“I came to terms with that earlier this year and dealt with it,” the 29-year-old told Roberts. “The next step in all of this was sort of letting people know. “ The new Netflix show Colton Exit documents precisely that. In the six-part series, a film crew films Underwood as he confides in his parents, brother, coaches, teammates and friends about his sexuality.
But harassment and stalking allegations followed Underwood following his break-up from girlfriend Cassie Randolph.
And the show’s format – in which Underwood speaks to loved ones for the first time, with eerie cliffhangers – has prompted questions about its value to the LGBTQ community.
Ex-girlfriend filed restraining order
For Underwood, growing up in a small town in Illinois as a soccer star made it hard to imagine anything beyond traditional notions of masculinity. Homophobic jokes and slurs were allowed by his coaches in the locker room, he said.
In Colton Exit, this conservative upbringing adds to the element of surprise: if an episode ends with Underwood just talking to a loved one about his sexuality, the viewer should watch the next episode to find out how he reacts, knowing that it doesn’t. may not be an answer.
While gadgets are an integral part of any reality TV show, monetizing one’s identity is something that many public figures with marginalized identities have to struggle with, said Mel Woods, Vancouver-based cultural writer and editor of Xtra magazine. .
“We often have to struggle with this idea of saying, for example, ‘I want to be visible and I want to put myself and my identity forward. But I also make money because of who I am deep inside, ”Woods said. .
But the story of Underwood has another dimension that has left a bad taste in the mouths of Bachelor Fans. In September 2020, Randolph, the winning candidate of the season from Underwood The single person in 2019 – filed an injunction against him, alleging harassment and criminal harassment. The claims included an incident in which Underwood allegedly installed a tracking device on Randolph’s car. She dropped the restraining order two months later.
WATCH | Colton Underwood stars in Colton Exit on Netflix:
While reality TV can make interpersonal relationships complicated and messy, “just because you’re being gay doesn’t mean you’re exempt from all of this,” Woods said.
Indeed, some fans of The single person were appalled to learn that Underwood would have its own Netflix show. A change.org petition required that Netflix not to air the series to protest the actions of Underwood.
In a review of the series on The Daily Beast website, one writer felt that it is “impossible to shake the impression that this is all part of a larger advertising campaign designed to relegate what happened. with Randolph in the past and protect Underwood’s place in the spotlight. “
Underwood vaguely refers to these incidents during the Netflix show, admitting that he cannot address the situation directly for legal reasons. He says he clung to his relationship with Randolph, believing it could “make” him straight. According to Variety magazine, Randolph refused to appear on the show.
“A certain privilege”
Much of Underwood’s struggle with his sexuality stems from his background as a professional athlete and fear of being portrayed as gay among unwelcoming teammates and coaches. He reveals on the show that he tried to kill himself before going out.
“I really want to be accepted by the people who were part of my sporting community and my sporting life… [It’s] not that it means more, but it kind of gives me more confidence and validation when an NFL player and one of my former teammates say, “It doesn’t make a difference, I still love you, man” ” , Underwood said.
The story of Underwood is a disheartening one. But show like Colton Exit also demonstrate that the process of revealing one’s sexuality to those close to them is not equal for everyone.
“There is a certain privilege [in] be able to prepare everything for you, ”said Woods. “For a lot of people, going out isn’t like that… it’s not as easy as it looks on shows like this. “
The series incorporates the experiences of other openly gay professional athletes. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy acts as a sort of mentor for Underwood – offering useful bits of knowledge (Kenworthy explains to Underwood what ‘cisgender’ means in the opening episode) and trying to instill in Underwood a sense of l LGBTQ story. A trip to New York’s famous Stonewall Inn is included.
“The way he learns about gay culture makes him feel [he is a] straight viewer of queer culture, ”said Woods. “And I think that’s because the show is positioned so that the audience is this straight spectator of queer culture.
“The more queer stories we have in the media and around the world, the more varied our portrayal of the queer community. “