Star Trek’s first Gay Kiss

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Star Trek: Discovery is boldly going where no other Star Trek series has gone before. Last month the space drama introduced Anthony Rapp’s character, Lt. Stamets, as the first openly gay character in the television history of the franchise. But the show took things a step further this week by featuring a same-sex kiss between Stamets and his partner, Dr Hugh Culber, played by fellow out actor Wilson Cruz.

The franchise has been known for pushing boundaries since it first aired in 1966, and came under fire in the late ’60s for featuring an interracial kiss between the characters Kirk and Uhura.

Despite being known as groundbreaking, the episode still faced homophobic criticism from fans who don’t like seeing a happy gay couple on their TVs. But Cruz had a response for anyone who had a problem with Discovery’s queer representation.

“I’m not here for your comfort,” he wrote in a poignant Facebook post. “That’s not why we are here. We’re here to grow.”

Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu was portrayed as a married gay man by actor John Cho in the film Star Trek: Beyond, but a scene rumored to show a kiss between Sulu and his husband was ultimately cut from the film.

The OA’s Trans Character is great

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Stranger Things might be the big pop culture hit when it comes to mystery shows but it’s not the only Netflix series worth a (binge) watch. The OA follows Prairie Johnson, a young woman who’s returned to her family after disappearing seven years prior.

Looking to reconnect with those she left behind in captivity, Prairie gathers a group of misfits to hatch a plan. One of her compatriots is Buck Vu, a transgender teen who’s been turning to the local drug dealer—another of the cadre—for his testosterone.

 The show doesn’t shy away from positive and negative reactions to Buck’s identity, especially from his family. But he’s a nuanced character, not a token representation for the sake of diversity. He might also be the first Asian-American trans character in a mainstream television series.

Ian Alexander, who plays Buck, is transgender in real life, too—a nice change of pace from Hollywood’s usual approach of casting cis people in trans roles. Raised in a conservative Mormon family, he faced rejection by his parents, who tried to force him into conversion therapy.

“I remember particularly being obsessed with FtM transition videos,” Alexander told Affinity of his earliest inklings about his identity. “I didn’t connect with it personally yet, but I still remember tucking my long hair into a hat and taking a few ’boy’ pictures.”

If he looks familiar, that’s because the high schooler became something of a viral sensation last year, when he clapped back at transphobic UCLA students.

“I was frustrated, but decided to use humor rather than waste my energy on people who clearly don’t understand what they’re against,” he told Buzzfeed at the time.

He answered an open call for a young Asian trans actor that circulated on Tumblr, and the scored the part. Ironically, showrunner Brit Marling says they were told the role was impossible to cast. She told Vulture:

“We’d always written the character as a 14-year-old transgender FTM Asian-American, and when we gave our casting director Avy Kaufman that description, she said, “We might not be able to find this person, so what are you flexible on?” We told her we weren’t flexible, so she finally took to the internet and posted some casting notices on various trans chat rooms and groups, and audition tapes came flooding in.

Ian was among them, he had shot his with his iPhone in his bathroom and uploaded it all without his parents knowing. Out of nowhere, his parents get a phone call that Netflix wants to cast their son! They’re like, “What?”

His tape was brilliant.

He told us, “I’m having a really hard time in school, because I wanted to act but it’s not like the plays that are done in high school have roles that describe a person like me. You can’t imagine what it was like to go online and see a posting for a Netflix show that describes me.”

We got really lucky.

Comparisons to Stranger Things are easy: They’re both Netflix shows about mysterious abductees who fall in with a group of young men. But while Stranger Things’ queer factor is pretty much subtext, The OA puts it out front and centre.

 

Benny’s Gym

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Alfred gets bullied. Benny is a bully. Through a series of events they become friends, but Benny keeps their friendship a secret. Benny wants to teach Alfred to hit back. But after an accident, it turns out maybe Alfred also has something to teach Benny.

Closet Monster

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Director Stephen Dunn works a delicate balance with his Closet Monster (currently streaming on Netflix), an imaginative spin on the coming-of-age tale that blends together both straightforward storytelling and recognisable emotional beats with creative flourishes. Those flourishes — including a talking hamster and a series of fantasy sequences — are treated with the same equanimity as the rest of the more reality-rooted elements, allowing Closet Monster to retain an authenticity that other, similar features may not be able to hold on to with such grace.

Young Oscar has a seemingly idyllic childhood, one that is punctuated by his father’s rich imagination, is brutally disrupted by his parents’ separation, an event that turns Oscar bitter, while his once-loving father becomes cold and distant. Already in a state of emotional turmoil, elementary school-aged Oscar witnesses a heinous crime against a classmate that compels him to further hide his emerging sexuality. Taught from a young age that being gay is something to be feared or, at the very least, concealed and repressed, Oscar internalises the crime, a reaction he doesn’t fully understand until years later.

When we catch up with now teenage Oscar he’s on the cusp of adulthood, he’s still reeling from the events of his childhood. Highly creative, Oscar spends his time crafting magnificent practical make-up effects for his over-the-top best friend Gemma, taking photos of his artistry and building inventive additions to his hamster’s cage. And about that hamster…

Alive for far longer than any other normal hamster, Buffy — who talks, if only to Oscar — acts as both a comfort to Oscar and as his conscience, going so far as to bill himself (or herself? Buffy’s gender identification is a plot point in the film) as Oscar’s “spirit animal.” The animal illustrates Oscar’s profound tenderness and his deep loneliness in equal measure. Once Oscar meets sexy Wilder at work, his carefully constructed facade begins to crumble, and the hormonally-mad teenager begins to give himself over to desire.

Oscar’s fixation on Wilder — who is attractive and mysterious, but not particularly nice, sort of the platonic ideal for a teen crush — pushes him into new modes and methods of reaction, many of which feel jarringly violent. As he begins to experience the world around him through the emotional milieu of falling in love for the first time, other things come into sharp focus and the already creatively inclined Oscar begins to blend fantasy with reality. The film’s visuals are lush and dreamy, and Dunn makes even Oscar’s tired old town look fresh. The film winds down to a fairly obvious conclusion, but that does not dilute the satisfaction it also earns along the way.

Closet Monster may feature a talking hamster and a hefty volume of very bloody flashbacks-turned-fantasy, but Oscar’s issues continually remain real and relatable. Dunn plays around with perspective and style, but all the flash doesn’t obscure the film’s emotion and heart, which are deep and true. The talking hamster is just a bonus.

 

via IndieWire

Arrival

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A true coming of age story, Arrival follows one boy’s journey into adulthood, and the complicated relationships that go with it. It begins with a boy growing up with his mother in the countryside, who then journeys into the big city to follow his dreams. All the while, the two communicate by sending Polaroids back and forth to each other, sharing their now completely different lives.

Along the way, he meets another boy with whom he is determined to share his life with. The main character becomes stuck in a cycle of indifference, rather than standing up and coming out to his mother. The story of the film pulls from past relationships of director Alex Myung. It portrays a modern queer couple, exploring the highs and lows that come with feeling guilty for loving the right person.

Submitted by Andrew

Disney delivers another Teen Coming Out & that’s great

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Earlier this week, it was reported that The Disney Channel was about to broadcast its first-ever coming out story using a recurring character in their teen drama series Andi Mack, oneof the network’s top performing shows. Well, the episode premiered this Friday (it was the first episode of the show’s Season 2 premiere) and we have a clip of the coming out scene below — it’s pretty sweet.

The context of the Andi Mack coming out scene

Cyrus is friends with the show’s titular heroine Andi Mack. Andi has a crush on the local cutie Jonah, and Cyrus has been totally supportive of her crush. Supportive, that is, until he sees Jonah and Andi actually kiss in the Season 2 premiere. Afterwards, Cyrus realizes that he’s jealous because heactually has a crush on Jonah too. Uh-oh…

Feeling odd about the entire thing (remember, these kids are teens), Cyrus goes to the local cafe to meet his friend Buffy. That’s where the scene begins….

Why the Andi Mack coming out scene is a big deal

The Disney Channel has been taking several gradual steps over the recent past to introduce gay, age-appropriate content to its young viewers, but this is the first time that they’ve had a majorly visible gay character who isn’t just a one-off.

Almost 94 million households receive The Disney Channel. That’s a lot of viewers who might see Cyrus’ coming out story and realise that having same-sex attractions doesn’t make you weird or any less worthy of your friend’s love.

Cyrus’ coming out story arc is also supposed to develop throughout the entire season, giving viewers multiple chances to see a young gay person navigate his feelings with his friends by his side.

Call me by your Name

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Call me by your Name is a sensual tale of first love, based on the novel by André Aciman. It’s the summer of 1983 in Italy, and Elio, a precocious 17-year-old American-Italian boy, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia. Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father, an eminent professor specialising in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella, a translator, who favour him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights.

While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart. One day, Oliver, a charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendour of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

Guadagnino’s telling of the development of this romance, which changes both parties, is like the feeling of getting gently drunk. It’s smooth but a little dizzying. He fills every scene with life. Trees are heavy with fruit; people are always eating; the chirping of crickets a constant soundtrack. He thrusts life at you and wills his characters to live theirs. Long summer days drift away in a gentle routine of swimming, cycling and nothing, but each day that passes with feelings unvoiced is a day lost — they will never have it back.

The screenplay, written by James Ivory, is elegant and full of small surprises. The level of attention given to even the smallest of characters means so many of them have an impact even with minimal screen time — Elio’s brief girlfriend breaks your heart with a handful of lines. What few vocal emotional outpourings are present are earned — a paternal monologue by Stuhlbarg in the final minutes is as verbose as the film gets and, good lord, it makes it count (bring tissues). But much is conveyed in the many silences which are entrusted to an excellent cast.

Chalamet is the centre and he gives the kind of performance that immediately sends you to Google to find out where the hell this kid came from (he may be familiar from Interstellar or Homeland). All Elio’s teenage emotions are raw on Chalamet’s skin. He plays him as a person still forming, not scared by his feelings but surprised. In a film in which every performance is terrific, Chalamet makes the rest look like they’re acting. He alone would make the film worth watching, but he’s just one of countless reasons.

 

The Babysitter

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Fresh to Netflix this week is The Babysitter from the minds of McG and Brian Duffield. While the film is a really fun watch, it at times does give a little wink and nod to the holiday classic Home Alone. Don’t be fooled though, The Babysitter is more than a slapstick romp.

At the heart of this film is a 14-year-old underdog named Cole. The script taps into the audience’s adult memories of being a socially awkward kid and finding comfort with the incredibly fun and exciting older babysitter. In the film, said babysitter, Bee, is just that.  Everything, especially for a young boy, a kid can dream of. Bee is beautiful, funny and always has Cole’s back, or so he thinks.

Cole discovers a very dark side to Bee and her satanic friends. Which sets off the terror, gore, and hilarity. The balance of executing a horror comedy without being too “jokey” is not an easy task. McG pulls it off exceptionally well with The Babysitter. The sharp wit and biting sarcasm of the ensemble cast of teenagers, along with the standout performances of the actors make the movie one the audience actually cares about. If you’re looking for a comedy to celebrate the Halloween season, The Babysitter is on Netflix now.

The Mess He Made

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A man spends 15 minutes waiting for the results of a Rapid HIV test in a small-town strip mall.

“This is a film about getting tested for HIV in 2017 — two decades after President Clinton announced that finding an effective vaccine would be a top national priority. Five years after the FDA approved PrEP for reducing the risk of sexually acquired infection. One year after my first Grindr hookup.

This is a film about queer rituals. This is a film about grappling with gay shame. And this is a film about a man who is terrified of winding up alone, but on some level thinks he deserves to be.

I feel very lucky (and terrified) to have so many of my own demons on display in this work – it has been more personal, therapeutic and creatively fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I’ll always be grateful to my remarkable cast and crew, who stomped into Scranton, PA with me the week after the election, when the world suddenly felt so unfamiliar, and carved out a space for this fierce little film.” – Matthew Puccini, Director