Question of the Week: January 28, 2015

What’s your favorite general LGBT-related piece of fiction?

Having this discussion with my friends, we realized we could name only a few– in general, queer characters in literature or cinema seem to follow a few really overdone, railroaded tropes, and we couldn’t come up with any that we genuinely liked. So expose each other to some: you get bonus points if there’s a happy ending. Too many of these works end in heartbreaking loss.

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19 Responses to Question of the Week: January 28, 2015

  1. Lewis says:

    Gosh, this question made me realize I probably binge watch or read too much LGBT fiction. And that there really isn’t a lot of it I like. Now I really want to review all of them someday and discuss all the good and problamatic stuff.
    Kissing Jessica Stein was my first queer movie, and you never forget your first lesbian film! It holds a special place in my heart, despite its cheese factor and odd ending.
    I don’t really have a favorite lgbt movie, but I think I can talk about which ones I’ve most recently watched. The films I’ve seen most recently include The Perfect Wedding, Coffee Date, and Make the Yuletide Gay. The later two were interesting, but not that fun or exciting to me (plus Coffee Date, while less predictable in plot than MtYG, had some sound issues and could have some very triggering moments for some, as a straight guy is convinced to have sex with his best friend to see whether or not he could be gay.) However, I really liked The Perfect Wedding a lot, because I thought it was a nice romantic comedy, which didn’t even focus completely on the romance. Instead, it’s a bit sidelined for the main plot, which is to help a best friend make arrangements for her wedding (yes, they’re helping her plan a wedding. Don’t leave me yet!) while her controlling mother attempts to make it a night no one will ever forget, but only because the girl’s father has early onset Alzheimer’s. I didn’t think anyone, including the main and extended cast, were pushed into becoming a stereotype. The bride didn’t become a pushy Bridezilla, the mom actually was just trying to cope with her husband’s failing memory, and the two main gay guys (who aren’t even romantically intertwined, but friends!) seem pretty cool. Maybe the fiancΓ© was just a bit odd. Or at least, I think so. It’s been a while.
    I guess that my favorite representations of queer characters of all time would have to come from theater. It’s really a hit or miss. Sometimes if the lgbt person is the main character, their portrayal isn’t full of ‘fabulous’ stereotypes. The memoir turned musical Fun Home comes to mind as a good example of queer representation, but I don’t think it’s best to include it because the material is based off of real events.

  2. maralaurey says:

    My current obsession is a TV show called In the Flesh. It’s just been cancelled, although there’s a chance that Netflix or Amazon might pick it up, and it has queer characters whose queerness isn’t the main plot of the story, hurray! It’s really well done and highlights about a million different social issues via the medium of zombies (there’s prejudice against them, they’re segregated, forced to tell people that they’re dead, all seen as terrorists, have to work for their citizenship, etc etc). I’ve not finished it yet, but as far as I can currently tell, the only downside (other than the fact that it was apparently cancelled on a cliffhanger ending) is that it hits a little too close to home for comfort.

  3. Siggy says:

    I watch a lot of gay movies. They’re usually pretty terrible, probably because people (such as myself) are willing to watch them anyway.

    I think one of my favorites was But I’m a Cheerleader. However, it’s not really the kind of thing you’d like if you’re bothered by “overdone, railroaded tropes”. The movie takes camp to surreal levels.

    Some of my least favorite movies are nominally about “real” gay characters. It’s common for writer/directors to take their personal experiences as gay men in a particular gay culture, and basically universalize it and glorify it.

  4. luvtheheaven says:

    I watch a ton of television, and more and more of the shows I watch feature characters who just happen to not be straight, and I enjoy that. Some of the most recent examples I’d probably choose are the ABC Family shows The Fosters & Chasing Life, because neither show is “About” queer issues, but they are both each a “general LGBT-related piece of fiction”. Chasing Life is about 24-year-old straight woman April Carver discovering she has Leukemia and trying to make a career for herself in journalism at the same time, but it’s ALSO about her entire family, and her mother and sister have pretty big storylines on the show, just a little less centered than April. Brenna is in high school, bisexual and falls in love with a girl, all while dealing with other things in her life and supporting her sister through her cancer. I especially loved how they handled the Christmas episode of Chasing Life last month, where Brenna & April’s grandparents come into town and they keep making heteronormative comments to Brenna, people keep mislabeling her as gay or a lesbian and she keeps quietly correcting them because she’s bi, etc. Eventually she comes out and overall I think they handle it nicely, especially since the MAIN arc of the episode is still “April is in chemo and her hair is starting to fall out and the guy she’s in love with who also has cancer has decided to have a risky brain surgery and this might be their “goodbye” ep”. I like when shows are able to include such a good LGBT narrative at the same time as not actually being a show one would typically think of as focused on those issues (unlike, say, “Queer as Folk”).

    Or The Fosters has a lesbian couple raising a group of adopted, biological, and foster children and the fact that they are lesbians is mainly a non-issue, although in a few episodes it is quite relevant (Stef’s father is homophobic, Lena wants to have a baby so they need to go to a sperm donor, etc). The Fosters also has had amazing trans representation where they cast someone who’s trans in real life to help with a realistic storyline about a trans boy being stuck in a group home for girls because of the way the foster system in the USA is not perfect. Also, it’s unique in what it’s been doing with Jude’s storyline since the pilot. We’ve got a middle school boy being written as “likely gay”, a kid they treat like a young child, who’s just barely old enough to have crushes and everything – but they don’t shy away from the fact that he IS old enough and being 12 or whatever doesn’t stop him from being able to know he’s gay. πŸ˜‰

    I know ABC family shows are extra melodramatic and flawed in various ways. When it comes to quality TV, you’re better off sticking to other networks. But I can’t help but be sucked in anyway. πŸ˜‰

    I also love Faking It, so much. Again, yes, it’s an MTV show, but their scripted shows aren’t always so bad. That’s a show that is just the right mix of hilarious and serious, of realistic and over-the-top all at the same time. Amy falling for her straight, female best friend is a story many queer girls would be able to relate to, and one reviewer even suggested that in season 1 she fit the idea of demisexuality amazingly well:×4-know-thy-selfie/ πŸ˜‰ Because she wasn’t necessarily interested in “Girls” or “boys”, just her best friend Karma. Shane being a gay guy who has no feelings for his straight best friend is a nice counterpoint and Shane struggling with dating someone who’s not out of the closet yet, Amy’s mothers brand of homophobia that is sort of, slowly, morphing into acceptance, Lauren (Amy’s half sister) being revealed to be intersex but that not changing the fact that she’s a girl, etc. They shove so much queer stuff into a silly little half hour comedy, and I love it. πŸ˜‰ I think overall, it’s quite well done.

    Orphan Black would be a show I’d highly recommend for how it handles queerness, though. Because the fact that two main characters are not straight is not what the show is about, but they aren’t afraid to let Felix be who he is in every episode – a flamboyant gay man who may happen to fit some stereotypes, but who is a serious and intelligent character. They aren’t afraid to explore Cosima/Delphine as a female/female romance at the same time as letting Sarah have heterosexual encounters and Alison being in a marriage to a man. Fandom has even latched onto the fact that Beth could be easily headcanoned as asexual, given what we know about her character, and it wouldn’t contradict anything.

    Just wanted to share some thoughts about these 4 TV shows. πŸ˜‰

    • luvtheheaven says:

      Btw that first Ace Beth tumblr link at the bottom of my previous comment only makes sense if you watch the show. Basically, Paul is talking to Sarah who he thinks is Beth – he’s just had sex with Sarah and it’s very different than sex with Beth but he thinks he’s talking to the same person… Lol. That’s what Orphan Black is. A crazy, complex, sci-fi show about clones all played by Tatiana Maslany and all of this other stuff comes with it.

      • cinderace says:

        Now I want to watch Orphan Black! I wish it was on Netflix…

        • luvtheheaven says:

          Note that Beth is more of a minor character, the one everyone headcanons as ace. She’s not a main character. πŸ˜‰

          You might want to see this interview that the actor who plays Felix gave too: πŸ˜‰ Orphan Black is available on Amazon Prime instead of Netflix, unfortunately. I’m with you, I wish it was on Netflix. So anyway, this show AND the actors are just truly awesome. πŸ˜‰

          • cinderace says:

            That interview makes me want to see it even more! Yeah, besides Beth it just sounds like a really good, well-done show. I did find that my library has it, so if it’s ever not checked out then I’ll watch it that way. πŸ™‚

    • luvtheheaven says:

      One last clarification: When i was talking about the recent Christmas episode of Chasing Life, Brenna’s grandparents were who she wasn’t out to yet and who kept making heteronormative comments to her. Everyone ELSE in the ep knew she was bisexual but kept mislabeling her as gay where she’d quietly correct them. The first ep in January also had one of those moments, where someone tells her that she has twice as many options of people to date because she’s bi and she tries to reply, “actually, it doesn’t really work that way”. I really am loving this show’s representation of bisexuality, that’s all.

  5. ainnanen says:

    My top five (all with happy endings)
    -Quicksilver by R.J.Anderso. MC is ace and a female engineer (to be) and is AWESOME.
    -Adaptation and Inheritence by Malinda Lo. These two are sci fi books. The main character is bisexual and polyamorous.
    -The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. Omigosh. Steampunk series with wearwolves and vampires and ghosts and QUEER CHARACTERS GALORE! I am so happy.
    -Ash also by Malinda Lo. I really freakin love Malinda Lo okay? Bisexual retelling of Cinderella it is amazing.
    -Tale of the Five by Diane Duane. Fantasy series where pretty much everyone is queer. It is a thing of beauty. Also there are many dragons πŸ™‚

    • cinderace says:

      I love Quicksilver too. Besides being great in general, it was the first book I ever read with an ace protagonist (or character), and it means a lot to me because of that.

    • queenieofaces says:

      Quicksilver made me cry. Ash made me cry. In a good way, but still, there was a lot of leaking emotions. (Also, am super pleased to hear the main character of Adaptation is poly. I read the first book and was like, “Oh noooooooo, it’s another love triangle, uuuuuuuuuuugh.”)

  6. queenieofaces says:

    Most of the ones that immediately come to mind for me are webcomics–O Human Star, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, 14 Nights, Shades of A, etc. Then I have a category of LGBT media that I just had a really strong emotional reaction to but I’m not sure others would react to in the same way–Saving Face (*LIES ON THE GROUND*), Quicksilver, Ash, Two Boys Kissing, Edge of Normal (queer superheroes are my super not at all secret weakness), etc.

    Also, on the topic of endings, most of the non-book media I can think of (aside from, for example, biopics) has happy endings–the books are, in my experience, a lot more likely to end in heartbreak and loss. Especially if it’s YA about a sad gay cis white boy grappling with his sexuality and convinced that homosexuality is all about the sex and not about the romance. (I don’t know why there were so many of those when I was in my teens, but I can only hope that the market has somewhat diversified.) Bonus extra sad ending guaranteed if his love interest has a homophobic, alcoholic, redneck dad.

  7. Grace says:

    My favorites presently are Supernormal Step (a webcomic) and Carmilla (a web series). Supernormal Step’s main character is both aro and ace, though it’s not mentioned until the later chapters. Carmilla is jam-packed with queer representation in the videos and other canon media, and we’re hoping for more in the second season.

  8. Sara K. says:

    Hmmm, LGBT movies, well …

    – I really like Heterosexual Jill, which does have a happy ending
    – I don’t think I’ve seen any *bad* LGBT movies (I’ve seen The Wedding Banquet, Brokeback Mountain, Prayers for Bobby … hmmm, I guess I haven’t seen many LGBT movies)

    It’s actually kind of hard for me to think about this question (particularly with regards to written media) because I don’t think in terms of ‘This is an LGBT story’ and ‘This is not an LGBT story’. Well, except when there is zero LGBTness in a story, and on the other extreme, when the story is all about LGBTness (for example, Khaos Komix).

  9. elainexe says:

    There’s The Legend of Korra that just ended last month. Well……I can’t say it was LGBT-centric. But it still managed to get a way with ending the show with the main character in a same sex relationship, practically a romantically-walk-off-into-the-sunset moment, despite the show being aimed at a younger demographic.
    This will be some kids’ childhood. I think that’s pretty significant.

  10. Hollis says:

    I read a lot of queer-centric (ish) webcomics.

    Beyond what Queenie said, I also really love Ignition Zero, which features a genderqueer character and canonically asexual characters who are in a relationship, but is more focused on the urban fantasy shit that is happening.

    For books, I haven’t read that many with queer characters, but Tamora Pierce’s books set in Emelan feature several queer characters (who are all mages with what is probs my FAVORITE set up for magic ever), but keep in mind the first books are for a target audience of middle schoolers, but the later books are more YA-ey. Also, there is canonical queerness in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. It’s not as much of a focus as I’d like, but there are several canonically bisexual ladies, but these books are AWESOME and have probably spoiled any zombie-related media for me forever because they can’t come close to how great these books and this world building is. I am a huge sucker for clever and extensive worldbuilding.

  11. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Bit late to the party due to RL stuff on the weekend. So, as a fantasy writer, I can offer fantasy books! (Not mine, though those are the ultimate favorites, obviously…)

    Anyhow: a non-happy ending with both gay and lesbian characters is Richard Morgan’s “A Land fit for Heroes” trilogy. Though the third part, while fitting, is IMO optional, and denying reality by not reading it will leave you with a somewhat positive feeling.

    N.K. Jemisin offers characters who would be considered queer/gay in our modern times in “The Killing Moon”.

    Also, for people who read German, “Des Teufels Maskerade” by Victoria Schlederer is definitely worth a look for people who like characters that are incidentally gay.

    There’s heaping helpings of Gay Romance in German, but somehow, I can’t really gear up an interest most of the time – Romance is Romance, no matter who gets to ride off into the sunset. I like love stories, but I can’t stand Romance, if that makes any sense.

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