A BiGinner’s Guide To Queer Culture in 2016: Podcasts
In the first of an ongoing series exploring the best queer pop culture things out there, Gabrielle looks at podcasts.
The premise of a BiGinner’s guide is simple: it’s a how to for people of all ages and shades of the LGBTQ+ spectrum who are looking to jump head first into queer culture. Do you want lesbian truckers on an epic cross-country journey in search of their dead wives? What about hard hitting bisexual detectives on Mars? Or hey, lets talk about literally giant non-binary warriors in a desert otherworld.
Maybe you’re just finding your way into Queer popular culture. Maybe you identify outside of lesbian or gay and you’re finding it harder than even already underrepresented queer people do to find yourself in the media.
You might just be tired of the same, ‘OMG, I think I’m gay’ story told as, well, the entire story, on repetition ad nauseam. Yes, coming of age stories have a time and a place and the be-closeted person’s world to change. But maybe I want to read, or watch, or listen about gay astronauts. Knights. Genius cryptographers. Maybe I want to read a story about someone like me where the entire premise is not just how weird, and scary, and hard, and ‘abnormal’ it is to be someone like me. Maybe I’m over that.
With all of this in mind, I present to you A BiGinner’s Guide. I hope that for those of you just beginning to find your way in this big, crazy world of LGBTQ+ fiction it’s a map into pastures new and star-filled skies, where our stories are as big as your dreams can make them.
A. The Popular Choice
I promised podcasts, and podcasts I shall provide. Welcome To Night Vale is kind of a big deal in the world of creepy, fantastical and, most importantly, queer fictional podcasts. Created in 2012 by writing duo Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the series is performed by actor Cecil Baldwin. Cecil is an openly gay and openly HIV positive man playing the Jewish Cecil Palmer who, thus far, has expressed romantic interest only in men. Cecil’s primary love interest is Carlos the Scientist, played by the actor and activist Dylan Marron
Night Vale is set in a small desert community where everything from government conspiracies to lovecraftian horrors are not only real but mundane. The focus of the show’s character drama is the relationship between Cecil and Carlos and over time, in response in part to feedback by its fans, the show has incorporated a range of genders, ethnic identities and sexualities. This includes not only the aforementioned nonbinary giant desert warrior, but a nonbinary sheriff, Sam, played by trans actress Emma Frankland.
B. The One That Did Good
The Penumbra Podcast should get so much more attention than it currently does from queer people. Created and produced by Sophie Kaner and Kevin Vibert, the Penumbra started its series of twice-monthly broadcasts on 18 March 2016. Episodes are split half and half between a serial following emphatically bisexual detective on Mars Juno Steel and stand alone shorts. In addition to sexuality, the Penumbra has touched upon physical disability, mental illness and socio-economic class.
Juno, played by Joshua Ilon is the hard-hitting, achingly romantic, tragically flawed Private Investigator your queer heart has been looking for. He has a male and a female love interest in the course of the first series, and at no point is gender considered a point of conflict or conversation when it comes to his partners.
C. The Ones That Could Do Better
Archive 81 and The Message are both great podcasts. They’re also great podcasts which include queer characters. However, there are definitely areas where they fall down, and even without your social justice hat on, as a queer person they might leave a bad taste in your mouth. Proceed with caution.
The Message includes non-binary character Mod, played by cisgender man Gideon Glick. Mod is cool: they’re a friendly, joking hacker whose part of a great indie think tank that is trying to decipher what may very well be a message from extra-terrestrial life (think The Imitation Game meets Arrival). However, spoiler alert, they meet a sticky end before the end of the series. Not only this, they have received a largely poor reception from the fanbase. Honestly, it’s a 3/10 for queer representation. The Message is a great story, but I wouldn’t recommend listening with an LGTBQ+ angle in mind.
Archive 81 is better than The Message, and I would recommend it to an LGBTQ+ audience. Written and produced by Marc Sollinger and Dan Powell, the first episode was released on 6 April this year, and follows archivist Dan Powell as he explores the spooky story of investigative journalist Melody Pendras’ (played by Amelia Kidd) adventures at the eldritch Visser building.
Whilst predominantly heteronormative, there’s a great moment when Melody wakes up with her female lover, Alexa, played by Carly Piersol. The part where Archive 81 could do better is that Alexa, and Melody’s relationship with her, is almost non-existent beyond this breakfast scene. Season 2 will be released in January 2017, but I can make no promises.
And that’s a wrap. Honourable mentions go to Within The Wires and Alice Isn’t Dead, both published by Night Vale presents and following women who love women, plus LGBTQ+ people of colour. There’s also Greater Boston, which includes a married couple of women expecting a baby and The Bright Sessions, where you can find a teenage guy and Empath finding his way into his first gay relationship.
Tune in next week for a BiGinner’s guide to queer comics, and the good, the bad and the ugly therein.
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