The new non-binary character Lesley in the NPO youth series Spangas: The Campus, who does not identify himself as a boy or girl but as a different gender identity, gets a lot of attention on social media.
On a post by CCeit Stories with the actor behind the character, played by Thorn Roos de Vries, himself non-binary, there are negative reactions, which get a lot of likes. De Vries, screenwriter Diana Sno and director Raynor Arkenbout regret the fuss and sigh that there is still a long way to go in terms of acceptance.
De Vries calls the fuss “fierce”. “On the one hand, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me. I’ve been the center of online misunderstanding before, or ridiculed with memes. On the other hand, it’s never been on such a large scale before.”
De Vries finds it bizarre to see how much resistance there is among people who respond to social media. “This also shows why it is so important that we make non-binary people more visible in Spangas
CCeit Stories’ interview with De Vries has been watched almost half a million times in two days. The reactions were divided, but what the director of the series soon noticed was that the negative reactions got a lot of likes.
Director Arkenbout reacted to the fuss on his own Instagram account. “This means we still have a way to go to fraternize everyone in letting you choose how you want to identify.” Arkenbout thinks that it is precisely this form of identity that can contribute to a piece of liberation. “If Lesley’s character does something, it’s pave the way for everyone to be the way you want them to be.”
De Vries tries to focus mainly on the positive reactions. “This morning I received a message from a non-binary person of 11, who said that I had given them strength to come out of the closet in front of his class, and to show a fragment of Lesley in Spangas to explain it better. Then my heart melts.”
The dna of Spangas
The fuss is double, says Diana Sno, screenwriter of the series. On the one hand good, on the other hand painful. “It’s good that it’s talked about, that the subject is on the table. But it’s also painful, because it shows that we still have a long way to go to accept the principle that you just leave a human being in his worth.”
Under the post of CCeit Stories, Sno saw a reaction that made her laugh. “That person said he was happy to have grown up with the old Spangas. Ha-ha! Then he never took a good look at the ‘old series’, because this is what it’s always been like.” There have always been characters in the series that don’t belong to the norm, Sno says. “Lesley really belongs to the dna of Spangas for that matter.”
Sno invented the character Lesley, she says. She has a non-binary child of her own. “I saw how my own child was looking for people online who looked like them and the need to see yourself again,” Sno explains.
“If you can’t find yourself, in television series for example, you get the idea that you’re not worthy to be the centre of a story. I don’t want that for anyone. I want all young people to feel seen and represented. “In that light, Lesley was born.”
An important point in creating Lesley was the storyline around the character. Sno didn’t want it to be non-binary. “Lesley “is” ordinary. In the storyline, being non-binary doesn’t have to be central. Lesley is a lot, including non-binary, but I wanted to pay special attention to the character of Lesley.”
De Vries also finds this very important. “I think it’s important that children see that Lesley is a super cool person, and not ‘despite’ the fact that it’s non-binary, but maybe ‘because’.”
Tonight is the first episode of Spangas: The Campus at NPO Zapp.