Geek Girl Talk: Queer Representation in Roswell, New Mexico

Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. For our first installment, we’re unpacking queer representation in Roswell, New Mexico.

Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:

Teal (roman type!)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek

Hanna (italics, baby!)
Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever

[Spoiler disclaimer: If you’re not caught up, this post won’t be too spoiler-y, as we just talk about general interpersonal stuff between the characters. We might recommend watching the first episode, though!]

Queer people being queer!
[Image Description: Michael is holding Alex’s face between his hands. Their foreheads are touching and their eyes are closed. The whole scene is set in blueish lighting.] Source: Tumblr

While I’m not (yet) familiar with its source material, I do consider the original Roswell TV series to be an important piece of teen media—not to mention one that I specifically harbor a lot of fondness for. And so, the new CW adaptation, Roswell, New Mexico, is a series I’m both excited about and slightly skeptical of. That being said, I’ve found that this version does have a lot of things going for it. The characters are older by about a decade, the show addresses current social issues directly instead of relying solely on the ambiguous implications of the alien-human metaphor, and the blatant whitewashing of the original cast is being backtracked. In other words, there’s a lot to be hopeful about. If I’m being honest, though, what’s struck me the most about this retelling is what it’s doing in terms of queer representation, and with one of the alien protagonists, Michael, in specific. I won’t argue that it’s the most radical or robust depiction one could imagine, but something about the way they’re writing his bisexuality is affecting me personally and, by extension, shedding light on the way this particular facet of queer representation has been failing us even as popular media is beginning to do a better job of normalizing non-hetero characters and relationships overall.

The sad thing is that I probably wouldn’t have even started watching this show unless you’d told me about the queer representation and the way that this show is highlighting racism, immigration, and classism. But wow. I can’t say that this series has incredible acting or non-cheesy dialogue (an actual exchange between the central characters:“Your heart’s racing.” “It’s not racing because I’m scared of you.”), but what it does have is a pretty central, pretty satisfying queer storyline that is making me FEEL things. One of the first things I texted you, Teal, after I started watching the show was that every time Michael and Alex share a scene I audibly gasp. I’m a sucker for a good ship, but I never GASP at every scene. When they’re on screen, I’m basically giddy, and I think there are a few different reasons for that. But, just to backtrack for a moment, let’s get into the basic gist of Roswell, and Michael and Alex’s plotline in particular. Our main character, Liz Ortecho, left the small town of Roswell ten years ago following her sister’s tragic death in a car accident—an accident that left two other girls dead and might not be an accident at all… Since then, the Ortecho family has been targeted by the bigoted and bitter citizens of Roswell, who also happen to be alien-obsessed due to a rumored UFO crash decades ago. Now Liz is back in town, and trouble is a-brewin’! Along with Liz, we have Max, Isobel, and Michael, three alien siblings doing their best to live double lives as both a Nice Guy Sheriff, Preppy BDSM-Enthusiast, and Misanthropic Cowboy, respectively, and extraterrestrials with supernatural powers. The youngest alien sibling, Michael, has nursed a decade-long crush on his high-school-sweetheart-turned-decorated-war-vet, Alex (Caleb from Pretty Little Liars!). Suffice it to say, the two have C H E M I S T R Y. Teal, like I said, I have plenty of reasons for appreciating their dynamic, but what’s stood out to you?

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

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