Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: How to Stream Like a Queen


 

Let’s take a time machine trip back to the groovy 1970’s. On second thought, let’s not. In terms of home entertainment, it was a primitive time when there were only three national television networks plus a handful of public TV and cable access stations. The 1980’s introduced several dozen pay cable options, which was an improvement, but painfully few if any of these regular TV or cable networks featured shows with positive depictions of LGBTQ characters. What’s more, everything could only be watched on a boxy, heavy TV set.


My, how things have changed in the modern era! There are hundreds of satellite and cable channels today and as many or more websites offering a plethora of LGBTQ-interest shows. Some channels and sites broadcast nothing but LGBTQ shows! Our long-deceased, more conservative elders would probably roll over in their graves…although, in fairness, my grandfather was a big fan of Billy Crystal’s pioneering portrayal of an out gay character on the late-70’s sitcom Soap.

Freed from traditional constraints, LGBTQ writers, producers, actors and directors have found welcome freedom in today’s TV and internet landscape. Network and original shows streamed online provide a storytelling environment that viewers around the world can tune in to any time. Streaming shows also provide greater storytelling flexibility. Individual episodes can range from just a few minutes to the more traditional 30 or 60 minutes. Blessedly, many of them are shown without ads or commercials. And we can watch today’s shows through a variety of media: on our televisions, our phones, our laptops, iPads and more. Viewers are now able to keep up with their favorite shows anytime, anywhere: during lunch and bathroom breaks at work or school, or while riding the bus, plane or train. One can watch an episode at a time or “binge” an entire series in one sitting.


The “DC Universe” of series adapted from classic comic book superheroes has been one of the most popular and inclusive when it comes to LGBTQ characters. Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, DC's Legends of Tomorrow and Black Lightning, all available on cwtv.com as well as Netflix, feature an assortment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer heroes, villains and/or associates. Joining them this fall with her own CW show will be the lady-loving Batwoman.

Lest the CW be solely populated by DC’s characters, the comics giant recently inaugurated its own streaming network. DCuniverse.com provides a number of original series and classic movies for the low monthly price of $7.99. Chief among these in terms of queer content is Doom Patrol, about a diverse band of antiheroes. Out actor Matt Bomer plays Negative Man, a gay man with a troubled past including an ex-boyfriend with whom he longs to re-connect.

Here’s a rundown of several other LGBTQ-interest shows currently streaming that I recommend most highly:


Special (Netflix):
Ryan O’Connell created and headlines this autobiographical series about a gay man with cerebral palsy. While he is accepting of and open about his homosexuality, he has a hard time embracing his physical disability. Heartfelt and hilarious by turns, Special is special indeed.


American Gods (Starz):
An adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed novel about a brewing war between traditional deities brought to the shores of North America by immigrants and newer, human-created “false idols.” Now in its second season, it is a sexually explicit series that features a hot gay jinn (or genie) and his lover among its heavenly hosts.


Now Apocalypse (Starz):
Envelope-pushing queer filmmaker Gregg Araki recently debuted his first-ever streaming series. It explores identity, sexuality and artistry in ways both comedic and serious, as a struggling artist grows increasingly troubled by foreboding dreams. The cute young cast is frequently undressed and definitely worthy of ogling.


The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime):
A superb, frightening show inspired by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s novel. It envisions an alternate past in which Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and have taken over the US. A revolution is brewing, however, led in part by an out and proud gay man. The series also features a closeted, conflicted lesbian who heads the Nazis’ propaganda office.


The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu):
Another scary, dystopian series, this time based on Margaret Atwood’s classic book. Here, the religious right has risen to power in the US and is forcing fertile women to bear children for the impotent upper class. Alexis Bledel, all grown up after her prior teenager role on the popular Gilmore Girls, plays a persecuted lesbian plotting to take the anti-LGBTQ leadership down.


Gaycation with Ellen Page and Ian Daniel (Hulu):
Openly lesbian actress Ellen Page set out with her gay best friend Ian to explore LGBTQ communities around the world in this documentary series. Eye-opening and frequently funny, it’s a streaming trip worth taking.


The Umbrella Academy (Netflix):
Speaking of Ellen Page, she is also part of the ensemble of this new, offbeat superhero series adapted from a graphic novel. She plays Vanya, one of eight children from different mothers gifted with special powers. Adopted by a manipulative billionaire, they end up a dysfunctional family but must unite to stop the end of the world. One of the other siblings is Klaus (Robert Sheehan), a time-tripping drug addict grieving the death of his male lover during the Vietnam War.


Grace and Frankie (Netflix):
This sitcom starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin is now in its 5th season but is must-see TV. The pair play former frenemies who bond after their secretly-gay husbands, played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, fall in love with one another. While it’s always fun to see Fonda and Tomlin together (they previously co-starred in the movie 9 to 5 way back in 1980), Sheen and Waterston are equally great as the women’s newly liberated exes.


Black Mirror (Netflix):
This creepy-cool series about the unexpected costs of technology has featured a fair share of LGBTQ storylines and characters. The best may be the touching episode “San Junipero,” a time travel tale about two women in love that won a pair of Emmy Awards.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your favorite device and start streaming!

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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