film / tv / substack / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / substack / web / celeb

let-them-play-trans-quantum.jpg

A Note About Last Week's Trans-Focused Episode of 'Quantum Leap'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 13, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 13, 2023 |


let-them-play-trans-quantum.jpg

I am a week late on this, but it’s nevertheless worth mentioning in light of, most recently, the murder of Brianna Ghey, a trans-16-year-old girl popular on TikTok. In last week’s episode of Quantum Leap, Ben leaped into the body of the coach of a girls’ high-school basketball team. When their star player walked off the floor with an injury, Ben quickly subbed in Gia (Josielyn Aguilera) who made an immediate contribution.

What Ben didn’t realize when he put Gia in, was that she was not only trans but his daughter. The substitution set off an immediate controversy between those like Ben who thought Gia should play, the bigots (like the Principal) who disagreed, and those like Gia’s own mother who wanted to remain quiet and hope it would all go away. In the original timeline, this controversy led to Gia’s decision to run away (it was later discovered that she had died). In Ben’s newly created timeline, however, Ben put Gia into the next game, she helped the team win, her teammates embraced her, and some of the townspeople rallied behind her. Ian Wright — a nonbinary character in the control room played by Mason Alexander Park — even got to watch the game as a hologram.

The episode, written by Shakina (a trans actress and activist who also directed and played Dottie in the episode), was not great television, exactly. It was predictable and cheesy in the way Quantum Leap episodes can often be. But it’s almost impossible not to be warmed by it — it is a sweet and sometimes powerful underdog story.

The episode, “Let Them Play,” is also not going to change the world, but I thought it was remarkable all the same that not just a trans story but a trans athlete story was being told during primetime on a popular reboot of a popular series on a broadcast network supported by corporate advertisers. This was Quantum Leap not only trying to educate viewers in middle America but also telling transphobes to f**k off. It may not win any Emmy awards, but it nevertheless felt like a small victory and reason enough to applaud NBC for providing the primetime platform for a trans activist to center a story about a trans character played by a trans actress. These are the stories we not only need to tell but the place where stories like these need to be told.