For Pride, here are 13 QTPOC films and TV shows that don’t just end in misery!
We are tired of every single QPOC narrative being traumatic, so here are some of the team’s favourite films and TV shows that show some joy, chemistry and beauty.
09 Jun 2021
Who really wants to spend Pride watching queer people having an awful time? Not us.
Most of us are well aware of the dull at best and downright dangerous at worst ‘bury your gays’ trope. It sees LGBTQI+ characters brutally die at a much higher rate than their straight counterparts. Where are our happy endings, our boring sitting on the sofa kind of love, our romantic frissons, our arguments over mundane couple shit?
From bisexual dating competitions to coming-of-age teen dramas, via a bit of Bollywood extra-ness, below gal-dem have rounded up some films and TV shows celebrating multifaceted queer narratives. Sure, there are still moments of tears and unavoidable stresses, but we hope these stories are at least a reminder of the beautiful, hopeful possibilities of LGBTQI+ love.
Yes, I spend too much time writing about how much I love Mythic Quest on this website, and the queer romance is in no way a central facet of the show – but I think that’s also what I kind of love about it? MQ is a very silly but tightly-written workplace sitcom set in the gaming industry that looks at egos, and it just so happens that the necessary “will-they-won’t-they” pairing on this show is two queer women of colour gamer nerds, Dana and Rachel. They’re cute and soft and dorky together, and [spoiler alert] when they do eventually hook up in season 2, the issues and conflicts they face aren’t about gay trauma, they’re about standard couple shit like what happens when it feels like your ambitions and future goals aren’t aligning. I am writing this mid-way through S2 though, so who knows what awaits…
Legendary is a one-stop shop into the world of modern ballroom culture – perfectly packaged into the format of an upbeat competition. The show sees some of the biggest houses in the US ballroom scene vogue it out to win the crown and cash prize. Judges include Meg Thee Stallion, stylist Law Roach, ballroom icon Leiomy Maldonado, and Jameela Jamil. The announcement of Jameela Jamil judging on the competition caused an uproar back in February 2020, leading to her publicly coming out. But really, this show has very little to do with the judges – it’s all about the incredible ballroom community.
Are You The One? (Season 8)
There’s been a lot of chat about no LGBTQI+ people being on this season’s Love Island due to ‘logistical issues’. But really what’s the point of shoehorning queer people into a show that’s very much not designed for them? Especially when the MTV dating show Are You The One? exists. Season 8, sees the normally straight dating competition get a whole new makeover – the 16 contestants are all sexually fluid and are attracted to all genders. Shot in Hawaii, they have to find out who their perfect match is to split $1 million – the possibilities are endless. Truly it’s carnage (and educational). This season makes Love Island look like Cilla Black’s Blind Dates.
The Watermelon Woman
The Watermelon Woman is on any good queer film list worth reading – a classic. Starring, written and directed by Cheryl Dunye, the 1996 indie film follows Cheryl, a 25-year-old Black lesbian working in a video rental shop, as she makes a documentary about a 1930s Black actress who is only credited as “The Water Melon Woman’ in a film called Plantation Memories. There are so many themes in this film including blackness, queerness and friendship. The looks in The Watermelon Woman are also so on point and will make you want to run out and buy a sweater vest and mini sunglasses. It’s also the first film to be directed by an out Black lesbian!
Full disclosure: I have not actually seen this film yet, but you’d better believe I have a ticket booked for a screening at BFI’s Wong Kar-wai season next month. If you’re familiar with Wong Kar-wai’s work you already know that this is going to be devastating and stunning (he is the director behind In the Mood for Love). The film is about a gay couple who move from Hong Kong to Argentina, set against the backdrop of the 1997 handover of HK from the UK to China. On the BFI description it says the pair have “smouldering chemistry as a couple falling out of love”. Sign my Pisces self up.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga
There’s a Bollywood film from the 90s called 1942: A Love Story – it’s about romance while fighting against British rule (we love to see it), and it features what would become an all-time classic love song, ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’. It’s from that song this 2019 film gets its name, translating to roughly “I saw a girl and felt this way”. Subverting the heteronormativity of Bollywood into a story about family acceptance in modern, upper-middle-class India, it’s super over the top at times (as is only right) but genuinely pretty warm, moving and softly radical, not least for a mainstream movie in a country which only recently repealed section 377. And for all there are tears along the way, it’s got sweetness and joy in abundance too.
Inspired by Sarah Waters’ novel, The Fingersmith, but transferring the story to Korea in the era of Japanese colonial rule, Park Chan-wook’s film is – and I can’t stress this enough – intensely erotic. On its surface, it starts out as a story about people attempting to con an heiress out of her inheritance, but the plot is taut with thrilling twists and turns. At times I’d argue it can veer into lesbian trope (women “practising” on each other to be ready for a man), and the stuff with the uncle is dark, but when the film-making is this beautiful and the storyline is so transfixing, it’s very much worth a watch.
The Half Of It
This American coming-of-age comedy-drama written and directed by Alice Wu is a modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, in which protagonist Ellie Chu writes love letters on behalf of an inarticulate friend called Paul, to his crush Aster. You can guess what happens next… It seems that Ellie is actually the one developing feelings for Aster and expectedly, the situation gets messy. Wu’s rendition is not just about the significance of the romantic relationship, but also the platonic one. It’s genuine and compassionate, which is sometimes all you want in a film.
Set in Nairobi, there’s definitely a lot of tension and stress in this love story between two women (homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, and the film was famously banned there when it first came out back in 2018). The story follows Ziki and Kena, the daughters of political rivals, and their star-crossed encounter. Amidst the heavy, draining fear of what queerness means in this context, there’s also the bright and vivid cinematography plus lust, yearning, tenderness and chemistry. And, without wishing to spoil it, dare I say there’s an ending that’s actually soft, touching and satisfying.
Ok, so it’s not exactly a lighthearted film and I wouldn’t say it has a happy resolution, but the 2016 Oscar-winning masterpiece is so raw and layered, it’s a complete must-watch. After having experienced two hours of Moonlight, there is a sense of uplift because the coming-of-age tale is captured so accurately through three different stages of the main character’s life. Growing up in a rough area of Miami, the protagonist (who is known as Little, Chiron and Black throughout) experiences heartbreaking neglect and abuse in his childhood. The film then follows him through his teenage years, introducing an array of complex and flawed characters, and finally ends on his life as a young adult coming to terms with his identity as a gay man. Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is an unforgettable watch filled with moments of joy, innocence and pain.
Listen, you surely don’t need to be told the merits of Pose at this point – a beautiful, at times deeply harrowing, look at NYC Ballroom culture in the 80s and 90s, the series cites itself as the largest ever cast of trans actors in a scripted series. Obviously, the nature of the show means there’s a lot of hardship, but it also celebrates acceptance and being held by the community of your chosen family. And man oh man [spoiler alert] the tender love story between Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) and Angel (Indya Moore) is just so nourishing and magical. Season 3 has yet to air in the UK, but if, like me, you follow the cast on socials, you will have seen the beautiful moment that’s coming for the pair. The way I will cry!
San Junipero – Black Mirror
Black Mirror is usually not the series you go to when you want to feel comforted, but the San Junipero episode was uncharacteristically heart-warming and beautiful. It’s basically sci-fi but with so much love and emotion running through it, you sometimes get lost in the moment and totally forget the clever plot the episode follows. It’s a feel-good story about a lesbian couple wanting to live forever in San Junipero, a simulated reality because they didn’t get the chance to do so in real life. Get the tissues ready – there will be a lot of happy crying.
Created by Lena Waithe, Twenties is a light-hearted comedy that follows three twenty-somethings in LA trying to get their shit together. Hattie, the lead, is attempting to manage her messy love life with emotionally unavailable women while trying to break into scriptwriting (wheww). There’s something universally relatable about not knowing what the hell you’re doing and simply winging it to make your dreams come true.