Middle school comes with its share of challenges, from finding your own personality to maintaining old friendships and developing new relationships. Coming in 2022 is a tween rom-com that zeroes in on a happy, confident, queer 8th grader: Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls.
Erin and Liz are two best friends who terrorize their local comic shop, love their epic horror movie marathons and rely on each other to survive the unforgiving jungle of middle school. Their friendship is tested when Liz is accepted into a different high school than Erin and, as a result, Erin starts focusing all her attention on the popular new girl, Sydni Hunter. As Erin devises schemes to get closer to Sydni, her friendship with Liz is tested. Both Erin and Liz are trying to hold on to how things used to be, but eventually learn that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart.
For writer/director Julianna Notten and producer Claire Allore, producing 2SLGBTQ+ content comes from a very personal place.
“We want to be able to tell our own stories and the stories of our friends and loved ones,” they say. “We’re especially excited about telling queer stories for kids because we’re making the kind of content we wish we had (and needed) at that age. As kids come out at younger and younger ages, they are looking to see themselves – and their communities – represented in the media. We want to be able to answer that call for them.”
Julianna and Claire are heartened to see how far representation in kids media has come and to see the demand for more diversity on screen, hoping for more autistic representation, trans representation, characters with disabilities, characters who wear hijabs and other faith symbols, and characters on the asexual and aromantic spectrum. Historically, when these kinds of characters come up (if at all), they are relegated to “special episodes” or as a token best friend. Stories that centre these perspectives can explore narratives that go beyond stereotypes.
Switch Hitter Films places great importance on having a cast and crew that reflects the story they’re telling; they prioritize queer and trans people, women and those from BIPOC communities who may not have had traditional access to the industry. As a company, their goal is to tell queer stories that are not rooted in tragedy, leaving the coming-out narrative behind – often the only one we see portrayed. In reality, there is a rich tapestry of joyful queer stories and experiences. Creating these stories for youth allows them to see themselves reflected positively in the media, experiencing struggles and triumphs that are not singularly tied to their sexuality or gender identity.
Part of creating inclusivity comes from education. Reading books and watching documentaries or movies with queer and trans characters is one of the most accessible ways to learn more about the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Many local queer groups or GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) host virtual events or post on social media. Julianna and Claire recommend asking the queer people in your life if they would be open to having a conversation about their experiences, keeping in mind that one 2SLGBTQ+ person or character’s experience does not reflect everyone in the community.
Members of the Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls team will engage in socially distanced meetups and video chats with queer friends and donate to queer organizations to celebrate Pride Month amidst COVID-19 restrictions. Julianna and Claire recognize that Pride Month is about not only celebrating the community and the right to love who you want, but also the mostly black trans women and other racialized queers who fought so hard to encourage people to be themselves. Pride is about coming together and celebrating everyone’s wonderfully varied history, love and lives.
Check out other features on Pride Month: