With the topic of queer representation on TV fresh on my mind this week after just reading Denis M. Provencher’s “Sealed with a Kiss” chapter in The Sitcom Reader, news of a Canadian transgender sitcom called The Switch coming to the United States caught my attention.
The popular thirty-minute comedy features mostly transgender characters played by transgender actors and will be available to Americans via VOD and digital platforms in August. Although I have not yet seen this sitcom, I already have some thoughts about it that I would like to share with you all.
First, I am a bit confused by the majority of the characters being transgender, as this seems to show a lack of diversity right off the bat. If the sitcom aims to break down conventional standards, shouldn’t it represent an integrated group of various individuals? I am not suggesting that it needs so few transgender characters as in Orange is the New Black, but providing a more diverse crowd would be more realistic, in my opinion. Showing a gang of only transgender people conveys that they only find friendship and support in each other rather than in other straight or queer individuals in the community.
Second, the sitcom is only coming to our country through digital streaming. This means that it will not be available to a huge population on cable television, probably because no mainstream network is prepared to show something like it. Digital streaming on the Internet serves as a space where avant-garde content can be shown without the need for traditional approval and censorship. As a millennial in 2017, I do believe that we live in a post-binary world, but I think that prime-time television will continue to be hesitant to show something like The Switch “so as not to offend the ‘viewing American majority’ or commercial television sponsors” (Provencher).
Finally, after watching the promotional video, it appears that most of the drama for the main character, Sü, has to do with her boyfriend or roommate. This makes me wonder if this sitcom will solely present heteronormative narratives like Will and Grace, instead of venturing into queer issues or tackling representation of transnormative narratives. I hope that the characters are not just reproduced as heteronormative figures, because this conveys that they must participate in heteronormative settings to find a sense of “normalcy” or “belonging”.
As Provencher says, “the production and reproduction of queer images is truly the only means by which to neutralize compulsory heterosexuality”, so sitcoms that represent the lives of transgender people and their lifestyles are needed today to breakdown conventional ideology. Best case scenario, The Switch will pave the way for the “next generation” of commercial television shows that Provencher calls for, ones that will attempt to “open new doors” by bravely attempting to represent non-hetero narratives in more “queerly visible ways”.
Regardless, the characters look quirky and fun, and I definitely want to watch these six episodes when they become available. Check out the article and promotional video here.