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Queer Representations in Film & TV

To mark this year's LGBTQ+ History Month, Sean explores some top picks of films and tv shows that highlight queer representations and experiences.

By Sean Lawrenson, First Year, English

As we approach the end of LGBTQ+ History month, it is important to think about just how much has changed in terms of representations of queerness on both the golden and silver screens throughout the years. We have come a long way in this regard, and while there is a long way to go, the following recommendations serve as beautiful explorations of queer culture in its hardships and celebrations.

Feel Good (2020-2021) // Courtesy of Netflix and IMDB

Feel Good (2020-2021)

Created by comedian Mae Martin and Joe Hampson, Feel Good is a semi-autobiographical look at the romantic life of its protagonist, Mae, a recovering addict who falls in love with an English teacher, George (played by Charlotte Ritchie). The show’s main strength lies in its complex portrayal of its two main protagonists.

Mae, for instance, struggles with their gender throughout the show, not truly feeling at home in their body, but is firmly assured of themselves (as much as anyone can be) in their sexuality. George, on the other hand, has never had a girlfriend and doesn’t particularly feel comfortable coming out to people in that way.

The show is expertly written, and you can tell that a lot of Mae Martin’s heart and soul has gone into making this as realistic as possible, not shying away from the harshness that real life can impose on people in a relationship. It’s unlike any other show I’ve seen in terms of how it tracks the two’s relationships, with both of them at times coming across as antagonists to the audience, making it a far messier, but truthful depiction of queer relationships on screen.

Dating Amber (2020) // Courtesy of Bernard Walsh and IMDB

Dating Amber (2020)

It is hard to think that a film about two people in a small religious rural town in Ireland in the mid-90s coming to terms with their sexuality would be a comedy, let alone one of the best coming-of-age films I have seen in a long old time, but that is Dating Amber for you.

The genuine chemistry and clumsy awkwardness between the two leads Eddie and Amber (played by Fionn O’Shea and Lola Petticrew, respectively) help make the film as enjoyable as it is.

Watching their trips to Dublin, where they feel free to escape the feeling of being an outsider, are the film’s most heart-warming. What’s more interesting is how Eddie and Amber are just completely different, and like all good friendships, they complement each other very well, even if that sometimes means getting on one another’s nerves.

It is a classic coming-of-age tale, two people finding out who they really are in the world and where they fit into it, but it is Eddie’s prolonged reluctance to accept himself for who he is (feeling forced into the army by his dad Ian) which provides the film with a more bittersweet tone.

Paris is Burning (1990) // Courtesy of Jennie Livingstone and IMDB

Paris is Burning (1990)

A staple documentary from director Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning tells the story of a group of drag queens living in New York, delving into every aspect of their public and personal personas.

There is a focus on certain conflicts between different houses, but the underlying sense of a want to be seen is particularly captivating.

Unlike the rest of the film and TV suggestions here, these are real people, and the impact that actions have in this film has consequences outside the screen we’re watching on.

It is also a devastating look at poverty in the Big Apple, but what’s most intriguing is the genuine belief the queens have that their lives will get better. The groups are optimistic that it will get better soon, even when they’re clashing with one another.

It's a Sin (2021) // Courtesy of Channel 4 and IMDB

It’s a Sin (2021)

A TV show I presume many of you thought would make its way onto this article: Russell T. Davies’ devastating, at times unbearably hard to watch, portrayal of a group of friends coming to terms with the Aids crisis in the 1980s is one of the best shows around in general, let alone when thinking of queer representation on screen.

The show follows a group of friends, headed by Olly Alexander, who plays Ritchie Tozer, a self-labelled bisexual who longs to make it in the world of acting. The great thing about this show is how well it balances out its screen time. There is a genuine nature to every single one of the characters, with one of the most emotional sub-plots (if you can even call it that) coming in the form of Colin’s story (played by Callum Scott Howells).

It is a shocking show, and will ultimately leave you an emotional wreck, but there is an attention to detail in it which so many film and television makers strive for, separating it from others in this article.

Featured Image: Channel 4 and IMDB

Do you think that queer representations in film and TV are accurate?