the voice and vision of a new generation
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How 'Rent' made my younger self believe in a better tomorrow

January 27, 2019

As Fox prepares to air a live, televised revival of Rent, it’s important to consider the show’s impact on the LGBTQ community. Throughout the United States, many LGBTQ individuals continue to struggle to find acceptance in their communities, accept their sexual or gender identity, and overcome isolation. The diverse and star-studded cast for the upcoming airing of Rent: Live will surely provide not only a night of fantastic entertainment but much-needed representation for many like it once did for me.

I remember it like it was yesterday: belting out the notes of Take Me or Leave Me in a church basement during my weekly voice lesson. After months of asking, my voice teacher finally let me perform the musical I had been listening to non-stop: Rent. Growing up in a small town and conservative family, the media I was permitted to see was limited. However, there was one loophole in my parents’ media restrictions: character research. As a theatre actor, I often had to research the characters I played, which is how, on a cold January day, I found the movie that changed my life.

In case Rent: Live on FOX is the first time you'll see a rendition of Rent, a quick recap is in order: The musical itself is a contemporary twist on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.” Set in New York City, Rent features six main characters struggling with poverty and discrimination. Yet despite their struggles, Rent is a story of hope. Developing this iconic musical for a mass television audience increases visibility for critical issues that still plague the LGBTQ community, offering a glimpse into recent queer history suddenly accessible to more young viewers than ever before. 

While attending a small religious high school, I did not know of any other openly LGBTQ+ students. Media that featured representation of queer characters was my only window to a more hopeful and accepting world--one that I dreamed of one day living in. During Rent's two hours and fifteen minutes, I was transported to a world where diversity was beautiful yet complicated. As an isolated student struggling to accept my sexual identity, I finally had characters I could relate to. Like the main characters fought through oppression, I was surrounded by homophobic sentiments in my hometown. More than anything, I found the hope that can only come from a promise of a better tomorrow. While the main protagonists faced adversity, they built a supportive community that offered love and acceptance. The idea of one day finding a community that loved as fiercely as this group of friends in Rent gave me the hope I so desperately needed to persevere through my increasingly hostile environment.

Community representation in media is of great importance, as younger generations turn to entertainment to find respite and relatable characters that face similar struggles. Further, Rent continues to push the boundaries of traditional media representation of the LGBTQ community by featuring multiple aspects of the community as a whole. It’s safe to say that you won’t want to miss Rent: Live, tonight, January 27, on FOX.

Kate Warner is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and junior at Point Loma Nazarene University studying psychology. Kate is excited to work within the intersection of religion and LGBT+ issues. She is especially passionate about working to make various religious orientations more accepting for those of the LGBT+ community as she serves on several social justice and ministry positions. 

the voice and vision of a new generation