With the holidays upon us, many of us will need an escape from awkward office parties, mall zombies and forced family “fun.” Binging a series or two on Netflix provides great decompression, but if you’ve already wolfed down Queer Eye, Queer as Folk, Sense8, Glee and Super Drags, the platform’s offerings of queer Netflix series may seem pretty slim. (And why are all of its LGBTQ films so dramatic?!)
But don’t despair. It turns out there are some queer Netflix series that may have flown under your radar — shows that are indubitably queer AF even though they aren’t necessarily marketed that way. Between gay bakers, pansexual warlocks, queer cartoon warriors, one vapid queen with money and an escandolo drag cabaret, these five queer Netflix series can cure your jonesing for a happy TV holiday.
Here are 5 queer Netflix series perfect for a holiday binge:
1. The Great British Baking Show
Even people who hate cooking and reality TV have been charmed by this understated baking competition (differently titled as The Great British Bake Off in its U.K. home), both because of its altogether-too-friendly contestants and its delicious challenges. But underneath the show’s culinary crust are a cadre of gay competitors in nearly all of its six seasons.
The earliest seasons of this understated queer Netflix series feature pun-tastic lesbian comedian Sue Perkins as a co-host, later replaced by the drier (but still delightful) lesbian comic Sandi Toksvig. The series’ gay competitors over the years have included Glenn Cosby, the bear from Season 2; Tamal Ray, the otter from Season 3; Andrew the ginger from Season 4; and two handsome gay contestants in Season 5, Steven Carter-Bailey and Tom Hetherington. Also, John the twink legal student pops up in The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings. There are even a few lesbians sprinkled in.
The show has never shied away from presenting its gay contestants as in relationships with their same-sex partners, though some contestants, like Tandoh and Ray, didn’t actually come out until after their seasons aired. You may find yourselves rooting for the gay and lesbian competitors as their creativity and grace rise in the oven, but be warned — not many of them make it to the finals.
2. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
While this supernatural teen drama was inspired by a magical Archie Comics spin-off from the 1970s, its modern TV adaptation is super queer in more modern ways. Not only is Sabrina ‘closeted’ about being a witch to her closest friends, but she has a genderqueer best friend who’s routinely tormented by their high school’s jocks. (Rest assured they eventually get their own homoerotic comeuppance.) Then there’s Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, who cruises a guy at their family funeral home and later hosts a pansexual orgy in the family attic.
But then the series goes even deeper via its criticism of organized religion. Granted, the witchy religion practiced in the queer Netflix series bears very little resemblance to real-world Satanism, but Sabrina repeatedly questions the expectations, rituals and social mores required by her faith community. Sabrina’s hometown of Greendale has a long and bloody history of treating witches as dangerous monsters, which has left deep wounds between the magic and mortal communities — sound familiar?
The best part of the show is watching Sabrina rise and fall as she challenges tradition and attempts to outsmart her jealous and otherwise scheming rivals. She’s talented, but her headstrong ambitions sometimes backfire, making her an enchanting (and more realistic) heroine than is seen on most shows.
3. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Back in the ’80s, She-Ra fought under He-Man’s shadow as his long lost twin sister, created solely to sell toys to girls. But she has since re-emerged in her own light with a series that, unlike her brother’s, makes its queer subtext rather explicit.
While defending the planet of Etheria from The Evil Horde army, viewers get a glimpse into societies largely dominated by female power — realms where racism, homophobia and misogyny no longer rule and women are quite capable of rescuing themselves, thankyouverymuch.
In this world, we meet Bow, the midriff-baring male archer who has two dads and a crush on the mustachioed pirate captain Sea Hawk; Netossa and Spinnerella, two warrior princesses who seem in love with one another; butch giant of a woman Scorpia, who fights for the bad guys (and was actually super-femme in the original series); and She-Ra’s ambiguously romantic rivalry with her best friend from childhood, Catra, a fierce feline who literally and figuratively dances in perpetual battle with She-Ra (and who famously sported a maroon tuxedo in Season 1’s two-part prom episode).
Best of all, this super queer Netflix series doesn’t shoehorn in all these characters’ sexual identities but allows them to rise organically from the action, making every conflict and dialogue truly dramatic. Yeah, it’s an animated series, but older fans are likely to be impressed with its subtle handling of queer romance.
4. Schitt’s Creek
When the wealthy Rose family loses their life savings to a sketchy business, they’re forced to relocate to Schitt’s Creek, a Podunk town they once purchased as a gag gift.
Though the series focuses on the misadventures of the four-member Rose family as they go from riches-to-rags amongst the town’s less affluent citizens, gay actor Dan Levy plays the family’s pansexual son, David, who officially comes out in the show’s second season.
Like his family, David starts off as vapid and self-absorbed. He’s overly stylish (or thinks he is) and has tons of animated facial expressions for showcasing his disgust for people.
But the show strikes the right balance of comedy and compassion, never resorting to homophobic jabs or cold caricatures. David’s family accepts his sexuality as he navigates relationships with Jake, a hunky polyamorous bisexual, and Patrick, a sweet apothecary owner with some internalized homophobia.
Considering how rarely pansexuality gets shown on TV, Schitt’s Creek really breaks new ground. And by placing David in the show’s larger story about a family struggle, it gradually orients viewers to its queer characters rather than sending them up the creek without a paddle.
5. La Casa de las Flores
This stylish Spanish-language telenovela dramedy (it translates to “The House of Flowers”) is probably the best show you’ve never heard of. It came out in August 2018 and has already been renewed for two more seasons.
The picture-perfect De La Mora family, owners of a successful florist business, quickly unravels when its patriarch’s secret mistress hangs herself in the family’s greenhouse. They soon find out that dad’s not the only one who’s been sleeping around — the secretly bisexual son has been having an affair with the family’s hunky financial advisor. Escandalo!
It also turns out that dad has been hiding his side business — a drag cabaret called La Casa de las Flores — and that an estranged member of the family has begun living as a trans woman.
The show, which is produced in Mexico, doesn’t shy away from the country’s casual racism and homophobia. The family’s matriarch, for example, hates her hubby’s secret drag cabaret. But her disapproval takes a backseat to the infinitely worse two-timing, backstabbing, financial scheming, lovechild-having, pot smoking and love making that occur in this delightfully modern telenovela.