Kind of: Big-Hearted Canadian Show Brings Diverse, Non-Binary Characters to the Front | Culture


In episode 1 of Sort Of, Sabi Mehboob, a non-binary Pakistani-Canadian millennial, sits in a chair facing their employers – a young couple whose two children are Sabi’s nannies.

Paul, the father, fumbles awkwardly in a speech designed to gently tug at Sabi, ending with the painfully uncomfortable statement, “You are so real. I’m glad our children were exposed to you.

Sabi responds in the characteristic impatience they deliver for the entirety of the seven-part series: “I’m glad I exposed myself to them.”

Sabi, played by Canadian actor Bilal Baig, is ‘So real’ – they’re forward-thinking, hip, smart, and compassionate in the way they approach their nanny duties, which are tested when the children’s mother has an accident and falls into a coma.

But while Sabi prides herself on being non-binary and queer within the wider community, she hides her identity from her mother, Raffo, who is Pakistani, Muslim and worried about the future of her children.

Seeing Sabi in full makeup and woman’s clothes pales in comparison, however, to discovering that they are a nanny.

“Are you this man’s servant?” Raffo asks in disbelief when she finds out, staring at Paul.

It’s this kind of nuance that makes Sort Of, created by Baig and Fab Fillipo, much more than a “simple” story about gender diversity, or sexual diversity, or cultural difference, or one of the niches into which it will be crammed by the television paradigm General public.

Instead of building a mundane drama about the conflict between Sabi’s Muslim and Pakistani heritage and their authentic selves, Sort Of creates a full cast of complex characters, none of which are limited to a simplified caricature of what they stand for.

Raffo lives apart from her husband, slowly unraveling in the wake of her middle-aged existence that is no longer centered on her children. She is torn between wanting to encourage Sabi to live her life authentically and wanting to shield them from their father’s wrath.

Sabi’s employer Paul is riddled with grief over his wife’s accident and confused about the role Sabi can play in her children’s lives. He is also empathetic, immature, and conflicted over how to parent.

Sabi’s best friend, 7ven, is wacky and fun and heads to Berlin for a gallery internship opportunity. But instead of fulfilling this millennial dream of becoming an adult in the “world’s strangest city”, 7ven is back in a few weeks, unable to fit in abroad and unwilling to overcome the discomfort of loneliness. .

‘Kind of creates a full cast of complex characters, none of which are limited to a simplified caricature of what they stand for. Photography: Stan

Sort Of is the type of television that many other shows are trying be, but never quite achieve. It’s significantly diverse and intersectional, with three-dimensional characters, hilarious dialogue, and a big heart.

And yet, despite its quality and impact, the show has received little media coverage since its release in Australia. This puzzles me, given the voracious appetite for other shows that explore intersectional themes around sex and gender, like Netflix’s sex education.

The cynic in me wonders if that’s because, unlike Sex Education, Sort Of doesn’t entrust its queer, non-binary, non-white characters to secondary roles, and instead focuses their experiences entirely. They are the tracks, and they should be.

Sort Of is a show that doesn’t stop at pushing the boundaries of gender and sexual diversity. It’s a show about love, life and death, and how the three can be more closely related than we realize. It’s about the mistakes we make when we’re young and how part of growing up is the inevitability of being disappointed with those we love. It’s about determining who we are and expecting empathy, inclusion and acceptance from our society.

When I previously wrote about shows that I love that feature culturally diverse leads, white friends confessed to me that they hadn’t considered watching them. They saw a brown runway and thought the show was not “for them”. Imagine if I did this every time I was looking for something to watch?

When television shows promote diversity, they risk being defined by it, to the detriment of their recognition on merit alone. Sort Of shouldn’t go unnoticed – because it’s important that these stories are told and heard, and even more importantly, we reach a critical mass of various TV shows until they no longer present themselves as an anomaly. .

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