XO Kitty fixes To All the Boys' biggest mistake
XO Kitty spoilers below
"You're lucky LJ, you have options. There's like, what, two gay dudes at our school?"
Those were the words of Lucas James (Trezzo Mahoro) in To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You.
He said them to Lara Jean (Lana Condor) while she was lamenting her budding new crush on John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) whilst still dating heartthrob Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and for a second, just for a second, we pressed pause on LJ's intoxicating world and paid attention to Lucas' pain.
Admittedly, this is a story about Lara Jean, and as we've already explained that's the franchise's superpower. Its ability to draw us into its titular character's head is what makes it so adorably addictive.
For 90 plus minutes we live in her fantastically romantic world full of drama and the pangs of many adolescent firsts: first kisses, first heartaches, first loves.
However, while To All the Boys one, two and three feed our desire for escapism they forget that these experiences are not exclusive to the heterosexual community. Queer romantic problems do exist and that there's room for them beyond one throwaway moment and a dance with an unnamed prom date, even through all the chaos of Lara Jean's head.
On this point XO Kitty excels.
While it may have forgotten to keep its main character central to the story it does a great job of showing that sexuality is a spectrum and it does so in a non-tokenistic way.
Kitty (Anna Cathcart) travels 16 times zones and 5000 miles to be with Dae (Choi Min-young), her long-distance boyfriend, her first love, only to fall for her frenemy Yuri (Gia Kim).
Her struggling to understand her sexuality and reconcile her feelings for both Yuri and Dae is not a novel coming-of-age issue. However it is one that is becoming more widely reflected in mainstream television.
It mirrors the Willow-Oz-Tara Buffy love-triangle of the '90s but allows her the freedom of not having to label herself.
Is she bi? Pan? Fluid?
"Whatever pan or fluid is, thank God you're safe and healthy," is her father's response because the rest is truly up to her to decide. Or not. She gets to flatpack those boxes with all their labels and reconstruct them at her own time and pace, should she want to.
Thankfully Kitty's exploration of her sexuality isn't the only reflection of queerness in the show.
Yuri's lesbianism carries the burden of parental expectations and of shame as she is forced to hide her relationship with Juliana (Regan Aliyah) in order to protect her family's public image. She's also heartbroken.
Yuri spends much of the show with an invisible wound because she has been forced to separate from Juliana, who has been moved by her parents.
The two have no communication, which is devastating and makes viewers begrudgingly care for Yuri, even if she is the reason Kitty can't be with Dae initially. You know, before she falls for Yuri. It's a whole, love hexagon thing, you really have to read our explainer for the ending.
Fans also get the heady romance of Florian (Théo Augier) and Q (Anthony Keyvan), whom Kitty uses her stellar matchmaking skills to set up.
Though their relationship takes on a slightly sour note towards the end, their early days are pretty sweet and uncomplicated, which is a luxury in a YA drama.
There's plenty of PDA loveliness that feels authentic to their story and not tossed in there to tick off the queer checklist.
By stark comparison, Lucas remained the only notable gay individual throughout the three preceding movies. He carried the weight of the LGBTQ+ community on his back but barely had enough of a solo story to explore his own gayness.
The spinoff series manages to make up for its predecessor's oversight.
XO Kitty successfully moves the To All the Boys franchise forward leaps and bounds by simply reflecting a more rounded teenage dating experience. All the way from H(eterosexual) to F(luid) with room to grow (ahem season two) and we think Lucas would be proud.
All episodes of XO Kitty season one are available to watch now on Netflix. The To All The Boys trilogy is also available to stream on Netflix.
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