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The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

An incomplete list of good queer media

Good queer media can be hard to find. Here are some suggestions
Opinions editor Aliya Gibbons shares her queer media recs on Netflix. Photo courtesy of Rawpixel

With everything going on in the world and on campus, sometimes you just need to curl up in a comfy spot and watch a good show. If you are anything like me (queer), you may be on a never-ending journey to find quality representative media.

Quality queer media is hard to find. It sometimes feels like there are a lot of queer-baiting, queer-coded Disney villains, or overly sexualized gay men and nothing else. While that feeling is common and is certainly not unfounded, there are good movies and shows that deserve to be recommended.

The media out there can be categorized into five different parts: coming-out and coming-of-age, fantasy/dystopian, and reality fiction, adult romance, and historical films.

The first category is what I am calling coming-out and coming-of-age films. Classic staples of this category are “Love, Simon,” and “Heartstopper.” Also in this category is “Love, Victor” a short series on Hulu which is a spin-off on the movie “Love, Simon.”

These kinds of films are all very similar. They feature a character in high school working through their identity, coming out, and finding love.

This category is catered to the young adult audience. It normalizes the queer, coming-out experience and represents a real struggle that all of us can relate to in some respect. For those currently living through their coming-out journey, this kind of media can show acceptance and provide some comfort; and for those who had a negative coming out experience, they can live out their ideal version on television.

In addition to the three staples of the coming-out coming-of-age category, here are some more recommendations:

“Young Royals” on Netflix: While grappling with responsibilities, family, and grief, the prince of Sweden finds new friends and a forbidden romance in a boarding school. Think “Heartstopper,” but make it angstier and add a little royalty. This show might be my favorite in this category, and the third and final season is to be released next year.

“Everything Sucks!” on Netflix: Theater kids and the AV club pair up to navigate the challenges of high school. This show was unfortunately canceled after one season, but I kept it on the list because of the sapphic representation. Most of these kinds of films—high school coming-out and coming-of-age—focus almost entirely on gay or bisexual men. “Young Royals” has some side WLW representation, but the main character in “Everything Sucks!” is a queer girl with a real love interest.

“The Half of It” on Netflix: A smart girl makes money on the side by writing her fellow classmate’s papers but when she starts writing love letters on behalf of a jock, she finds herself falling for the recipient. This movie is another beautiful sapphic film showcasing a first-generation Chinese immigrant lesbian exploring her identity and coming to terms with it. Queer representation in mainstream media is lacking diversity with respect to race and ethnicity.  “The Half of It,” “Love, Victor,” and “Young Royals,” begin to provide some diversity in that respect and the first two explore the complex relationship between BIPOC and queer identities in the United States.

The second category is fantasy or dystopian films that have main queer characters in them. These shows and movies normalize queer identities in different settings. Instead of the characters’ sexualities being their main and distinguishing characteristic that is necessary for the plot, it is a casual part of their overall identity. In these films, there is usually no coming-out plot, internalized homophobia, or general angst surrounding queer identities. While watching, we can all live vicariously in a world where being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is completely ‘normal’ even to the point where it is not explicitly pointed out, where there are no labels or declarations of sexuality mentioned.

“The 100” on Netflix: In a post-apocalyptic world, a group of teenagers are sent back to Earth after living in space.

The queer representation in this show is background, because the general romantic storylines are secondary to the plot plot. You have to wait for the second and third seasons to get it, but this show has one of my favorite sapphic love stories. (I can’t promise everyone survives.)

“Shadow and Bone” on Netflix: An adaptation of books by Leigh Bardugo, where bands of misfits get swept up into politics, wars and heists in a mythical world. I personally love the books Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, which is half of the basis of this show. I might be biased because of my love for the books, but this is a great show with some good queer and BIPOC representation.

“The Old Guard” on Netflix: A group of immortal and centuries-old mercenaries try to bring about good in the modern world but face considerable challenges. I found this movie on Netflix randomly one day as I was scrolling and loved it. I feel like it is unheard of, or at least not talked about, but it is a great film with strong gay characters that are not oversexualized.

The third category is modern realistic films. Like the second category, they center around something other than the characters’ sexuality, but they are based in reality and modern times. These include a lot of big names like “Schitt’s Creek,” “Shameless,” and “Glee.” All have main or side queer characters where their identities might be a plotline, but it is not the most prominent one.

“9-1-1” and “9-1-1 Lone Star” on Fox and Hulu: a band of first responders in California and Texas live their lives and respond to sometimes crazy calls. The second is a spin-off on the first but they follow the same premise. They both contain main queer or transgender BIPOC characters. Although I like them both, I wouldn’t call either quality television.

“Station 19” on Hulu: Another firefighter drama set in the same ‘universe’ as “Grey’s Anatomy.” It is the same premise as the 9-1-1 shows, but much better in my opinion.

There are a lot more films out there that do not fit neatly into any of the first three categories like romance films that feature adult characters.

“Red, White, and Royal Blue” on Prime: A new film that features a love story between the first son of the United States and the Prince of England. It is based on the book of the same name. I fully recommend you read the book first.

“The Thing About Harry” on Hulu: A story that follows true enemies to friends to confused to lovers to something back to lovers arc, starting with a road trip and ending with big public declarations of love.

“Single all the Way” on Netflix: A holiday film that follows a character hoping to please his family by finally bringing a boyfriend home. With a couple of fake dating moments and blind dates, he finds the right guy in the end.

There are also historical films that are some of the most important for representation.

“The Imitation Games” on Netflix features the true story of a gay man named Alan Turing who was responsible for the modern computer and cracking the Nazi enigma code in World War II.

“Rustin” on Netflix: A new film that came out on Nov. 3, narrating the life of Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was instrumental to the March on Washington and Civil Rights Movement. This is the only recommendation on this list I haven’t watched yet, but the moment I have free time I will be.

“Milk” on Prime tells the story of Harvey Milk, who in 1977, becomes the first openly gay man to be elected to a notable public office.

Historical films are rare ones, but they show real queer individuals in history who contributed massively to our society. These films say that we were not only here, but we have been powerful and capable from the beginning.

Representation matters. Even though the LGBTQ+ community is underrepresented in the media, there is a lot out there. All of these shows and movies tell complete stories of the world, ones not filtered through a conception that is all straight and all white. These films normalize identities, show new perspectives, fill in gaps in history, and empower new generations.

I understand the frustration of finding good, representative movies and shows, because it is hard. There is simply not enough out there. What we have right now barely scratches the surface, but there is still some media that we can enjoy. Hopefully, this list helps.

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