Without giving too much away about Cruel Summer’s twisting and turning first season finale, in the episode, it becomes clear that the character Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) is queer. In an interview with GLAAD’s Anthony Ramos, Smith shared that as she is bisexual, she definitely relates to parts of Mallory’s journey.
“I absolutely identify with her. She never really comes out to anybody, but it has always been clear to me. Even before I had discussions with the showrunner in the beginning, I always knew that Mallory was absolutely queer. Such a big part of her identity is her queerness,” Smith said.
“I identify with that completely. I am bisexual and I didn't really come out to anybody when I was in school either, and I went to an all-girls school. So it wasn’t like I was the only one. I just never really came out to people and not necessarily because I was scared or nervous to because you shouldn’t be. I just, for some reason, never felt the need to tell people.”
“It was never something I was ever really inclined to do. I don’t think I’ve ever said it directly to my parents [her dad is the director Kevin Smith of Clerks and Chasing Amy fame] and knew I was bi from a super young age. And Mallory, the same for her, she has definitely known she is queer for a very long time,” she added.
The series, which was picked up for a second season earlier this week, weaves between the same months in 1993, '94, and '95 and features a mystery around the disappearance of popular teen Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), who was groomed for a while and then held captive by the school’s new vice-principal Martin Harris (Blake Lee). In 1993, Mallory is best friends with the sweet, geeky Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia), who would later be accused of knowing where Kate was being held and failing to report it. By 1995, Jeanette has transformed from a lovable nerd to a mean girl to a recluse and a rebel, while Mallory grows close to Kate, who’s coping with trauma and the rumors about her disappearance.
The affirmation of her identity that Mallory makes in the season finale is just one queer element in the show. Earlier in the season, Jenette and Mallory’s friend Vince (Allius Barnes) explores a relationship with popular kid Ben (Nathaniel Ashton). There’s a sweet scene in which Vince and Ben visit a gay bar on the outskirts of their Texas town where they can show their affection for one another.
“It makes me so happy that the LGBTQ community is so represented in our show. Not just by one character but by multiple characters, which I feel like shows or films are sometimes like, Oh, OK, there’s one queer person. That counts. Check,” Smith said.
“But with this, it’s a more realistic look into what a teenage life would be. No. There’s not just one queer person, there are many queer people. And maybe not all of those people are out, and the hope is everybody would feel comfortable to come out and feel safe. Obviously, that’s the most idealistic scenario, but that’s not the case all the time.”
In the interview, Smith discusses the value of visibility and representation in pop culture and seeing queer characters impacted her.
"I was watching Best in Show when I was like 10 or younger. and I don't even remember what female characters kiss and I remember being like 'Umm, what's that? I think I like that!' And then a few years later when I was watching Pretty Little Liars I was like 'this makes sense!' Seeing gay relationships in film and TV is just so important because a lot of young people will have those moments where they say 'Oh, I think I like that!'"
Watch the interview below and catch up with Cruel Summer on Freeform.