As the fall television season begins once more, I find myself mostly excited for a drama whose release date currently isn’t known. What I do know, however, is that it’s going to be tackling an important issue. The CW, known for shows like 90210, America’s Next Top Model, and fan favorite Supernatural, is currently in the process of creating an hour-long drama with the title of ZE. From what I’ve gathered so far, it’s about a young transgender teenager growing up in one of the more stereotypically closed-minded states, Texas. In the words of The Hollywood Reporter:
Written by playwright–musician Kyle Jarrow, ZE revolves around a Texas teenager who announces that [he] is transgendered and will be living life as a boy.
Problematic misgendering and insensitivity of The Hollywood Reporter aside, I have high hopes for this drama. While it may not be true that ZE is the first show to house a trans* character, it will be the first to star one. From Elementary’s Ms. Hudson to Glee’s Unique, positive portrayals of transgendered and non-binary adults and teens alike are becoming more and more prevalent in media. Hell, even choosing to name the drama ‘Ze’, a non-gendered pronoun used by some members of the trans* community, expresses the idea that the topic of transgender issues are important. From choosing executive producer Michael London—who has films like Milk and The Family Stone under his belt—and scriptwriter Kyle Jarrow, it seems clear that the CW wants to make a series that stresses the importance of the issue, remains relatable to teens in the same situation, and has the finesse of a major motion picture.
Corroborating that, Audiostraddle mentions the CW’s inclusion of trans* people on some of their other shows:
Back in 2008, Isis King was a transgender contestant on the eleventh cycle of America’s Next Top Model. She was eliminated in week five, but later returned in America’s Next Top Model: All Stars and has since had a successful career in the modeling and fashion worlds. Another transgender model, Virgg, was featured on the current cycle of the show.
And while yes, America’s Next Top Model isn’t exactly tailored to the same audience, it was certainly an important move in representation, I think. It also stands to reason that because of previous interactions like these, the CW is most likely one of the best channels on which to tackle the issues of ZE. Audiostraddle goes on to state that while having a trans* character is fantastic, the CW should also “…cast a trans* actor in the lead role and any other roles that are for trans* characters.” And that “[f]or the popular network to put a trans* actor in a starring role like this would be a great step in transgender visibility.” I agree with this completely. It’s one thing to have a trans* character in a main role, but to have that character being played by an actual trans* person will bring something stronger, something more relatable to the character as well as giving further exposure to a marginalized group. It’s really the only casting path they should be considering, in all honesty.
As of now, I’m unclear whether ZE will end up being an actual series or if it’s going to simply be the one-hour drama. I’m also uncertain if it will end up being inclusive enough to reach a large audience (again, an aspect where being on the CW will help) as the topic could be rather polarizing or could simply suffer from a disinterested
audience, or if it will become a sort of cult classic like But I’m a Cheerleader. No matter what happens, ZE is still an important step forward for the representation of trans* folk in the media and I hope that just by existing, ZE can bring forth a new wave of trans* inclusive shows and stories where trans* characters aren’t simply swept to the side, but are in the spotlight.
(Original article found at GayWrites)