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It Isn't Summer Without Skye

By: Olivia Scott

Skye in The Summer I Turned Pretty

Like most of America, you’ve likely been watching the second season of The Summer I Turned Pretty, the Amazon Prime Video series adaptation of Jenny Han’s book trilogy. As we’re all enthralled in this romanticized coastal bay dreamscape, filled with American-Eagle-esc actors, Land Rovers, beachside mansions, a Wasion girl’s central plot being her relationship to two white boys, and many, many Taylor Swift songs (fourteen!), we see that this series is peak escapement into an upper-class white fantasy, even with all of the heartbreak. That’s why we love it. But when Han writes in characters, particularly ones who interrupt this daydream, she and the actor are met with impressive backlash from such a loyal fan base. The new character of season two, Skye, is this quirky, awkward, unapologetically "lame" nonbinary cousin of the Fisher brothers who sets out to rebel against their mother and save the house, all while reconnecting with family and finding love.

Skye, played by Elsie Fisher, is a rare character in media who gets a storyline of "and is nonbinary" rather than "but is nonbinary." Their storyline, conflict, and characterization have little to do with their gender identity, allowing them to be as full of a character as their cis counterparts. Skye gets to have their own dynamic with each character, find their own love interest, and go through their own growth, all of which is neither hindered by nor hiding their gender expression. We see Skye, a neurotypically coded queer character who gently disrupts this American Eagle fantasy simply by entering it, as they work to solve the central conflict of the series and make heartfelt connections and storylines to the beloved central characters. They coincide with the plot, as Han made it clear in the series that Skye is not an "other" to the Conklin-Fisher core.

The fans disagreed. The Summer I Turned Pretty, is a show that idealizes the main character’s, Belly's, life after she became conventionally attractive and began to receive heaps of male attention, depicting her trials and tribulations, alongside exploring grief, friendship, and coming of age, has gained an impressive fan base composed of a similar demographic as its favorite artist, Taylor Swift. This demographic is composed of different young people in terms of queer allyship, ranging from those who are LGBTQIA+ to those who go as far as to make TikToks sending the actor Elsie Fisher death threats.

While the cast and Jenny Han have spoken out that this hate is neither warranted nor appropriate, as Elsie Fisher is just doing their job, and has restricted comments on select posts, the fact remains that there is a large portion of the fanbase that despises both Elsie Fisher and Skye on the superficial grounds of not fitting their beauty or gender expression standards. This is transphobia.

This blatant discrimination is painful for the transgender community and its allies, especially because it is not often that such a mainstream show that isn’t marketed as a queer show invites a trans actor to play a trans character within their fantasy. Skye had all of the components to be a beloved character to be made for the show—just as previous characters have been, such as Shayla Wang in season one—for Skye had the friendship with Belly and Taylor, the acceptance of the Fisher brothers, the love interest of Cam Cameron, and the heroism of being one of the main reasons the house was saved from being sold. But none of this mattered for some fans when the character was still trans and still not conventionally attractive. For some fans, their daydream was too far disturbed by Skye’s queerness.

But this narrative shouldn’t be so widely accepted. Skye should be celebrated. They gave us so many memorable moments, from pool kisses to apple bongs, allowing us to explore the fantasy of being our most carelessly cringe and expressionist selves and still getting everything we want, and truly, isn’t that what a summer fantasy is all about?

Written by intern Olivia Scott

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