10:00 am EST, February 15, 2020

Ginger Lopez didn’t need to be genderbent on ‘Katy Keene’

So many things Katy Keene could have done with Ginger Lopez...

The CW’s Katy Keene took a Latina-American girl from the many Archie comics, Ginger Lopez, and genderbent the character to fit their mold of Jorge, who uses the name Ginger as his drag identity.

Katy Keene, a Riverdale spin off, premiered last Thursday, February 6, on The CW (read our review of the pilot episode) and introduced three new characters, and one returning, as what I have deemed — the Katy crew. Here we have Lucy Hale’s titular Katy Keene, Riverdale‘s Ashleigh Murray returning as Josie McCoy, Julia Chan as Pepper Smith, and Johnny Beauchamp as Jorge Lopez.

Jorge Lopez is a genderbent take on the Latina-American Archie comics character Ginger Lopez; a gay man who performs in drag at a bar in New York City as the infamous drag queen, Ginger Lopez.

Ginger Lopez

Did they forget Ginger Lopez was on ‘Riverdale’?

I mean, perhaps part of the reason they chose to make Ginger into Jorge was because during Riverdale season 1, they already had a character named Ginger Lopez, played by Caitlin Mitchell-Markovich. Ginger was one of Cheryl’s two best friends on the Vixens with her during Riverdale season 1 — along with Tina Patel — and disappeared forever after episode 10.

It’s possible that they remembered this and created Jorge to keep up continuity, but highly doubtful. I mean, they’ve had cast members on Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina playing different characters, like the actor who recently played Robin on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part 3. It wouldn’t be that surprising had they recast Ginger with someone else to make this an all-girl group.

Throws off the dynamic

Part of the allure of this type of show is the all-girl group, like on Pretty Little Liars or The Bold Type, as young women discovering themselves in the world and finding their place. As we saw on Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists and now on Katy Keene, inserting a gay man into this dynamic just doesn’t work as well (because writers haven’t really figured out how to make the dynamic work on television yet, even though it’s so common in the world).

One of the biggest issues with Jorge on Katy Keene is his entitlement. For instance, as discussed in my review, Jorge felt entitled to show up to an audition for the second time, dressed in drag as Ginger, in an attempt to steal a role from a cis or trans woman, following being turned away for being “too” gay for a role as himself. If he didn’t identify as a man, that would have been another conversation, but he does.

He’s the embodiment of male privilege and acts like he’s not, but his entitlement isn’t addressed. On Katy Keene season 1, episode 2, his male privilege is shown by the fact that as soon as he took off his makeup and “toned it down,” he got the lead role in an off-Broadway musical. That’s not something any woman could do, meaning, obviously, that the women of the group don’t experience this same type of privilege. But treating Jorge as just “one of the girls,” when he’s taking part in such behavior, doesn’t work.

He doesn’t face the same tribulations as women do, yet acts like he does. He victimizes himself because he dresses in drag, but then easily benefits from male privilege the next day. Jorge acts as though he’s a transgender woman, but he isn’t, nor does he face the same oppression as any woman does, especially transgender women. (And then, his privilege and entitlement isn’t addressed, and he goes on acting exactly the same way. It’s honestly ridiculous how much Jorge has gotten away with without a reality check. Episode 3 is even worse in some ways.)

Additionally, as much as it would be nice to see this type of realistic friendship on-screen, writers literally don’t know how to write gay men into a girl group without turning them into the “gay best friend” trope. Look at Kevin on Riverdale, for example. Can we be surprised that Jorge is being written this way when Kevin is literally the personification of the trope?

I wish that instead of making Ginger into a gay man, they made the character a transgender woman. Gay men are represented the most on-screen out of the LGBT community, and while all representation is important, there’s a lot of path left to pave. Katy Keene could have contributed to making that progress, but instead, took the easy route. It’s disappointing, but not surprising. I hope Jorge grows and becomes a character I can enjoy watching, but after watching the first three episodes, I can tell you, that’s not the case.

Katy Keene continues Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW!

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