Behind Her Eyes: A Social Commentary on Sexuality and Gender Identity
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
**Warning: Spoiler Alert**
On February 17th, 2021, Netflix provided the Coronavirus pandemic’s one year anniversary with a release of a new limited series Behind Her Eyes. Like a breath of fresh air, the Behind Her Eyes title became the #6 position on Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.S. Today list. Shortly after, it became #1.
Based off the New York Times’ best seller by Sarah Pinborough, Behind Her Eyes perfectly encompasses multifaceted components. From romance to thriller, deception to addiction, Pinborough’s story experimentally blurs the lines between real world elements and sci-fi imaginative fiction. But the most applauding aspect of Behind Her Eyes revolves around concepts familiar with the LGBTQ+ community.
SPOILER ALERT: The ending of Behind Her Eyes was like finding out your best friend—who you thought was straight—is actually gay.
Creatively, viewers come to find out that one of the leading characters, Adele Ferguson, is technically Adele’s best friend she met in rehab, Rob Hoyle. Through the course of the story, viewers come to learn that Adele and Rob share a unique ability in astral projection; the ability to have an out-of-body experience where one’s “soul” can travel outside of the physical body. And since Rob is a gay man who marvels at Adele’s fiancé, Dr. David Ferguson, astral projection provided Rob the duplicitous opportunity to inhabit Adele’s body, and then kill Adele (who is now in Rob’s body), for the opportunity to live Adele’s life. Inhabiting Adele’s physical body meant Rob would have an expendable amount of money, own an entire mansion estate as his home, oh, and to have David all to himself. I mean, herself. No, I got it right, himself.
Mind blown. Behind. Her. Eyes. The story was legitimately playing in front of viewers’ eyes the entire time.
Even though the story throws the viewer through a loop with the aspect of astral projection, Pinborough creates groundbreaking foundation bridging the gap between sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is a common misconception that gender identity is associated with sexual orientation. One may think that a trans individual is actually a cis-gendered gay person. For example, someone assigned male at birth that identifies as a woman may be misunderstood as a gay man. Contrariwise, there may be the misconception that a gay individual is actually transgender. In this case, it’s believing a gay man with feminine traits may be a trans woman.
Wrong. All Wrong.
Pinborough perfectly bridges the gap in the misconceptions between sexual orientation and gender identity when viewers realize that Adele is actually Rob. Yes, Rob is a gay man that is in love with Adele’s fiancé, David. Duh, he’s gay. Plus, how couldn’t viewers fall head-over-heels for David’s big brown eyes. But it’s Rob’s deep adoration for David that triggers him to switch bodies with Adele while astral projecting—not because he identifies as a woman. Much of the misunderstanding in the trans community comes down to how the gender they were assigned at birth based on their biology and sex characteristics does not align with their actual gender identity. How creative it was for Pinborough to create the ultimate paradox of placing a cis-gendered gay man, Rob, in a body of a woman. If Pinborough and Netflix continue the series and graces their patrons with another amazing season, they should feature a storyline on how Rob copes with identifying as a cis-gendered man living in a woman’s body.
But I think the most admirable aspect of Behind Her Eyes was how Pinborough encompasses human sexuality at its core. During past flashbacks on Adele and David’s early relationship, viewers can feel the magnetic energy they both share for each other. Granted many of the flashbacks in time are with Adele and Rob in rehab, so maybe they’re an extension of the proverb “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” But whatever the case may be, Adele and David are truly in love—a story that would make William Shakespeare weep—that not only has viewers watching in awe, but also Rob.
However, the romance between David and Adele starts to shift. The physical chemistry they once shared—their deep spiritual connection—tanks. Throughout the series, Adele (aka, Rob) frequently tells David, “I love you.” To which David never replies or has a difficult time uttering the three-word phrase of endearment. Through the story, David mentions that Adele hasn’t been the same and points out there’s a difference in her laughter. And the icing on the top is David’s lack of interest in having sex with Adele.
Obviously, as I have mentioned, it isn’t until the final episode when viewers come to realize that Adele is actually Rob the entire time. And through six episodes, the concept of sexuality is implicitly explained. By watching David engage in sexual acts with both Adele and his secretary, Louise Barnsley, but no other characters, it may be safe to assume David is a man that identifies as being straight. Thus, when David is unenthusiastic while engaging in physical activity with Adele, or when he is unable to respond to her words of affection, it’s because he’s actually interacting with Rob. After realizing and chuckling about David technically having sex with a gay man, I realized that Pinborough touched on the true nature of attraction. While David may have been initially attracted to Adele’s soft features, breasts, hips that could bear children—whatever scientific articles say attracts a straight male—it was Adele’s essence that attracted David. These portrayals Pinborough creates hints to a boarder concept of human sexuality and attraction. Yes, the story is indeed about love, but it's about what’s behind one’s eyes that attracts a mate rather than one’s physical appearance.
Bravo, Netflix. Standing ovation, Pinborough. We’re all looking forward to a new season coming soon (wink, wink).
Originally published with Applied Worldwide