At first glance, Marco Mejia, the lead of Netflix’s Glamorous, appears to be the year’s biggest star. Marco, played by US singer Miss Benny, is a fantastic make-up artist with a massive YouTube following – a channel that has already become passé for influencers. We meet him while he does his daily “beat” and reels off Drag Race catchphrases. “We’re going to take that crown together!” he exclaims from behind his ring light.
But Marco is more than just a person; he’s a brand. I’ve recently met with a number of other folks in their twenties who feel lacking since they lack clearly defined brands to advance their careers. It’s a very Gen Z existential issue that social media has urged us to be concerned about. However, no such difficulties exist in Glamorous because the series is eventually launched by Marco’s point of view as an influencer. After impressing beauty entrepreneur Madolyn Addison (an understated Kim Cattrall) with his make-up expertise, he ends up as her second assistant less than five minutes into episode one. It’s a perfect Venn diagram of The Devil Wears Prada, Emily in Paris, and Ugly Betty, with a dash of Succession’s boardroom intrigues thrown in for good measure.
So, what’s the issue? It’s that Glamorous’ emphasis on the corporate side of queerness today is cruelly reductive. In terms of LGBT representation in media, we have already reached the point where a Netflix program includes a sequence in which employees from fake major make-up brands sit in boardrooms to plan their Pride advertisements. The rainbow capitalist side of Pride month has been so legitimized that it is being regurgitated without irony through fiction. It’s almost comical since so many young queer people – the true Marcos of the world – don’t give a damn about the particulars of identity. They’re conflicted about labels, especially during Pride month.
Marco is flamboyantly gay, and it is refreshing to see a figure like him lead a show like this, yet he is fundamentally fake. As a YouTuber, Marco amps up the Yass Queen Slay Gurl brand for his audience, so when we meet him, we have no idea who we’re meeting. Again, we witness a drive for LGBT individuals to brand and market themselves as empowering and influential, rather than simply being. It’s not a knock on Marco’s self-assurance as a queer, gender non-conforming person, but the fact that he’s introduced as a brand feels sad and reductive. His path is one of self-discovery, and Glamorous would have been better served if it had found a different approach to express this rather than a literal brand collaboration between Marco and Glamorous by Madolyn.
The patron saint of LGBT people who name themselves as powerful made a return to television today in And Just Like That… – Che Diaz (Sara Ramrez) is back, baby, and the show’s makers have learned nothing. Che was loathed during the first season of the Sex and the City revival because the program insisted that they were an unquestionable gift to Carrie, Charlotte, and especially Miranda’s world. Fans hoped that Che would develop some of the human foibles, chicness, and good humour of its original group of friends; unfortunately, Che’s intriguing character development in season two has so far consisted of Tony Danza-related identity politics and going on a diet.