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That groundbreaking First Kill character who no one's talking about

He's a game changer.

First Kill spoilers follow.

Viewers have had some strong opinions about the teen drama First Kill since its debut.

If you've been keeping a watchful eye on the social media debate you will have been privy to some heated discussions floating around the Twittersphere.

There are hardcore shippers of the gory vamp show. Some just can't get enough of its camp nature, while others… well let's just say they aren't so enamoured.

Whichever side of the battlefield you've pledged your allegiance to, nobody could possibly deny that when it comes to representation, First Kill hits the mark on almost every point.

A lesbian love story between two strong female leads is every queer girl's dream. Not to mention Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) and Calliope (Imani Lewis) embark on what is possibly the most biracial relationship on television at the moment.

sarah catherine hook,  imani lewis, first kill

We may be wrong but it would be pretty hard to top a Black human dating a white vampire.

The fact that the show's structure is built on a foundation of confident, female characters in positions of power is also commendable. Women who – in a supernatural drama about monsters terrorising the community – don't need saving.

It is also extremely pleasing to see a strong Black family unit have such prominence in a mainstream show that isn't inherently about Blackness.

With so much goodness baked into its formula it's understandably easy for a character like Ben Wheeler (Jonas Dylan Allen) to slip through the cracks unnoticed.

For one, he's not the lead. To all intents and purposes he's 'just the best friend,' there to pad out Juliette's world and give her a more colourful narrative – but he is so much more than that.

His character is symptomatic of the positive changes that are slowly being made in television.

jonas dylan allen, annunziata gianzero, first kill

As our titular character Juliette admits, "Ben Wheeler is the kind of boy you fall in love with." (Guilty.)

"He's the cool kid. The star athlete who gets invited to all the parties," she says, while she –to continue to quote her – is just "popular by association."

Ergo to be in his mere presence is to feel the glow of high-school success.

A mere two decades ago the fact that Ben is Black and openly gay would have relegated him to the bottom of rung of the social ladder. A side character to the side character, continually trodden on so that he should remain in his lowly place.

Back then the cool kids running the school were undeniably the polar opposites of Ben.

Straight, white teens with a stereotypical masculine energy that threatened to out-mano your mano. Not someone who would have owned a Taylor Swift blanket with pride.

one tree hill
Warner Bros. Television

They were the Lucas and Nathan Scotts of One Tree Hill, the Nate Archibalds of Gossip Girl and the Luke Wards of The OC. (Seriously, what is with the names?)

Sure being Black and athletic would give you a temporary ticket to buy your way past the popularity barrier, one that needed to be regularly stubbed with every winning game to ensure that you were still worthy of your place.

However the merest whiff of a homosexual thought and that ticket would be as useful as Monopoly money at a casino.

Then there's Ben Wheeler. Popular Ben Wheeler. A symbol of what popularity looks (or could look) like in today's society.

jonas dylan allen, first kill

Make no mistake though, Ben's identity is not defined by his sexuality or race, rather those aspects of his character don't appear to impede his ability to feel wholesome and confident.

His self-assurance is through the roof. So much so that when his crush, Noah (Roberto Méndez), tries to belittle the intimacy they've shared out of fear and confusion over his own sexual orientation, Ben shuts it down.

He refuses to be dragged back into the closet by allowing their secret hook-ups to continue or be mistreated because of someone else's shame.

When he gives his "Maybe life gets better for you but won't get better than me," speech he does so without a stutter or a wavering blink of the eye. His character stands tall in a scene that a few decades ago would have looked a lot different, resulting in a smaller version of the Ben we know.

In that moment Ben does one of the hardest, most badass things a teen can do. He sacrifices his feelings for his self respect. A mature move when intense hormones can tempt you to lead with the heart.

His is a character we have been waiting literally decades for.

jonas dylan allen, first kill

We cannot take for granted that a character like Ben wouldn't have struggled in the early 00's. His just being himself would have made it difficult for him to fit into the high-school structure, let alone thrive in it.

That's not to say that his character hasn't experienced his own level of bullying and insecurity (honestly we don't get much of a backstory where he is concerned).

However the fact that he exists with the high position he holds in the school structure is aspirational for teens feeling uncomfortable in their own skin.

It's a nudge in the right direction to be more yourself and demonstrates that popularity isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of gig. You don't need to spanx your way through life, squeezing all parts of yourself inside. Ben gives teens the permission (they don't need) to be themselves and we're here for it.

All episodes of First Kill are available to watch now on Netflix.

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