Last week was a revolutionary week for queer women on TV! We saw more queer women in a seven-day span than any other week in television history, including The L Word‘s run on Showtime — and all of the women were on broadcast networks and basic cable. Caitlyn Jenner‘s new docu-series, I Am Cait, premiered last night to stellar ratings and became the number one trending topic on Twitter within just a few minutes its start time. I Am Jazz landed on TLC with really good feedback from the internet. Janet Mock tag-teamed with Melissa Harris-Perry yesterday to center the discussion of I Am Cait around the epidemic of violence against trans women of color. And the co-executive producer of Steven Universe confirmed what Mey’s been telling you all along.
@xavfucker by human standards & terminology that would be a fair assessment!
— ianjq (@ianjq) July 20, 2015
What a time to be alive! Let’s talk out the week in queer television.
Mondays on ABC Family at 8:00 p.m.
The Fosters got back to what it does best last week: Making Stef and Lena the unshakable sun that all the hyper-dramatic little teenage planets in their house orbit around.
It starts with the revelation that Mariana is going to be Ana’s baby’s godmother. Everyone’s pretty psyched about that — until they realize Mariana is also going to be baptized in the Catholic church. Stef has a long, troubled history with the church because of how her dad’s religious-based homophobia kept him from even attending her and Lena’s wedding. So, about three nanoseconds after Mariana says the thing about the baptism, Stef straight up tells her no. Absolutely not. Not even a little bit.
Mariana asks them what they believe, God-wise, and they say they believe in a higher power that exists in all things and coaxes us toward enlightenment and love and doing good. And then they march on over to the Gutierrez’s bakery and ask them to please stop brainwashing their daughter with all this talk of hell. Grandpa Gutierrez says he’s not trying to scare her with hell or anything like that; he just wants to make sure she’s baptized so she doesn’t end up in endless purgatory, separated from God and her family after she’s dead. Which is different because one is like just a bedroom and the other is Bowser’s Castle, I think.
Stef and Lena decide to let Mariana go through with getting baptized — they even get her and her new goddaughter matching necklaces — but after Mariana talks to the priest, she decides she doesn’t want to do it after all. It’s because the priest says the church will accept her moms the way they accept all sinners. She’s not into that tolerance doublespeak; she’s into full acceptance.
When Ana reveals at the end of the episode that she doesn’t feel a connection with her new baby, the same way she didn’t feel connected to Mariana or Jesus, Grandpa and Grandma Gutierrez are super annoyed, but Lena’s like, “Um, hello, that is postpartum depression, judgey judgers! She needs therapy and meds!” (And, in fact, self-medicating is maybe why Ana became an addict in the first place.) After which conversation Lena realizes that she’s probably been suffering from the same thing ever since she lost her baby, and she just hasn’t known how to talk about it. Stef pulls her close and kisses her face and tells her she’s going to be with her though this thing and everything always, no matter what.
Also, Callie is maybe not getting adopted again.
And, after getting his former pianist exiled to the sea, another composer steals Brandon’s idea at music camp. He tries to drop some sick burns on the music thief, but it is the most embarrassing thing I have ever seen and I can’t even talk about it.
Mondays on ABC Family at 9:00 p.m.
Brenna made her move on her new film club instructor, Margo, this week. It was her last day at her old school — she’s moving to a different district so April can get better treatment at a different place — and so she took a moment to lean on in and smooch her smoochies right on Margo’s smoocher. Unlike a Rosewood adult, Margo’s response was to launch herself backwards out of the situation and explain that even though she’s not Brenna’s authority figure, she’s definitely 22 while Brenna is only 17.
Brenna goes home and broods about it and thinks about returning an email from Greer, but has to do wedding hijinks and stuff with her sisters first. And then she has to break into the school to steal back the wedding invitations she left there. After some deep bonding with April and Natalie, which includes hearing their stories of chasing after older lifeguards and TAs, she decides she can weather the embarrassment of having made a move on Margo. She asks for her help finishing her film project before she leaves.
During which Margo kisses her!
Next week, Margo’s alcoholic ex-girlfriend comes to town and she is Leisha Hailey.
Tuesdays on TBS at 10:00 p.m.
CHARMAINE, WHERE IS YOUR QUEERNESS? WHEN WILL IT BE EXPLORED?
Besides this, I mean.
Tuesdays on MTV at 10:00 p.m.
Noah’s having a really hard time with Riley getting killed, so Audrey tries to comfort him by visiting him in the video game store where he spends all his time and suggesting they tag-team for some vigilante justice. Code names: Bi-curious and the Virgin. This doesn’t cheer him up at all, so Emma decides to start crime-fighting with a new partner, her former best friend(/lover?), Emma, who has her dad’s old year book, which used to include a photo of Brandon James’s victims. (He’s the serial killer who murdered everyone before this show started.) Emma’s dad used to be one of the guys pictured, but now there’s just a scribble that says, “The truth lies where the mask was made.”
Apparently that place is in an abandoned hospital where Brandon James had all the surgeries for his disfigured face, and he used the mask to hide the sutures. So Audrey and Emma go crawling around in there, like it’s any old Radley basement. Inside, they find a whole lot of gross shit like this pig that is missing all the body parts the new killer is chopping off its victims. Also, they find dead Tyler’s literal head. And they find some encrypted files on a laptop, one of which Audrey and Noah accidentally upload to the internet. It’s definitely a video of Emma having sex.
I Am Jazz
Wednesdays on TLC at 10:00 p.m.
Mey told you about this show back in March, and now it’s here. It’s a really lovely departure from TLC’s more titillating concepts, and it is edited with a lot more care and a lot less DUN-DUN-DUNs. Which is correct because Jazz Jennings is a marvel. She’s a YouTube star; she’s written a book; she’s been in an OWN documentary; she’s a celebrated activist; and now she’s got her own show!
The first episode focuses on Jazz’s apprehension about starting high school. Her parents are both really articulate about trans issues and the show doesn’t center on their experiences with having a trans daughter. The show is all about Jazz (as it should be). She talks through her worries with them (for example, whether or not to invite boys to a bowling night she’s having with her friends, because boys are often jerks to her). She even calms her mom, Jeanette, down when one high school dude tosses out a slur under his breath and Jeanette nearly flips over a table to get at him. I like Jeanette!
What’s really interesting about the show is that Jazz is a celebrity; there’s no doubt about it. She even does a book signing in which multiple trans adults tell her how much easier their lives would have been if a book like hers existed when they were growing up. And yet, she tells her mom at one point, “I’m very self-conscious.”
It’s this nuanced juxtaposition of Jazz as an accomplished trans activist/author/YouTube star and a regular teenage girl who is going through things all teenage girls go through that really makes this show stand out from the rest of TLC’s line-up.
Thursdays on USA at 9:00 p.m.
Gretchen continues her trajectory of becoming my favorite vigilante on television. (Sorry, Bi-Curious and the Virgin.) This week, we learn how she got tied up with seedy Wes and his dodgy hospital manipulation schemes. She was a good nurse with a bad past and he knew that she needed money to adopt her sister, Ingrid, so he roped her into doing shit for him, and then once she had a couple of years of nursing under her scrubs, she realized sometimes she’s got to go outside the system if she’s really going to help people.
This week, it’s her friend Jed, who’s in jail. Wes pitches this idea to her: Steal some cancer drugs and he’ll pay her and she can pay Jed’s bail. It’s a win-win. She gets money and cancer patients who can’t afford healthcare get the drugs on the black market. Gretchen ropes John into helping her. Gretchen wants to steal the drugs from a pharmaceutical warehouse, but John talks her out of it. So she decides to wear a beanie and break into a pharmaceutical van instead.
When they deliver the drugs to Wes, John looks at some patient records and sees that the people aren’t getting better, and the reason why is that Wes is diluting the drugs, so John just sets the whole place on fire. (Sometimes you poke the bear; sometimes the bear pokes you.)
Gretchen has to tell Jed to skip town, but is happy to adopt his curmudgeonly cat while he’s on the lam, so don’t even worry about that.
Thursdays on ABC at 10:00 p.m.
Gail has decided to adopt a little girl named Sophie whose mom died during one of Gail’s cases back in “Letting Go.” She’s applied for it and she wants it so badly, but she keeps thinking she’s not cut out to be a mom because she can be really misanthropic, as you know. But that’s crazy talk because Gail is a True Canadian Hero and one of the most full-hearted humans on this earth. And she keeps getting put in positions to hang around with kids and prove how great she is with them.
She’s also made a bucket list of things she wants to do before she becomes a mom. One of the things is to learn to dance. I hope another of the things is to make out with one of Canada’s other billion TV lesbians. Betty McRae, maybe?
Fridays on Syfy at 8:00 p.m.
Whoooooo boy. Okay. OKAY. Doc Yewll saved the town (again) on this week’s Defiance by convincing Amanda and Nolan to cut down Datak from his Castithan hanging and send him out to the enemy camp with a bomb sewn into his arm. You know, a suicide mission. One he could do and die with honor, by saving the town he claimed to love, instead of destroying it. But also, Doc Yewll knows Datak Tarr is way more savvy than that. By getting him cut down, she’s giving him a chance to save his life, even as she’s putting a ticking bomb inside his body. And she’s right, of course. (She’s always right.) Datak cuts off his own goddamn arm with a chargeblade and runs away and his arm blows up and the bad guys all KABOOM! and he’s free from his hanging, and all he’s missing is a single appendage. He even managed to get Stahma pardoned before he left.
Over/under on whether or not that Indogene-as-starfish thing comes into play again and Yewll gives him one of her own arms?
Over/under when Berlin comes to her senses and comes home?
Saturdays on NBC at 10:00 p.m.
Stacy says Hannibal reminded Alana again this week that he’s going to murder her, while sketching her face onto Botticelli’s “Fortitude.” This after a three-year time jump during which time he was institutionalized and she took on the role of being his therapist. He cooks desserts in his cell and draws and reads the newspaper and whatever else he wants to do. He’s there because the court deemed him insane. He knows he’s not insane, though, and so does Alana. The other thing she has stacked against her is that she had lesbian sex this season and that increases your chances of being murdered by about 300 percent. JUST GET OUT OF THERE, GIRL. Go with Margot!
I Am Cait
Sundays on E! at 8:00 p.m.
Reviews are in for I Am Cait, and they’re all pretty good! It was my first experience watching a Kardashian show, and I was really surprised by how chill everything was. At one point, Kanye walks up in there and Caitlyn’s sister is like, “Why don’t your shoes tie?” And he slips off one of them and explains about laceless Adidas, but she’s still pretty dubious about the whole thing.
Actually, though, it was Kanye who said the main thing everyone is talking about in the episode and so I will quote it for you: “I think it’s one of the strongest things that have happened in our existence as human beings, that are so controlled by perception. You couldn’t have been up against more. Your daughter’s a supermodel, you’re a celebrity. Every type of thing, and it was still like, ‘Fuck it everybody, this is who I am.'”
Here’s what I loved about the show: It started with Caitlyn waking up at 4:00 a.m. and doing a confessional-type thing with a camera in her bedroom saying over and over, “I hope I get this right. I hope I get this right.” And then she talks about how she knows she’s coming from a place of privilege because she’s insanely wealthy and white. The episode mostly focuses on her meeting her mom and two sisters for the first time presenting as Caitlyn. Her sisters are wonderful; they talk about how they thought she would maybe grow out of this — she mentioned it to one of them 30 years ago — but now they understand that’s not a thing that happens. Caitlyn was always a girl. Caitlyn’s mom struggles a little bit. She’s worried about a thing she heard from the Bible. She’s worried because when Caitlyn was only five years old, she could tell that she didn’t want to wear boys clothes, and she’s afraid she forced her into a life she didn’t want to lead. She’s worried because she feels like she’s lost a son she loved so much.
But the best part is at the end when she says, “I was so proud of Bruce when he stood on that podium receiving that gold medal in Montreal. I had tears and the American flag was going up in the middle and I thought that I could never be more proud of him. And you know, I was wrong. Because I am more proud of him for the courage that he has shown. I love him with all my heart and I certainly love her with all my heart.”
The show uses Caitlyn’s family as a stand-in for the audience, to introduce everyone to basic Trans 101. For example, “Pronouns are important.” But it’s not just Caitlyn doing the educating: Susan P. Landon from the Los Angeles Gender Center stops by to talk to Caitlyn’s parents/the audience. And then Caitlyn goes to visit the family of a transgender teenager who committed suicide when he was 14, despite the fact that his family fully supported him and so did most of his classmates. His new birth certificate with his real name came just a few days after he died.
Previews for future episodes look like they are going to be heavy on highlighting all kinds of trans experiences, as well as your normal Kardashian shenanigans.
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+ Pretty Little Liars Episode 607 Recap: Happy Birthday, Motherf-cker!
“Sorry I was tripping balls at your birthday party and almost got everyone killed with a t-shirt cannon.”
Just a couple more doodads:
+ Someone emailed me to say there’s a queer storyline on Mistresses again this summer, but I’m not going to put in the time unless it proves itself to not be the same old sweeps-style baloney it did in the first season.
+ Like I mentioned in last week’s Pop Culture Fix, the lesbian character is back on BoJack Horseman this season, but I won’t recap that in this column since it’s a marathoning show.
+ I am still getting caught up on UnREAL; maybe next week it’ll finally make its appearance in this column.
+ And finally, do you want me to cover Steven Universe here, for the more queer episodes?
Tell me your feelings, cucumber kittens, and I’ll tell you mine.