June is celebrated all over the world as Pride month. It is not only a tribute to the 1969 Stonewall uprising marked by festivities, parades, and events to honour LGBTQ voices and experiences, but also to draw attention to the issues that members of the community still face.
Queer representation has always remained a much-debated issue with Hollywood and Bollywood producing fewer films that do not simply speak of queer experiences but also employ queer talents. But with the Covid pandemic forcing people to stay at home and ‘OTT and chill’, queer voices and representations seem to have found a new space.
As we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month 2021, here’s a round up of some of the best shows/films across genres currently available for viewing on the OTT platforms:
Netflix’s Pose, a show that looks at and celebrates New York’s transgender community, is set across two decades in three seasons. Pose treats with respect, pathos and love both the glamour of the ballroom and people’s display of courage amid the AIDS crisis, transphobia, sexism and racism. This New York subculture inspired Madonna’s song ‘Vogue’ in 1990, which the show’s second season pays a tribute to.
Queer Eye (2018)
Queer Eye makes makeovers look wholesome in ways no other makeover-based show has. It makes you chop from here and chop till here, warm and hopeful, and shows how an outfit-change can sometimes be truly powerful, even help discover one’s identity. It encourages self-love and self-care in ways queer narratives had not really looked at.
Feel Good (2020)
Stand-up has captured audiences all over the world in the past couple of years. But queer comedians are still far and few, and shows, be it stage or scripted, are fewer. Netflix’s Feel Good, stand-up comic Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical dark comedy, explores trauma, gender, and substance abuse with humour.
Disney plus Hotstar’s Euphoria, a teenage drama series, is a tale of sex and drug abuse. But it is also primarily a love story. The main character Rue, played by the supremely talented Zendaya, gets out of rehab and meets Jules, a transgender girl who just moved into the town.
The Boys in the Band (2020)
Based on the original Mart Crowley’s landmark 1968 play that looked at the idea of being gay pre-Stonewall, pre-AIDS and pre-marriage equality, the film has a poignance that matches the self-loathing and fears of the main characters, who are still trying to negotiate their sexual identities.
Loev on Netflix is a story that surprises by being not ‘political’ in the way we understand politics. Its statement is political because it refuses to have its two gay men engage definitively with politics in India, but depicts their struggle too because it’s something that they cannot really escape from.
Schitt’s Creek (2015)
Feel-good is what Schitt’s Creek is largely about. And Daniel Levy’s David is probably an epitome on how to be awesome yet vulnerable, all at once. It makes you warm and fuzzy, especially because you hope for, and ultimately get, a happy ending for the gay couple.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
In the trope of horror narratives, it is a bit difficult to tear away from scenes of beautiful, haunted, sexualised women battling demons or being the demons themselves, all seen primarily from the gaze of male directors and producers. But in Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor, you get a queer, gothic romance. The ‘haunting’ is also accentuated by the ghost of norms, of the pressure of being heteronormative that shadows who and what you really are.
His Storyy (2021)
Alt Balaji’s His Storyy is an Alt Balaji take on gay relationships in India, and how the Indian society puts a premium on ‘masculinity’ expressed through heteronormative sexual prowess, and men’s willingness to be part of a ‘typical’ family. The Married Women, on the same platform, is a wonderful take on the tenderness of same-sex love and female friendships.
Sex Education (2019-)
Sex Education’s charm is in the pangs of growing up and discovering the gamut of identities without the burden of societal shame. It makes us yearn for the freedom and rebelliousness that comes from being a teenager, and the lessons we learn while getting to know about the world around us.
Ajeeb Daastaans (2021)
This Netflix anthology breaks a lot of ground — from Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Puchi that looks at caste and desire, to Shashank Khaitan’s Majnu that talks about the trappings of being gay and married for ‘keeping up’ appearances.
LGBTQ dramas and shows making their way into the audience’s lives through everyday characters and narratives is a welcome change. There is still a long way to go before these stories can break into the walled circles of heterosexual communities, where ‘growth’ is more of a necessity. For now, though, the ‘pride’ is in seeing the list of movies and shows built around LGBTQ characters grow — a far cry from what it used to be just a few decades ago.
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(Edited by Prashant Dixit)