Stories We Love: “The Showrunner”
By Celeste Ng
I’ll be totally honest: I really did not expect to like Frankie Thomas’s “The Showrunner” at all. It starts off at a casting session for a fictional Disney-esque tween series, and not only am I biased against stories that saturate themselves in current pop culture—I tend to like a little patina on my cultural references—I expected the story to be as flimsy as the TV show at its center.
I was completely wrong. Within half a page, I was unable to put the piece down. (No joke: I was late to pick up my son from daycare, I was that immersed.)
Roger, the showrunner of the title, takes Peter Lane—the adolescent, adorably innocent, unabashedly gay kid he casts—under his wing, promising himself to protect Peter from everything bad that he himself has experienced in show business:
Roger looks over at Peter, who’s sitting there strapped into the passenger seat at groping distance from Roger, humming along, his eyes closed and his legs apart. It’s strange to think that Peter is the same age that Roger was when he ran away from San Antonio, and that Roger is now older than the guys who fucked him back then. Peter would never expect to be fucked the way Roger was—no, Peter expects to be loved, and why shouldn’t he? Peter was born to be loved.
How easy it would be for Roger to drive home instead, talk Peter into coming inside, pour the kid a drink and sweet-talk him and undress him and then pound him into the mattress so hard he’ll never smile that trusting smile again for the rest of his life. It scares the shit out of Roger, how easy it would be and how much he must not let it happen, never, not to Peter Lane.
In fact, the story has only one thing in common with tween sitcoms: you can see where it’s going almost from the first scene. And yet, unlike with those sitcoms, you won’t be able to look away. You have to keep reading, keep watching, even as the story hurtles to its shattering conclusion, even as it breaks your heart.
Read “The Showrunner” online at At Length. (No, seriously. Read this.)