Issue #6: The Queer TV Invasion 🥳
Schitt's Creek + Vida
It's Pride month babies!!! No, this probably isn't the Pride month we were all envisioning for our 2020, but hey, Pride has never been about being satisfied with what we've been meagerly tossed, right? We're here, we're queer, we're responsibly managing our actions in support of public health and anti-racism actions! Lest we forget: the first Pride was a days-long, anti-cops rally; as the saying goes: Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you. As you can see, we've also got a new look this week. It's courtesy of one of our favorite artists, Erin Millman. She's that bitch, but aren't they gorg?
So in the spirit of that, let's talk about how far we've come! In this issue we're chatting about some of our favorite queer characters and moments from TV — that's right, we promised you that a TV week was coming. Luckily we've got nothing but the best for you. So take a break and get into that good, gay shit.
Zosha on Schitt's Creek's "Meet the Parents"
Created by: Dan Levy
Network: Pop TV
When people talk about the sweetness of Schitt’s Creek, it’s episodes like “Meet the Parents” that they’re talking about. In it we see so much of what makes Schitt’s special: queer existence beyond the reaches of homophobia; the family operating as a bemusingly dysfunctional unit; sitcom hijinks with just a tinge more sweetness than we’re accustomed to.
What I return to, over and over again with this episode — which I return to over and over again — is that depending on the audience there is not necessarily a central “conflict” driving the episode. To a discerning hetero viewer, there is no tension, as screenwriters would have it, that propels the A-plot of “Meet the Parents.” We know Patrick’s parents love their son, we know that when he decides to come out he will be supported and loved all the same. But to a queer eye, there is a gulf.
Within that conversation, even when you know it’s probably going to go fine, is the fear of exactly what Patrick describes in the episode: “I know my parents are good people. I just…..I can’t shake this fear that there’s a small chance that this could change everything. That they might see me differently or treat me differently.” That "differently" is the operative word doing a lot of work here, and it’s hard to really quantify; mostly you just want to know that there will be an unconditional love to call on when you need it. Schitt’s Creek famously eschews any mention of homophobia in favor of the world that shows “love and tolerance.” But that shadow of it (or some version of it) still looms over “Meet the Parents.”
And so, every new wave of news in the first half of “Meet the Parents” feels like a very specific kind of heartbreak. This episode is just filled to the brim with these small beats that Schitt’s thankfully, gracefully, makes room for: Patrick and David’s jaws clenching as they both realize the magnitude of Patrick’s omission; David blinking back tears when Patrick says he can’t let him be just a business partner, or psyching himself up to go see Patrick’s parents; Stevie walking across the cafe in order to make sure David is breathing when Patrick goes to have The Talk.
When Patrick does come out it goes great — again, we knew it would! It’s an absolute sweet moment, that’s deft in its handling of all things saccharine (necessary) and humorous (very necessary).
But the moment I return to over and over again is actually David’s moment with Patrick’s parents. When he goes to their motel room — to make sure that they can allow Patrick to come out in his own time! “Get you a man who will” and what not — every single beat feels exactly what it needs to be. He refuses to lie to them, announcing that "he very much is" in a relationship with their son, that he’s only sorry that they found out the way they did.
As the conversation continues, the camera always routes its way through David — he talks, Patrick’s dad talks, David reacts, Patrick’s mom talks, and back to David. It’s not until Mrs. Brewer says that they’re not mad that Patrick’s gay (only that he didn’t tell them), that it really holds for a second: “Oh my God, okay! For a minute I thought this was going to get very dark.” And then — and I cannot stress this enough — the camera holds on David wiping away a tear. It is absolutely a moment I’ve never seen on another sitcom, allowing a queer person to quickly process the calculation that always comes with the coming out conversation, casual or no. It’s the heart of Schitt’s: A classic sitcom trope being used for goodness, to further compassion in the world; wacky hijinks that acknowledge the underlying stress running beneath it.
This episode is both the darkest Schitt’s has ever been, and the lightest. David is hurt, but he puts aside his hurt to assure Patrick that, “What you’re dealing with is very personal, and it’s something you should only deal with on your terms.” Patrick telling David that he “can’t let him do that,” and just pretend. Them both acknowledging that at the end of the day they will always have each other. And in the end, love wins, David and Patrick both get to be seen as they are and loved for it — love fucking wins!
In the final moments, as the two slow dance with each other, Patrick doesn’t take his eyes off of David. They sway, and he tells him, with absolutely all the sincerity in the world: “Well you made everything okay.” And then it holds on Patrick’s face as they hug.
This may be the moment that (we learn, in a few episodes) Patrick decided to propose. Or it may just be a moment of true peace, where another queer person has been seen for who he truly is. Either way, a very special coming out, a very special new terrain for representation. It’s a very special episode, and honestly it’s what we deserve.
Cate on The Queer Legacy of Vida
Created by: Tanya Saracho
In one of our early editorial meetings, I told Zosha that I didn't want this newsletter to become a diary. The purpose of this project is to watch movies and hone our skills and keeps ourselves sharp for the hellscape of a job market that we've graduated into. But when I decided to write about Vida's final season for this issue, I knew that I was going to have to get a little personal to explain why this show is so meaningful to me, and why I'm so devastated to see it go.
The short answer is that I came out as bisexual this year. The long answer is that Vida is one of the shows that helped me do it. By the time this issue is released into the world, I will be within days of my 30th birthday. To say that coming into my queerness was "late in life" feels like both an exaggeration and an understatement. I agonized over it for months before bringing it to my friends, then my therapist and then myself. It was confusing, but I had always assumed that when you're queer, you just... know. Maybe not immediately, but when you know, you're sure.
I wasn't sure.
I watched Vida's first and second seasons with a mix of fascination and awe. Mishel Prada's Emma was a character I could relate to. She was uptight and liked things to be ordered and she liked to be in control. And she couldn't understand why everyone wouldn't just do as they're fucking told. That felt real to me. (Just ask Zosha how many very minor tweaks I have insisted on making to the layout of these letters.) But Emma's journey through her queer identity was something I was experiencing both up close and at a distance. Vida is a queer show through and through, but it was Emma who resonated. She had such a specific knowledge of what she liked and how she wanted to be pleased, and a complete and total inability and unwillingness to talk about it afterwards. From a distance, it felt like what I was going through—tentativeness, fear, maybe a little residual Catholic shame.
But what always stuck out for me was the tenderness with which Emma had sex. It was a recurring theme that she only allowed herself to be tender with a lover. For two years I watched (and rewatched) those scenes and wondered if I was fascinated by them because I too just wanted tenderness, or if it was this specific tenderness I craved—did I just want to be touched by a woman?
Turns out the answer was yes! But it's also that I've always been a person who craved intimacy and connection, and Vida gave me a way to feel that before I was sure that I knew I wanted it. My heart broke a little when STARZ announced that they would be ending the show's run, because I'd never seen anything like it, and I don't know if I ever will again.
While for me, seasons one and two were about considering tenderness, season three was about embracing it. The first episode of season three begins with Emma naked in bed with her not-quite-girlfriend Nico (Roberta Colindrez) sweetly rolling around and enjoying each other's kisses, bodies, and company. Last year I might have watched that scene with a detached, anthropological curiosity. This year seeing it just fills me with joy. Because now I know what that feels like, and I never would have had the courage to find out without this show.
I'm always a little embarrassed when people ask me how I knew I was bi, because the answer is quite simply "television." It sounds stupid when I say it out loud, especially for a woman whose life is statistically almost half over, but it the truth. I watch a lot of television as a critic and TV has gotten very gay in the last few years. Vida is a product of that boom in representation and it managed to take a story about gentrification in LA and the plight of two left behind sisters and make it something that resonated deep in my bones.
There's a magical quality to Vida that's hard to describe if you don't watch the show. There's a synergy to the way these characters connect and how their lives intertwine to produce something so potent that you don't want to look away. Vida's true love story has always been between Emma and her sister Lyn (Melissa Barrera). Their purpose was to find their way back to each other through their mother Vidalia and the many secrets she left behind. But for me, Vida has been about finding myself, and I'm pleased to say that I did.
¡Viva la Revolución!
We want to make sure we're reserving room in this newsletter to help the ongoing activism around the U.S./world, at the moment. We hope that this section will help us all keep the energy up and smart — like, for instance, be wary of "chipping in" on Change.org. Give directly to gofundmes and organizations!
So this is our space to do that on a weekly basis, along with some of the links and outlets we're hoping to highlight or support (and extend the same offer to you):
A master post to bail funds, for funding bail either locally or across the country (every bit helps!)
Black and Pink, an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS affected by the criminal punishment system
The Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund
Assorted Internet Detritus
Zosha: I'm writing this in advance, but I can tell you now: It's been a long week. To help you relax between your activism this week (like supporting Black-owned newspapers!, your protests, your sharing of vital information and resources to those in your circle) may I offer: This fantastic deep dive on Britney and Justin's breakup, as told by analyzing their post-breakup music videos?
Cate: Because I've promised myself to do more things that bring me joy, this week I'm enjoying this oral history of "Pon De Replay" the first single from the little Bajan Princess who would go on to become the dominating cultural force we know as Rihanna. A lot of the story is old information about the night she was signed to Jay Z's label, but there are tons of interviews from the executives who were there at the nascent of her career, and some juicy quotes about how they always knew she'd be a star. If you need something to take your mind off the state of the world, this is it.
That's it. There's no more. In Issue #7: Desert Hearts and Dirty Computer.
Until next week,
Zosha + Cate <3