Swerve Series: The Rollercoaster Ride to Season 3

If you are anything like us, you woke up this morning to yet another twist from the Swerve Series saga: A new trailer for Season 3 was dropped and announced it’s final season will air next month! Hooray!

 

The web series produced by SKG Films, starring Sharon Belle, Winny Clarke, and Conni Miu, has held very true to it’s name. Swerve, like many web series, has struggled. Though it’s leading actress, Belle, brought over quite a few Creampuffs from her work on Carmilla, obstacles continually plagued the release of the much anticipated end of the show. Season 3 was set to be released October 30, 2018. However, less than two weeks before it was set to air, creator Jason Armstrong and producer Kisha Tapangan released a joint statement explaining the cancellation of Season 3. Fans were disappointed but entirely grateful for the content that had been given.

After Belle and Clarke attended ClexaCon in April of 2018, Queer Quality had the chance to interview them, along with fellow star Kat Inokai and Swerve creator and Producer Jason Armstrong, about mental health and it’s roll in the show. Season 3’s original teaser trailer was released at ClexaCon, with no one suspecting it’s inevitable cancellation only six months later. To check out our Q&A with the Swerve team, you can click here. (Disclaimer: It’s been a year and a half since this Q&A was done. This upcoming season may not be exactly what they had in mind when answering questions for us back then).

 

When the demise of the last season was announced, fans rallied behind the team and beloved web series. The signature red balloon, an icon from season 2, began to trend on Twitter, as fans posted support for the show using the red balloon emoji. Herniated Disco donated proceeds from their TeePublic shop, filled with Swerve themed merch, to the show. No one wanted to see the end of this web series just yet.

Several months later, a Valentine’s Day treat was given to fans, with a new teaser trailer for the now resurrected Season 3! No specific date was announced with the trailer, but it breathed fresh life into the fandom who eagerly awaited it’s return.

So for the Swervers who have remained ever hopeful for an update on the much awaited final season, today was like Christmas. After nearly seven long months, SKG Films announced today that Swerve Season 3 will be released next month; This, coming one year after the cancellation.

Swerve follows a girl named Elise (Belle), as she “deviates from the straight and narrow” path of life. We watch as she comes to grip with her struggles with mental health, family and friend drama, and there may have been an assassin thrown in there somewhere. You’ll just have to watch the Seasons 1 and 2 if you have no idea what we are talking about.

Just as it’s title suggests, Swerve has taken a winding rollercoaster of a path, filled with twists and turns, to get to it’s final season. It has not been easy but we bet that it’s going to be absolutely worth it.

 

 

How GLOW’s Arthie & Yolanda Spent Season Three Erasing Both Asexuality & Bisexuality

By Kelsey O’Regan

**GLOW Season 3 Spoilers ahead**

I’m used to getting burned by poor LGBTQIA representation. I’ve watched my favorite queer characters die immediately after a moment of pure joy, watched showrunners dance around labels for the sake of plot, and watched one stereotype after another get introduced and then promptly written off.

What I’m not used to is getting burned by what otherwise would be great LGBTQIA representation, which is why I was taken completely off-guard when Netflix’s original series GLOW had me fuming in frustrated disbelief not once, but twice within a single season. Both instances coming from two of the three canonically queer characters on the show—and the only queer ship at the moment, not to mention that they’re both women of color—made this experience particularly tough to swallow.

I was thrilled when Yolanda (played by Shakira Barrera) showed up in season two, and even more so when Arthie (Sunita Mani) showed immediate interest in her. So why did season three make me feel so disheartened? As an asexual person who is attracted to multiple genders, I saw perfect setup for nuanced, less common forms of representation in what Arthie was experiencing with Yolanda, but I was ultimately left with gaping holes where poignant reflections of my own identities could have been.

First, episode 3×02: “Hot Tub Club” and Arthie’s “intimacy issues.” The opening sequence showed each of the show’s couples getting hot and heavy in their hotel rooms, including Yolanda and Arthie. The latter is going down on the former, then their positions switch and Yolanda begins heading south, Arthie looks visibly anxious and tense, and finally tells Yolanda “I’m good” and stops her from pulling down her underwear. Yolanda looks confused and acknowledges that she didn’t do anything yet. “You don’t need to,” Arthie tells her. “That was fun! Let’s go to sleep.”

By the end of this scene, I had broken into a cold sweat and my heart was racing—not because I was worried about their relationship, but because I felt so seen.
I’ve spent the past year and a half coming to terms with being asexual, which for me entails a very frustrating and awkward combination of things: I don’t crave sex, when I don’t have it I don’t miss it, and when I do have it, it’s… fine. My body doesn’t respond to physical stimulation the way most media portrayals of orgasms suggest it should, and it takes a lot of time and effort to climax, and when (if) I do, it’s not satisfying enough to be worth it.

And so watching a queer person happily give to their partner but opt out of receiving meant the literal world to me, and I was utterly floored at the idea that GLOW was going to be the series to put mainstream ace representation on the table.

My “Oh my god, is this really happening?” anxiety was through the roof for the rest of the episode as I waited to see how this subplot would conclude. I watched them fight, watched Yolanda blow off Arthie, and watched Arthie look confused and hurt as Yolanda brought up her lack of experience over and over (and over) again.

“I don’t want to break up with you,” Yolanda finally clarifies. “I just want you to let me touch you.”

(This line made my stomach lurch, because I’ve had that conversation before and it’s excruciating).

“You touch me all the time,” Arthie counters, but Yolanda isn’t having it: “In the ring. But in bed, you get all weird about it.”

(More stomach stuff. “Weird” is a really shitty way to describe your romantic partner’s reaction to sex).

Yolanda points out how much Arthie likes giving. “You see how satisfying that is for you? To make me feel that good? I want to feel that way too. But every time I try to go down on you, you make me feel like shit. Do you actually even want me? Because you don’t have to.”

(I was literally holding my breath at this point, waiting to see how Arthie would describe her own experience.)

“I do,” she replies sincerely. “I just… I’m not sexy like you. I’m not comfortable all splayed out like that, and I don’t… I just get in my head, and then I can’t—”

And then Yolanda cuts her off with a bunch of stuff about how sexy Arthie is and how she wants to pin her to the bed when they’re in the same room, and Arthie takes a deep breath and says “Okay. So, pin me. Do it before I start overthinking.”

Yolanda does, and Arthie relaxes, and that’s it.

The episode ended, and I deflated. Almost immediately burst into tears, too, which forced me to explain to my roommate (the former partner with whom I’d had those difficult sex conversations) why I was so upset, so angry, so frustrated. I felt like a big, juicy asexual carrot had been dangled in front of my face for forty-five minutes only to be tossed into a dumpster that refuses to acknowledge people who simply don’t want to have sex.

Sometimes it is a temporary intimacy issue, and sometimes it is something that clear and honest communication can overcome… but asexuality as a formal identity isn’t something to overcome. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to have sex, a concept that GLOW isn’t even the first series to breeze right by—in season one of The Bold Type, Katie Stevenson’s Jane experiences a similar “problem” and finds a similar “solution” in finally sleeping with her guy.

Weeks later I’m still baffled by why the GLOW writers chose to spend so much time on Arthie’s ambiguously-coded reluctance and about thirty seconds explaining why she felt that way. Maybe I’m biased given my own relationship with asexuality, and I, in no way, intend to dismiss or belittle anyone who needs a confidence boost from their partner every once in a while. It’s not even that Arthie’s experience is invalid or objectively inaccurate—it just could have easily become groundbreaking representation, if only it had been taken a step further.
Secondly, episode 3×06: “Outward Bound”: This was the one that, combined with the season finale, felt like a slap in the face and made me angry enough to yell at the TV.

The frustration begins with Arthie and Yolanda tucked in their tent (the ladies are camping in the desert for a night) discussing some ignorant comments that Dawn and Stacey said earlier. “This is the type of shit you have to deal with when you’re gay,” Yolanda concludes.

Based on Arthie’s expression, we know she has something to say about this. “And what if you don’t know?” she asks. “If you’re… you know.” What does she mean, Yolanda wants to know. “I know I’m in love with you,” Arthie says with a soft smile, “and I want to be with you. But… I’m not sure if I’m… that word.”

My heart leapt. Was bisexual-Arthie about to be canon?

“So…” Yolanda struggles. “So what are you, then?”

“Why do I have to be anything?”

Yolanda turns to ice. “I can’t fuck with a straight girl who doesn’t know who she is or what she wants.”

“I didn’t say that,” Arthie counters, more or less in unison with me shouting “SHE JUST SAID SHE WANTS YOU” out loud at the TV.

“You did,” Yolanda decides, and the scene cuts there.

At this point I was frustrated with Yolanda for her ignorance but silently pleading with the show to give me the canon bisexual rep I felt I was owed because of it; the rep that I hoped, assumed, was being set up right in front of my eyes, because what other reason could they have to go down this particular road in this particular way?

That was episode six, and I had to watch Yolanda cold-shoulder Arthie until the tail-end of the finale, episode ten, when all the women are sitting together exchanging Christmas gifts, and it went down something like this:

Yolanda: *being a dick to Arthie*

Me: *glaring at Yolanda being a dick to Arthie*

Arthie: *abruptly stands up and says “I’m gay” to the entire group*

I was livid—that the writers wouldn’t give Arthie the time and space to come to this conclusion in a way that was more accessible to the audience, rather than this feeling like a “surprise twist”; that they forced what should have been Arthie’s coming out moment to be about Yolanda; and that they framed it as Arthie’s way of “proving” her love for Yolanda, who is never made to apologize or even acknowledge her shitty behavior.

By the time the credits rolled, I felt gross. I couldn’t believe they’d taken the one queer ship on the show and teased me not once, but twice with the kind of representation I’m starved for. I’m used to heterosexual ships leaving a sour taste in my mouth, because they tend to be portrayed in uninteresting, repetitive, and overdramatic ways; but what’s new for me is feeling betrayed by an LGBTQIA+ couple for reasons other than Bury Your Gays (I write bitterly from underneath my Lexa blanket) or a man getting involved.

Was there not a single bisexual person in this season’s writer’s room? Not a single otherwise queer person with bi friends, or basic knowledge of bi discourse? Did no one think Arthie’s “journey” might cause some whiplash from queer viewers who aren’t lesbians?

Yes, sometimes people are uncomfortable with the same labels they eventually claim as their own, and that’s perfectly valid—but to have Arthie consistently be as honest as she can and for her supposed love interest to punish her for it repeatedly, to refuse to engage with her, to act as though Arthie is doing something wrong by being confused and hesitant, is shitty and inexcusable.

I still adore Arthie and how willing she is to accept radical newness into her life with open arms, but the GLOW writers will have to give me several good reasons in the upcoming fourth and final season to put any emotional investment into Yolanda. She doesn’t fuck with “straight” girls? I don’t fuck with cruel ones.

The Survival of Theo Crain

By Kelsey O’Regan

Theodora Crain, both on paper and in living, breathing Kate Siegel form, is a revolutionary LGBTQ character.

I would’ve watched The Haunting of Hill House with or without hearing whispers about Theo across social media in the weeks before I dove in. I’m a glutton for supernatural narratives— ghost stories, psychological horror, and just about any brand of creepy that doesn’t involve blood and guts. But to also have an openly lesbian character in the main cast?

Sign me the Hill up.

As summarized by Mashable:

Theo’s characterization is funny, fearless, and hugely likable. She is not relegated to stereotypes like “angry lesbian” and her story arc does not focus centrally on her sexual encounters. Her complicated relationship with her brother’s career as well as her clairvoyance takes center stage—a narrative decision that arguably gives her the most powerful subplot of all five siblings.

When Theo isn’t screaming in a ditch or having a panic attack, she tends to linger silently in the background while she watches her siblings’ nonsense unfold around her, and that physical and social isolation allows Theo to act as the audience’s eyepiece; our vantage-point into the Crain family drama. This intimate POV connection makes her arguably the most hashtag-relatable member of the family, which is, historically, virtually unheard of for an LGBTQ character.

(Bonus: her clairvoyance, which is induced via skin-to-skin contact, also drives her to be unapologetically insistent on personal agency and consent. No one is allowed to touch her without explicit permission, whether that touch is romantic or platonic, and anyone who crosses that line gets a mighty verbal bruising).

Horror series are one of the last places we expect to meet an explicitly queer person, let alone a good one—let alone a great one. Minority characters are frequently the most mistreated and disposed of in a horror or thriller cast, and the Bury Your Gays trope remains a pervasive issue across all media genres, so to have the privilege of watching someone as narratively (and visually, ahem) stunning as Theo both exist and survive their story is a victory that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But worth noting is that Theo’s ultimate survival doesn’t make her character’s arc any easier to stomach. In fact, the Hill House script does an incredible job of letting the darkness in and refusing to shy away from the complicated and messy parts of being human, while never quite drifting into unforgivable or unnecessarily cruel territory. Even in Theo’s worst moments, whether she’s being unfair to a romantic partner or lashing out at a sibling, no plot twist (or otherwise Horrible Thing) ever comes as a punishment for her sexuality.

theocrain2

Speaking of romantic partners: I’m sure we all held our collective breath each time recurring love interest Trish showed up (because if anything makes the post-Clexa spidey senses tingle, it’s badass queer women going through hell together), but miraculously, they navigate flirting and fighting and intimacy and both manage to stay alive through it all. Theo is allowed to be scared and mean and reluctant and Trish (played by the delightful Levy Tran) is allowed to be compassionate and supportive and occasionally exasperated—just like any other authentic, imperfect, healthy relationship that’s trying to outlast a homicidal mansion.

Also normalized is Theo’s “coming-out,” which happens via flashback in a comedic anecdote involving youngest Crain sibling Nellie’s maid of honor. There’s no bigotry or emotional speech—just some discreet, knowing laughter shared between siblings, and then it’s done, allowing the episode to focus on matters far more important than sexual orientation (including, but not limited to, the homicidal mansion).

Last but certainly not least, we must talk about openly bisexual actress Kate Siegel’s powerhouse performance. Our community so rarely has the opportunity to watch an out queer person portray an out queer character, and she did so with breathtaking, soul-crushing intensity; “Theo,” declared Forbes, “especially when portrayed by Kate Siegel, is one of the most uniquely compelling characters on television in the last several years,” and it’s difficult to disagree. If episode six is the most technically impressive of the season, then episode three is a masterpiece of the narrative sort—Theo, a psychologist specializing in child trauma, uses her touch sensitivity during a difficult case, and director Mike Flanagan in turn gives us an hour of top-notch visual storytelling that ideally will earn Siegel every available Best Supporting Actress nomination.

For a series that relies wholly on making its viewers experience as much stress and fear as possible, Hill House ironically seems to be—for now, at least—a safe haven of sorts for LGBTQ viewers looking for fictional horrors that target our humanity rather than our sexuality. And honestly, if a show about an actual murder house can manage to not kill its LGBTQ characters… what’s anyone else’s excuse?

 

You can watch the entire first season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix now.

Press Release: CLEXACON, THE LARGEST LGBTQ MULTI-FANDOM CONVENTION IN THE WORLD, IS COMING TO LONDON!

Being Critical About Criticism

By Kelsey O’Regan, Contributing Intern

What do we want? Quality LGBTQ representation.

When do we want it? Now.

This is the overture constantly heard ‘round the Internet world, long before but especially after queer fan favorite Commander Lexa was killed in season three of The 100. In the past few years, we’ve not only grown sick enough of the yet unshakable “bury your gays” trope to raise money for charity, establish a wildly successful fan convention, and (shameless plug) start creating our own content, but we’ve also begun, as we should and must, to demand even more.

We ask for characters who are living, breathing, three-dimensional people, who can show flaws and complexity without being villainized, and who—GASP—can find love without it being cruelly snatched away episodes (or even mere scenes, or a single commercial break) later.

And, to be fair, our requests have not gone unanswered. Sci-fi Western hit Wynonna Earp has the overwhelmingly popular “Wayhaught” ship, both halves of which are series regulars and crucial to the cast; returning soon is Black Lightning’s revolutionary Anissa Pierce, a black lesbian activist who also happens to be a bulletproof superhero; and gearing up for its fifth and final season is the absurdly charming Killjoys, in which every character we meet is seemingly queer until proven… nope, forget it, there’s not a single straight person on that show.

If TV is putting in at least some effort to be less harmful, what about Hollywood?

For me, that question is a little more complicated. Pop-culture has been slowly drifting into a dangerous realm where everything is either Perfect or Cancelled and the two sides are divided by an increasingly precarious line that even our own community has trouble navigating. As we move forward with our conversations about each new addition to the LGBTQ media archives, I think it’s worth examining three recent (and very imperfect) attempts, what makes them satisfying or unsatisfying to us, and how we can keep up with the ever-evolving definition of “quality.”


Analysis #1: Deadpool 2.

For a franchise whose titular (canon pansexual) anti-hero is all about raunch-tastic sex-capades, its nearly blink-and-you-missed-it inclusion of Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her girlfriend Yukio is as puzzling as it is frustrating.

Both the original and sequel smother themselves in an explosive, no-f*cks-given aesthetic that should arguably allow them to get away with anything, so why do the girls pop up to announce they’re dating and then have literally no other role in or impact on the rest of the story?

Kristy Puchko noted an a piece for Mashable that “the visuals of their romance are notably chaste […] even in their moments alone. It’s almost as if they’re gay in name only, and the sole acknowledgement of their romance and sexual orientation could easily be cut from the film.”

And yet, the GAYTIMES headline “Deadpool 2 features the first LGBTQ romance in a major superhero film” isn’t wrong, or unimportant. Writer Sam Damshenas points out that their relationship “is explicitly stated and not merely implied,” and that “despite their lack of screen time, their relationship is positively portrayed,” which is “a massive step for representation in a genre dominated by straight male characters.”

Here, the queer visibility seems to have more statistical significance than narrative; to serve as a check-mark, as opposed to an actual story. But what’s important to acknowledge here is that baby steps like this are not only okay—they’re necessary in a world where heterosexuality continues to be the default and straight audiences are seen as the majority.

Deadpool did something, and it can do a lot better.


Analysis #2: Love, Simon.

In the interest of full transparency, I’m telling you right now that I adored this movie. I cried every time Simon came out to someone, I wept during the Ferris wheel kiss, and when we left I almost had my girlfriend turn the car around so we could go back and watch it again.

The second layer of transparency, however, is that the trailer frustrated the hell out of me for months before I walked into the theater. As a bi woman who rarely sees herself portrayed on the big screen, yet another story about a cis white gay man was something I had little to no interest in, not to mention how much I hated Nick Robinson’s character in Jurassic World.

I bought my movie ticket with negative-leaning but mostly neutral feelings about the whole thing, but left wanting every single student in the country to watch it.

Much of my Love, Simon afterglow was spent swimming through the Twitter discourse—people who loved it, people who hated it, and people who let their assumptions about the characters and plot stop them from seeing it at all—and I was fascinated by how many different opinions the LGBTQ community could have about the same story.

In a discussion on Vulture, Matt Rogers said he thought the movie was “pretty wonderfully basic. It’s vanilla and accessible and maybe that’s exactly what it needed to be.” A review on Medium that it was a “cute little coming-out flic,” that “does a lot of things well, and within [its] subgenre as a gay teen coming out story, it does subvert some of the tropes that we’ve grown tired of.”

A piece for Affinity Magazine written by a pansexual woman was far more critical:

Would it be too much to ask for more queer leads of color, queer kids that aren’t wealthy or upper-middle class, or queer leads who don’t fit the sassy gay sidekick mold in 2018? Is it too much to ask for queer women to be leads? Is it too much to represent the queer community beyond gay and lesbian characters? Is it too much that a queer character’s story arc goes beyond coming out storylines?

My own take-away was that yes, I would’ve loved to watch a less generic version of the LGBTQIA+ experience unfold; but maybe those layers of privilege, described in TIME’s mostly tasteless review as “endless social advantages and a nurturing, liberal-minded family,” are a lesson on their own: being in the closet is always, always, scary.

Anxiety doesn’t care if you’re conventionally attractive. Self-doubt never stops questioning the daily affirmations of your family and friends. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions a person can experience, and Love, Simon does everything it can to emphasize that.

(Also worth noting is the outsider’s perspective: heterosexual moms and dads now have Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel’s characters to exemplify unconditional love, and prejudiced kids might think twice before spouting homophobic garbage lest they be treated like the fictional bullies).

Love, Simon shouldn’t necessarily be called a champion of LGBTQIA+ cinema, but its significance in queer history remains—a mainstream story about the importance of personal agency, made for a younger audience but appealing to all ages, and maybe best of all, the happy ending that inevitably accompanies a rom-com label.


Analysis #3: Atomic Blonde

Dammit, Charlize Theron, why’d this masterpiece have to do us so dirty? We got a female-led, visually stunning, totally kick-ass action thriller where our protagonist sleeps with a woman not just once, but multiple times… and then said love interest is brutally murdered during the third act. What the hell?

The fact that the script bothered at all to add such depth to Lorraine and Delphine’s dynamic given her ultimate fate is vaguely infuriating. Riley Silverman observed in a piece for SyFy that the women weren’t “just eye candy, but actually had a few moments of tenderness, of at least faux-vulnerability on the part of Lorraine,” which of course was “darkened” by Delphine’s murder.

IndieWire also appreciated that the relationship isn’t “an afterthought,” but “a fully-fledged subplot told in a few meaty scenes […] creating a world where lesbian relationships are just as valid as any other.” In addition, “there are no offensive jokes, no one has to come out, [and Lorraine] never has to explain herself.” Which is all well and good, of course, but how much does any of that matter if one half of the relationship ends up six feet under?

If that piece ignored the issue, SPLINTER’s review revolved around it, saying the film “can’t quite escape some of the most tired tropes of the testosterone-centric genre,” and calling Delphine’s murder “the worst part of the movie” given that “hers is somehow both lengthy and reductive.” Autostraddle agreed, claiming her death wasn’t “ultimately necessary for the story and is a pretty blatant replication of the harmful Bury Your Gays trope,” especially since “Delphine is a genuine love interest for Lorraine, who doesn’t sleep with her to get information or for any other ulterior motive other than just wanting to sleep with her.”

And so the question remains: am I a blasphemous bisexual for sincerely enjoying a movie that refuses to let the gays have a happy ending? (Thank Lesbian Jesus for AO3.) Can we, and should we, promote an otherwise refreshingly feminist piece of media in spite of such a gross plot twist?


In order to determine the queer quality of a piece of media, we first need to understand what character or storytelling elements we’re seeking, that nothing is black and white, and that perfection is absolutely worth striving for, but also, perhaps, unattainable.

We all experience and perceive our world differently, and that might mean there’s no wrong or right answer to any of the questions I’ve asked here. But sometimes, the answers are less important than asking the questions in the first place.

 

 

[Picture Credit:  Top left: Deadpool 2 (Credit: 20th Century Fox), Bottom left: Atomic Blonde (Credit: Focus Features), Right: Love, Simon (Credit: Fox 2000)]
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