7de Laan’s First Big Gay Storyline is Worth the Wait

For years many 7de Laan viewers, especially on Twitter, complained about 7de Laan’s lack of a gay storyline. There’ve been a few gay characters like Jerome and a few others who passed through Hillside with just a hint of their sexuality and a kiss between a random gay couple once. Of course, there was the bizarre nonsense storyline with Emile pretending to be a woman to trick Willem into a relationship. But the story with Shawn Basson (Deànré Reiners) and Llewellyn (Liaan Ferreira) is the first big gay storyline on 7de Laan and it’s well worth the wait because it’s brilliant.

The funny thing is that Shawn was such a dull nothing character until his secret love for Llewellyn was revealed. I think the story was enhanced with COVID-19 and socially distancing, so we didn’t have to live through awkward love scenes. Instead, we got old-school soapie angst and longing. Social distancing definitely did soapies a favour by reducing gratuitous love-making and kissing scenes. The best on-screen moment between Llewellyn and Shawn was when Llewellyn was dying and Shawn laid next to him, and they just spoke. You could tell how confused and hurt Llewellyn was that Shawn couldn’t/wouldn’t reciprocate his love, and how tired he was of living a lie. Shawn, meanwhile, was just afraid of his father and didn’t want to hurt Lana, but couldn’t stop loving Llewellyn either. You could tell that the loss was even bigger than Shawn imagined it could be.

But what took this first real main gay storyline to another level was De Wet Basson’s reaction to his son being gay. We found out that De Wet was homophobic and nearly killed Shawn for coming out as gay. And he pretty much wrote Shawn off until Shawn showed up in Hillside with the lovely Lana as his wife. Then Shawn was sort of deserving of De Wet’s love. And here the 7de Laan writers did not back off. They told the truth about what many gay people who come out in South Africa and around the world have to deal with. Homophobic parent/s, especially fathers, who reject their gay children.

In this past week’s episodes after Lana admitted to almost reading Shawn’s diary, it brought memories of Llewellyn again. We found out that Shawn had been counting the months and days, three months and 25 days, since the death of the love of his life and he carried a photo of Llewellyn and his abs. And the longing made Shawn seek out another man on a gay dating app. That man turned out to be Emile. But even though it went no further than a date, Lana found the app on Shawn’s phone and freaked out and admitted it to her father-in-law. Even full-well knowing the history between De Wet and Shawn.

Now, Lana is another story. That woman is in total denial. Erika, Shawn’s mother, as well as his sister Nikki told her that Shawn is gay. And yet she stays. Even though Shawn says he loves her, and it’s been implied and Emile mentioned that Shawn was bisexual, it doesn’t seem that that would be acceptable to Lana either. So I don’t know why she keeps coming back for more Shawn.

Still the most shocking scene this week was Friday’s confrontation between De Wet and Shawn which seems to be the final straw in this storyline. There’s no turning back for Lana, Shawn, or De Wet. De Wet spewed his horrible homophobia bile while Shawn cowered on the floor. It was sickening and sad that a parent would deny their child’s identity. And yet that’s still happening on a large scale in the world. Gay people are shunned by their own families just for their sexuality. As if it matters to anyone other than their partners.

I don’t know what 7de Laan would’ve done with Shawn if he wasn’t gay/bisexual and was in love with a now dead man. Deànré Reiners seems 100% suitable to play this kind, sensitive, confused, quietly persuasive character who suppressed his own identity for his father’s acceptance. The villainous De Wet Basson (Dirk Stoltz who won the best male villain in the recent Royalty soapie awards) shone a light on all who consider themselves normal in their homophobia but turns out they’re the real villains in their children’s lives.

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