Yuri!!! on Ice

How do I begin to express how much I love this particular show? You want a sports anime? Here you go. You want peak gay? Here you go. You want slow burn? Here you go.

Yuri!!! on Ice is refreshingly not about teenagers falling in love. It’s been a while since that’s happened for queer relationships. This is a love story about a Japanese man and a Russian man who are incredibly dense and somehow still manage to propose to each other on the exact same night. Not only that, but the love story isn’t just romantic. It showcases love of a partner, family, and the self.

I highly recommend it to anyone looking for compelling characters and some good laughs. Especially if you struggle with severe anxiety. It also carries incredible queer energy that could suplex a bear. And that’s just from episode one.

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Glee

We knew this was coming. We need to have that talk.

Glee.

The word itself now feels chaotic.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I watched almost all of it in high-school. My mom, brothers, and I piled into my mom’s bedroom and watched it together because what else do you do with dumpster fire shows? We did the same thing with Lost. I was much more invested in the show than they were, but I didn’t know why yet.

There’s a lot that Glee did wrong. We know that. There’s a lot they did right too. But something that I think we can all appreciate is that it was there with constant gay drama when no one else was. We got Kurt from the very beginning with all his twink power. Rachel with her two dads. Santana and Brittney loving each other so much.

But there was one scene that got me in more ways than one.

Unique definitely lived up to her name. While her character wasn’t always handled well, this scene struck a lot of chords in a lot of people. Especially during the time when bathroom bans were the norm. She was a complex character. The writing for her was on par with everyone else. Which means that while she may have done some questionable and Not Good things, it was always something that literally any other character could have done. It was her struggle that set up the conversation about transphobia and how we can stop it. And that we aren’t alone in the fight.

The show opened up a lot of doors to a lot of conversations. From stress to STDs to transphobia to rape culture. It wasn’t afraid to try to talk about topics that are frankly relevant to a lot of American highschoolers. Granted it is way more over the top than my (and nearly anyone else’s) high school experience ever was.

The representation in this show led to a lot more of an understanding in how queer characters should be treated. Either because the show did things very well or because they clearly had no idea what they were talking about. And the nice thing is that as weird as it sounds, we were able to see break-ups. We were able to see how it is to be the only queer kid in your grade and have to deal with regrowing after high school because now you can be you. We see kids coming out and being accepted. We see them not. The queer kids were given the same treatment as the straight ones. They got to sing out their drama just as much as anyone else did.

Rant and Rave: Insatiable

Alright, I’ve put this off for long enough. We need to talk about Insatiable, a Netflix original series with a Whole Lot of Things to complain about. Since this blog focuses on queer representation, we’re only going to talk about that. But keep in mind this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Gatekeepers have always loved to poke and prod at bisexuality. The moment that a bi person mentions their preferences, they’re put into the conversation of “well you have to pick a side.” Lo and behold, what would happen to the bi main character the moment they realize that they’re not straight?

But this trainwreck gets worse. Because the realization that he might be anything but straight comes with a forced kiss from the man who’s bullied and belittled him since the fourth grade. Apparently the man had been in love with him the entire time. Which was why he was so cruel. Because that’s not something telling about how the writers are going to be treating their queer characters at all. This gay man not only forces the kiss, but also forces the relationship between the two by literally trapping the bi man in his own office until they can talk. Meanwhile, the bi man’s wife (that’s right, he’s married and trying to rekindle his marriage) is coming to terms with the fact that she still wants to be in a relationship with her husband.

And then the main character, a straight high school girl, outs the bi man because of a misunderstanding that makes her angry with him, tells not only the guy’s wife, but the entire Southern small town.

The wife is understandably angry that she’s been cheated on and kicks him out of the house. The gay man thinks that this means that the budding romance between them will flower. Bi man just wants everything to work out. And then by some miracle, he’s placed in a situation where a poly relationship might happen.

I have to admit that this almost got me. I was almost willing to overlook this entire clusterfuck of a scenario because I haven’t seen a polyamorous relationship aside from a few scenes from BoJack Horseman, and even then they aren’t even close to main characters.

But then it got worse.

After their first attempt at group sex, the wife is on board with it all. The bi man is over the moon, because his perfect world might be coming true.  All the signs have been pointing to the three of them being maybe really happy in a relationship together. They go to the gay man asking him about being in a relationship. He thought the wife was only in it for the sex. He doesn’t want to be in a poly relationship, but he’s okay with the wife joining in for a threesome. The wife is appalled. She (once again understandably) doesn’t want to just be a sex object. They turn on the bi man. Because now he has to make a choice. But they don’t phrase it as a choice between two people. No that wouldn’t have been a deep enough hole to dig for a season finale. No, he has to choose whether he wants a man or a woman. And if he chooses to remain bi, then he gets neither.

And this is how they thought it was acceptable to end the season. As I said, the show has a lot of other problems. On top of honestly bad writing. Somehow it’s been renewed for a second season, and I wish I could say I was surprised.

Real Quick Note: Dragon Age

I know this blog is about television and film, but honestly I feel the need to remind people that representation in video games is also incredibly important. It gives us a chance to actually see the characters interact with each other and have developing relationships that we feel apart of because we take an active role in the storytelling.

I recently replayed Dragon Age: Inquisition and for the first time played as a male Inquisitor. For those who don’t know, it’s a Bioware game which are most known for their long-form multi-game storytelling with decisions carrying over from game to game. Romances are one of the elements to their games that are especially appreciated by fans.

This run-through, I was set on romancing Cassandra, a tragically straight fighter. But then it hit me. I had romanced one of the pansexual characters before (The Iron Bull). I knew that Josephine is also pan. Sera is a lesbian. Dorian is gay. I got curious about how these other queer characters were handled. And since I can’t romance Krem – the only explicitly trans character in the game – I decided to do run-throughs with each of the queer romances.

My conclusion? I’m too gay for this.

Serar
Sera’s romance tarot card

Sera is a wonderful woman with a severe case of sarcasm that can and will destroy a man. Her romance is sweet. When she gets a “gift” for the Inquisitor it’s an ugly hat with a drawing of the antagonist filled with apples for people to beat. And what do you get for someone you love so dearly but refuses to open up to people? Ask all of your friends if they know and in the process let the entire world know that you and Sera are lovers. Which she adores.

Dorian card2
Dorian’s romance tarot card

Dorian was surprisingly dear to me. His romance flows as awkwardly as you’d expect from a first relationship, especially when he realizes that the flirtation is genuine. I still have mixed feelings about how the romance is handled when it comes to the ending. No matter what happens, Dorian leaves to his homeland and is placed in the position of needing to either end the relationship or make it a long distance one without any real contact for two years (and that’s only revealed if you have the Trespasser DLC). If you ask him about the relationship within the Trespasser DLC, he’ll give the Inquisitor a magical Thedas equivalent of a cellphone, with the sentiment that nothing could keep him from the man he loves.

Josephine tarot
Josephine’s tarot card

Everything about Josie makes me giddy, honestly. She’s so sweet and loving with an intense knowledge about how the internal workings of the noble courts function on all sides. She is one of two pan characters in this game, and I was genuinely surprised that there wasn’t a sex scene like the other romances have. It seemed like something that the studio could have easily done in a way to give some eye candy the way they have with other female romances, which made Josie’s romance all the sweeter.

Iron Bull romance tarot
The Iron Bull’s romance tarot card

What Josie’s romance lacked in sex, Bull’s makes up for. The relationship with him begins as a purely physical one, leaving it up to the Inquisitor how much of it will be the light and breezy pace they’ve been working at. Although this is how it starts, the romance aspect of it is also funnily sweet. The way to initiate the romantic aspect of the relationship involves giving Bull a traditional token of the Qunari that is made of two matching halves of a split dragon tooth and means that no matter how far one is from the other, they are always together.

Rant and Rave: Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Despite the adamance in the trans community that drag is no longer in the same place it was thirty years ago or even ten years ago, somehow drag is more prominent in what producers have decided is Good Representation™. And even though people have called out RuPaul on his transphobia, he’s held up on a pedestal more than likely because of how long he’s been in the active in the gay community. And he has done good work.

His roles and cameos in queer film has always brought more viewers to movies that would have otherwise never have really been able to spread. And undoubtedly, there was a time where his stances on things were considered socially acceptable in his circles.

However, there still needs to be a critical eye at the culture that has developed about drag because of him. We live in a world where people have zero problem with referring to drag queens by she/her pronouns, using their drag name in place of their birth name, praising their fashion. But then those same people will turn and have trouble with referring to trans women by she/her pronouns even after years of knowing someone, using their correct name in conversation, and criticizing butch trans women on their choices in style when it isn’t hyper-feminine.

Of course this doesn’t all rest on Ru Paul’s shoulders; he isn’t the only person in the world who has been transphobic. But he has put drag on a pedestal that he has said belongs to gay men without remembering that drag was also a way for trans women to explore and express themselves through their dress, shows, and culture. The fact that he discounts trans women’s role in drag has trickled into how other people respond to drag in the same way that misinformation spreads; it leads to young queers thinking that drag is only for gay men, nevermind that there are drag kings, a high amount of non-binary folk who do drag, and the trans women who develop performances that critique life as it is.

Will and Grace (Classic)

Here we go. One of the most iconic shows in queer culture. The first big straight-baiting. The loud and boisterous, unabashedly gay Jack. The steady Will with his disaster dating life and even more disastrous stanning of his friends. As we all know, the only two gays that exist (and are also totally the same person, but we don’t want to be called out like this).

Will and Grace was and is incredibly important for a myriad of reasons. It was mainstream television on NBC for 8 seasons, with 17.3 million viewers for two seasons straight. The show was also the first in U.S. history to feature gay lead characters. It educated people on the just general mundane happenings of everyday gay life while making characters that we could absolutely adore.

With the revival in 2017, a lot of young queers were able to go back and see this show and get more of an understanding of queer politics of the late 90s and early 2000s. And not only are they able to compare the times then and now, they’re able to see what has and hasn’t changed. When we watch Will going through his debate on whether or not he should have a kid with Grace, we’re able to take a harder look at how adoption agencies make it more difficult for queer couples to give children and teens homes now. We see the relationship between Will and Grace and see two characters without any romantic interest in the other and enjoy how they interact without the worry that they’re stuck in the “will they won’t they” loop that we see so much in television today. We get to see a comedy for queer folk that set up the stage for the flow of queer shows and movies that we get to enjoy now.

Brooklyn 99

This show has been a little bit of a mixed bag for some considering that it focuses on police officers, but I see it as something genuinely positive for both the community and the general public. While it does focus on the police, it’s not afraid to critique the system’s corruption, inequality of service, and the general disorganization that the public has come to resent. We also get two characters unabashedly queer and others who are unafraid to admit to feeling attraction to characters of the same sex. Among other issues it deals with: transmisogyny in the prison system, racial profiling, and gender roles.

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Holt and Rosa not understanding how relationship communication work.

Very realistically, Captain Holt, a mid-life gay black man, is married and plays the gay card only when absolutely necessary, ie: he really doesn’t want to do whatever the situation is. And Rosa is a stone-cold butch bi woman who has recently started allowing herself to express her emotions around the people she cares about. The cast is very adamant about never making jokes at the expense of the queer community instead, embracing the group’s style of humor.