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Abbott Elementary Creator Opens Up About How The Show Handled LGBTQ+ Character’s Storyline In A Fresh Way

Jacob confessing his students were roasting in Abbott Elementary
(Image credit: ABC)

Season 1 of Abbott Elementary was filled with plenty of notable moments, such as Janine’s big decision in the finale. Another one that surprised viewers, though, came in the eighth episode, during which Jacob revealed that he has a boyfriend. It's a development that adds a new layer to the history teacher and drew an enthusiastic reaction from his friend Janine. Ultimately, the plot point ended up being a nice change of pace from traditional LGBTQ+ storylines on the small screen. And series creator and star Quinta Brunson has opened up about how the show tackled the subject in a nuanced way.

For most viewers, finding out that Abbott’s resident awkward progressive is gay wasn’t a huge deal, compared to such storylines of yesteryear. It was subtle and authentic, which was exactly what Quinta Brunson was aiming for. The Abbott Elementary actress and producer revealed to The New York Times Magazine why the sixth-grade history teacher’s storyline was one of her proudest moments from Season 1:

But another thing I was proud of — that may not be internet humor but that I think is internet culture — was the episode when we found out one of our characters is gay. It was important to us to not make it a 'coming out' story. Instead, it was like Janine and Jacob are people who probably have grown up with queer or gay people in their life. They’re not going to have a coming-out discussion. It represented my generation in a way that I had yet to see on network TV. Just matter-of-fact and not a huge deal. I was proud of that.

As the star mentioned, Gen Xers and Millennials have a far different relationship with the LGBTQ+ community than some in past generations did, so it made sense for Abbott Elementary's storyline to play out the way it did. It happened naturally, with no fanfare. You have to give props to the show’s writers, who were in tune enough with today’s attitudes to capture that on screen.

There are definitely a number of notable tropes that have been present with "coming out" storylines over the years. Oftentimes, on TV shows, they fall into one of two camps: the tragic coming-out story filled with angst and torture or one that shows a character suddenly being defined by their sexuality. By going with neither, the comedy series ensured that Jacob would not come off as a caricature or plot device. And I should add that when his boyfriend, Zach, does appear in the following episode, it also feels natural. Hopefully, the ABC sitcom will explore more of their relationship when it returns for season 2 during the 2022-2023 television season. 

The comedy series has really been making an impact in varied ways. For instance, the alphabet network and Quinta Brunson came together to help real-life teachers by providing much-needed supplies. Considering the show's desire for true representation, its affection for its topic and its humor and heart, it's not hard to see why it’s one of TV’s best comedies

You can catch up on Abbott Elementary Season 1 by subscribing to Hulu, and check out the other shows that are premiering and returning this year by taking a look at CinemaBlend's 2022 TV schedule.

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).