A heart of glass and imagining a queer High Fidelity

“Why am I doomed to be left? Why am I doomed to be rejected?” Rob, the lead of the new, queer High Fidelity series, looks into the camera, smoking a cigarette, searching for a reason as to why she has had such un-luck with dating. The night before, she looked up her first boyfriend – from junior high. She is confused, distraught and absolutely clueless as to why she could be the x factor in the destruction of all of her romantic endeavors.

In the TV adaptation of High Fidelity, Zoe Kravitz plays Robyn “Rob” Banks–a bisexual, alt Black woman living in NYC as an owner of a record store. Adapted from the 1995 Nick Hornby novel of the same name, the show takes a closer look into the fallacies of dating in the modern world with a proper switch from the male centric predecessor.

Comparatively, the original film adaptation starring John Cusack centered the cisgendered, hetero-centric gaze, whereas our new protagonist exists on the cisgendered, queer centric axis, and explores the complexities of intersectional identity.  While gaining popularity, it is still a rarity for protagonists to take on this queer, intersectional praxis and niche cultural aesthetic. It is not a perfect series about alternative lifestyles, but it is good natured and flawed–in balance. 

After her ex-fiance returns to NYC, Rob decides to embark on a “soul quest” of sorts to figure out why she can’t have a fulfilling relationship. In the series (and the book and film), Rob and her friends love to create “top-five” lists–so, of course, she explores her top-five heartbreaks in order to solve the biggest mystery in her life: Is she lovable? 

Image Courtesy: Hulu (screengrab)

Through a combination of flashbacks and fourth-wall-breaking narration, we learn about the greatest hits of Rob’s dating woes. Combined with a killer soundtrack and the inclusion of non-traditional approaches to relationships and ‘love, we are offered a portrayal of the generational shift in the world of dating while Millennial. While the intricacies of interpersonal relationships can never be defined so neatly, the topic of accountability for one’s actions rings true.

Despite living in a wider society that might make being a bisexual Black woman difficult, Zoe does not face any resentment from her family–and her queerness is not questioned by any of her peers. While most of the people she dates are cis men, Rob’s bisexuality is never questioned or cheapend with anti-bisexual jokes or references. In fact, one of her exes is part of what makes the series so queer.

Platonic queer relationships become just as important as romantic relationships–a theme that was entirely missing from the film adaptation.

One of her ex-partners is actually a cis gay man–and they utilize their friendship as a relationship, whether Rob knows it or not. The way they treat their former-romance, current-friendship does a lot of work redefining the legitimacy of relationships. Platonic queer relationships become just as important as romantic relationships–a theme that was entirely missing from the film adaptation.

“We are still together,” Simon laments, as Rob confronts him on her quest. “Now please, take me off your goddamn list.” This relationship (along with their friendship with Cherisse) is probably one of the defining factors of the show’s theme. Romantic relationships may burn out but platonic relationships are believed to have room for error.  What does it say about us as a society who places a certain relationship above another? Whether it is because of intimacy or lack of it, what matters is that there is someone who can be on your side, no matter the issue. Personal growth is definitely a theme in Rob’s universe and it begs the audience to explore our own interpersonal relationships, whether they are romantic or not. 

queer High Fidelity
Image courtesy: Hulu (screengrab)

As she bemoans her other break-ups, Rob’s relationship with Kat, a tall, blonde woman, casually makes its way into her story line. Rob reflects on their relationship and we get to see them in a club setting, passionately embraced in a loving kiss. Then we see Rob screaming at the top of her lungs in the rain for Kat to let her in. Yup, sounds like an accurate queer relationship to me. When Rob catches up with the present-day Kat she wonders why she was even interested in her in the first place. Kat is a cringe-y parody of influencers and their focus on appearances, reinforcing the reason they broke up in the first place: in Rob’s words “Kat had a type: tall, white, blonde.” All things Rob is decidedly not.

From the club to rainy streets, Rob discovers something about herself and her past relationship with Kat. Despite the need to view herself as a ridiculous waste of air, Rob comes to the conclusion that they were not a great match. There is nothing wrong with her, it just comes down to the laws of attraction (regardless of gender). 

For a protagonist to be Black, female, bisexual and a member of fringe subculture speaks to an entirely new generation of intersectional identities.

This queer High Fidelity is a result of the renaissance of diversity in mainstream television. For a protagonist to be Black, female, bisexual and a member of fringe subculture speaks to an entirely new generation of intersectional identities. It is no longer considered taboo for a Black girl to be messy and unsure about her intimate relationships. Including a queer relationship in the mix is becoming a standard in many television shows and films of all genres. However, we have to remember that being genuine in the depictions of queer relationships has to be a required praxis–which means also representing non-romantic relationships as valid. It is no longer about the white picket fence, but about the relationships that force us to grow as human beings.

We have to learn how to embrace love, understanding, and forgiveness as something that is paramount instead of trivial. Let us hope to see this exploration of interpersonal relationships across all identities!

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