Welcome to day 13 of our 2019 Pride Month Series! Every day for the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community, including fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Today’s spotlight is on Sergeant Alex Manes, who first graced our screens in January 2019 as part of the new series on The CW, Roswell, New Mexico. Alex Manes is an intelligent, tenacious character who has just returned from his third military tour in Iran where he was wounded (for which he receives a Purple Heart), when audiences meet him.
He is introduced through the eyes of main character (and alien) Michael Guerin. There is clear tension between the two, but it’s not until they butt heads at their ten-year high school reunion that we get the full picture. After a tense moment, the two share a passionate on-screen kiss, and their history becomes instantly clear – they are ex- (or possibly not so ex) lovers.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Alex identified early in life as gay, and faced a lot of prejudice living in the small town of Roswell. He was bullied at school, and had a horrible home life. Alex’s father, Master Sergeant Jesse Manes, was “a homophobic, abusive dick,” as Alex puts it, when he was growing up. It only takes Alex’s first on screen interaction with his father to know, though Jesse’s opinions have not changed, Alex has.
Now an adult, Alex repeatedly confronts his father’s homophobic views resulting in some serious on screen tension. Alex’s outward self-confidence and inner struggles are a large part of what makes him such an amazing, complex character. As an adult, Alex refuses to allow his father to intimidate or bully him, but he still has a lot of internal conflict with his identity and his relationship with Michael.
Their on-again-off-again relationship is dramatic and messy and full of a history that is slowly revealed to viewers throughout season one. Tyler Blackburn, who portrays Alex on screen, spoke about the complicated relationship in an interview: “I think it’s really great that the writers have really chosen for this relationship to be so passionate because it’s not that common to see, especially in mainstream television, to see LGBTQ characters just depicted so human and raw and real.”
Blackburn himself recently came out as bisexual and revealed to The Advocate what it was like when he discovered Alex Manes. “I knew this guy in and out,” said Blackburn. “I understood feeling oppressed. I understood having issues with my father [wanting to feel] accepted by him. I understood wanting something but being afraid to have it. I understood self-doubt.”
Show creator Carina Adly MacKenzie has also addressed the topic of Alex, Michael, and the importance of LGBTQ representation in her vision for Roswell:
The Alex and Michael relationship is really important to me, because I feel a big responsibility to viewers to sort of make them feel safe. I know that LGBT audiences have felt burned a lot in the past, by the whole “bury your gays” trope. I wanted to tell a story that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending — I can’t make any promises — but that certainly avoids stepping into tropes. Their relationship is very fraught, and it’s going to be a really long journey for the two of them.
MacKenzie also wanted to explore what a gay relationship was like in a rural setting where a those relationships face hatred:
It also felt like a good opportunity to explore having a gay relationship in a part of the country that’s not New York or L.A. A part of the country where you’re still facing very real and very loud hatred. That sort of small town, country, cowboy mentality was incongruous with the life that Alex planned on living, and that’s the story that we’re telling — a guy who fell into conforming to what he thought he was supposed to be, and can’t sustain that because it’s not his truth.
The action-packed season finale left many wondering what is in store for Alex. But luckily Roswell, New Mexico was renewed for a second season.
Alex Manes is the kind of representation needed on today’s television. His complexity is a testament to the show, the creators, the writers, and the actors’ dedication to giving viewers more, and better, LGBTQ representation.