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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

A Southern lesbian’s search for representation inspired by Jade West

Illustration+Rachel+Choi
Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

Back when I was in elementary school—simpler times—there was significantly less to stress about. We didn’t work after-school jobs or have college tuition to worry about; our currency was Silly Bandz and gossip. The most important thing in the world was who we thought was cute at school. 

As a little girl growing up in the 2010s, I was an avid Disney Channel and Nickelodeon after-school watcher. I consumed “Jessie,” “iCarly,” “The Fairly Oddparents,” and “Austin and Ally” like nobody’s business. I had a standing date with my family’s TV every day at 4 p.m.

I watched these objectively brain-numbing TV shows for entertainment, yes, but more so to be a part of the lunch table conversations. Without iPhones and unlimited internet access, cable television was our way of life. At eight years old, me and my friends felt the most adult when discussing what happened on that week’s “Victorious” episode. 

But I always felt disconnected from my friends when they obsessed over the teenage boys in my favorite shows. I could never quite figure out who was supposed to be the fan-favorite heartthrob. I loved Farkle from “Girl Meets World,” but my friends thought Lucas was sooooo hot. Why weren’t they as enthralled with Maya as I was? 

*Note to baby me: you still are obsessed with Sabrina Carpenter in 2024.*

A few years later when I was in middle school—and still struggling to match my friends’ obsession with boys—I stumbled across a rerun of a “Victorious” episode, specifically Tori Vega and Jade West’s iconic performance of “Take a Hint.”

To say I was obsessed would be an understatement. 

Jade West was finally my Tom Holland, my Zac Efron, my insert any 2010s male Disney channel actor you want to. I rewatched that episode multiple times a week. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but that performance and Jade West’s entire character was the start of my gay awakening. 

I am not suggesting that Jade West was a lesbian. She quite literally isn’t in the show; she dated Beck, the show’s teenage boy heartthrob, on and off for all of the seasons. But it was the first time I got to feel like a little girl obsessing over a hot teenage boy on TV. 

I struggled to accept my own sexuality because of the lack of lesbian representation I was exposed to. Growing up in the South, I only knew two out lesbians for the first fifteen years of my life. Even then, it didn’t click that that was something I could also do. Every single one of my friends had a mom and a dad, and all of my female friends had boy crushes or boyfriends. And I had those three minutes of Jade West. 

It’s been half a decade since I ogled over that episode of “Victorious,” and it still is one of my favorite cinematic moments. I have not found myself fangirling over actual lesbian characters as much as my twelve-year-old self did at that moment. 

I don’t like how I have seen lesbians portrayed in the media. I don’t see myself in them and I am not attracted to them. Lesbian characters are always the quirky best friends or still objectify themselves for men. Or they’re just killed off, like Lexa from “The 100.” But this causes me to latch on to straight female characters because I know they aren’t a token lesbian. They won’t both die at the end, and they will get the girl (boy). 

Proper media representation is so important for children everywhere. Disney has increased racial and ethnic diversity in their Disney princesses, but we still have yet to see queer representation. More importantly, a large majority of their movies revolve around Prince Charming. When will we have two Princess Charmings?

Like Jade said in her jaw-dropping performance, “Why am I always hit on by the boys I never like?” Why can’t there be a lesbian character who does get the girl, or gets anything close to a happy ending like all of her straight co-stars? Why can’t shows take a hint and produce actually good representation not just for the sake of diversity points?

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About the Contributor
Merritt Hughes, Co-Opinion Editor

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