Ménage à trois, murder, drug addiction, and HIV barely scratch the surface on the intense themes explored in Elite, Netflix’s latest sleeper hit. The Spanish soap opera, one of the streaming service’s first, bears unexpected nostalgia for those of us who found it hard to come to terms with our own sexuality. I began watching this show expecting your typical young adult high school drama, but little did I know there would be so many steamy gay storylines that left me sweating. Think: Gossip Girl crossed over with Big Little Lies. This sexy, binge-worthy series follows the lives of three, low-income students who receive a scholarship to La Encina, a top preparatory school attended by Spain’s elite.
This show is by no means created specifically for LGBTQ audiences, but it does arguably have two strong gay storylines. One particular couple’s path digs deep into the implications that coming out can have for someone based on their religious and socio-economic backgrounds.
Ander, the hot, prep school Tennis protégé played by Arón Piper and Omar, the Muslim drug dealer from a working-class family, played by Omar Ayuso, first meet through a drug deal scheduled by a mutual friend. Both characters come from completely different worlds (and schools); opposites attract is definitely an understatement here. Days later, the two began chatting anonymously through a gay hookup app (not Grindr, but pretty similar) which resulted in Omar immediately fleeing the scene, embarrassed after recognizing Ander. The series follows Ander and Omar’s romance while they experience the trials and tribulations several young queers face on their journey to find and accept themselves, such as being outed to their family when they weren’t quite ready to do it themselves.
As Ander and Omar’s sexuality and relationship begin to surface among peers and family members, their stories derail completely. Ander, the white middle-class son of La Encina’s Dean, was more willing to come out and was immediately accepted by his friends and parents, the latter whom saw it as a positive opportunity to become the first openly gay tennis player to win the French Open. Omar, the working-class son of religious immigrants who run – and live in – a small grocery store, immediately denies his sexuality when questioned by his father.
(Spoiler: Ander’s mom walks in on them hooking up, and later tells Omar’s dad all about it. Horrified of the news that his son may be gay and tarnish the family name, Omar’s father decides to speed up his son’s arranged marriage, a practice that very much remains the norm for traditional Muslims.)
Whether Elite’s writers knew it or not, they shed a light on the disparities of gay people’s coming out experience based on their religious and socio-economic backgrounds.
Out previously interviewed Dr. Chris Donoghue, a general psychologist who specializes in individuals and couples sex, to dive deeper into the impact of these disparities.
“Factors such as religion, socio-economics, and race will all impact one’s confidence and security in coming out,” explained Dr. Donoghue. He added that for those part of homophobic communities, coming out provides liberation, but can also come with trauma due to the possible shame and stigma attached to their new LGBTQ+ identity.
We see this ring true in Omar’s coming out experience - the shame and stigma he felt from his father questioning forced him to deny his true sexuality to his family.
While Ander’s parents were much more open with his sexuality, they still insisted and expected he stay the course to become a tennis superstar, despite his wishes to quit the sport. Ander’s parents’ desire for him to continue to ride this wave to prominence opens up yet another conflict those from fluent and prominent backgrounds face when coming out.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist passionate about LGBTQ issues, explored this dilemma, sharing that “socioeconomic status presents issues [for coming out] especially when parents are prominent members of the community, known in their industry or even a public figure.”
Elite opens your eyes to how polarizing coming out is, affecting people differently based on who they are, where they are from, how much money they have, and what their – and their parents’ – beliefs are. It’s easy to see it as a common struggle the LGBTQ+ community is faced with, but in reality, no coming out experience is ever the same.
Netflix’s Elite is raw, emotional, sexual and highly entertaining. From the rich, rebellious heroine infected with HIV after an affair with a lunch lady’s son, to the polyamorous relationship that blurs the lines of sexuality, Elite is a treasure trove of addicting plotlines.
The eight-episode series will keep you Netflix and chilling in bed all day and wanting to book a flight to Spain to find some Spanish hotties.