4YE’s Year In Review: #20GayTeen: A Year of LGBTQ+ Pop Culture History Part Two

Credits: Atlantic Records, BBC America, Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

2018 truly was a year of up and downs, from the rallies and marches for freedom, rights, and protection for all and a more diverse representation on the big and small screen, to the disastrous state of politics, particularly sexual and gender politics, all over the world.

But we, the people, continue to fight – and  especially the LGBTQ community has been making waves that should not go on ignored. So a bunch of our 4YE editors got together to highlight some of their very favorite moments of the year. These include influential people, specific movies, TV shows, games, plays, and plenty more. 

There was so much to talk about that we needed to split this up into two parts. You can check out part one of our feels here.

So, without further ado, let a brief but nonetheless very personal review of #20GayTeen in popular culture continue!

Lara:

The Haunting of Hill House

The year of Lord #20Gayteen was all about new queer characters Theodora Crain and Villanelle for me. For anyone who has yet to watch either series, Theodora Crain is the middle child of the ghost plagued Crain family on Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House. Villanelle is the hired assassin of my dreams on BBC’s Killing Eve.

First up, let’s talk about The Haunting Of Hill House and subsequently Theo (Theodora) Crain (played by Kate Siegel). This series tells the story of the Crain family, who get a sweet deal on a super haunted house and move right on in to flip the place with their five adorable (not you, Steve) children in tow. The story is non-linear, moving in and out of time and told by all seven of the beleaguered Crain’s. As revisionist retellings go, this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House stands alone (much like the spirits who walk the halls of Hill House). While Jackson’s novel was largely about anger (Eleanor’s anger, to be precise), the series is about trauma, loss, and dysfunction.

Now for my love, Theo Crain. Theo is perhaps the most plagued of the Crain children, because she has a very unique gift that makes Hill House her literal Hell. Theo has a kind of touch driven empathy, which is a cool twist on Jackson’s original Theo who was a psychic. Through young Theo we see horrifying glimpses of what this ability can do. Sure, she can find hidden bootlegging basements, but she also catches a glimpse of her mother’s smashed head just by touching her. As a result, it’s fairly simple for the audience to understand why grown Theo wears gloves literally all the time. The gloves help Theo to manage her “gift”, and act as a block between her and the messy emotions and motivations of others.

https://twitter.com/k8siegel/status/1050436810688483329

As I said earlier, this series is about trauma, what it does to people, to families, and what it makes us. And horrible loss and trauma have made Theo Crain strong. I’m not going to oversimplify the character for the sake of flattery. Theo has built walls around her body and her heart. She struggles to connect both physically and emotionally with other adults because to let her walls down even for a moment (or, to remove her gloves) means opening herself up to all their baggage when Theo has plenty of her own. But this does not stop Theo from connecting with and counseling traumatized children, and that is precisely what she has chosen to do with her life and the way she uses her unique gift.

During the course of the series we see Theo begin to accept this double edged ability, this secret side of herself. Theo’s story is not a coming out story; Theo is out and she doesn’t care one whit about your opinions. Theo’s story is about the struggle of traumatized people to accept the parts of themselves they cannot change, accept their past, and fully embrace their whole selves. While her character has a lovely romantic arc with Trish and that in and of itself would make Theo worthy of this list, for me, the truly beautiful and important thing about her is the way she heals herself and learns to open up her big beautiful heart. Theo Crain is powerful (and terribly rare in depictions of queer people on TV) because she is a reminder that we are more than our trauma.

Killing Eve

Last, but certainly not least. Oxana Vorontsova, codename: Villanelle. What could I possibly say about Killing Eve that has not already been said by fans and critics alike? Next to nothing, but let’s continue. Killing Eve is the story of a cat-and-mouse game between Villanelle, a hired assassin, and Eve Polastri the MI6 agent charged with bringing her down. And to be plain, it’s one heck of a ride.

Villanelle (played by Jodie Cormer) makes my list of top queer characters this year for the sheer fun she has murdering people. I don’t care if it’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right, I would watch this woman slaughter her way around the globe with a song in my heart.

I think the reason Villanelle’s character is so powerful is the way she embraces every part of herself. She owns her career, she owns her childishness, she owns her bisexuality. She loves herself the way only a psychopathic murderer could. Oh, to have that confidence and conviction! Plus, she has a thing for middle aged brunettes? Like, who can’t relate to that?

But seriously, this was a show that I had absolutely no intention of purchasing on Amazon. I was happy that Sandra Oh was finally cast as a leading actor, and very excited to watch the show after it was able to stream on Prime Video or Netflix. However, gay twitter vehemently disagreed with me. This show was a must watch, and I was clearly missing out. The season pass on Amazon ended up being some of the best money I spent this year. In a year so politically and emotionally fraught, a gleeful bisexual assassin ended up being the one woman character I needed most this year. Villanelle was my escape on my darkest days.

GIF: Tumblr

Lena:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

#20Gayteen was a year of remarkable LGBTQ+ movies. One of them is The Miseducation of Cameron Post. The story of Cameron Post is based on the book by Emily M. Danforth, but the important thing is that this is a story that could be happening in real life. The young girl Cameron Post, portrayed in movie by Chloe Grace Moretz, has to move in with her conservative relatives after her parents died in a car accident. Hard enough to lose your parents but her aunt, uncle and grandma who she lives with from that point on, turn out to be the kind of people who can’t give a young girl like Cameron the room to develop her own personality freely. Cameron discovers her homosexuality and starts to live it out, her family sends her to a conversion camp after they find out. These camps are a form of  therapy where the young people should learn about the so-called right gender roles and “learn not to be gay”.

Not really a feel-good, but a strong movie. It’s a difficult topic but it turned into a wonderful movie that makes you feel what it means to be abused for who you are and who you love. One of the reasons why I think that this movie was important is that it can help people to face the truth of today and about what is still happening in the world. It might also be important for straight people to see it. After Love, Simon, some straight friends of mine who had nothing to do with the LGBTQ+ community before, said that they get it now. They realize what it means for a person in the society to be gay even though they don’t directly hunt you down for being different.

GIFs: Tumblr

The Miseducation of Cameron Post lets you feel with Cameron and feel the pressure she has to go through. And there is pain. It was one of my favorite movies of the year, and I really liked the performance by Chloe Grace Moretz, but at the end there was only one question for me. Why? Why do we still have this today? LGBTQ+ Youth needs protection, keep that in mind. At the Sundance Film Festival, the movie won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, and Moretz dedicated the Award to the survivors of sexual conversion therapy, which I felt was right and very important. To shine a light on the issue of these camps with this film was a highlight of 2018, maybe it will be the highlight of a future year that there are no conversation camps anymore. Fingers crossed!

Angels in America

Lastly, 2018 brought something back to us that would be described as “old but gold”:  Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. After the success in London, the National Theatre production started their Broadway run in New York with remarkable actors such as Lee Pace, Denise Gough, James McArdle, Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane. The first part of the play written by Tony Kushner premiered in 1991 and the second in 1993. As the play also is also set in the city of New York, it was kind of taking the story home.

Angels in America is a very long complex play but amazingly beautiful, painful, joyful and funny. The main characters are Prior Walter, a young man who has AIDS, his boyfriend Louis who starts an affair with Joe Pitt, a Mormon who finds out that he is gay while being married to Harper Pitt, a Mormon who is addicted to pills, and then Roy Cohn, a character who is based on the real person Roy Cohn and a disgusting homophobe.

This play is so important and has so many messages that go beyond the LGBTQ+ community. Like that we need the people around us. We need emotion and contact, probably more than ever in a time where contact is simulated in so many ways but not really there. If you are really able to let the play in and reflect, many people will realize that they would like to see themselves as characters that are like Prior or Harper, the innocent dreamers and fighters that might have their heads in the sky from time to time but who are so deep and full of philosophy and life. But a lot of people are more like Joe or Louis. The people who are mistaken, human and sometimes inhuman to others. It’s not as bad as it sounds and especially not when you see the play and notice all the progress Louis and Joe go through. That is humanity in the purest form. The progress of making mistakes, feeling sorry, getting hurt and changing for the better.

This is a play also about a deadly disease, but also and maybe even more about life, feelings, love and failure. A true masterpiece. And the question of God, as in the play God left the world and his Angels in Heaven alone. Is there a God? Does he love us? Did he leave? For Prior it’s important to him to have his life, this one life. It might be affected badly by AIDS, society stigma, losing his boyfriend and other things but his will to live is stronger than all these things.

The play is a truly up and down experience but with a happy ending. Not that anyone is in a happy relationship or any relationship at all in the end, but Prior survived, which wasn’t usually the case in 1985/1986 with AIDS. The actors said in several interviews that the play is physically and mentally hard to do but the end is like a 5 minute payback and relief for all the feelings that they have to go through for their characters. Even though the whole AIDS crisis sounds far away from #20gayteen, there are probably enough people who can feel the pain and at the same moment this certain sort of joy when Prior says “We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins” in the ending monologue. Maybe some people cried, because these are the touching words and probably fit as well today as they would have decades ago.

The production was also one of the big players at the Tony Awards in 2018. Out of the several nominations such as Best Performance by a Featured Actress where Denise Gough and Susan Brown were nominated, Angels in America won the Award for Best Revival of a Play. It was quite iconic to have Tony Kushner wishing Judy Garland a Happy Birthday as one of the highlights of this year’s Tony Awards. Also Nathan Lane took home his third Tony Award for winning Best Performance by a Featured Actor for playing Roy Cohn in Angels in America and gave us a wonderful emotional and personal speech. He thanked the writer Tony Kushner before he mentioned his Husband Devlin Elliott, who supported him. It seemed like Lane couldn’t help himself when he began choking up.

Andrew Garfield won his first Tony in the category Best Leading Actor in a Play for playing the role of Prior Walter. He showed his eloquence and became the living proof that you don’t have to be gay to be an important and strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. He called out discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community and supports the spirit of the community. “It is a spirit that says no to oppression. It is a spirit that says no to bigotry. No to shame. No to exclusion. It’s a spirit that says we are all made perfectly and we all belong.” as Garfield describes it. And then he dedicated the Tony Award to the “countless LGBTQ people who have fought and died to protect that spirit. To protect that message for the right to live and love as we are created to.”

This was definitely a favorite moment of 2018 because we are all thankful for the people and generations before us that gave their life for more acceptance and rights. Garfield ended the speech by referencing the Supreme Court ruling that sided with a Colorado bakery. The bakery decided to deny a customer’s request for a wedding cake for a gay wedding. So Andrew Garfield said “Let’s just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked!” – that’s really a great punchline for #20GayTeen.

What are your personal favourite LGBTQ moments of the year?

Share them with us in the comments or tweet us at @4_Y_E

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