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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.

 

 

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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.

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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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Kait & Nic: The Queer Web Series You Didn’t Know You Needed

If you have been following Queer Quality since January, you have seen us talk a great deal about the upcoming queer digital series called Kait & Nic. Six months later, the first two episodes of this four part mini series have finally been released on YouTube, making it’s debut appropriately in the middle of Pride Month.

We chatted with the co-creators and co-stars of this new LGBTQ+ comedy to get the run down on what to expect and we reviewed the first two episodes that were released this afternoon.

To watch the first two episodes before reading the Q & A (though it is spoiler free!), skip to the bottom of this page now.


This is the story of Kait & Nic, the queer web series that you didn’t know you needed.


At the end of 2017, Kaitlyn Krieg and Nicole Lee got to work on writing a true life queer comedy. Why? Because as much as queer content has increased over the years, in large part to digital series like Carmilla, Barbelle, and just about everything else coming out of KindaTV, a few aspects of real life queerdom were still missing from the screen. Mental health representation, queer women of color, and an array of body size and image of women, to name a few.

Krieg and Lee went to work, taking the influence of the shows they love, their backgrounds in theatre and improv, and their own personal experiences as queer women and wrote a four part mini web series, appropriately named after themselves: Kait & Nic.

kaitandniccast
The cast of Kait & Nic (L-R: Kaitlyn Krieg, Nicole Lee, Talia Page and Emily Johnson).

Kait & Nic tells the story of two queer women living in New York City trying to navigate life and love. Kait is a lesbian that far too often allows her mental health to get in the way of talking to girls. Struggling with depression and anxiety definitely hurts Kait’s confidence in her love life, to the point that, that’s all she can talk about. Meanwhile, Nic is a bisexual woman of color, with an over the top personality. Her love for words will raise a few eyebrows, but not as much as her dating habits. These two, along with their two token straight friends (TSF’s), try to turn Kait and Nic’s luck with love around. Will they succeed? Will they just date each other? You’ll just have to watch to find out!

In January, Krieg and Lee launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the show they had written. With overwhelming support from friends, family and fans eagerly anticipating the newest queer web series, Kait & Nic reached their necessary financial goal in only thirteen days. By the end of their Indiegogo campaign, the show had generated 141% of their needs, helping skyrocket the project to one of the most anticipated independent queer projects that Queer Quality has supported this year.

This overwhelming support and push for quality queer content helped land Kait & Nic an awesome theme song by a Brooklyn based female led queer punk band. “Chasing” by Worriers, as well as other Worriers music, can be heard throughout the series. And that’s not the only queer music you’ll hear. In fact, there might be an Easter Egg or two for avid fans of other LGBTQ+ content to find. We won’t tell you what they may be, but you’re encouraged to tweet at Kait & Nic when you find them!

We took some time with Krieg and Lee to learn more about the show, what we should expect and what makes this digital series so relatable for the entire queer community.


 

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Krieg and Lee, rocking Safe Haven LGBTQ App wrist bands, at the Kait & Nic launch party on Monday. (Credit: Instagram)


QQ
: What inspired Kait & Nic?

Krieg: I was in the middle of watching another popular web series, “Barbelle”, when a random thought crossed my mind. I thought “Why are Nicole and I not dating?” I remembered that Nicole was allergic to cats and for some reason, it was that line that got me writing ideas. I texted Nicole and the next thing I knew we were sitting in Schnippers (local NYC restaurant) plotting out episode ideas and texting lines to each other.

Lee: For me, a big inspiration was my long-time frustration at not being asked to be in other people’s cool projects and not being cast on improv house teams in NYC. That rejection really weighed on me and I internalized it enough that Kait & Nic felt like the opportunity to prove I could do something creative independently and succeed. I’m so grateful Kaitlyn shared her idea with me to get us started.


QQ: What do fans have to look forward to? What makes your show stand out?

Krieg: There are a lot of things we wanted to do for this show. We wanted to create a web series that showed women of all shapes and sizes and ages. I’m pretty active on Tumblr and something I noticed from younger LGBTQIA is how a lot of them feel like they cannot be loved or won’t find love because of the way that they looked. I am also a person who has struggled with that. We’re so used to seeing wlw [women loving women] characters as drop dead gorgeous and skinny. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed all the things that I have watched, but it’s harder to relate to people who do not represent your body type or the way you look. We’re not all super skinny and in shape. So it was important to me that we had all body sizes because I want viewers to have someone they can look to and say ‘Hey, I look like that.’

Lee: People can look forward to seeing a web series that showcases diversity in many facets. We really wanted to represent people on screen that reflected people we knew in real life. We wanted to showcase women, people of color, LGBTQ. I think our show stands out for having a lead character who has depression, anxiety and self esteem issues. The other lead character is a bisexual woman of color. I don’t think there are many of those in mainstream media.

Krieg: I think we should also mention that our entire crew, minus one amazing man, were female and part of the LGBTQIA. Also all our cast who play queer characters are also in the LGBTQIA. There was no ‘gay for pay’ on this show. I think we deserve to see more of that.

 

“There was no ‘gay for pay’ on this show. I think we deserve to see more of that.”

 

QQ: Why did you decide to play the characters on top of creating the show?

Krieg: I think that was the idea from the beginning. I write from what I know and who better to portray myself and my characteristics than me?

Lee: I don’t think we ever entertained any other thought than playing Kait and Nic ourselves. It was always our show and we wanted to do as much of it ourselves as we could: writing, casting, funding, filming, editing. Acting was a natural part of that list. We also wrote these characters based on ourselves and it would’ve been weird directing another actor to do something you would’ve done yourself for this ‘character’ that was essentially you.

 

QQ: How close to your characters are you really?

Krieg: Spot on for me, I’d say. I didn’t hide too much of myself, but I think that’s what makes the story more real. I’m playing a real person with real issues and real problems. Everything I say in regards to myself is definitely something I have said to someone at some point.

Lee: I keep saying Nic is a caricature of me, with qualities I have that we exaggerate in the show. (I might change my mind once I’ve seen all of the episodes and get called out for being exactly like Nic). I will also say that I really enjoyed writing for our straight BFFs. One of them in particular represents the part of me who wants to be un-apologetically myself.

 

QQ: Why was it important to portray a character with mental illness?

Krieg: Because it is the most relatable thing, in my opinion, being in the LGBTQIA. I have depression and anxiety, and I feel like it’s rarely shown on screen. I can say that I don’t think depression necessarily has to be portrayed as sad so we’ve added a little humor to it, but it still shows my truth. And I want people who do suffer from depression or anxiety to know it’s okay and that doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do. I’ve had a lot of doubt throughout this project because my brain is really good at sabotaging, but I pull through because I know we’ve made a good show with a good message.

Lee: Diversity of representation was a major goal for me with this show. There are people with mental health issues and they deserve to be represented positively on screen. We tried not to generalize Kait’s mental health as representative of others with anxiety and depression. But seeing someone on screen who makes you feel seen, valid, and not alone is what I hope we achieve.

 

QQ: Are either of you actually logophiles? So we know who not to play Scrabble with!

Krieg: NICOLE! She’s so incredible smart and definitely will have you using a dictionary in some scenes. But I am pretty good at Scrabble.

Lee: Guilty! And I wish I had a more expansive vocabulary! My favorite game is Bananagrams and I also enjoy playing Boggle on my phone.

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The Cast of Kait & Nic. (Credit: Instagram)

QQ: Tell us about some of the characters and their actors.

Lee: We tried to spin the function of tokenism on its head by having two “token straight friends” for Kait and Nic. Yes, there are two instead of one, so it’s technically not tokenism. And we never name their characters in the dialogue, so we try to play on the superficiality of tokenism. These friends are played by our friends Emily Johnson and Talia Page. They’re both (non-practicing) lawyers and super smart and kind and funny. They are great actors to play off of. We also have a love interest for Kait and Nic each. They are played by our friends Mari Stein and Tea Ho. Suffice it to say our heart rates increased playing off of these two.

 

QQ: Describe your show in 3 words:

Krieg: Oh geez… um. Fun, relatable, and NYC? Nicole, help me out.

Lee: Those words are great! I’d add Honest, Diverse, Female.

 

QQ: Any Easter Eggs we should watch for?

Krieg: I think we’re going to keep all our Easter Eggs a secret. You’ll just have to watch and find out, but there are a lot so if you spot them, tweet them out to us!

QQ: Anything you want to say to your fans?

Krieg: I think the most important thing we have to say is thank you to all the people who donated to our Indiegogo because without your support, we would not have this little show. I hope everyone who watches it can see themselves within our characters and feel like they have positive representation. And just because, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the YouTube channel. There are a lot of things we would like to do, but cannot do that until we have more subscribers so please.

Lee: Thank you to the support from our Indiegogo donors. Some were not close friends. Some were relatives we never expected would support our show. We couldn’t do this without their generosity and love. If you are discovering this show and are strangers to us, we hope you enjoy the show for the comedy, feel represented by its characters, and share it with others.


The eagerly anticipated first two episodes of Kait & Nic are now live on their YouTube channel and we are here to watch, re-watch, and review them! This section definitely contains spoilers, so make sure you click the videos to watch each episode!


Episode 1 introduces us to Nic and Kait, their two token straight friends (TSF’s) and some potential lady loves. You’ll laugh, shake your head at all the awkwardness, and completely relate to both Kait and Nic.

Things we loved:

  • Calling out the bi-erasure! Bisexuals are still bisexual, even if they have only been dating one particular gender for a while.
  • Kait’s fantasy. We’ve all done it and boy is it hilarious to watch!
  • The TSF’s. If you’ve ever felt too queer to be in a group of straight friends, you’ll definitely relate to the the things the token straight friends say.

 


Did someone say speed dating?? Episode 2 is all about an intense round of NYC speed dating. Nic and Kait meet some interesting ladies… so does their TSF.

Things we loved:

  • The leather cladded ladies! Nic and TSF 2 rock it like a boss! Honestly the entire wardrobe is on point for the whole cast.
  • ALL THE LADIES!! You will find someone that looks like you in this episode and that representation and validity is needed so much in the queer community. Krieg and Lee cast thoughtfully and it is much appreciated!

[Just one note: This episode might sound a little faint. Those little booths must not have been easy to film in. But if you listen with ear buds, it sounds perfect!]

Only two more episodes to go and we can already tell that this won’t be enough. It is beyond refreshing to see a comedy portraying the honest truth about dealing with mental health, bi-erasure, and the lack of confidence in the queer dating world. With a cast full of beautiful diverse women, Kait & Nic has surpassed even our highest of expectations. We cannot wait for episodes 3 and 4!

Make sure to keep an eye on our social, as well as the show’s Twitter feed for more information. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to Kait & Nic‘s YouTube channel,  Twitter and Instagram!

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Q & A: “Swerve” Series Talks Mental Health & Season 3

For far too long, topics like queer sexuality and mental health have been stigmatized in mainstream media. Often when our community has seen characters who identify as LGBTQ+, that also happen to have a backstory involving mental illness, the plot involving this character quickly becomes problematic. If a queer character exists with a past history of mental health trouble, that becomes the underlying reason as to why they aren’t straight or cis. This line of thinking may be a simple plot to write for the uneducated, but it is also incredibly dangerous to the LGBTQ+ community. The reality is simple: Queer people exist. Mental health conditions effect people of all types. Some queer identifying people will have mental health trouble. Struggling with a mental illness does not cause a person to become gay, trans, asexual or any other queer identity.

To create a quality show about a queer character struggling with mental health while facing loss, learning to love, and discovering terrifying truths about people you think you know, is an astounding challenge; one that Jason Armstrong mastered with the creation of Swerve.

Starring Sharon Belle, Kat Inokai, Emily Alatalo, & Winny Clarke, Swerve tells the story of Elise (Belle), a young woman dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a mental health condition characterized by mood swings, instability in relationships and impulsivity. Elise’s mood swings and impulsive nature draws her to “swerve” in her path of life and change course at random.

 

“The Swerve: To deviate suddenly from the straight or direct course… That’s the story of my life.”

 

The first episode takes us on the journey with Elise, as she swerves, once again. She quits her job and takes a seat on a curb, only to be picked up by a kind stranger named Jen (Inokai). Together, they head up to a small cabin to escape their troubles but quickly find out they aren’t alone, when a woman named Stevie (Alatalo) borrows their cabin’s deck for sunbathing. The three women quickly bond, but the truth of why each have come to this small cabin will shatter the world that Elise has created. The twists and turns of Season 1 will make viewers laugh, cry, and fear what is to come next. And without giving away too much, Season 2 is just as good. We are introduced to new characters and old friends of Elise’s, including her former best friend Cassidy (Clarke). But what happens at the cabin doesn’t remain at the cabin, and Elise must now face her two worlds colliding.

Like so many fans of this show (or Swervers, as they call themselves) we cannot wait to see what Season 3 will bring.

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to recognize Swerve for it’s incredible portrayal of a queer woman struggling with BPD. It’s real and raw approach to Elise’s struggle with mental illness is impactful for both the LGBTQ+ community as well as anyone living with mental health conditions. Sharon Belle’s performance as Elise is jaw-droppingly powerful and honestly relatable for anyone struggling with mental health.

We were lucky enough to chat with Jason Armstrong, the writer and director of Swerve, as well as actors Sharon Belle, Kat Inokai and Winny Clarke, to ask them a few questions about the show and the importance of mental health in their own lives.

**Warning**: This Q & A is NOT spoiler free. If you have not caught up on Seasons 1& 2, we highly recommend doing so before reading any further. Watch Below.

 

 



Queer Quality
: When we last left the Swerve crew, Elise and Cassidy were dealing with watching Stevie be murdered right in front of them. Elise locks herself in a room, naked, and ultimately ends up taking off without telling Cassidy, and now Paris (Connie Miu) who has shown up. What should we expect Elise to do next? Is she simply “swerving” again, as she’s said she’s drawn to this type of self destruction or is she a woman on a mission? (Maybe to seek revenge for Stevie’s murder).

Jason: Elise is in (nearly) uncharted waters at the close of Season 2. She has bigger intentions than just escape. The questions now become about her means, ability and resolution to follow through with her plans. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the road ahead for Elise is twisty and dangerous. Abandoning Paris, Cassidy and her other friends is just an unfortunate by-product of her quest for answers.


QQ
: While watching Season 2, we see Cassidy and Elise’s friendship rekindle almost immediately after they see each other again. We see Cassidy become very protective of Elise, almost in a jealous way. We know that part of the reason Elise took off in the first place was because of Cassidy’s rejection to Elise telling her she was in love with her, but now Cassidy fears losing her again. Is this a healthy friendship? Will we see more than a friendship arise between these two?

Jason: Cassidy’s feelings toward Elise are complex. Their history is a lot murkier than we’ve learned so far. The fallout of re-connecting and subsequently witnessing a murder together is going to force some old ghosts to start invading the present. Sometimes we trade uncomfortable silences for leaving difficult subjects un-touched. Elise’s teenage confession to Cassidy is far from the most complicated part of their past.


QQ
: Jen went up to the cabin in Season 1 to die. She knew she was sick and going to run out of medication, but she also hired the hit on her own life. Why then would she stop and pick up Elise? Why subject another person to that pain, especially one as sensitive as Elise? What does this say about Jen’s mental health?

Jason: I don’t want to take away anyone’s interpretation of Jen’s motives, but to me, picking up Elise was a final act of looking for meaning. Living in the moment certainly diminished her willingness to examine the consequences of her unexpected closeness with Elise. As with so much in life, many factors played into the chain of events. Elise sitting curbside, after vandalizing her place of employment, hoping for a ride is as much connected to how things went as Jen deciding to stop and see if she was ok. But Elise’s time with Jen is also key in her breaking some cycles and handling her present situation.

Kat: Jen was definitely in an interesting headspace, but I feel like dealing with a chronic illness with a terminal verdict needs to be compartmentalized when you look at her relationship with Elise. It sounds strange, but as someone with a rare autoimmune disease, I could really relate to this sort of duality. I do think that the decision to live out her final days connected Jen even more to her purpose to simply experience life and be the nurturing person she was. When she picked up Elise, I don’t think there was anything but love and concern there. Also, she is very open about her fertility struggles and her failed relationship right off the bat – if anything I felt that Jen and Elise’s maternal/ family vibe solidifies one of her last wishes coming true, with the added benefit of showing Elise unconditional love.


QQ
: Mental health is a huge part of Swerve and something many Swervers relate to. Elise’s personality disorder clearly controls her decisions and actions throughout season one and two. How will her mental health dictate what we see from her in Season 3?

Jason: Mental health dictates the way we all respond to whatever life throws at us. Elise has BPD. Elise is sensitive. Elise is very intelligent. She’s a complex mix of every experience she has had and often finds herself able to reflect on her challenges even as they persist. I firmly believe that variances in the way our brains work, once analyzed, can also be harnessed for greatness. In our family, we label them superpowers. How great are stories where one’s most significant weakness is also a source of untold strength? Season 3 is going to dive deep into examining that.

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Moderator Dana Piccoli (Top Left) reacting to Season 3 teaser trailer at ClexaCon 2018 with Swerve cast Sharon Belle (Top Right), Winny Clarke (bottom Left) & Producers Sheila Allen & Kisha Tapangan


QQ
: Sharon and Kat, what are the challenges you faced having to get into the headspace of Elise and Jen? Both are struggling with illnesses. What was the process like for you two diving into their dark minds? Did you have difficulties coming out of these characters after a day of shooting?

Sharon: Playing a character like Elise, I find I really have to take it one day, one scene and one step at a time. I have never been a method actor and I find staying in character for long periods of time doesn’t serve me or Elise. Like you said it can be a dark place in the mind of Elise so I’m usually jumping in and then out. I find that if I stay true to the text and truth of the scene and stay connected to my scene partner, it takes me everywhere I need to go. I do sometimes have a hard time jumping back out of character, but that’s nothing that a good cry and 15 minutes of alone time can’t fix.  

Kat: I am not going to lie, I went to some dark places while I tapped into Jen. But I also found a lot of beauty and joy – especially working with Sharon. I actually do have a rare autoimmune disease (MCTD) and although the prognosis is good, it has no cure and it definitely eats into the quality of my life. In a sense, playing Jen let me dip my toe into my own anxieties and fears, and work through them – working one scene at a time let me understand how to compartmentalize things more successfully. It ended up being a safe way for me to feel and process things I didn’t even know I had been feeling. But I was also so grateful to have Jason and Sharon right there with me. They really helped me come back to myself and the present moment. They are incredible.


QQ
: We loved episode 2.12’s therapy session, where it is asked “Did you love yourself today?” How do you love yourselves? What are some of the things each of you do to maintain good mental health? Any tips for bad days?

Sharon: How do I love myself? I spend 2 hours in bed when I wake up, I’ll eat ice cream for breakfast, I’ll eat breakfast for dinner, I go to the gym, I take bike rides in the sun, I try to live with no regrets and laugh as much as possible. The master formula, still working on some tweaks here and there. When I’m having a bad day I usually just cry, a lot, and frequently, and I tell myself that’s okay. Then I watch a sad movie and cry some more, then I eat ice cream and take a nap. After I’ve totally indulged myself I’ll push myself to do something outside and get some sun and fresh air. Feeling productive and useful helps my mental health so I’ll usually clean the house or run errands. Also lists, lists, lists.

Jason: I’m wired to need a lot of alone-time. That’s challenging in a big family (there are six of us). My family is very accommodating of that, but I will say that having people around you that love you unconditionally is one of the greatest strategies for keeping your mental health in check. My wife and I also take a day a week and go hiking and picking through flea markets and antiques malls. It’s very stimulating to see neat stuff from the past overhear snippets of conversation. It reminds me that the world is big and full of all kinds of people dealing with all kinds of things and that folks everywhere are daily overcoming tremendous odds for small, personal victories. That kind of encouragement is key to my own mental well-being. We’re not alone.

Kat: As a mom I still find it really hard to take time for myself so I’m actively working to fit my ‘I love myself’ rituals into everyday life- I take baths, read comics, watch movies, make podcasts no one will ever hear, write stories, try out strange recipes, bawl my eyes out… I ask myself ‘what do I need’ and I really try to listen without judgement. I also have a bit of a mental health first aid kit – most days I practice mindfulness and breathing exercises and they really help. Here’s a great way to stay mindful if you’re feeling overwhelmed: out loud, say 3 things that you see ( I see the door, I see the floor, I see the lamp); then say 3 things you hear (I hear my breathing, I hear the cars outside, I hear the fan); then say 3 things you physically feel (I feel my glasses on my nose, I feel my shirt on my back, I feel my toes in my shoes). Repeat this process 3 times. It’s a great way to come back to the present moment and ground yourself.

Winny: I love loving myself! I meditate every day for about half an hour. I have a gratitude journal, which is the best ten minutes of my life everyday! It gives me a great perspective. Even when I am in a state of depression, I can still find things to be grateful for, and that actually has taught me love myself more in my current state. My favourite tip on bad days is not trying to force productivity. We don’t have to be productive every second of every single day. If you are aware that you are going through a rough time, take a bath, take a nap, watch something you enjoy, cry, exercise, write. Whatever is therapeutic to you. Don’t feel bad for taking a break!


QQ
: Anything we can know or expect to see this upcoming season? Will we see anymore of Paris or Laird (Mark Nocent)? Will the ghosts of Stevie and Jen haunt Elise? Will Cassidy stand by Elise’s side after watching a murder in her backyard or will that be too much for her? Any new characters we should get excited for?

Jason: Most everyone is coming back, some in major ways. You can definitely expect to see Paris, Laird and Cassidy as well as some great new characters to fall in love with as more of Elise’s past is revealed.


QQ
: Fans are hoping for a little behind the scenes action this season! Any chance we can see some fun stuff like that before the season is released?

Jason: Absolutely. We’re hoping to have the time and resources to capture more BTS this season.


QQ
: Anything you want to say to the fans?

Sharon: Thank you, thank you, thank you. You all are honestly the most supportive and loving group of people and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet most of you (CLEXACON<3) and to represent.

Kat: Thank you! I have been really blown away by how fans have related to the characters’ mental and emotional experiences, and how encouraging they have been. I guess I want to encourage them too – I hope everyone continues to relate, knows that they are not alone, and finds the strength to keep nurturing and loving themselves no matter what issues they are going through.

Winny: The fans have changed my life in such a massive way. Between meeting you at events or talking to you over social, I have become so empowered as a human moving through depression and anxiety. I just love you all so much. I am excited to grow with you!

Jason: Thanks so much for joining us on the journey that is Swerve. The show’s audience continues to grow and it’s so inspiring to see people connecting with these wonderful characters, brought to life by our incredibly talented cast and crew.

For anyone wanting some more back-story and a few answers to some of Season 2’s mysteries, check out our anthology series “Circa: 1981.” It includes several episodes featuring Elise’s mother Iris and Elise’s Grandfather, Irwin. It’s an excellent primer to Season 3 for viewers who enjoy the minute details of a story and its characters.

If you have not already seen the trailer for Season 3, make sure you check that out and follow along on Twitter for new details about when Swerve returns.

Featured

Nicole Pacent: How Bi-Erasure Leads to Mental Health Trouble for the Bisexual Community

It’s an alarming fact: Bisexual individuals have the worst mental health within the LGBTQ+ community. It has been reported that 40% of bisexual people have, at some point in their life, considered or attempted suicide. Furthermore, bisexual people tend to suffer from anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse at double the rate of non-bi identifying members within the queer community. If case studies have shown time and time again that bisexual members of the LGBTQ+ community are suffering from mental health issues at such high rates, what then seems to be the underlying cause?

We chatted with Nicole Pacent about her beliefs and personal experiences with mental health and being a bisexual woman. Pacent, best known for her role as Aster Gaston on the YouTube hit series Anyone But Me, is a mental health advocate who dedicates time volunteering at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and hosts a YouTube channel of her own, that emphasizes bisexuality and mental health topics.

Pacent argued that bi-erasure and biphobia, especially within the media, plays a huge role in the mental health epidemic within her community.

“If you feel erased, if there are no examples of what you are… if you look to the television and don’t see anyone like you, except maybe when they’re villianized, you immediately think “What’s wrong with me? Something is wrong with me. Obviously I’m wrong,” Pacent explained.

Though LGBTQ+ representation has been increasing within mainstream media, the number of bisexual characters in TV and film has continued to be one of the least represented.

“Growing up, we look to our parents, our grandparents for examples on how to lead lives, how to have relationships and families. And if you’re bisexual, you don’t see what that looks like. You start to wonder if you can ever have a family, or get married, or have a functioning relationship,” Pacent continued. The need for representation in the media for bisexual individuals is incredibly important for this very reason.

“…You immediately think “What’s wrong with me? Something is wrong with me. Obviously I’m wrong.”

Often times bisexual characters are introduced with a quick mention of their sexuality, only to be quickly placed in a hetero-normative relationship with another character. It is also not uncommon for the “bisexual” label to become lost in the dialogue of a character’s arc when they begin a relationship with another character of the same gender. There is an important difference between being bisexual and being homosexual, yet this is blurred too often in mainstream media. Pacent explained that the importance of asking questions to bisexual individuals like herself about what it is like to be able to love a man and to love a woman are important topics that need to be discussed, that will ultimately help prevent these blurred lines. However, she recognizes that to many, bisexuality tends to become synonymous with polyamory (non-monogamy).

“People in society tend to trick themselves into believing that once you’re married, you’ll never be attracted to another person and that being attracted to another person [that is not your spouse] is wrong,” said Pacent. “But I think that when you’re straight and you’re with someone of the opposite sex, or you’re gay and with someone of the same sex, you can, to some extent, feel like you’re providing [your partner] with what they need. You  think, ‘they’re only attracted to my gender, so I am providing them with what they need. Therefore, I’m enough.’ But bisexuality calls this idea of singular attraction starkly into question.” Pacent continued by explaining that how you choose to act on your attraction to other people is the difference between bisexuality and polyamory. Bisexual individuals are fully capable of having monogamous relationships, if they choose, just as any straight or gay person may also be polyamorous. A person’s sexuality is not the same as how they choose to have relationships.

This stigma of possible infidelity due to a person’s bisexual orientation can directly impact an individual’s mental health. Pacent acknowledged this in past relationships of her own. “It’s the fear of losing your partner. I cannot tell you how many times in relationships I’ve been terrified to even express how I feel, even to myself, so I just think ‘I’m not going to acknowledge this.’ And this causes huge problems. Then people aren’t honest with how they’re feeling and they get wildly depressed, which it leads to bad things.” Gleefully, Pacent explained that her current relationship is in no way like previous ones, which was in part why she chose to marry her husband. On her YouTube channel, Pacent addresses another bi-erasure issue that often gets brought up to bisexual women who marry men: marrying a man doesn’t mean she’s straight now. (Below).


So what does Nicole Pacent do to maintain her own mental health?

“When it comes to relationships, if I start to  get to that place of fear where I am worried that I may lose this person and I feel a wall going up… then I know that’s when I need to have a conversation about how I’m feeling, that I’m scared to have but it’s worth having.” Pacent also explains that therapy and community groups, likes the one she went to after the loss of her sister in 2015, are both incredibly good resources for those trying to work on their mental health. Working out is also a great stress relief for Pacent, so much so that Nicole was returning home from a hike before our interview.

“It’s also really important to know yourself. I’m an extrovert and if I spend too much time alone, I get inside my head. I like time to myself, but I know I need less of that than I do community,” she added.

The importance of LGBTQ+ representation in the media is an ever increasing discussion within the queer community. But for the bisexual community, specifically, the lack of representation is an immensely important change needed to help decrease the terrible mental health difficulties facing them.

Thankfully the queer community is starting to see a change. The bisexual representation increase in mainstream media in the last year, known as the “Bi-Boom,” is a positive sign of what is to come. Actress Stephanie Beatriz’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine character, Rosa Diaz, came out as queer this last season proudly and nonchalantly, proclaiming “I’m bisexual.” This simple phrase was widely celebrated by the bisexual community because of the impact of visibility so desperately needed. As LGBTQ+ representation continues to increase in television and film, it is important that the lesser represented identities, like bisexuality, continues to increase as well and not be forgotten. Hopefully then we will see the mental health of this community better for all within it.

Featured

Queer Review: CLAIREvoyant (Episodes 1-5)

In the late 1990’s through early 2000’s, TV psychics were all the rage. You couldn’t go a day without hearing a Miss Cleo’s commercial, with testimony from callers who had received a grand psychic reading from Miss Cleo, herself. Each commercial always ended the same: “Call me now for your free reading!” she’d tell viewers, as she sat in front of her Tarot deck.

Fast forward fifteen years and gaze into your computer screens, as the newest Shaftesbury production coming out of Toronto has been unveiled!

CLAIREvoyant is the brand new magical web series on YouTube’s KindaTV. Starring Natasha Negovanlis and Annie Briggs, CLAIREvoyant tells the story of Claire Ganski (Negovanlis) and Ruby Renaud (Briggs), two best friends in their mid-twenties who use the scheming power of the internet and the mystery of psychic fortune-telling to make some quick cash. But there’s a catch (because, isn’t there always?): Turns out Claire actually has psychic abilities, which she seems to have inherited from her Bubbeh (grandmother). While Ruby’s focus is bringing in some more moolah and testing Claire for her true clairvoyant potential, Claire has her eyes on the girl of her dreams, Nico (Sabryn Rock). The Lucy and Ethel dynamic between Briggs and Negovanlis’ characters is incredibly funny and a kismet match for the two.

Now it looks like the “Seeing Sisters” might have ruffled a few mystical feathers of another online psychic extraordinaire, Madam Sonnom (Theresa Tova), who had a falling out with Claire’s Bubbeh years ago. We are guessing that Madam Sonnom probably won’t be too thrilled with losing business to the Seeing Sisters, especially given Claire’s incredible ability to really see the future.

CLAIREvoyant is a hilarious comedy about two young women trying to get by in the world, with a New Age twist. Facing all the challenges that come in your twenties, Claire now has to deal with her supernatural abilities… which is so much harder than figuring out your love life, honestly.

Not only are Briggs and Negovanlis the stars of the new digital series, they co-created, co-wrote and co-produced it as well. Teaming up with Dillon Taylor and Smokebomb Entertainment (the masterminds behind Carmilla, another digital web series on KindaTV – turned feature film, starring Negovanlis and Briggs), CLAIREvoyant came to life. With help from fans, the CLAIREvoyant team launched an Indiegogo campaign in the summer of 2017, ultimately raising over $27k.

The first five episodes dropped today and we are here to summarize and review them! And we will be doing so every week episodes are dropped, as long as the Seeing Sisters don’t give us some ominous news. Needless to say, our reviews will not be spoiler free, so skedaddle if you don’t want the deets.


First of all, let’s start off by acknowledging the genius behind the episode title names! Each episode is named after a Tarot card. For those not in the know, Tarot is a card game used by mystics and other occult practices for divination purposes. So for a show about psychics, nothing is better suited!

 

Episode 1: The Tower

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Before entering inner space, we enter the cozy apartment of Ruby and Claire. As Claire’s 25th birthday approaches, she opens presents from her Bubbeh, a crystal ball, and from Ruby, a box with a book of poetry by “Claire Ricardo.” We quickly find out that Ruby blew all of the rent month ($4,562 to be exact) on boxes full of these books. But before Claire can lay into Ruby about how she can afford such a gift, Ruby distracts her with alcohol and plans to get her some much needed sexy time.

Waking up to a phone call on your birthday telling you that you’re going to get evicted if you don’t come up with several months of rent is everyone’s idea of a good time, am I right? Claire’s organized persona mashes with Ruby’s carefree attitude. And though at first glance one might think that these two women shouldn’t get along, it is very clear that Claire is the Yin to Ruby’s Yang. The episode ends with the best rendition of Happy Birthday I’ve ever heard (eat your heart out Marilyn!)

Episode 2: The Four of Cups

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Let the scheming begin! While Claire is slaving away as a barista to make a living like any responsible adult would, Ruby calls Claire with her ideas to make money fast; ranging from feet fondling to nude cleaning services (side note: is that a thing? That should not be a thing). Thankfully the awkward scheming comes to halt when Nico, Claire’s crush to end all crushes, comes strolling into her work. And we are shipping it already!!! NiClaire? We think yes! Note to Claire: “Get on me” is not a pick up line (though your awkwardness is quite adorable).

When Claire comes home, she finds Ruby mid-death warning via webcam to some random poor guy. Claire jumps in and seems to have her first prophecy moment, telling this man that him and his girlfriend Casey (oddly specific) will have a long and happy life together. The magical way we see Claire have her visions is incredible and fun, and a reminiscent nod for the That’s So Raven generation. In this episode we are also introduced to Xavier (Jsin Sasha), Ruby’s other half and resident artist.

The question everyone wants to know: What exactly was that gunk on Claire’s face the entire episode?

 

Episode 3: The High Priestess

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The worst name for a psychic: Poop Face. But that’s what Claire was dubbed, thanks to random webcam guy. Claire wants to prove to Ruby that psychic powers are nothing more than trickery, so she recommends calling the Internet famous psychic extraordinaire, Madam Sonnom. But when hearing Ruby call Claire by her last name (Ganski, the Macedonian root word for Gypsy… seers and psychics), Madam Sonnom mentions that she knew Claire’s Bubbeh and once worked with her but had a falling out (suspicious? We think so!).

Claire finally gives in to Ruby’s begging and the Seeing Sisters are born! Vicky (Ruby) and Vivian (Claire) are psychic sisters ready to help you explore your future! “Explore oneself, to believe oneself! Let us explore you!” How Negovanlis and Briggs ever managed to keep it together to film this segment is beyond us. I have never been so intrigued by a psychic’s commercial in my life! The Seeing Sisters are hilarious! And the costumes in this episode are amazing.

 

Episode 4: The Ace of Pentacles

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The Seeing Sisters are blowing up and the reviews are coming in! Everything that Vivian (Feldman? Well played, Natasha) says to her clients is coming true! Vicky, however, might want to stop telling people they’re going to meet an untimely death. Back in reality, Nico pays another visit to Claire at the café. If Claire’s awkward charm hadn’t already made you fall in love with this shy disaster of a human, her proclaiming to Nico that she is a “wiener enthusiast” but not in the straight way, cause she “likes vaginas” will definitely hook you. Love is in the air and we don’t need a crystal ball to see that! Claire’s not so sly approach to giving Nico her phone number is every baby queer person trying to ask their crush out and I think it is safe to say we’ve all had our fair share of squeals. Props to you, Claire!

Back at home, Ruby wants to continue the Seeing Sisters’ success while Claire would much rather prepare for her date. But it’s not long before Claire has yet another vision and congratulates Xavier on winning an art grant. This peaks Ruby’s suspicions that Claire is in fact a bonafide psychic and she proceeds to chase poor Claire around the house… trying to get her pee? Not really sure how there is a urine test for psychic abilities, but the chasing was definitely entertaining to watch. Until the power went out.

 

Episode 5: The Moon

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Putting on makeup by candlelight seems like a difficult task but Ruby nails Claire’s date look. Their discussion on sexy time and comparing their bits to inanimate objects is something we all do with our friends, right? Also, if Mary Floppins is not a name that goes down in history as “Best Nickname For A Vagina” ever, we will protest.

Before Claire heads out, she pops a brownie in her mouth just as the lights are finally turned back on. Unbeknownst to Claire, Ruby and Xavier had some special brownie treats prepared for their own jungle themed sexy time later in the evening (just… wow) and Claire just partook. Good girl Claire begins to freak out at the realization that she just ate a pot-laced brownie moments before heading out on her first date with Nico. Ruby manages to get her out the door, but not before we see the panic filled montage of Claire becoming high.

Once at the café, Claire is baked as a nervous Nico tries to hold a conversation. Things aren’t going completely terrible until Claire has another psychic vision and declares that Nico’s aunt is dead. DEAD. The deadest of the dead ladies. She’s just gone. Claire even goes so far as to sing about it! If this isn’t the worst first date ever, I’d love to know what could beat it.


So that’s it little Seers! The first five episodes of CLAIREvoyant are up and we couldn’t be loving it any more than we already do! Negovanlis and Briggs have an instant comedic masterpiece on their hands and we cannot wait for more!

More episodes will be posted next Wednesday, May 23rd, so keep your eyes peeled to KindaTV for those and make sure to stop on by to our social media for our review!

See you next week cosmonauts!


UPDATE: To read our Queer Review on Episodes 6 through 14, click here now!

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#ReleaseTheKiss: Lez Hang Out Podcast Calls On Universal Pictures to Stop Queerbaiting Bechloe Fans

Last Monday, the ladies over at Lez Hang Out, released their sixth installment of their “Should’ve Been Gay” podcast segment, highlighting the subtexted lesbian relationship of Bechloe in the Pitch Perfect trilogy. Now, this lesbian podcast is leading the charge in calling on Universal Pictures to “#ReleaseTheKiss” in one final plea to make Bechloe a canon relationship and end queerbaiting the LGBTQ+ community for promotional purposes.

“Bechloe” refers to the non-canon queer relationship between two seemingly straight characters, Beca (portrayed by Anna Kendrick) and Chloe (portrayed by Brittany Snow). From the moment Chloe corners Beca in the shower to sing “Titanium” all soapy and naked in the first Pitch Perfect film, the Bechloe ship set sail. Fans have long been awaiting the day to see the two of them get together, as both romantic and sexual tension grew between the characters in the first two films of the series.

As Pitch Perfect 3 grew near, Bechloe fans found hope, when official social media accounts for both the movie and the Studio behind the film franchise, Universal Pictures (and it’s international branches), began to outwardly and purposely acknowledge this ship. They baited the queer community with gifs and clips with some serious gay feels and purposely asked “Will they or won’t they?”


“The Studio didn’t want to put it in the finished movie.”

 

Now when the third and final movie hit theaters in late December, the queer community was not surprised that the big Bechloe moment that they were subtly promised was nowhere to be seen. In fact, quite the opposite occurred. Chloe’s character finally got a love interest, in the form of a hetero-stereotypical, masculine military man.

 

(The gif on the left is the original posted to Pitch Perfect’s Snapchat. The gif on the right is a fan edit, reversing the original gif, but still displays Pitch Perfect’s Snapchat Sponsor Ad, which we thought was important to prove our point!)

What was surprising, however, is that in late November, Rebel Wilson told fans that a Bechloe kiss was in fact filmed on the last day of shooting Pitch Perfect 3. Wilson plays the character of Fat Amy in all three Pitch Perfect films.

“The Studio didn’t want to put it in the finished movie,” Wilson is heard saying in the video below. She goes on to say that she hopes the kiss scene ends up on the DVD (presumably in the Bonus Features).

So fans waited until the movie was finally released on DVD on March 20th, with one final shred of hope for Bechloe to become canon. But once again, the Studio crushed the queer community by not adding the now infamous kiss to the bonus content.

The timing of Lez Hang Out‘s release of this particular episode was perfect, seeing as the DVD was released less than a week prior. A special surprise awaited listeners when one of the “Barden Bella’s,” Shelley Regner who played Ashley throughout the Pitch Perfect trilogy, joined hosts Leigh Holmes Foster and Ellie Brigida to discuss why these films “Should’ve Been Gay.”

Regner confirmed once again, that a Bechloe kiss did in fact exist on film and that Rebel Wilson is a huge Bechloe fan. “It is very true. It is a real thing and we actually really wanted it to be in the movie!” Regner explained.

“We [the cast] were all anxiously waiting for the final scene, when everyone goes off to their prospective lovers. There was an outtake, and we were hoping it wouldn’t be an outtake… there were really fingers crossed,” Regner continued. When Regner and Lez Hang Out recorded this episode, the DVD of Pitch Perfect 3 had not yet been released, and she echoed Wilson’s hope that the Bechloe kiss would be added as bonus material.

“It’s pretty steamy, I’m not gonna lie,” Regner teased. She went on to explain to the ladies of Lez Hang Out that the kiss was filmed on the last day of shooting, as the majority of the cast had already wrapped filming. As they waited for Kendrick and Snow to finish up, the remaining cast received a simultaneous text message of a video of them filming the Bechloe kiss scene. The cast was shocked and excited, just as all fans would be.

Holmes Foster asked Regner about the backlash Pitch Perfect 3 received after not making the relationship between the characters a reality, despite all the teasing and alluding that was given to Bechloe becoming canon during the promoting of the film.

“They did use a lot of that material for the promotional, which would allude to you thinking that maybe this is the film where they kind of [go there],” Regner acknowledged. “So I totally understand a bit of the backlash, and the let down. That’s what the trailer and a teaser are for, to kind of show you what to expect.”

Regner goes on to joke that maybe the world just simply isn’t ready for Bechloe to be canon and to see it in mainstream media, but she does acknowledge that things are getting better. And it is true. We are seeing more and more queer relationships on TV and movies. But it’s not enough. GLAAD reports that in the current TV 2017-2018 season, only 6.5% of regular characters identify as LGBTQ, which is up from last year’s 4.8%, but this is still no where near accurately representing the queer population.

Unfortunately, queerbaiting is still very much a problem in the media and what Universal Pictures did while promoting Pitch Perfect 3 is a perfect example of this.

We asked the ladies behind the #ReleaseTheKiss campaign, if they believed it was Universal Pictures’ intent all along to queerbait the LGBTQ+ community, by using the Bechloe ship for campaign purposes without ever having any intent of giving fans what they wanted.

“It’s hard to say what their intent was because we weren’t there when they were making these decisions, but from the promotional materials it seemed like they were using Bechloe to get people to come see the movie and the message is clear from the actual film and bonus material that they didn’t want to ever fully go there. I do think there is unfortunately far more pressure on studios to be “inclusive” but not “too inclusive” and for them one lesbian character was enough to fill their diversity quota and three queer women were two too many,” Brigida said.

Holmes Foster continued, “As far as the marketing goes, I’d like to believe that a lot of studios and networks don’t really understand what queerbaiting is and how hurtful it is to communities.”

The “one lesbian character” referenced by Brigida is the character Cynthia Rose, played by Ester Dean. Cynthia Rose is an out lesbian, who borders on predatorial, further perpetuating the “Predatory Gay” stereotype (but that’s a story for another time). It should be noted, however, that a lesbian wedding is referenced for Cynthia Rose, but once again, Universal Pictures missed the opportunity to show positive queer representation on screen by cutting this scene from the script of the third film.

Now, Bechloe is certainly not the first non-canon queer ship in mainstream media that fans have latched onto, that studios have used to bait audiences. So why then is the #ReleaseTheKiss so important?

Holmes Foster explained, “I think that when studios mishandle events like this and are clearly still afraid to put content out there if it’s in any way queer, it really creates a narrative where that content is “shameful” or “inappropriate” in some way. Why hide it otherwise?”

Brigida agreed, adding “I remember feeling like being gay was something to hide because of the way that people in my community talked about people who everyone knew were gay. My aunt and her girlfriend were “roommates” or “gal pals.” I think it’s especially important for younger audiences to see that a lesbian kiss scene isn’t something to hide from your audience, but to embrace and share with an audience who so desperately want to see themselves represented.”

Queer Quality agrees with the Lez Hang Out ladies and fully support their #ReleaseTheKiss campaign, urging Universal Pictures to give the fans what they deserve and to stop queerbaiting the LGBTQ+ community.

You can join the #ReleaseTheKiss campaign in several ways.

First, click the link above to head to Lez Hang Out‘s Twitter page, where you can like and retweet the Bechloe image, using the hashtag “#ReleaseTheKiss.” The more people who do this, the more likely Universal Pictures will respond.

Secondly, if you want to rock some cool gear and help spread the message of this campaign, head over to Lez Hang Out‘s Merch Store where you can buy a “#ReleaseTheKiss” T-shirt, mug, stickers and so much more! 20% of all proceeds for these items will be donated to LGBT Fans Deserve Better, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving LGBT representation in media (much like Queer Quality).

releasethekissmerch

And lastly, tell your friends and family to do the same! It is so important to remember that you do not need to be queer to support queer representation.

Lez Hang Out and Queer Quality will both be heading to ClexaCon this week, where we will continue to discuss the importance of LGBTQ+ positive representation in the media.

It is a tiresome road that those who advocate for change must travel. What comes next for the queer community is dependent upon those who are willing to stand up to the people in power and demand safe and friendly representation. The “Bury Your Gays” trope and queerbaiting for an audience must end. #ReleaseTheKiss is a step in the right direction and we applaud and join the Lez Hang Out podcast in their efforts to bring quality queer representation to the forefront of mainstream media.

You can check out the Lez Hang Out podcast on iTunes and LezHangOutPod.com.

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!

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