But for those of us who seek solace, inspiration and representation of the world as it is in pop culture, let’s remember that June kicked off with two thematic projects that hid their thoughtfulness under lucrative genre adjustments. Named after the famous gay vacation spot, the Hulu film Fire Island, starring Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang, explored the deep and painful rifts within the LGBTQ community through an Asian-American update of Jane Austen’s “Pride and… Prejudice” (an apt title for this politically mixed month).
On the other end of the ambition scale, Discovery Plus’ “Trixie Motel” forced a shotgun marriage between “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and HGTV-style home makeover shows with the reality competition series Breakout star Trixie Mattel “hauls up” the seven rooms of a Palm Springs inn she bought with boyfriend David Silver. It’s a fresh, queer twist on straight domesticity, tacitly but unmistakably idealized by the home improvement network, as well as a cheerful Trixies showcase cheesy, maximalist Drag translates into an unexpected new medium.
This year’s notable Pride schedule also includes Netflix’s lesbian vampire drama First Kill, Peacock’s Queer as Folk reboot and the streamer’s The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club, an expansion of a franchise that while not technically about queer life, has become a gay touchstone through his camp affect and over-the-top femininity. The spinoff finds a kind of “Suicide Squad” for the Bravo reality juggernaut The villains started their original series en route to a palatial estate in the Berkshires to drunkenly blame each other…whatever.
But even this brief overview shows what exceptions “Fire Island” and “Trixie Motel” are; What’s most notable about this year’s LGBTQ-centric wins is how evenly they’ve been spread over the past six months. However traditionalists may kick and shout, strange stories have become our stories.
Meanwhile, June’s best show, medical drama This is Going to Hurt (AMC Plus), was barely marketed as a gay series. With Ben Whishaw as an obstetrician battling burnout in Britain’s overburdened healthcare system, the show also happens to focus on a poignant gay romance about the impossibility of making a serious relationship work when the hair-raising rate of Office disasters practically make emotional distancing a requirement of the job.
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A bumper crop of 2022’s most notable LGBTQ projects came out in April: Jerrod Carmichael’s intimate and raw coming-out comedy special Rothaniel (HBO), teen romance and word-of-mouth sensation Heartstopper (Netflix) and the second season of the awe-inspiring lesbian drama Gentleman Jack (HBO) starring a virile Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, the real-life industrialist, mountaineer and “wife” of Regency-era landowner Anne Walker.
Add in the antics of gay pirates in HBO Max’s “Our Flag Means Death” and the soul-boosting Midwestern queer talent shows in “Somebody Somewhere,” and the diversity of these LGBTQ stories quickly reveals itself. But the presentation is certainly not the same; There is still a strong bias towards the experiences of cisgender, white, male protagonists under 40, as is the case in so much of our culture. But only inside There are small but significant advances in embracing the creativity and complications of queer life in these shows, without which our culture would be flatter, more bare, and just plain less representative of the country at large.
It’s hard not to be ambivalent about the state of LGBTQ progress right now; the cultural and political Progress the queer community has made since then Obergefell v. Hodges was amazing to watch, and yet here we are again wondering if the history writing rights granted by this case will endure. Perhaps that’s why the queer stories that resonate most are the ones that grapple with the stalled movement that so many people intuit. On the comedy stage, Carmichael calls out from the crowd the acceptance of his sexuality holding back his religious mother. And in This is Going to Hurt, Whishaw’s doctor must choose how to fight with his splendour mother (Harriet Walter) by getting her to appreciate his artsy, humble boyfriend (Rory Fleck Byrne), while constantly having to come out to well-meaning colleagues when they are together assume he is straight.
But as representation advances, its limitations become more apparent. Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness summed it up best when he broke the record at an industry event earlier this month: “Representation is absolutely so important,” they said, but we have to acknowledge that it “isn’t strictly necessary people’s lives better every day.”
The superhero and capitalism satire The Boys (Amazon Prime) makes this point in its outspoken style the current season when his once-closed Wonder Woman-like character, Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), is forced to suffer the humiliation of being turned into a corporate mascot for desexualized queerness after coming out. Perhaps no counterfeit product represents the real, compromised progress of queer people better than the rainbow-colored box of Brave Maeve’s Vegetarian Pride Lasagna, from which her namesake smiles hesitantly and wishes progress looked like everything else. TV is finally catching up with Pride for years is not just cause for celebration, but a more urgent reckoning with the uncertainties about the best way forward.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/tv/2022/06/29/pride-month-lgbtq-gay-tv-shows/ It’s been a tough Pride month, but TV keeps things honest