Stephanie Sorter (she/her)
Goodbye twenty bi-teen, hello twenty twen-T! I’m sure everyone is tired of year in review articles by now, but before we move on to celebrating transness in every form in 2020, I want to take the time to talk about some of the queer media 2019 had to offer. And let me say, it offered a lot. Unfortunately, I am only one person, and while I wish I could experience any and every piece of media with LGBT+ themes, I am sure I missed a lot. So, while I can’t offer an all-inclusive review of everything gay from this past year, here are some things I enjoyed.
Cheap Queen - King Princess
I want everyone to know that I know next-to-nothing about music or how the pop industry works. This being said, I desperately want King Princess to become a household name. Mikaela Straus, the twenty-one-year-old behind the gender-bending stage name, started making music with her single “1950” in 2018, but “Cheap Queen” is her first full-length album. Straus’ songs bounce between jazzy synthetic pop and slower acoustic sounding ballads as she sings about young love and heartbreak. While these topics are not new to the world of pop music, “Cheap Queen” is unapologetically queer. Straus flaunts drag-inspired makeup on the album cover, and the song “Homegirl” creates a compelling narrative about the wlw desire to avoid subjecting other women to the same predatory gaze that so often comes from straight men. However you spin it, this album was made for the gays.
Pity Boy - Mal Blum
While they’ve been making music for years, it wasn’t until 2019’s pop-punk-ish album “Pity Boy” that indie artist Mal Blum showed up on my radar. My slight crush on Blum aside, their unique sound and funny/sad lyrics quickly made them my favorite musical discovery of the year. From the album description, “Pity Boy” is about “the patterns that recur over the course of our lives and what happens when we try (and often fail) to break them.” With songs examining topics such as how far we’ll go to help other people, mental illness, being closeted, and the ever-present question of gender identity, the album could very quickly become a somber, heavy thing. However, Blum’s humorously relatable lyrics such as “Don’t send me an email” and “God, I hope I get a gift bag,” along with a sense of optimism imbued throughout the tracklist, instead transform “Pity Boy” into something bittersweet and beautiful.
The Magnus Archives
I have never been a huge podcast fan. Yes, I did listen to some of “Welcome to Night Vale” like every other gay nerd in 2013, but I hadn’t really thought of the media form since then. Rusty Quill’s “Magnus Archives” has completely changed all that. The first four seasons can best be summed up with, “Come for the eldritch horror, stay for the power of gay love!” The plot is told through “statements,” individual twilight-zone-esque episodes featuring stories from an archive specializing in the strange and paranormal. If stories about trash bags full of teeth and spooky cul-de-sacs aren’t enough to draw you in, however, the show also features a cast of characters representing a wide range of LGBT+ identities, including some much-needed ace representation. The final season begins in April, so now is the perfect time to start listening!
God, I love this show. For anyone who somehow hasn’t heard of it, the story follows the Rose family, one-percenters who lose everything and have to build a new life from scratch while living in a rural backwater town. David, played by the openly gay Dan Levy, is stated to be pansexual multiple times and is an amazing example of a modern queer character. While he does fall into many flamboyant gay stereotypes, he has more than enough characterization to keep these mannerisms from becoming his only personality trait. So far, the show has also avoided the common trope of only letting queer characters exist if they are tortured in some way. David Rose lives in a world free from homophobia, but rather than coming across as trite and overly idealistic, “Schitt’s Creek” instead becomes something filled with hope.
I have a lot to say about this story. Way more than can fit here. Based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett, the mini-series released over the summer soon became a surprise smash hit. It tells the story of Crowley, a demon who’s a little bit too good to really “fit in” in Hell, and Aziraphale, an angel who’s “just enough of a bastard to be worth liking.” Together they travel the world, kill Nazis, and try to stop the apocalypse. While their relationship is never explicitly confirmed as romantic in the show, showrunner Neil Gaiman has stated that he wanted to write the TV adaption as a love story. This Romeo and Juliet style of forbidden love, along with Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Aziraphale as an angel absolutely smitten with David Tennant’s flamboyantly twinkish Crowley, made the “ineffable husbands” Tumblr’s ship of the year. Outside of the internet’s general infatuation with white gays pining for each other, the show also includes a canonically non-binary character with Lourdes Faberes’ portrayal of apocalyptic horseman Pollution.
Honorable mentions to “One Day at a Time” for its portrayal of young queer relationships, “Booksmart” for the way it treated being a lesbian as no different from being straight, Mika’s “My Name Is Michael Holbrook” for fun gay bops, and “Little Women” purely for every single vest worn by Jo Marsh.