Five TV Shows I Love That Promote Inclusivity and Compassion

Sumaya explores how TV shows have helped her learn more than just how not to have a social life

So – I recently had a debate with someone I know, who took issue with how frequently LGBT+ characters appear in the TV shows I watch. He had trouble comprehending the importance of everybody being represented normatively – for everyone to be offered company and comfort through inclusion. As a straight white dude (who btw, also thinks ‘racism doesn’t exist’ [???]), I can imagine he saw variations of LGBT+ people onscreen e.g. a black gay man, an Indian lesbian, a bisexual Latina, a white trans woman etc. and the explorations of their difference in hardships faced as a result of varying cultures, as just gay gay gay and more GAY.

Lowkey to spite him, here’s a list of some shows I feel encourage people to have an open mind and heart – to practice empathy outside of what’s relevant to their own experiences. Although there may seem to be a LGBT+ theme taking off here, the following shows give an insight to all sorts of perspectives that I personally feel have helped me broaden my own. I hope they can do the same for you.

Sense8

Still from Sense8 via Netflix

I consider Sense8 to be an incredibly important show (it’s also a wee bit confusing to begin with but super worth sticking with imo!). It follows eight individuals from around the globe who find themselves connected both mentally and physically. Despite coming from very different backgrounds and never having met one another, the group forms a beautiful bond, sharing in each other’s pain, happiness, and fear as if it was their own. I think this concept is vital in a world where people are becoming more and more desensitised to tragedies occurring globally and right under our noses. It’s easy to turn a blind eye, to segregate ourselves and adopt an attitude of ‘us and them,’ but in reality, we are all members of the human race, and we should be born equally. This show has really taught me that, sure, we all have roots and were watered by different ideals and disciplines, but it’s never an excuse for bigotry. We are still capable of so much compassion and love and should try to share in our humanity and grow together (lmao soz to whip out all the cheese so early in the game).

Grace & Frankie

C/o Netflix

Whist this series touches on LGBT+ issues, it predominantly focuses on what growing older encompasses and how that feels. From deterioration of health to loss of autonomy, this show takes you on a journey of character development that will have you falling in love with main characters, Frankie and Grace. Despite being rivals for as long as they can remember, the two find common ground when they come out of 40 year-long marriages at the same time. They form an unlikely friendship that will have you bouncing between tears of laughter and sadness as they bridge their worlds and explore new and different sides of themselves. The show also uses its platform to debunk stigma associated with old age and sexuality, breaking boundaries and stereotypes of what you can expect when you’re considered elderly in the process.

One Day at a Time

Still from One Day at a Time c/o Netflix

Okay so it was actually whilst making this list that I discovered this gem’s at risk of being cancelled if it doesn’t start generating enough views, so feel free to try tackle this one first! I’m not too sure if I’m just weak, but I’ve probably cried at more episodes of this show than I haven’t. It can be fairly extra sometimes, however everything is delivered in a way that you feel is okay because you’re beginning to invest in and relate with the characters. You also understand that any examples used within the series are very much within the realm of what many experience on the daily even if it seems far-fetched. It addresses an array of issues ranging from life post-war, the difficulties of single-parenting, struggles with addiction and substance abuse, racism as a Cuban family living in America, what it can be like to be a member of the LGBT+ community and also of Latin descent. It also works a lot towards destigmatising mental health in addition to discussion and shame surrounding female sexuality.

Sex Education

Sourced via Netflix

I think something that’s super refreshing about this one is seeing people of colour playing characters of actual substance. More often than not you’ll get that token black best friend whose character isn’t actually explored – they’re portrayed as more of an accessory to a white main character. However, I think it’s fair to say that this show has taken significant steps towards being more authentic in its inclusivity as opposed to simply trying to appear to have a diverse cast. These characters are genuinely vital to the plot and are given dimension through their own issues regarding sexuality, mental well-being and their personalities are actually existent and dissimilar. I think Eric’s journey in particular as a black, gay man is very important. His struggle with his sexual and cultural identity is an issue I’ve never really seen represented within TV but one that resonates with me being mixed-race and queer. Although titled ‘Sex Education,’ the show also focuses a lot on self-love and acceptance and how the two go hand-in-hand. Shockingly but not so shockingly, this show has done a better job than any sex ed class I’ve been forced to endure, covering same sex relations and both male and female masturbation, all the while attempting to eradicate stigma surrounding sex in general.

Atypical

Still from Atypical via Netflix

Atypical is a series centred around Sam, a high school student with autism. The narrative is mostly delivered through his perspective, offering insight into his thought processes and actions. Like most teens, Sam reaches a tipping point in his eagerness for independence. We’re then left rooting for him as he attempts to brave a world of firsts that he’s been made to feel he’s incapable of. By extension we’re also shown how those closest to him are affected by his condition, both in an educational and emotional capacity. This ranges from learning what can trigger anxiety attacks, to his family’s struggle with the transition of being needed from a large to smaller degree. With the exception of Sam’s mum, who I find inexplicably and unjustifiably annoying (lol soz Elsa), I’ve grown very fond of all the characters – their own personal hardships, relationships and humour (shout out to my gal Casey, Ily). I have little doubt in my mind that you would too.

And there you have it, folks! There are so many more shows I would’ve loved to have covered – perhaps some that aren’t as mainstream as the above titles – but these are the ones that popped into my head the quickest and made me feel the most. Happy binging!

What shows would be on your list? Let us know in the comments.