Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Warning: Contains minor spoilers from Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms.
Julie and the Phantoms is a Netflix original musical comedy series about 16-year-old Julie Molina (Madison Reyes), who finds an old CD by a band called Sunset Curve and ends up releasing three former members of the band, now teenage ghosts, who died right before what was supposed to be a career-making performance 25 years prior. The show follows Julie’s return to music with the help of her newfound ghost friends.
The series, directed by Kenny Ortega, has an openly gay character named Alex, who is one of the ghosts that Julie befriends. Despite Alex being the first character in any of Ortega’s works to canonically be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, many characters from his other projects were heavily queercoded - the most notable, of course, being Ryan Evans from High School Musical.
Julie and the Phantoms is no different, and features a number of queercoded characters in its cast. Here are the top 5 most notably queercoded characters from the series.
Flynn (Jadah Marie) is Julie’s best friend and closest confidante; she is the first person that Julie thinks to go to when she meets the ghost boys. She provides Julie with vocal moral support throughout the show, and while we don’t learn anything about her personal life or outside motivations in the first season, she’s still lovable and a delightful character to watch.
Claiming that Flynn is queercoded is the biggest stretch on this list; there’s no concrete evidence or obvious subtext to say that yes, she is. The closest thing to real evidence is a line from “Flying Solo,” a poem that Julie writes about Flynn that her ghost band puts to music, that goes “You know who I’m liking way before I like them, duh, ‘cause you liked them first.” The use of the word “them” is interesting because it is gender-neutral, and could have easily been replaced by “him” to create a similar sound.
This, though, is a stretch; it’s more of a feeling that Flynn’s queercoded than anything. Plenty of my LGBTQ+ friends who have seen JATP agree that Flynn has major wlw (woman-loving-woman) energy, but we’ll have to wait for next season to see if there’s any substance behind the suspicions.
Willie, played by Booboo Stewart, is a friendly, skateboarding-obsessed, teenage ghost who Alex meets in Episode 3. He helps Alex - and, by extension, Luke and Reggie - adapt to being a ghost, and teaches him the ropes. Throughout the series, it’s made pretty clear that Alex and Willie harbor romantic feelings for each other, from the looks they share early on to how upset Willie is when he sees Alex dancing with another man later in the season. It’s about as obvious that Willie’s gay (or at the very least, not straight) as it was for Ryan from High School Musical. The only reason he’s on this list at all is because despite how obvious his feelings for Alex are, he hasn’t been confirmed to be LGBTQ+ by himself or any other characters in the show. While there is some chance that Ortega and the JATP writers may have been queerbaiting — that is, hinting at LGBTQ+ representation without delivering to attract a larger LGBTQ+ audience — and may do a complete 180 if the series is renewed for a second season, it seems unlikely.
Carrie Wilson (Savannah Lee May) is the stereotypical attention-seeking “mean girl” of Julie’s performing arts high school. Her perky and upbeat demeanor hides a distasteful snark, and she seems to have a particularly large bone to pick with Julie. She’s very similar to Sharpay Evans from High School Musical, another queercoded mean girl. Carrie is all about herself all the time, as the songs she sings with her band Dirty Candy (entitled “Wow” and “All Eyes On Me”) indicate.
This entitlement and hotter-than-thou attitude is likely caused by the pressures forced upon her due to having a famous father, but may also be enhanced by a sense of internalized homophobia and the need to seek out attention from men, which many wlw can relate to.
2. Caleb Covington
Caleb Covington (Cheyenne Jackson) is another ghost, introduced to Luke, Reggie, and Alex by Willie. He was a talented magician before he died, and spends his days in the afterlife entertaining lifers (what the ghosts call the living) and ghosts alike at the Hollywood Ghost Club. The queercoded villain trope is immense with this one. Caleb is handsome and charming, though sly and deceitful, and his fashion sense is dark and lavish. His favorite thing in the world is the big performances, like the one in episode 5, he puts on at the HGC. In episode 5, Caleb sings “The Other Side of Hollywood”, a song about how great it is to experience Hollywood’s ghostly other side, accompanied by a band and plenty of backup singers. While queercoding villains is definitely a no-no because it implies that LGBTQ+ individuals are evil, it’s not a detriment to Julie and the Phantoms, given that so many other characters are queercoded as well.
And coming in first place, the character who I feel is the most queercoded of them all: Reggie. Reggie (Jeremy Shada), one of the ghosts that Julie meets in the first episode, is sweet and enthusiastic. While he’s not the brightest, he’s happy to be able to play music again, and, like Flynn, is always there for his friends.
There are a few little scenes throughout the series that imply that Reggie may be into men as well as women, but the most obvious comes from episode 7. In the scene, Luke is trying to prove to Reggie and Alex that he doesn’t have a crush on Julie, and just has chemistry with everyone when he performs. Luke begins to sing, and gets closer-than-can-be-considered-friendly to Reggie’s face to prove his point. The shift in Reggie’s facial expression is evident, but not negative; he looks surprised and intrigued more than uncomfortable.
While some of the characters from Julie and the Phantoms are more obviously queercoded than others, that doesn’t change the fact that many of them are still queercoded. It’s unclear whether most of the queercoding will go anywhere if the series is renewed for a season two, but hopefully it won’t be written off or forgotten about.