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LGBTQ+ Media Recommendations for Pride Month

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LGBTQ+ Media Recommendations for Pride Month

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With Pride Month approaching in Georgia, what’s the best way to prep?  Bingeing, as popular as it is now, certainly doesn’t get you anywhere as the media certainly portrays The Gays in such bad ways. What bad ways, you might ask? Certainly not [insert cis white male gay ship]? No dear reader that is in fact not what I mean. Time to get serious, it’s the Bury Your Gays Trope.

Some of you may not in fact know about this but let me break it down. A show, book, movie, whatever media introduces an LGBTQ+ character. They’re typically a guest star or a background character, most often they’re women (i.e., bisexual women, lesbians, any wlw). They don’t have a long stint on the show, sometimes they might romance a main character, and then BOOM! They’re dead – for shock value or for “plot reasons”, that beloved gay is dead and the cycle begins again in a writing room on another show.

The prime example of this being Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s killing off [redacted] by a stray bullet meant to kill her lover. Echoing in this, many other Bury Your Gays have done the same thing. A movement began, however, following the death of Lexa Kom Trikru from the 100, after being killed from a stray bullet meant for her lover. (Talk about a need for something original?

Well, we’re not here to talk about that – we’re here to talk about some happy things. Specifically, media that have characters that are either never exposed to the Bury Your Gays Trope or in fact, do survive the Bury Your Gays Trope (spoilers ahead). What should be noted is that this is not in fact a comprehensive list, simply a recommendation of the media I have come to enjoy.


Books

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Not Your Sidekick is set in what’s left of the United States after World War III. The aftermath of the war left a few drastic changes, not ones to plummet their world into apocalypse. One of the changes that has occurred as a result of the war is that many people developed superpowers as a result of genetic mutations. The story follows Jessica Tran, the daughter of superheroes. A high school student with OK grades and no powers at all, feels ordinary and left out with a family of three superheroes and genius brother. Jess gets an internship at a mysterious company that turns out to be run by Monroe Industries, which also employs Master Mischief – her parent’s nemesis. In addition, Jess’s crush, Abby, interns at the same company. But who is her co-worker who only appears in mechanical armor and wants to be referred to as ‘M’?

At a glance, it seems like a stereotypical cliche—girl becomes a hero, hero saves the girl and gets the girl, the end—Not Your Sidekick is more than that. Centered on an Asian bisexual heroine, the book tells the story of a romance, but it doesn’t ignore the superhero element either.

It explores many of the issues of how teens deal with presenting powers, a key issue the central character deals with, as well as the pressures a high school student faces. In addition to the romance, as the first novel in a planned trilogy, the world building through the little details are insane; the tidbits of interesting backstory like the old dystopian days of Jessica’s parents, Bells’ other life, Jessica’s old friends from her former school, and the undercurrent of what’s really happening with Monroe Industries. It feels like finding an Easter egg with each little detail and by the end of the book, the overarching plot of the series is fully realized and it is honestly mind blowing. In addition to that, its characters are diverse and well developed, and the dynamics between Jess and her friends, Emma, a Latina, and Bells, a trans person of color, are amazing to see. While it may fall to some predictable tropes, Not Your Sidekick is a fun and exciting read.

 

Dreadnought by April Daniels

In the same vein as Not Your Sidekick, Dreadnought follows Danny Tozer and her struggles in stepping up as Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero, after witnessing the hero’s death and inheriting his powers. Super powers are the least of her worries: before being passed the mantle, the only problems Danny had were preventing people from finding out that she’s transgender. Now, with Dreadnought’s powers, she finally has the body she’s always wanted but it’s proving to be more complicated than that.  With her father obsessed with curing her newfound girlhood, her best friend acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels too overwhelmed, especially when she still has to master her powers in time to stop Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, in order to save humanity.

Dreadnought is a superhero adventure, beginning with an origin story like no other. As Danny gains her powers, she is confronted with problems on every front of her identity: as a civilian, it’s her family and her friends; as a superhero, it’s the world and her own fellow superheroes. [Spoiler Alert: They are not in fact, supportive.] In this way, it is much grittier and grounded in reality, authentic in the way it presents Danny’s story and experience as a transgender girl. The book also doesn’t shy away from calling out the very real reactions of the people surrounding her.

The plot is well balanced, despite the synopsis sounding like too much; the action not too heavy handed or forced and the pacing is on the nose. The characters are brilliant and their dynamic with Danny are fully fleshed out and realized. Suspenseful, it remains the tone, with a tension that rises to the final confrontations: both Danny’s personal showdown with her parents, and the superhero-supervillain confrontations across the novel’s climax.

My favorite thing: it has consequences. It doesn’t ignore human pain and human suffering, and what happens when people get caught up in confrontations where they’re punching well outside their weight class. Dreadnought is a fantastic and authentic book, a great coming of age and superhero adventure.

 

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit tells the story of Joanna Gordon, an out and proud Atlanta native, who meets the perfect girl for her when she and her popular radio evangelist father move to Rome, Georgia after her father remarries. Along with the move, her father asks Jo to lie low the rest of her senior year, play it straight and fit in.  Things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. Now Jo must decide whether to break a promise that could change everything for her and her family or lose out on love.

Charming and very close to home, Georgia Peaches tells the tale of when faith is reconciled with sexuality in Jo’s conundrum: if she tells the truth, she breaks her promise to her father and might possibly ruin his reputation being a minister with a gay daughter; if she doesn’t, she risks losing the first girl she’s been serious about.

The plot is a wild roller coaster with many twists and turns but the characters are what matter the most, and through them the story unfolds where faith, family, and friends are the central themes. The dynamic is snappy—Joanna is sharp tongued, a spitfire —and above all else it is charming, funny, and approaches reconciling faith and sexuality in a hopeful light.

 


Films

Love, Simon

Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it’s a little more complicated. He’s still in the closet and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, life-changing, and hits right in the feels.

As mentioned in another article, “What Love Simon Gave to Me”, Love, Simon is was groundbreaking in that it was the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a gay teenage romance. Focused on Simon, played by Nick Robinson, and his coming out (and the fallout from it), the entire movie is very authentic—even down to his friends’ reactions, wherein they blame him for his lies and not for the fact that he was being blackmailed to. But I digress, the rest of the movie is amazing and lighthearted in comparison to the many coming out dramas (coming out, a movie genre for the gays). It is hilariously relateable with many touching moments that are sure to bring tears to your eyes.

 

“San Junipero” (Black Mirror)

An Emmy-award winning episode of Black Mirror, “San Junipero” tells the story of Kelly and Yorkie, who visit San Junipero, a fun-loving beach town full of surf, sun and sex. Their lives are changed the instant they meet. While it seems like something standard, because it’s Black Mirror, things are undoubtedly … wild.

San Junipero is a computer-created afterlife that elderly people can upload their consciousness to—for five hours a week while they’re still alive, and permanently after death. This is where our central characters Kelly (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (played by Mackenzie Davis) meet and fall in love. With a central theme of death and acceptance, it probably technically fulfills the Bury Your Gays Trope. However, it subverts the trope itself by ending on bittersweet but satisfying and happy note.

The structure of “San Junipero” is clever, from the way every little clue adds up, especially with the sly use of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” In addition, the plot is a masterpiece, carefully handcrafted in a way that balances character revelations with the plot and setting revelations while answering the philosophical questions posed. With each new bit of information about how the world works or a twist in the romantic plot, an equally big reveal of Kelly or Yorkie’s backstory is right around the corner. If you aren’t crying by the end of the episode, you haven’t quite watched it right.

The visual style and tone are also satisfying subtle. Set in the neon-dripped 80s, visuals evoke a sense of nostalgia for the past. One thing to be noted, San Junipero has also been cited for it’s use of bisexual lighting— in which colours on the bisexual pride flag are used to represent bisexual characters.

Ultimately, “San Junipero” is a love story that literally transcends consciousness, and it evokes many different emotions. Please, go watch it.


Series

Wynonna Earp – Supernatural Drama, Syfy

Wynonna Earp follows the titular character, Wynonna Earp, Wyatt Earp’s great granddaughter, as she battles demons and other creatures. With her unique abilities, trusty gun, and her allies, she’s the only thing that can bring the paranormal to justice.

It’s generally campy and undeniably funny but when it comes to the serious stuff, it takes it to a whole other level. The dialogue is snappy and quick, my favorite one liners: “You’re a lesbian, not a unicorn, right?” While this all seems superficial, Wynonna Earp has a diverse and well developed cast of amazing characters. In their fight against the supernatural, the bonds between friends, lovers, and family are portrayed through each episode and that’s where the serious comes in. Things like Wynonna’s contemplation over her destiny, Waverly’s coming out, Doc Holliday’s secret past, and just what exactly is Xavier Dolls? Wynonna Earp is a

 

 

One Day at a Time – Comedy, Netflix

The show depicts the everyday life of a Cuban-American family with each character finding their own journey.  Penelope Alvarez, played by Justina Machado, a United States Army Nurse Corps veteran, faces her return to civilian life with a lot of unresolved issues from her time in the Army. With the help of her mother, Lydia, played by Rita Moreno, a refugee who left Cuba as a teen following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, she is raising her two children: Elena (Isabella Gómez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz).

Each episode of the series focuses on many important issues that face the Hispanic community and families in general. The show has done a phenomenal job in illustrating how many families deal with them. From veterans’ struggles with PTSD, depression, anxiety, sexuality, gender identity, sexism, and religion, the list goes on. While it takes a heavy weight in approaching these topics, the comedy remains lighthearted and centered on the family.

Season 1 shows the lead up to Elena’s quincenera and eventually covers her finding out she is a lesbian and subsequently coming out to her family. Each reaction is different and realistic and seeing that is incredibly validating, and for one, reassuring for any parents in the same situation. Season 2 ultimately ends with Elena finding herself a girlfriend in Syd, who is nonbinary.

As I mentioned before, this is not at all a comprehensive list; merely, a few of my favorites. Granted, there are more positive and happy LGBT+ related media out there, but these have made the most impact in society.

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