This post contains spoilers from Season One of Elite and Season Two, Episode Two.
It’s been long enough. Elite’s second season debuted just about a month ago, after months of this publication stressing the importance of catching up before new episodes dropped. Netflix announced soon after that the show had already been renewed for a third season. Elite has already begun announcing new cast members for episodes that won’t see the light of day until 2020. But it’s time we talk about one of the OGs, an original cast member who had been coasting on the fringes but has increasingly careened to the show’s center. The one and only, our problematic, bisexual prince: Polo.
When we first meet Polo, he’s just one of the crew. Honestly, he’s a Guzman flackey who happens to be dating Carla. And there’s nothing wrong with either one of those things! But he pretty quickly piques interest when he convinces his girlfriend to hook up with the new kid at their school, Christian. Yes, you read that right: He gets his girlfriend to hook up with another dude and watches for his pleasure.
And here arises our first issue: Polo has a pretty significant problem with consent. It’s a problem that he has throughout his sexual relations on the show, and though we would like to stan the character as he begins to embrace his bisexuality, it is something that nags throughout the series.
During that first encounter, Christian didn’t consent to being watched in the cuckold-like fantasy. Later, things begin happening above board, and Carla, Polo, and Christian all have a few threesomes, seemingly righting the ship. This is made clear in the show’s fourth episode, in which the three of them all kiss one another (yes, including Polo and Christian) before running off into the night at a fancy gala.
But Polo becomes a little jealous and wants more of Christian for himself. To accomplish this, he tells Christian — who pretty unabashedly wants to become famous for doing nothing — that he can make him the cover of his mother’s fashion magazine (it’s worth noting here that Polo is the son of two wealthy, influential lesbian women). After the shoot, he essentially talks Christian into swapping blowjobs, with the cover option hanging heavy in the air. The fellatio happens, the cover does not. It eventually causes an irreparable rupture in our blossoming triad, as it should — Polo crossed a line!
Things quiet down a bit: Polo chases after Carla, who at this point is our domme top of the show, while Carla and Christian figure out if they are anything worth pursuing. And though we won’t reveal what happens with those plot lines in season two, let’s also address a certain sex scene.
In a slightly more murky illustration of lack of consent, Polo, Guzman, and Ander find themselves in bed with one another. No funny stuff here, just two childhood friends, helping out their other childhood friend who has had a little too much to drink. Well, that’s what it is... until it’s not.
With Guzman passed out next to them, Polo decides to be as forward as possible with Ander. He asks if Ander — who (spoiler!) is going through a rocky moment with Omar — ever found him attractive. And then he goads him into giving each other hand jobs.
“What about Guzman?” Ander asks of their best friend, passed out inches away. Polo shrugs and gets to the task at hand.
“You’re nuts,” Ander says, clearly giving in. “We both are.”
Nuts, yes. And sure, maybe hot for television, but to be clear, Guzman never consented to being a part of it. No, he didn’t touch anyone, and no, he didn’t have to see anything but this all occurred in his bed, inches away from him, while he slept. He very well could have woken up at any time. The fact that he didn’t wake up doesn’t make it any more OK.
It’s clear that Polo is still coming to terms with his attraction to men, and even more so how to navigate that attraction. And this may certainly explain why it all happens in spurts, with him using whatever tools he has available to him to obtain physical intimacy. However, it’s important to note that these acts toe the line of — and sometimes even cross — boundaries of consent that we shouldn't be applauding.
This isn’t a condemnation of Elite's writing staff, though. They have written quite beautiful and realistic portrayals of various experiences, particularly Ander and Omar as the pair navigate coming out and dating one another. Polo’s portrayal is also quite realistic; there are untold numbers of men who are bisexual, or identify as heterosexual, and find male intimacy through ways that flout ideas surrounding consent. There are surely gay men who do this as well. To portray that reality on screen is not inherently an issue, but it leaves it up to us, the audience, to unpack how consent is depicted.
So let's do that, in plain terms: there should always be a level of affirmative consent involved in any sexual act — and the idea that there's some reward for that act, like say a magazine cover, should never be a part of it.