WUSSY's 2019 Queer Media Survival Guide

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2018 was a complicated year for queer media.

Bohemian Rhapsody, a current Oscar contender, was directed by Bryan Singer, a gay director who has been the subject of several child sexual abuse lawsuits. The film depicted the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury but has been criticized for sanitizing and largely ignoring his queer life, along with inexplicably rearranging the timeline of his HIV diagnosis for dramatic effect.

Gay white boys found themselves represented in Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove, coming-of-age dramedies that effectively play on emotion but left some wanting more variety. Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the year’s two conversion therapy films, were endlessly pit against each other.

On TV, RuPaul continued to dominate, Queer Eye made us cry, Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story and A Very English Scandal provided some limited series realness, and Pose transfixed with its portrayal of ball culture in 1980s New York City.

So what will 2019 look like? If 2018 can be defined by the range of queer identities in TV and movies, along with the debates and controversies surrounding some of those projects, we can hope that this year will continue to add new and exciting queer perspectives.

Rocketman, directed by Dexter Fletcher (who came in to finish directing Bohemian Rhapsody after Singer was fired), will be this year’s big music biopic, starring Taron Egerton as the one and only Elton John. Produced by John himself, the film continues this bizarre and ethically dubious run of fictionalized biopics being partly supported by the artists themselves (Rhapsody, Straight Outta Compton). As the trailer suggests, this will be even more fantastical than those movies, which seems to suit Elton John’s persona, though it’s unclear if Fletcher has the aesthetic control to pull it off.

By Christmastime, we’ll also be treated(?) to Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Cats, starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, and James Corden. While I have personal doubts about Hooper’s abilities, particularly in terms of musicals, this will surely be a hit (on TV, we’ll also see Rent Live, on January 27, and Hair Live in May).

Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe

Perhaps more enticing is Mapplethorpe, about the photographer and starring Matt Smith. After hitting the festival circuit in early 2018, the film is finally being released in March. Following Mapplethorpe’s life, the trailer suggests a lighter tone than I would’ve expected, but I’m hopeful that it won’t shy away from the explicitness and inventiveness of his work.

Without an official release date is Chanya Button’s Vita and Virginia, which I saw at TIFF in September. It’s about the relationship between Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and socialite Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton), and it’s kind of filmed like the Riverdale of period films, which I mostly intend as a compliment. Certainly some liberties are taken and some moments seem overly aimed at appealing to modern audiences, but the chemistry between Debicki and Arterton is worth it.

Vita and Virginia

Vita and Virginia

The French film Sorry Angel, directed by Christophe Honoré, is released in February after it was met with plenty of positive press after its premiere at 2018’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s about a gay love affair in the early ‘90s, tinged by HIV and doom but reportedly full of heart and two exceptional lead performances. Even more French excitement is on the way with Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Benedetta, which tells the story of the lesbian 17th century nun Benedetta Carlini (played by Virginie Efira). I’m relatively certain that Verhoeven will be in the same provocateur mode as he was with Elle, particularly since he’s assembled much of the same creative team, including co-writer David Birke (Efira also had a small part in that film). Recent reports unfortunately suggest that the film may be delayed until 2020, but I can’t wait.

Likewise, I also hope that we’ll see Happiest Season, starring queer icon Kristen Stewart and directed by queer icon Clea DuVall, in 2019, as well as Ammonite, a lesbian drama with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as a paleontologist and her nursemaid, respectively. It’s directed by Francis Lee, responsible for God’s Own Country, one of the most affecting and innovative queer films in recent memory.

As for television, we’ll see the return of Pose, the end of Transparent, and the continuation of countless queer storylines on everything from Killing Eve to Schitt’s Creek and The Bold Type. There are also two queer characters on Roswell, New Mexico, which just premiered on The CW, though it remains to be seen how central that will be to the series.

Fosse/Verdon

Fosse/Verdon

I’m antsy to get into FX’s Fosse/Verdon, starring Sam Rockwell as filmmaker Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon—judging by the trailer, it will be a sexy, well-choreographed dream. Also worth looking forward to is Now Apocalypse, from director Gregg Araki, a LA-based comedy on Starz centred on a gay romance in the middle of the end of days. Similarly post-apocalyptic and highlighted with a gay romance is Years and Years on HBO, from Russell T. Davies, the creator of Banana, Cucumber, and Queer As Folk.

Netflix is also reviving Tales of the City, which was a landmark series in 1993 for its depiction of gay characters. Now starring Laura Linney, Ellen Page, and Bob the Drag Queen in a recurring role, it’s about the tensions between one’s chosen and biological families. After the end of Please Like Me, his hilarious and heartfelt comedy, Josh Thomas is back with Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, on Freeform, while Insecure’s Issa Rae is producing Travon Free’s Him or Her for HBO, about a bisexual black man, which is presumably still on the way.

Oh, and some people are excited for the Ruby Rose Batwoman show. Go ask them about it.

As you can tell, 2019 has a lot of potential (and this is just my own curated list of what’s on the horizon). This could be a year when queer media encroaches ever closer to the mainstream, bringing forth more discussions than ever about what it means for that to happen. Moreover, it’s worthwhile to take stock of the projects being greenlit and financed—we must be able to discern what is made by us, what is made for us, and what is made in spite of us. 2019 has potential, but let’s be vigilant about analyzing what they say and what they mean, because there’s always more to be done and more to see.




Jake Pitre is a writer and academic based in Ottawa, Ontario. His writing has appeared in Pitchfork, the Globe and Mail, Them, The Outline, Polygon, and elsewhere.