Warning: This contains spoilers for Atypical Seasons 3 and 4.
The Netflix Original, Atypical, is a show portraying the life of a teen with autism in America and his story through both high school and college. It features a pretty popular queer relationship between the main character’s sister Casey (portrayed by Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Izzie, Casey’s school friend (portrayed by Fivel Stewart). This queer relationship blossoms around season 3 when Casey starts developing feelings for Izzie and vice versa.
The problem with many women loving women (wlw) relationships portrayed in media and T.V. is that many of these either begin or involve some cheating (whether emotional or physical), and Atypical does not stray from this narrative. In Blue is the Warmest Color and The L Word, two of the most popular lesbian medias, the characters (in both instances) are seen cheating with each other and with other people. In Blue is the Warmest Color, the two main characters, Emma and Adele, get together after a “love at first sight” moment. Adele is not openly into women, and after meeting Emma, she seems to go through a self-exploration journey to come to terms with her bisexuality.
Through their story of meeting, learning about each other, falling in love, moving in together and learning how to be a wlw couple, Adele ruins it by sleeping with a man she met not long before they had sex. She built a life with Emma to waste it all by cheating on her with a man. This portrayal, although it might seem harmless, furthers the motive that bisexual women are more likely to cheat because of the “options” that they have available to them.
Similarly, in The L Word, “Felicity cheats on her husband with Bette. Lena cheats on Tess with Shane. Sophie cheats on Dani with Finley” (Go Magazine). Both medias, that are so popular in the wlw world, are plagued by the notion that women loving women are more likely to cheat than other combinations. This notion, although it shows it more tamely, does not stray in Atypical.
Throughout the show, from season 1, Casey is seen being pursued by a boy (Evan). He is a boy who goes to her school and makes it a point to show her that he is interested in her. Throughout seasons 1 and 2, this relationship stays strong. Casey is constantly fighting for Evan. She is making her parents like him; she falls in love with him, has sex with him, and in the end, cheats on him to be with Izzie.
Casey’s struggle with bisexuality in Atypical leads her to cheat on Evan. In the 9th episode of season 2 “Ritual-icious,” it is Casey’s birthday, and this is the first scene where some chemistry is shown between Casey and Izzie. They do a “forehead promise,” which is them putting their foreheads together to show how their friendship will last forever, and a first kiss is hinted at, but then gets interrupted by Casey’s mom. Then, in the last episode of season 2, Casey and Izzie are shown holding hands in Casey’s car, alluding to them exploring these feelings for each other.
Then, in season 3, episode 7 “Shrinkage,” Casey and Izzie have their first kiss. Izzie confronts Casey about avoiding her after Izzie confesses her feelings, and Casey counters this by kissing her on the track at their school. Following in episode 8 of season 3, she tells Evan about what happened, and they break up.
Furthermore, after Casey and Evan break up, Izzie makes out with a guy at a party because she feels (in simple terms) “too gay.” She makes a massive deal to Casey about how they should be together, and then when Casey treats her like a romantic interest, she leaves to make out with the first guy she sees.
I can understand that in both of these instances, the characters were not sure of their sexualities and acted impulsively to figure out their feelings for each other; however, I feel like this was not portrayed in the right way. Someone can have feelings for 2 people at once (obviously), but it plays into this narrative about wlw relationships. As a wlw myself, who was very confused when these feelings started rising, I could not imagine cheating on someone with the justification of figuring out who I am.
Countless couples have split up after being together for a while because one or both parties have discovered a queerness in themselves and want to explore it, therefore breaking up with their S.O., which is valid.
Wanting to explore queerness within yourself that was not apparent to you previously, is a part of the human experience. Living through your options, finding who you are and then finding the romantic partner (or partners) that works best with not only your life, but that you find love for.
This is why these cheating instances in these wlw relationships bother me so much. It is the complete disregard for the other partner suffering these consequences. All the other romantic partners that get cheated on suffer the results of this queerness. Cheating on your significant other to explore your thoughts and urges is unacceptable; it is not real love.
It puts a dark cover on wlw relationships and the means of getting into them. It supports the notion that bisexual women are more likely to cheat and that exploring bisexuality is a means to be a bad person, which is untrue. Wlw relationships get fetishized by media and the heterosexual normativity of society; the last thing these women need is the stigma of bisexuality, meaning the right to cheat on your partner.