To celebrate LGBT History Month in the UK, here are some examples of my favourite pieces of media (films, TV, podcasts and books) that include LGBT characters.
San Junipero (Black Mirror)
Available on Netflix, San Junipero is a standalone episode of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’. With its usual sci-fi elements, this episode of ‘Black Mirror’ centres on Yorkie, a young girl who's just arrived in the lively San Junipero for a visit. In Tuckers, the local bar, she meets Kelly in the 80s - and everything changes. Or is it the 90s? Or maybe the 00s? With an amazing twist ‘San Junipero’ is an incredible story about love, loss, and the concept of forever.
San Junipero is full of great acting, great storytelling, and a very well done story between two women - with a happy ending, no less! I’d absolutely recommend watching it if you can. The story really stays with you.
Humans (series 2 specifically)
Series 2 of Humans, which originally aired on Channel 4, is a sci-fi show about an alternative reality where robots - or synthetics, are a constant part of society. They are nannies, carers, shop assistants - and can be bought to help people and businesses.
However they are a group of synths who are sentient, and the series revolves around those synths as they try to hide who they are for fear of being taken and experimented on. I won’t give away too much of the plot because it’s so good that I don’t want to spoil it for you! But if you love sci-fi, then you pretty much have to watch this.
Not only is it a great sci-fi show, but it gives its female characters depth and scope - they very much carry the story along, especially in the second series - and they either save the men, or save the day, and even the secondary female characters are given development and their own stories, which I found really refreshing.
But onto LGBT characters specifically - in the second series, Niska, one of the sentient synths, meets Astrid, a human, and they begin a relationship. While you might expect the whole robot thing to impose some issues, it doesn’t, as hey very clearly have a deep bond and love for each other. And despite the danger in the later episodes of the series, their relationship is constantly well-written and developed and is often the positive and light of an episode.
'Humans' is incredibly well written and incredibly underrated - both in terms of LGBT characters and relationships and as a show as a whole. It’s a masterclass of great writing and great acting. I’d love a third series but unfortunately, ratings were low for the second series so if you can please support it by buying the DVDs (as series 1 is great too!) or watching it somewhere else legally - it’s an amazing show, and when I say that I really, really mean it.
Set in the 1950s, ‘Carol’ is about Therese, a young sales assistant in a department store. An aspiring photographer, her life is changed forever when she meets Carol when she comes into the store to buy something for Christmas. They eventually begin a relationship, despite the attitudes of the time (and Carol’s controlling husband) throwing some spanners in the works.
It has a happy ending (you might cry, just a heads up) - it’s beautifully shot, really well written, and really well acted. The soundtrack is also stellar and is actually one of the first film soundtracks where I love every single song. This is actually one of my favourite films (from a Film Studies student perspective it’s amazing on all accounts) so I 100% recommend it - especially if you like period films. You can check out Carol on Amazon (UK).
Unspeakable - Abbie Rushton
If you’ve read my review of ‘Unspeakable’ you know how much I love it. It’s about Megan, a teenage girl, and the mystery around why she’s no longer speaking. But Megan also begins to have a crush on the new girl at school Jasmine, but then a relationship begins to develop and after a surprising and shocking event Jasmine’s feelings are also revealed and they begin a relationship. But can it survive the mystery and the secret that Megan is keeping?
‘Unspeakable’ is so well written - a really sweet book, that also has a happy ending (which doesn’t spoil the resolution of the mystery, btw - that’ll shock you!) But it’s one great story that I really recommend reading. If you’re interested, you can check out the book on The Book Depository.
I’ll Give You The Sun - Jandy Nelson
Again, if you’ve read my review of ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ you’ll know that I also love it. This one is about a set of twins, Jude and Noah, and how their lives turn upside down after their mother dies. (And it actually deals with their relationship and both their grief really well). Jude believes that her mother always preferred Noah, as they both loved art - Noah even applies to get into a prestigious art school. But he doesn’t get in - and instead sneaks into the woods to take part in art classes at the school in secret. We learn that Noah has a crush on his childhood friend, Brian - and the book deals with these feelings, whether Brian reciprocates them, and eventually all of the characters get into relationships and their happy endings.
The story is really well told and the book is visually beautiful (there are some incredible printed quotations from the book within it) so you should definitely check it out if you have the time! If you’d like to pick up a copy you can do so on The Book Depository.
A modern TV series made by the writers of BBC Merlin, the show is about Jason who goes into a submarine in the hope of finding out about his father, who went missing on a similar voyage - but he actually ends up in the mystical city of Atlantis. There, he encounters real people of myth and legend, Pythagoras, Hercules, Medusa - and even Oedipus! He also battles lots of foes - and eventually finds his dad… but unfortunately, the BBC cancelled the show after its second series, leaving it on a cliffhanger. (Yes, I’ll always be bitter).
But before the show was cancelled, in the second series - Icarus is introduced. A close friend of Pythagoras, both of their feelings for each other soon become obvious and after a near-death experience they admit their feelings for each other, and in the final episode, begin a relationship.
If you like short series, a show where being LGBT isn’t a big deal (there are no coming out stories, Pythagoras love for Icarus is just completely expected and treated as normal) and don’t mind cliffhangers, then I definitely recommend BBC ‘Atlantis’. The story writing is a bit ropey, but the acting and the writing of characters and their relationships is really well done. If you’d like more information you can buy the DVD on Amazon (UK).
Available to watch on Netflix, ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ is a comedy musical that is full of incredible songs, a hilarious and really well-written script, and great characters (and really good character development, might I add). The show deals with the likes of mental health, abortion, family issues, and religion - all incredibly.
But it’s LGBT issues that I’m going to focus on. The show features the coming out of Darryl, once he realises that he’s bisexual. It’s really well done - Darryl even sings a song about his bisexualty (that’s the most catchy song ever, just to warn you!) And enters into a relationship with White Josh, a gay man. The second series then deals with their relationship, which is, again, really well done - it’s realistic and very sweet, often ending up being the positive part of some of the sadder episodes for other characters when their relationships break down.
It’s just been renewed for a third series (yay!!) so if you like musicals, comedies and a great story (all that include LGBT characters) then definitely check out ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’!
One Day At A Time
Also available on Netflix, ‘One Day At A Time’ is a comedy sitcom that centres around the Alvarez family, Penelope, the single veteran mother, lives with her mother Lydia, and her children Alex and Elena. The family is Cuban American, and the show very eloquently goes from being hilariously funny to tackling the likes of immigration, LGBT issues, racism, PTSD, and religion. This is honestly the funniest, freshest sitcom I’ve ever seen!
Specifically, the show does tackle LGBT issues really well - as Elena comes out to her family as a lesbian. The shoe explores this from all angles - the coming out scene is particularly touching, and how each individual family member reacts to the news is also really well done and really affecting (I say that to avoid spoilers, but don’t worry - all of the main family members in the show are supportive). Overall, the show and the LGBT issues and characters are very well acted and incredibly well-written.
The episodes are only 20 minutes long each and there’s only been one series released so far, so if you have time to watch a short show on Netflix then I definitely recommend this ‘One Day At A Time’. I really couldn’t recommend a show more - I literally renewed my Netflix account to watch this show and I don’t regret it for a second.
Unfortunately, these examples don’t include characters from every aspect of the spectrum - I’ve got a to-watch and a to-read list a mile long that had media on it that includes way more LGBT characters. So while I haven’t read or watched any of these, here is my ‘LGBT Media Wishlist’, so to speak, which includes books, TV and films that I will watch very soon - and that you should watch, and read when you can.
A contemporary YA novel that includes gay, bisexual and demisexual characters.
A TV series about the adventures of Kara Danvers (aka Supergirl). It includes the coming out of her sister, Alex, and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer.
A contemporary YA novel that includes a transgender character.
(My wishlist is hyperlinked with links to the books/shows in question so if you’d like to know more about them please give them a click!)
What do you think - do you like my choices? Let me know your favourites in the comments!