As summer turns to Autumn and the evenings get darker, there is no better time to catch up on some TV shows that you may have missed from this year. Oh yes. It’s time to binge. Let’s be honest, you were probably actually already doing that – but as the sun disappears, so does the staying-indoors-guilt.
What’s more, queer representation in TV is only getting better. Here are a few TV shows from this year with great LGBTQ+ elements.
Special is an American comedy about a gay man with cerebral palsy who doesn’t want to be defined by his disability. As the main character Ryan, played by Ryan O’Connell who also wrote the show, says in the first episode, he doesn’t want his CP to be the ‘main course’ of his life – just an ‘appetiser’. For queer people, this resonates.
So often, disabled people, and stories about them, have to be ‘inspiring’ or ‘uplifting’, but O’Connell lampoons this brilliantly in his character’s internship at ‘eggyoke’, a Buzzfeed-esque content site. Here, all employees are encouraged to pitch stories about personal trauma and overcoming personal difficulties, all for sweet, delicious clicks. Without revealing too much, Ryan refuses to play into this with often hilarious results.
There are a few stand-out scenes, including Ryan’s very sweet sexual encounter with a male sex worker, and a pool party which explores the unrealistic body expectations for gay men. Ryan is a nuanced character who even has to examine his own prejudices as he goes on a blind date with a deaf person. Overall, it’s a great example of intersectional representation.
Despite some heavy-seeming topics, Special stays light and entertaining. And at around 15-minutes per episode, it’s perfect for bingeing.
Sex Education (Netflix)
Sex Education is a British comedy series all about, you guessed it, sex. It centres on Otis, an awkward teen who, one day, inadvertently solves a sexual problem for the school bully. He sets up an advice business all about helping fellow schoolmates with their sexual problems, and each episode features a new one.
Issues explored range from bottoming for the first time, bisexuality, demystifying lesbian sex, asexuality, and so much more. The results are funny and often very educational. It’s the kind of show you wish was around when you were younger.
It’s also refreshingly diverse. Otis’s best friend is Eric, a gay teen with religious African parents. His character is allowed to be more than the ‘sassy gay best friend’ trope and actually gets some satisfying depth. The show takes time to explore his different, complex, relationships – both positive and not-so-positive.
Over the course of the two seasons so far, the variety of sexualities and sexual expression Otis encounters is a vibrant reminder of how diverse people just make TV better. However, what does seem glaringly missing in a show all about sex positivity and exploring diverse people, is a trans or non-binary character. With a third season on the way, let’s hope they rectify this.
Photo: Channel 4
Feel Good (All 4)
Mae Martin, the Canadian stand-up comic, stars in this semi-autobiographical dramedy all about love, sexuality, and addiction. Mae is a recovering addict and comedian who meets George, a teacher exploring her sexuality, at one of her stand-up gigs. They fall truly, madly, deeply in love and the show engagingly explores how this plays out.
Feel Good deftly explores tough themes, like George’s anxiety over her first same-sex romance and how the both of them navigate that. A particularly powerful scene also sees Mae deliver a passionate monologue on her struggle with gender identity.
The show is compelling and witty and it’s energising to see gender and sexuality explored so frankly and funnily.
Finally, a special mention for the Netflix documentary Disclosure, an in-depth look at trans representation in American media and its effect on trans people.
Produced by Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black fame, its greatest strength is its plethora of illuminating interviews with trans entertainment figures, such as the cast from Pose. It is eye-opening on the conflicting history of trans representation and on treading the difficult double-edge sword of increased visibility.
The documentary is educational and encourages real introspection for the cis viewer. At a time where anti-trans rhetoric and violence against trans people is on the rise, Disclosure is one of the most important must-watch shows of the year.
Written by Chloe Porter
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