The Tragedy of Internalized Homophobia within the T.V. series “Atypical” and “Brokeback Mountain”

Within the LGBTQ+ community, internalized homophobia is something that can be considered a universal experience, feeling, or sometimes, (unfortunately), a way of life. In both the T.V. series “Atypical” by Robia Rashid, and “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx, all queer characters experience this sense of internalized homophobia, which hinders their relationships.

For those that are not familiar with “Atypical”, it resembles a show where Sam, a teenager on the spectrum, decides he is ready for finding a serious relationship. With the help of his therapist as well as family, Sam is able to explore the inner-meanings of what it means to have a crush and feel for someone. Along with Sam, the show follows the older sister Casey and her relationships. (Note: Bridgette Lundy-Paine, who plays Casey, goes by they/them pronouns, but the character uses she/her). In the beginning of the show, Casey has a boyfriend. Throughout the entirety of the first two seasons, she seems somewhat distant towards him, but nonetheless, continues the relationship. It isn’t until the most recent season released (season 3), that she has the opportunity to attend a private school due to her athleticism in track and field, On her team, is a member named Izzie. At first, Izzie is apprehensive of Casey, and ultimately, is not as kind to her as expected. However, later within the season, their friendship grows, and eventually, blossoms into something more. Casey eventually breaks up with her boyfriend and pursues this newfound relationship. While Izzie and Casey develop feelings for one another, Izzie has a difficult time accepting her sexuality.

In one particular scene, both partners are discussing their hangout from the night before. Izzie states, “Wait did you tell Sam about us?”, to which Casey replies, “Not really”. Casey then says, “Well I didn’t tell him anything, he just saw us at the door. Wh-what would be the big deal? He’s my brother.” Izzie then becomes visually upset and frustrated, as she states, “The big deal is that I don’t feel like broadcasting my personal business to the world”. A second instance of Izzie’s internalized homophobia is that at a small party, Casey tries to kiss Izzie. Despite being with Casey, and having feelings for her, Izzie is apprehensive of being public. In the scene itself, Casey moves closer to Izzie as they are both dancing together. Izzie quickly asks, “What are you doing?”. “Nothing I’m dancing”, Casey laughably replies. “We talked about this. I don’t need to advertise my personal business to the world”, Izzie states. “I’m not trying–“, Casey then starts to state. “I just, I need water”, Izzie finally replies.

Alike, in “Brokeback Mountain”, both Ennis and Jack are unsure of their relationship at first, and ultimately, cannot accept their feelings for one another. After having sex for the first time, Ennis states, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours” (15). In this instance, both characters are seen as having a sense of internalized homophobia as they cannot accept their actions from the night prior. While Izzie’s sense of internalized homophobia in “Atypical” is more in the sense that yes, while she accepts her feelings towards Izzie, she is unsure of making it knowledge to the public, on the other hand, Ennis and Jack develop a sense of internalized homophobia at first because they do not accept their actions with a partner of the same sex. In this exact moment within the novel, both characters are not worried about their appearance in public (yet), as they have not even accepted their feelings for one another at this time.


6 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Internalized Homophobia within the T.V. series “Atypical” and “Brokeback Mountain””

  1. As a huge fan of Atypical, I was so delighted to see you wrote about Cassie and Izzie’s relationship in connection with “Brokeback Mountain”. Internalized homophobia is a huge part of the queer experience, unfortunately, so naturally it would be a popular theme in LGBTQ media. The connection you made was fascinating. I would interested to see if there is a difference between men and women experiencing internalized homophobia. The influences of toxic masculinity and sexism, I believe, would cause a difference in the way men like Ennis and women like Izzie live out the queer experience.

    1. Yesssssss, I’m so glad you love the show as much as I do! Also, I enjoyed your comment. I do truly wonder if there is a difference between men and women experiencing internalized homophobia, or if it just truly stems from the fact that the LGBTQ+ community has always been deemed as ‘out of the norm’ and disregarded.

  2. I’m so glad you brought up this parallel! Casey and Izzie have a special place in my heart. I am surprised at the similarities between Ennis and Izzie especially. Though these characters have different backgrounds and personalities, they seem to reflect each other in certain ways. Ennis desperately clings to his masculinity; he refuses to assume a public queer identity, because he believes it would endanger his manliness, both due to judgement from society, and his own internalized homophobia. Izzie has the same problem, but it is her femininity that she clings to. Unlike Ennis, she accepts her feelings for Casey behind closed doors, though similarly to Ennis, she fears the social ramifications that her attraction to someone of the same gender might have, which prevents her from being romantic with Casey in public.

    1. I definitely agree with your comment! Although it is quite interesting to watch a show of characters and read a novel that have characters within the LGBTQ+ community, it is unfortunate that many struggles and hardships are shown. I guess it really does relate to the true experiences of many individuals within the community today, and even within media, as for both characters Ennis and Izzie.

  3. Really like the connection here. I’m not too familiar with “Atypical” but I agree based on your description that Izzie/Casey and Jack/Ennis are both dealing with similar internalized homophobia leading to conflict in each of their relationships. I think it’s really important to notice that for both sets of partners they are ultimately not worried about how they look to each other, just how they look to others. It speaks to society’s oppressive heteronormativity that Ennis and Izzie are acting as if they’ve done something wrong, solely because of apprehension about how their expressions of identity could negatively impact their lives, which is something heterosexual couples don’t have to navigate in the same way homosexual couples do.

    1. I definitely agree with your comment, especially your final sentence. I believe that heterosexual couples have never and will never have to truly worry about their appearance to the public, as much as same sex couples do. In turn, it speaks to the heteronormativity we are constantly surrounded by, whether that be in novels, film, or in one’s day to day life.

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