Jun 26, 2015

Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide

Nickelodeon may be somewhat less beefcake-heavy than the Disney Channel, but it makes up for it with lots of gay subtexts.  ICarly, Zoey 101,  Drake and Josh, and today's Marvin Marvin and Supah Ninjas are particularly strong in the subtext department.  Unfabulous, not so much.

But the all-time winner is Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide (2004-2007, and still airing in reruns), about a boy (Devon Werkheiser) who offers tips for surviving middle school.

1. Inclusivity. Ned regularly advises his viewers, “When you like someone,” not “When a boy likes a girl,” and a school dance is depicted full of groups and trios rather than boy-girl couples.

When a Life Studies class requires students to pair up as "parents," two boys are paired along with the boy-girl couples.

 An episode about puberty discusses hair in weird places and sudden fits of rage, but not "discovering the opposite sex."

2. Same sex couples. The bully Loomer (Kyle Swann) and his sidekick Crony (Teo Olivares, who would later star in the gay-themed Geography Club) hang on each other in a manner that would elsewhere signify romantic attachment, and high-five each other obsessively, for any reason and for no reason at all except that it allows them to momentarily clasp hands.

In one episode, Crony struggles to “come out” to the other students about his gender-transgressive interest in fashion design, a veiled metaphor for coming out as gay; he is particularly apprehensive about telling Loomer, for fear that the revelation might destroy their friendship.

3. Same-Sex Dating. Jennifer (Lindsey Shaw) has a crush on school hunk Seth (Alex Black), and begs her buddy Ned to ask him out for her. Seth believes that Ned wants the date, and replies “Sure, but just as friends. I like you, Ned, but not in that way.” The statement rather boldly implies that being gay is unremarkable at Polk Middle School; Seth could only misinterpret Ned’s intent if he knows about same-sex dating, and respond so nonchalantly if there is no stigma attached to it.

Seth eventually agrees to a date with Jennifer, but he expects to keep the "date" with Ned, too.  He spends the rest of the day grinning at him, hugging him, accidentally sabotaging his own attempt to date a girl.

 In the last scene he tells Ned, “I’ll pick you up around seven tonight. We’ll catch a flick and get a corn dog.” Ned starts to protest, but when Jennifer assures him that she doesn’t mind, he shrugs and acquiesces: a date is a date. The scene fades with the three friends walking away, Seth trying to put his arm around a squirming Ned.

4. Same-sex Romance. When Ned tries to cheer up a depressed boy, Marc Downer (Ronald Patrick), he reasons that “opposites attract," and introduces him to the cheerful Martin Qwerly (Tylor Chase). Names often describe character personalities on Ned’s Declassified, so one cannot help but suspect the name “Qwerly.”

They fail to hit it off, so Ned tries again, this time with a Goth girl. The two “downers” fall in love instantly and walk away, happily discussing the meaninglessness of life. Although a heterosexual relationship was effective, Ned tried matching Downer with a boy first, and obviously considers same-sex relationships equally valid.

5. Acceptance of gender diversity. Girls are good at shop class; boys study fashion design.  When Loomer beats up a boy in drag, he is careful to explain that the drag is not the reason.
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