In this week’s extra special, super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Jon Herzog, and making his triumphant return is Graham Nolan, as they celebrate 200 episodes, reflect on the last 2 years, look to the future, and discuss all the news from SDCC in The Week in Geek.
Moving to a new city is tough. Starting college is tough. Breaking up with your boyfriend and losing your best friend in a matter of weeks is also tough. So what’s college freshman Daphne to do? Just what anyone in this situation would do – find some new friends and use this as a chance for reinvention, to find oneself after being under the identities of others for way too long.
There’s just one difference: All her new friends are dead.
“Ghosted in L.A.” #1 does what any good series debut should do: introduces the characters, setting, and motivation for the central plot. And Sina Grace packs in a good deal of that exposition, without making the reader feel overwhelmed or rushed. In both overt and subtle ways we know just what we need to know about Daphne: she’s Jewish (which provides some conflict with her evangelical Christian roommate), she came to this college to follow her boyfriend, and she has a bit of a love-hate relationship with her best friend. Indeed, these are story elements seen time and again., But Grace does all this with humor and heart, so by the time Daphne’s main players in her life – – the boyfriend and the best friend – – are out of it, you want her to execute revenge by just simply living the best possible California girl life she can.
There’s only a brief introduction to the supernatural aspects of this story, as we meet the ghosts who become Daphne’s new best friends at the very end of this issue. But that’s okay. Right now, this is Daphne’s story, and we’ll only understand it (and her relationships) within her lens, so I’m more than okay with only just getting to meet our spectral friends in the final pages of the issue. There’s plenty of time to get to know Pam, Blair, and all the other ghosts of Rycroft Manor. We’re on the same journey of self-discovery as Daphne is, and Grace makes sure we’re going to enjoy every step of it.
Grace also assists artist Siobhan Keenan and colorist Cathy Le on artwork, and the three together give everything the Los Angeles polish and vibrancy, along with the character focus present in the script. Our art team plays with the passage of time in ways that subtly advance our script. The shift in color from sepia toned Montana to Technicolor Los Angeles presents a natural shift in story that is a visual buffet. Daphne’s wait for her classmates in the common room of the dorm shows that long wait not just in the change in the sky, but in the change in the population in the room, heightening the sense of isolation she’s starting to feel, that isolation which certainly steers what will happen next.
The art has the look and feel of another BOOM! Studios property, “Giant Days,” but with a little more realism in face and body features. There’s fair representation of all kinds of body types and ethnicities, from one ghost rocking the dad bod to another with a beautiful natural afro. The art team does well at providing corporeal forms for the non-corporeal residents, coloring them in shades of blue to distinguish them as ghosts from the story’s human elements, but still having them retain the basic forms and shapes of humanity. For the most part, backgrounds are sparse, and with the character focus of this issue, that’s okay.
Now there isn’t much to be hinted at in terms of queer content in this first issue, save for a passing look at what appears to be two men in a relationship on Daphne’s college roommate Michelle’s laptop. (Of course I’m left wondering if Michelle herself is closeted, given this and the strong Christian iconography in her dorm room.) What I do know from Sina Grace’s run on “Iceman” is how he slowly and organically introduced the revelations of Bobby Drake’s sexuality. No doubt if he has such elements planned out for this story, he’ll do the same here.
When people ask me what I like most about Sina Grace’s work, I always say that it’s his ability to write heart and humor in equal measure, allowing each to play off of the other, and to do so in a way that appeals to all ages. “Ghosted in L.A.” continues that trend, and adds in a fun twist to refresh already established story tropes. With BOOM! Studios’s “Giant Days” ending later this year, this looks to be the heir apparent to fill the Daisy, Susan, and Esther shaped hole in your heart.
In this week’s extended episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by J.W. Crump, as they discuss Annabelle Comes Home, WarnerMedia’s forthcoming HBO Max, and celebrate Angelica Ross joining AHS: 1984 in This Week in Queer.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Lynaé DePriest, as they discuss Halle Bailey playing Ariel in the new remake of The Little Mermaid, give their hot takes on the trailer for the live-action Mulan, and celebrate Aneesh Sheth playing the MCU’s first trans character in Jessica Jones in This Week in Queer.
“A lot of VR asks you to ‘pretend you’re a Black person for five minutes’ or ‘pretend you’re a trans person,'” explains Ilya Szilak, co-creator (with Cyril Tsiboulski) of the virtual reality experience and real world installation Queerskins: a love story. Queerskins premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, when this piece was originally written, and went on to win a Peabody Futures of Media Award. It returns to New York City this week for World Pride with the addition of a second chapter, “The Ark.” Szilak continues, “We don’t actually want anyone to pretend to be anyone other than who they are and bring all their history, all their baggage, all their prejudices, into this space. The show is about reconstructing this character Sebastian [a young gay man, estranged from his Catholic family, who dies of AIDS in 1990] from a box of photographs and a diary, so your relationship to those photographs and those objects is going to be very different depending on who you are.”
With Queerskins, the immersion begins before you even put on the headset; you’re ushered through a recreated attic bedroom, past shelves and mirrors and authentic knickknacks, to one of two chairs. Once the VR commences, you find yourself riding in the back seat of a car. A man and a woman, Sebastian’s parents, have a tense conversation bubbling with tension, regret, and barely suppressed emotions. Outside, diminishing sunlight filters through the windows as the rural Missouri countryside passes by. I was instantly reminded of similar rides with my own family through western Massachusetts. A box of belongings keeps refilling with items on the seat beside you; I rummaged through a book of Saints, an old muscle magazine, and a stuffed rabbit with my ghostly blue hands. I put on a Hulk mask and a baseball cap. The ride reaches its destination and hits a climax of sorts, but I was left wanting more. In fact, future installments and experiences are planned, including one that promises to simulate intimacy with a virtual lover.
For me, the most engaging part of the experience kicked off once I removed the headset and returned to the real world. I had as much time as I wanted to explore every inch of the bedroom. Visitors are encouraged to touch whatever they like, to pore over every item that draws their interest. “Don’t miss the closet!” Szilak had told me; I opened it to discover an interior collaged with images of black and white muscle gods, the word love glowing in fabulously lurid neon pink at the bottom. I selected and played a record of 80s hits: “We will find you acting on your best behavior/turn your back on Mother Nature,” Tears for Fears intoned. I thumbed through a People magazine revealing the AIDS death and sexuality of actor Rock Hudson. In fact, the specter of AIDS was everywhere, from the photo print out of a protest march to a cheeky card commanding “Men use condoms or beat it.” I signed a guest book marked A Celebration of Life, placed alongside flowers and a statuette of the Virgin Mary. The experience reminded of the song “And When I Die,” so I jotted down some lyrics, ending with the line “there’ll be one child born to carry on.” I associate the recording with the loss of my grandmother several years ago, and yet the song carries a sense of hope that I felt resonating from the Queerskins installation. Like the guest book, Queerskins is largely about death, and yet it celebrates the life of Sebastian, and of the viewer—and, by extension, of those we’ve loved and lost.
Queerskins: a love story is shown in a site specific installation at 325 Canal Street, New York, June 26-30 from 11am-7pm (11-9 Thursday). Visit vr.queerskins.com for more info.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Andrew Fafoutakis, as they discuss the newest trailers for Stranger Things and G.L.O.W. and celebrate Jill Soloway signing on to write/direct the Red Sonja remake in This Week in Queer.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Josh Trujillo, “live” from HeroesCon as they discuss their thoughts on Dark Phoenix, the new trailer for Doctor Sleep, and celebrate Tracee Ellis Ross bringing back Daria’s Jodie as our Strong Female Character of the Week.
Finlay’s sublime, affecting documentary Seahorse,
trans man Freddy McConnell embarks on a profound personal journey when he
decides to become pregnant. Freddy deals
with all of the physical challenges of pregnancy plus the added stressors of
gender dysphoria and other people’s reaction to an “unconventional” parent. I
had the chance to sit down with both Finlay and McConnell on the eve of their
world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
As it turns out, McConnell provided the impetus for the film himself.
journalist as well,” he explained, “[and] I knew I wanted to share this
process, this journey. It was sort of at
my instigation.” McConnell was
particularly concerned with finding a trustworthy collaborator. He wanted Seahorse
“to be different from the way a lot of other trans stories are told, which
is exploitative and sensationalized. I
never would have said yes to anyone who had just approached me.” McConnell had witnessed friends’ bad
experiences with producers and journalists who proved untrustworthy. “The reason the film is the way it is, is
because of the way it was made and the way it was envisaged right from the word
go,” he stated.
film is artfully made and incredibly intimate.
Every step of the process is detailed, from the dysphoria that results
after Freddy stops taking testosterone (so as not to interfere with the
pregnancy) to the painful end of his relationship with partner CJ. Finlay spoke with a lovely, soothing British
accent as she explained her role in telling Freddy’s story: “I really want to
think about the film and let the film emerge.
Like if you go in too tight with a plan, the film doesn’t grow. The point is to grow like a baby. One of the definitions of a documentary
filmmaker is to be an emotional barometer; I’m really in tune with my feelings.” Beautiful footage of Freddy’s hometown of
Deal, England, as well as close-ups of real seahorses weave through and enhance
the narrative. “I’m very sensitive to
how atmospheres and the situation make me feel and I really try to think deeply
about, what could that look like in a film?” Finlay said. “How can I create visuals that can help promote
what I felt in the moment?” This thought
process led to some scenes that seem abstract but subtly support the themes of Seahorse. “Because Deal is so beautiful I wanted that
to be part of the film,” Finlay stated. “The idea that we’re sort of sitting on
the edge of England, looking into an uncertain future.”
Was the more
or less constant filming ever too much for Freddy? “In the moment sometimes, but the reason it
was happening was because I wanted it to happen,” McConnell pointed out. “I wanted to go out and tell the story.”
“It’s my job
to make the film feel personal, intimate,” Finlay agreed. “Sometimes my job is to gently push, because when
I committed to the film, I said, ‘if I do this, I’m all in. I give you all my heart. I’m gonna do this, and it’s not gonna be
easy.’ Sometimes my job is to ask the
difficult questions. ‘What is this
like? What is the answer that you
haven’t said out loud before?’”
“It did get
hard,” McConnell said, “but the way that it was put together and the way we
worked meant that wasn’t a disaster and that didn’t mean it was the end of
it. It was just part of the process.”
wanted to share his story, in part, to let other trans and queer people know that
they have options: “The information isn’t made widely available and it’s seen
as something unsafe or shameful. Things
that we’re told aren’t always in our best interests by people who are supposed
to have our best interests at heart, like doctors.” He also hoped the film would be enlightening
for audiences unfamiliar with, or skeptical of, trans people. “People whose minds are racing with those
issues and questions they have, debates they want to have, can maybe just park that when they see, ‘oh, it’s just about
another person who has the same desires and struggles and emotions that I do.’”
commit to making a film, I want people to come on a journey with me,” Finlay
added. “’Come on, let me hold your hand
and I’m gonna take you on a little journey.’
I want people to see the ordinariness, the normalness, the smallness,
the ecstasy of people’s lives.”
“I just hope
that anyone who watches it can relate to some tiny little thing, or maybe some
huge thing, in a way that surprises them, that they didn’t expect coming in,”
McConnell said. Added Finlay: “I just always want people to feel moved, in a
small way or a big way.” There’s little
doubt that anyone who sees Seahorse won’t
Seahorse will continue to play film festivals throughout the summer and fall. Visit seahorsefilm.com for more.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by John Jennison, as they discuss more Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trailers, a dark future for Swamp Thing, and celebrate a special pride edition of The Babadook in This Week in Queer.
The narrative centers around Yaichi, a single dad who lives in Japan with his daughter, Kana. After learning of the death of his estranged twin brother Ryōji, Yaichi finds himself preparing to welcome his brother’s Canadian husband into his home. He is uncomfortable to say the least. Ryōji’s husband, Mike, has traveled all the way from Canada to meet his late husband’s family. Although he is charming and carries himself with a cheerful demeanor, he is clearly still struggling with his own grief. He is there on a mission of his own; to fulfil a promise he made to Ryōji.
My Brother’s Husband is a relatively simple narrative that builds its strength through quiet moments and strong characters. Through Kana, Tagame shows readers the ways in which homophobia is learned. While her father is preoccupied with figuring out how he feels about his having his new brother-in-law around, Kana has no such qualms. She never struggles with accepting that her father’s brother was gay. In fact, she’s thrilled that she now has a Canadian Uncle.
The story also addresses the culture clash between the Western world and traditional Japanese beliefs. Where Japan by and large is not outwardly homophobic, there is a quiet indifference and an unspoken shame linked to queerness. While it is a stark contrast to the overt hatred displayed toward queer people in other parts of the world, it’s not exactly harmless. That last point comes into sharp focus Yaichi evolves throughout the course of the story, and he begins to see the role that he played in his estrangement from his brother.
My Brother’s Husband is ultimately a story about having the courage to change. It examines cultural barriers and family dynamics that harm queer people. It shows the power of self-examination, forgiveness, and growing beyond the prejudices of our past. It uses powerful imagery from seemingly quiet moments that allow the larger themes of acceptance and empathy to really have an impact and gravity to them.
Even though it begins with the tragedy of Ryōji’s death, and doesn’t stray from conventional storytelling, it is a well-crafted and beautifully drawn queer story that we need to see more of in the world. The full series has been collected into two volumes and published in North America by Pantheon Books.
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