'There's no textbook for this': 'Never Have I Ever' Season 2 shows there's no one way to be gay
Spoiler alert! Contains details about the Season 2 finale of "Never Have I Ever," now streaming on Netflix.
In Season 2 of Netflix's "Never Have I Ever" (now streaming), tech wiz Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) is torn between her two great loves: girls and robots.
After coming out as lesbian and getting a girlfriend, Eve (Christina Kartchner), in the teen comedy's first season, Fabiola suffers an identity crisis: On one hand, she's perfectly content as captain of her high-school robotics team and creator of her own wisecracking robot companion, Gears Brosnan. But she also feels pressure to fit in with Eve and her group of queer friends, all of whom are super woke and pop-culture savvy. She soon begins missing out on robotics practice so she can focus on her and Eve's campaign to become the first two queens crowned at their school's winter dance.
Netflix's 'Never Have I Ever':How Mindy Kaling made the teen show she always wanted
Frustrated and confused in the Season 2 finale, Fabiola tearfully confesses to her best friends Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) that she doesn't know where she belongs.
"I just thought it would be easier after coming out," Fabiola says, holed up in a classroom away from the school dance. "But even with the queer girls, I feel like I'm constantly trying to fit in. And now the robotics team hates me. ... I guess I'm as bad at being a lesbian as I was a closeted straight person."
In an interview, Rodriguez says, "Fabiola doesn't really talk about her own problems. She kind of puts other people's feelings before her own, so she gets to this moment where she's holding in so much, and she just can't anymore."
Although a number of TV shows and movies have included coming-out stories for LGBTQ characters, many avoid the often difficult journey that comes after, says "Never" writer Chris Schleicher.
"A lot of people think that everything is going to be fixed for them as soon as they come out, or that suddenly it's like 'The Wizard of Oz,' and things go from black and white to color," Schleicher says. "I remember being a little baby gay, and someone was like, 'You haven't seen 'Mommie Dearest?' You haven't seen 'Showgirls?'' And it's like, 'Let me have a chance to catch up!' There's no textbook for this!"
Fabiola "gets psyched out thinking, 'If I don't know these things, am I a bad lesbian?'" he continues. "She's in the process of learning that, just by being a queer person in this world who's being authentically themselves, you are being a good queer person. Whether you know who Villanelle is is not super important to your queer identity," he says, referring to the serial assassin from "Killing Eve."
'Legally Blonde' at 20:The problem with its ‘gotcha’ gay plot
After Fabiola reassures Devi and Eleanor that she does, in fact, like girls – after all, she dreams about Dua Lipa feeding her grapes – Jonah (Dino Petrera), another gay student, overhears their conversation and offers some comforting advice.
"Listen, it's hard after pretending for so long to finally live your authentic life," Jonah says. "The whole point of coming out is getting to be who you are."
"And we love who you are," Devi adds.
For Schleicher, it was important to have another queer character console Fabiola in that moment.
"Sometimes your straight friends want to be there for you, but they'll never quite get it in the way that someone who's lived through it can," Schleicher says. And having someone like Jonah, a normally judgy and flippant person, "be able to tell her to live in her true self was powerful, because Jonah in every moment is being himself and probably doesn't second-guess it."
Following the pep talk, Fabiola walks confidently back into the dance with Gears Brosnan in tow, where she and Eve are crowned queens. On the dance floor, Eve reassures Fabiola that she doesn't want her to change and that her nerdiness is one of the many things she loves about her.
"Sometimes you are so influenced by what everybody else is doing that you lose sight of who you are," Rodriguez says. "It's so important to talk about that, because I feel like so many young people – and even older people – are going through that, closeted or not closeted."
Adds Schleicher: "It's fun to learn your queer history and and be part of the community, but don't feel like you have to be any specific type of way to be a 'good gay.' Part of the whole coming-out process is choosing to be yourself openly and live without fear. There's parts of yourself that could be a nerd, a gamer or a jock. You didn't come out of the closet to hide another part of yourself."
Watching Fabiola this season, he says, "I hope it's very freeing (for viewers) and some little nerdy robotics girl out there understands that she can just be herself: a little queer nerd."