming characters means the spotlight burns even brighter when focused on them. We see every issue, and, sadly, Che’s representation has many. And while Sara Ramirez has defended their character, it doesn’t erase the fact that Che is a stereotype.

Che and Rock's storylines play into the fallacy that all gender non-conforming people are difficult.

But what about Rock? Arguably, their character has had slightly more nuance, though not much. Having come out as gender non-conforming, the storyline progressed in a predictable arc, most notably in how awkwardly the cis characters all handled the news. Yet, despite those bumps, there was a general sense that Rock was being given better non-binary representation than Che. That was, until the 'they mitzvah'.

In the run up to the event, it was clear that Rock was far from invested, unlike their parents. However, it was only just before the ceremony started that Rock refused to go through with it. It smacked of entitlement, and while an accurate portrayal of a bratty teenager, it did Rock a huge disservice. They didn’t want to be labelled anything, just to be themselves. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but one portrayed as the tantrums of a confused child. It plays into the fallacy that gender non-conforming people are difficult.

'I wish the writers had chosen to make the they mitzvah a happier event where Charlotte and Harry truly come to accept Rock’s identity. Instead Rock is truly a little brat and sooo unlikeable,' one Reddit user Strawberryvibes88 commented on a thread about the whole debacle.

Fortunately, the family does get a happy ending moment, but not without upset prior to it. It’s as if the writers won’t let Che and Rock exist without drama attached to them, specifically them creating it. By taking this approach, the writers fashion a narrative about non-binary and transness that’s entitled and unreliable. Nobody expects AJLT to tackle every non-binary stereotype, but they could at least try to not add to them.

Read More:

AJLT: Should We Still Define Our Sexuality So Rigidly When Gender Is A Fluid Construct?

And Just Like That: All The Funniest Reactions To That Che And Miranda Scene

And Just Like That: All The Scenes That Really, Really Needed Samantha

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