Happy Summer Friday to you, we are here and it’s time for your weekly round up of queer television! Let’s get to it! Kayla brought our journey with the Fear Street saga to a very gay close in Fear Street: 1666 which somehow mashed two different centuries and two different story-styles into a bow that worked and also did we mention, was gay? Fear Street is gay. Cool, glad you are caught up. Speaking of horror stories, the new American Horror Story spin off series (unimaginatively titled American Horror Stories) is Ryan Murphy at his absolute worst.On Legends of Tomorrow, Ava and Sara were off looking for wedding venues so we have to spend the whole episode with Constantine. Boo. On Good Trouble, Alice returned to her comedy program with a hero’s welcome — and was immediately faced with more cis white dude garbage decisions. We finally had a chance to catch up with Atypical, where Casey and Izzie joined the magical unicorn club of queer happy endings. And Heather promises you that Tig Notaro’s new animated special Drawn is a guaranteed blip of healing serotonin. Here’s what else!
Notes from the TV Team:
+ If you’ve ever watch Starz’s drug pin crime family soap Power, then you probably already know that its staying power (pun not intended) has turned into a Universe of spin-offs. If you’ve never seen it but you like violent family crime dramas, ugh… give it a try? Ok so in the original Power Kanan, the looming Big Bad, has a best/friend cousin named Jukebox who is a lesbian (played by Anika Noni Rose, who ranked in our Top 100 of Queer and Trans Women of Color Characters on Television). Last week, the latest Power spin off started on Starz, Power: Raising Kanan. It’s a bit like if The Wonder Years met a poorly written version of Season 4 of The Wire. It’s set in the early 90s when Kanan is just a teenager, and guess who is right beside him, having a lesbian teenage love affair? Yep, Jukebox. More soon! — Carmen
All American 319: “Surviving the Times”
Written by Natalie
This week’s episode of All American started a little differently: teasing the climax of the story — most notably, the cops rolling up on Coop’s tour bus — before we found out how our characters got there. That meant I spent the bulk of All American‘s season finale anxious about what the future held for Coop. Would she escape her interaction with the police unscathed? Was she going to go to prison as her best friends head to college? Waiting for answers was agonizing… but it made for great TV.
Despite assurances last week, Layla isn’t accompanying Coop to Vegas for the tour so she’s on her own… well, except for Preach’s stand-in at the merch table, Andre. Coop laments having to go alone and Layla presses her to ask Patience to come along. Before hitting the road, Coop makes a stop at Spencer’s All American celebration. The best friends reflect on both living out the dreams they’ve had since they were kids and finally having made it, together. They wish each other luck — him, at the state championship, her, on the tour — and share a huge embrace. When Patience turns up at the celebration, Coop invites her girlfriend to join her on the road. Patience is reluctant because she doesn’t want to steal any of Coop’s shine but Coop reassures her: all she wants is for them to shine together.
Later, Coop finds Andre loading the merchandise boxes into the bus but clocks his behavior as suspicious. He’s not riding on their plush tour bus, opting to drive himself there instead, and he refuses to open the box to give Coop a t-shirt for Patience. Once the bus gets on the road, the scene from the episode opening happens: police board Coop’s bus, guns drawn, looking for a shipment of narcotics. Thankfully, Coop recognized the set-up before the bus got on the road and unloaded all the drugs so when the police arrive, they don’t find anything. But then — for reasons that make absolutely no sense — Coop doesn’t continue her trip to Las Vegas on her luxury tour bus with her gorgeous girlfriend… oh, no… instead, she heads back to Crenshaw to confront Mo about setting her up.
Coop declares that Mo lost in her quest for vengeance but Mo warns her not to be so sure. Mo pulls a gun out of her purse, cocks it and points it directly at her. Coop doesn’t back-up or run, she just stands there and asks Mo to choose a different path than she did. She acknowledges, “This is the hurt and the pain talking, I get it, but this need for revenge ain’t gonna do nothing but eat you up inside and destroy your life. I had to learn that the hard way, by avenging Shawn. I wish I would’ve let that go. Don’t make the same mistake as me.”
For a minute, it looks like Coop’s gotten through to Mo — she lowers her gun — but when Coop asks if they’re good, Mo raises her gun back up. Gun blasts break the silence: the first from Preach’s gun, which takes down his (alleged) baby mama, the other from Mo’s gun, a shot that hits Coop in her side. She collapses on the pavement, blood spilling out, with Preach crying over her.
The Republic of Sarah 106: “A Show of Hands”
Written by Natalie
It’s been a few days since AJ found the positive pregnancy test in Alexis’ trash can and she’s spent every moment since stewing over it. She’s convinced that Alexis is just toying with her: enjoying their affair until she has to trade in her heels for high chairs. Corrine encourages AJ to talk to Alexis but AJ insists that she’s scared of what Alexis might say and how she’ll respond. Corrine suggests that she talk to Alexis at work, that way there’s no risk of AJ going off, but AJ notes that Alexis hasn’t been at work. Probably morning sickness, AJ scoffs. Corrine insists that AJ just talk to Alexis.
Later, AJ runs into the former mayor (AKA Alexis’ husband) who is not running in the town’s upcoming congressional election to spend more time with his family. She assumes that that’s code for spending more time with his new baby and uses it and Alexis’ unreturned phone call to further foment her rage. The couple finally crosses paths and, suffice to say, it does not go well. AJ throws barbs at Alexis — for the unreturned calls, for the pregnancy test, for not telling her about the pregnancy, for convincing her that they had something genuine while recommitting to her husband — but never gives Alexis time to explain her side. AJ just keeps talking recklessly and when William approaches to congratulate her on her congressional primary victory, she congratulates him on his new baby.
His new baby which he clearly did not know about until that very second… as evidenced by the look of shock on his face and the utter mortification on Alexis’ face.
Later, AJ invites Alexis over to apologize but Alexis is not having it. She rips into AJ for talking to her husband and confesses that she didn’t tell anyone about the baby because she’d had an abortion. Between the precarious state of her marriage and the uncertain connection between herself and AJ, Alexis realized that she wasn’t at a place to become a mother again. She was going to tell AJ, Alexis promises, but she just needed a moment to collect herself. AJ tries to apologize but this time, Alexis won’t let her speak. She blames AJ for concocting these delusions and then spewing those at her husband. She resolves to take a trip to New York with him and to try to save what’s left of their marriage.
“There is a world where this ended so differently. The way I felt about you…” Alexis leaves the rest unsaid but the result leaves AJ devastated: they’re over and it’s all her fault.
Even a sincere apology from AJ later doesn’t change things and the town cop tries to turn the page with her friends. Sarah promises that she will move on, eventually, and Corrine hopes that when she does, it’s with a single woman. For now, though, AJ’s content to take a break and chooses to focus on her new job as a member of Greylock’s newly formed Congress.
Betty 206: “The Let Out”
Written by Drew
The second season of Betty was somehow even more laid back than the first. This show has almost no plot — but that doesn’t mean it has no drama. Like life, the dramas of Betty come and go. The most important thing in the world one day is quickly resolved or forgotten the next. This is part of being in your early 20s, part of being a skater girl, part of being gay.
We pick up right where the previous episode left off — yes, Betty is the kind of show to technically have TWO Halloween specials in one six episode season. The party at The Factory is devolving into chaos and Kirt throws some more in by telling Micah that she’s been fucking his girlfriend. She’s tired of being worshipped by a gaggle of straight boys and, after all, is it really wrong considering she LOVES Shelby??
I think the answer might be yeah. And turns out someone who would so casually cheat is sort of a heartbreaker all around. Kirt finally confesses her love to Shelby and Shelby not only rejects her but is cruelly dismissive.
But not all our gays are ending in disaster. Against all odds Ash and Honeybear reconcile by… sort of communicating? They cut Victoria out of their relationship but don’t close off the idea of polyamory. They don’t really get into the specifics of their desire but hey what youthful queers are actually doing that effectively. I’m glad they’re going to have another chance! I’m rooting for them!
Camille and Janae’s storylines were the most effective this season and while I’m supposed to focus on the gays, no one on Betty really feels cis and straight. (Camille is even shown reading The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is My Ex-Wife.) Camille denounces her poser skate sponsor and starts flirting with her best guy friend. And Janae helps start a literal Skate Kitchen to deliver food to those who need it during the pandemic — and she finally fucks the cute boy she’s been dating.
There’s been a lot of debate about whether shows should exist in the world of the pandemic. It’s not always the right choice, but for Betty I’m so happy it brought its specific brand of casual reality and wholesome optimism to this moment of struggle and growth. Betty suggests the answer is being true to yourself and caring for others and while those platitudes are corny, these skater girls are cool enough to pull it off.
American Horror Stories 103: “Drive In”
Written by Drew
The second story of American Horror Stories has a new writer and director so it’s not bad in a Ryan Murphy way — it’s just bad.
Directed by 52 year old cishet man Eduardo Sánchez (director of The Blair Witch Project) and written by 60 year old cishet man Manny Coto (director of Zenon: The Zequel), “Drive In” is basically The Ring meets Scream meets Infinite Jest. There’s a movie from the 80s that turns you into a crazy killer and it’s coming back for a one night only screening.
At the center of our story are Chad and Kelley — two teens navigating the world of sex with the nuance of Porky’s. Chad wants to have sex, Kelley doesn’t, and Chad’s friends suggest he seduce her with fear.
The reason I’m covering this episode on Autostraddle is that Kelley’s best friend Dee is non-binary and played by Ben J. Pierce. They are also upset about Kelley not wanting to have sex and they suggest it’s because she’s afraid of the dick. “As the owner and proud connoisseur of the dick” they’re an expert, they suggest.
This transfeminine character shows up, shames their friend for not wanting to have sex, talks a lot about dicks, gives a cis boy head, and then gets murdered.
Eventually Chad and Kelley kill the director after he says “a society that locks up its artists doesn’t deserve to survive.” Then they have sex. A TV show isn’t a persuasive essay and doesn’t have to have a message — but this episode is very tell-don’t-show about its messages and those seem to be “pressure your girlfriend into sex” and “art is dangerous and bad.”
I think we need to reassess our relationship to on-screen representation. I’m glad these actors all got work, but Murphy and Sánchez and Coto simply do not have the ability to write these characters. It’s not just Dee — having Chad, a young Black guy, argue repeatedly that they need to call the police shows the limits of this kind of “inclusive” casting.
I don’t need poorly written teens of color. I don’t need another dead transfeminine body on my television. I wish these guys would just play in their little sandbox and stay far away from the rest of us.
Motherland: Fort Salem 205: “Brianna’s Favorite Pencil”
Written by Valerie Anne
It’s Halloween in Salem, and some spooky things are going on, like ghost fights and ghost chats and, well, murder. Raelle confronts Anacostia about seeing Scylla and is pissed no one told her Scylla escaped, and she’s also frustrated that Anacostia won’t tell her how Scylla got a photo of Raelle. The girls have to work together to fight off some ghost warriors and keep a campfire lit, and as a reward for their success they each get to talk to a dead person for the length of time of one candle. Tally talks to the dead woman she’s been having visions of to try to get more answers about the General and what she’s hiding, Abi talks to her cousin who was murdered in front of her and whose voice was used to lure her into a trap. And Raelle tries to talk to her mother… who WE know isn’t dead, but she doesn’t. That poor lamb sat until the candle burned out just hoping her mom would show and thought she just… didn’t want to. It broke my whole heart. And then Scylla healed my heart again by saving a little girl at a witch hunt party and murdering a terrible man. Huzzah!