With the end of the year right around the corner – and a difficult and trying one at that – the time presents the opportunity to acknowledge the little pockets of comfort that we managed to find for ourselves. For me, this comfort came from consuming media and being around my screen a whole lot more. While this did bring with a sense of exhaustion, it was also reassuring to have some things that did not change as the world around kept shifting in rapid and inexplicable ways. In particular, this year stood out in the opportunity presented to me to consume content that was explicitly queer. This piece is an attempt at chronicling some of the highs of these forms of media, and an ode to the solace and space they held.
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Feel Good (TV series)
A comedy-drama TV series that came out in March this year, the series is a semi-autobiographical account of the comedian Mae Martin. The story is rooted in its queerness, exploring what it feels like to battle specific expectations of sexuality, presentations of gender, and the performance of identity – stripping bare the layers of feelings that surround the solitude that comes with (sometimes openly, and sometimes not) identifying as queer. The show also handles personal battles with addiction, and the ways in which we let our relations, friends and family, define us and how we allow ourselves to relate to the world.
On a Sunbeam (Graphic novel)
Tillie Walden’s graphic novel is like a balm that soothes the soul through the journey it takes you on. Expansive, heartbreaking, beautiful, emotional, the story takes its readers on a journey where it’s not just the characters who grow and change. By the end of reading this, you are a different person too. The sci-fi world Walden has built through the course of the story tugs at the feelings of hope for humanity. It centres the reader’s feelings while focusing on the characters’ voices, in a gentle and graceful exploration of what it means to find family, love, yourself – and all the messiness in between.
Douglas (Comedy special):
A stand-up special by Hannah Gadsby, the woman whose previous hit was Nanette, Douglas is rooted in its focus on neurodiversity. In doing so, the special has an arguably gentle takedown of misogyny, the critique her work has received, her sexuality, and her mental health diagnosis. While not explicitly labelling itself as Queer Content, it is important to note that Gadsby is openly out as being lesbian, and so, through that lens alone, the work takes on an added layer of identity intersections and tackles how they interact and influence one another. And all of this while managing to deliver comedy at some of its best.
Julián Is a Mermaid (Children’s picture book):
At some level, it was the discovery of this book I was most grateful for this year. A children’s book might seem like an odd choice to have made it to my year-end list, but it is the target audience that makes the book so much more reaffirming and present for me. It is a story of what familial support can look like – what that can mean for queer and trans people. It shifts ideas of pride away from a singular moment in time to something that can be shared with loved ones over time, a practice of joy and support. In doing so, the book reads as a story of acceptance that stays with a person for much longer.
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal (Comic/Graphic novel)
One of the more rooted pieces of queer media I consumed this year, the comic makes the reader imbibe the realness of the characters and through that, the development and the story it tells. Like real people, their stories, pasts, insecurities and hopes unfurl slowly – you don’t get to know everything at once. Just like real people again, there are always parts of the titular characters that will surprise you. That Weaver uses the setting of a road trip across the continental United States to lull you in with the pace, and before you know it, the comic finds a place in your heart.
Schitt’s Creek (TV series):
A show based on the idea of what stereotypically rich American families would look like when they lost all their money, Schitt’s Creek was a welcome find that wrapped up with its final season this year. The charm of the series and the likeability of the characters take a while to grow on you (and rightfully so), while new facets of character development and identity are opened up for exploration over time. The series portrays pansexuality in forms that are careful to never make a caricature out of identity, and the show seems to be set in a storyline where homophobia (overt or covert) does not get expressed – and therefore, does not get any screen time.
The Untamed (TV series):
The Untamed is a live-action adaptation of an online novel, Modao Zushi – featuring the theme of BL (or boys’ love). Due to its origins in China and their history of censorship of LGBTQ+ (among other) material, the show’s background is rooted in similar struggles with censorship and has generated controversy. However, the fantasy novel that inspired the series features a relationship between the two male protagonists and the show itself then becomes an interesting take on how these restrictions can be circumvented while staying true to the source material.
With 2021 having some interesting adaptations, publications and original own voices media in the works, one can’t help but hope that a subsequent end-of-year list will have so much more to offer. While the veracity of this remains to be seen, if there’s one thing that can be learnt from all the work listed here, it is quiet hope. And that is perhaps what I will be holding on to.
Picture Credit: Amazon/ E online
Aishwarya Srinivasan is a social psychologist and cognitive anthropologist, with a background in cognitive science, evolution, social behaviour, and mental health. Their research is rooted in interdisciplinarity and allows for the viewing of social contexts from multiple lenses. The views expressed are the author’s own.
The Queer Quill is a collaborative column by One Future Collective X SheThePeople on the theme of queer rights with a focus on law, modern culture and the intersections of art and history.