Jump to content
  • entries
    38
  • comments
    317
  • views
    14,317

How the TV-show Young Americans Broke Down the Gender Binary

Thorn Wilde

651 views

I got a bit of a memory jog when people started talking about The O.C. the other day, because of the show's 10th anniversary. When that show came out, I was already a little done with the high school drama genre, and was moving on to anime, sci-fi, fantasy and horror themed tv-series. I used to watch Popular pretty regularly, and I even had time to, for a season or so, really like Dawson's Creek, though I was young at the time. But there was one high school drama type of series that stood out, and that was the Dawson's Creek spin-off Young Americans.

 

Let me preface by saying that this is not an especially good show. It wasn't really surprising that the thing got cancelled after only 8 episodes. Most of the plot was passé and melodramatic, the writing was mediocre, as was most of the acting. With one major exception.

 

The Jake and Hamilton story-line.

 

 

I must have been about 12 when that show came out. I may have been as old as 13 when I started watching it, cause I don't know when it made it across the pond, but I wasn't old. The Jake and Hamilton arc was revolutionary for me. It was new and exciting and different, and it broke down everything that I thought I knew about gender and sexuality at the tender age of 12 or 13.

 

One part of it was the fact that Jake had everyone fooled. Jake was really Jacqueline, played by the amazing and talented Katherine Moennig (who later went on to star in The L-Word). Jacqueline was a rich young girl with a mother who didn't pay attention to her. Her mum was an actress, and hardly ever home, and Jacqueline tried to do ever more extreme things to get her mother to notice her, to little avail. Finally, Jacqueline hacked into her mother's e-mail account, signed up for Rawley Academy for boys for summer school and became Jake, just to see if her mother would notice.

 

She didn't.

 

No one at Rawley believed for a second that Jake was anything other than a boy, including Hamilton. And here comes the best part, because even though he fully believed Jake to be a boy, Hamilton still fell in love with him. It was the first suggestion I had ever seen in popular culture of the idea that people fall in love with people, and that gender can be secondary or irrelevant, and it changed my entire perspective.

 

It doesn't matter that Jake turned out to be a girl. For the first three episodes or so, Hamilton believed that he had turned gay. Even after Jake told him the truth, they still seemed most comfortable with each other when Jake was, well, Jake rather than Jacqueline.

 

After a while, everyone started to think that Hamilton and Jake were gay, and what was so wonderful about that was how cool they all seemed with it. That was a world I wanted to live in.

 

Jake was never trans. Jake was very comfortable about really being Jacqueline and did not mind being girly. I think, however, that if this show had been made today, the gender issue would have been a much bigger part of the story, and Jake's character would have been much more gender-fluid than it ultimately was.

 

As it is, however, Young Americans helped break down the idea of the gender binary in my mind, it introduced the concept of 'alternate' sexualities to me, and made me feel so much less alone in a heteronormative television world.

  • Love 1


5 Comments


Recommended Comments

interesting you posted this - i was having a discussion with a group of people the other day about gender roles/identity etc. 

 

i think alot of asian cultures really take this to a new level too. kinda reminds me of Ouran Host club

 

o_O

  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

I remember a manga a few years ago about a girl who gets into a boy's school to play basket ball, and falls in love with her room-mate, which was pretty cool. 

  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

I just watched the video and the whole time I'm thinking, Hamilton looks like a young Ian Somerhalder. It turns out that he is. I don't know if it is the power of suggestion, since you mentioned that Jake was a girl, or not because I saw a girl in the character. It was especially obvious in the look immediately after the kiss on the rooftop. 

 

I didn't watch these shows but I can see how that story line might be influential to someone who was young and questioning things.

  • Like 1
  • Love 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

I watched most of the earlier seasons of Dawson’s Creek. I either lost interest or had a different work schedule that kept me from seeing the seasons after high school. I mostly watched it because of Jack, but Dawson was cuter.  ;–)

 

I remember watching Young Americans, it had a test run as a summer replacement. I didn’t think Jake was particularly convincing as a boy. And I guess the Townie is still out there sailing into the sunset, never allowed to return home to get closure…  ;–)

 

 

I never watched any of the other teen dramas from that era.  ;–)

  • Haha 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
28 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

I watched most of the earlier seasons of Dawson’s Creek. I either lost interest or had a different work schedule that kept me from seeing the seasons after high school. I mostly watched it because of Jack, but Dawson was cuter.  ;–)

 

I remember watching Young Americans, it had a test run as a summer replacement. I didn’t think Jake was particularly convincing as a boy. And I guess the Townie is still out there sailing into the sunset, never allowed to return home to get closure…  ;–)

 

 

I never watched any of the other teen dramas from that era.  ;–)

Yeah, it never came back after that short summer test run... Looking back, I see why, but at the time it was a revelation.

  • Love 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..