The Handbook
The Handbook

February doesn’t just mark the arrival of Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday and the shortest month of the year. It’s also LGBT+ History Month, an annual month-long deep dive into gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual history, in efforts to educate out prejudice and make LBGT+ issues more visible. 

To celebrate the month long LGBT+ History Month, we’ve put together a list of the best film and TV series to watch, from Russell T Davies’ popular series, It’s a Sin and Queer as Folk, to Netflix’s new documentary, Disclosure. Here’s what to watch this month and beyond.

TV Series

It’s A Sin 

You might have already delved into this new series by Russell T Davies but we wanted to include it thanks to its brilliant performance and because it also sheds light on topics that are often overlooked. 

The AIDS epidemic is a topic that still to this today holds much stigma. Set during the early 1980s, Russell T Davies’ new Channel 4 series, It’s A Sin follows a group of gay teenagers who move to London in search of their belonging and instead have to come to terms with the pressures, stigma and panic surrounding the spread of the AIDS virus.

Known for reviving the Doctor Who Franchise, Davies’ body of work also explores what it means to be gay in the UK, and this new series is also said to be loosely based on his own experiences growing up in the 80s. It stars Years and Years singer Olly Alexander as the main protagonist, alongside Omari Douglas and Callum Scott Howells. Stephen Fry also makes a killer appearance too.

Queer As Folk 

Continuing on the train of thought of Russell T Davies, his 1999-2000 series, Queer as Folk, was groundbreaking for its time. And without this show, we wouldn’t have It’s A Sin, not just because it broke grounds for queer representation on British TV but also because it broke the career of Russell T Davies. 

Set in Manchester’s village of Canal Street, the two season series follows and documents the lives and love circles of three young gay men, Stuart, Vince and Nathan. Although, at the time, criticised for not addressing the AIDS epidemic, Russell has since spoken out about why he didn’t touch on the topic, stating he didn’t want their lives to be categorised by the disease.

AJ & The Queen 

Co-created by and starring RuPaul, AJ and the Queen follows Robert, a drag queen, known on the stage as Ruby Red, who’s luck seems to have almost run out, as he embarks on a touring journey around America. However, this adventure is turned almost entirely upside down as Robert is joined by a ten-year-old stowaway, AJ, who ends up in his camper.

Although cancelled after one series and a little bad acting in part, this Netflix series is both humorous and emotional at times, shedding light on what tour life is like for drag queens trying to get by in the touring scene.

Grace & Frankie

The Netflix hit series, Grace & Frankie is as much about Sol and Robert’s relationship as it is about Grace and Frankie’s rival-turned-best-friend relation. Although depicted at the beginning of season one as the ‘bad guys’, notably for their twenty year affair, the two soon become significant figures in the six season narrative. 

Through the ups and downs, humour and sadness, their relationship is certainly not the easiest but it’s really beautiful (and entertaining) to see it blossom. Pair that alongside the humorous and turbulent Grace and Frankie dynamic, it’s a rather entertaining watch if you’re looking for something light and easy to delve into this month. 

Grace & Frankie is as much about Sol and Robert’s relationship as it is about Grace and Frankie’s rival-turned-best-friend relation.

Orange is the New Black

While we might laugh, cry and even wince at some of the stories that flooded our screens over the seven iconic seasons of Orange is the New Black, one thing that’s very clear is how it helped to push and diversify the LGBT+ representations show on television. 

The seven-part series created by Jenji Kohan, which follows Piper as she is imprisoned for transporting drugs ten years after the crime, has become a pivotal part of the LGBT+ representation in the media and television. It’s also the show that rose Laverne Cox to stardom for her role as Sophia Burset, and she became the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category too.

Tales of the City 

Starring Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Elliot Page, Netflix’s one off series, Tales of the City follows Mary Ann (Linney) as she’s reunited with her daughter Shawna (Page) and ex-husband after a long absence of pursuing her career. 

Set in San Francisco, the ten-part series is based around the community of characters, all who primarily live at 28 Barbary Lane, an apartment complex and communal living space owned by Anna Madrigal. Every character has their own story to tell, from Jake Rodriguez’s transition to Anna’s hidden secrets. 

Feel Good 

Created by and starring Mae Martin, Feel Good is a semi-autobiographical comedy series that follows a recovering addict and comedian Mae, as she falls in love with her new girlfriend, George (Charlotte Ritchie). 

Delving into the confusion and world of modern-day dating, the show explores the pressures of the modern landscape of gender and sexuality.

Banana 

Another of Russell T Davies’ gems are the three separate series, called Banana, Cucumber and Tofu. While they are all separate, with Cucumber and Banana being the two original series, and Tofu being an online documentary series exploring the world of contemporary sex culture, each are interlinked in some ways. 

Channel 4’s Cucumber delves into the relationship between Henry and his boyfriend Lance which drastically shatters following a disastrous date night, and sees Henry, a 46-year-old, move into a house share with two young men. While Banana, an E4 series, delves into the lives of eight stand-alone stories covering all aspects of LGBT life.

Made by YouTuber Benjamin Cook, Tofu explores aspects of modern sex, featuring the public and stars of the two series, Cucumber and Banana.

Films

Image courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Matt Kennedy.

Kajillionaire

Written and directed by Miranda July, Kajillionaire follows two con artists, Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger), who have trained their daughter to do as they do, from stealing to cheating, through to scamming and swindling. 

However, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) starts to come out of her shell and discover who she wants to be once she meets Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). At first a jealous rivalry becomes a friendship and perhaps more. 

A funny, sweet, heartwarming and strange heist film that was a real highlight of 2020.

Weekend

One night stands might feel like a thing of the past, what with nightclubs and bars closed for the foreseeable future, but this one really blossoms into something different. 

Directed by Andrew Haigh, Weekend follows Russell and Glen who meet on a night out after Russell ditches his straight friends and goes out on his own, and end up spending the following few days together. While the pair both try to figure out their feelings, emotions and future course, an unconventional love story begins to bloom.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

A narrative that’s riddled with longing, female desire and feminism in 1770s France, Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows a painter, Marianne, who has been commissioned  to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman, Héloïse, who has just returned from a convent, without her portrait subject finding out. Instructed by Héloïse’s mother, Marianne becomes her companion on seaside strolls, and the result? An undeniable bond and intimacy between the two young lovers.

You will not be able to take your eyes off the beautiful scenery of the cliffs, the gentle calming shots of painting and the kinetic chemistry the two leads have with one another. Sit back and fall in love with the characters and wish that you could quarantine with them.

Pride 

Brought to you by director Matthew Warchus, the 2014 film Pride follows the mining strikes in 1984 Wales, and the part gay and lesbian activists play in the process. 

Inspired by a true story, explore the narrative which sees London gay and lesbian activists join forces with the strikers’ to petition against Margaret Thatcher’s mining legislations. It’s inspiring to see the two communities unite to help support the families affected.

Love, Simon

Documenting the hardships of coming out at school, Love, Simon follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) as he comes to terms with his sexuality and begins penning e-letters to a mystery high schooler who is also going through the same issues.

It’s only when someone blackmails him and threatens to reveal his secret to the rest of his school, family and friends, that he has to deal with his identity and emotions upfront. It acts as a reminder how coming out to friends, family and loved ones is often overlooked from an outsider’s perspective.

Love, Simon documents the hardships of coming out at school.

The Favourite

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite probably isn’t the royal depiction you were expecting when you first sat down to watch Olivia Coleman take on the role of Queen Anne. Known for his dark humour, Lanthimos creates a farcical take on the royal family, full of betrayal, ominous wide shots and extravagant outfits and wigs. Watch as Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz vie for the attention, admiration and intimacy of Queen Anne.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post 

Based on the coming-of-age novel of the same name by Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post explores what life is like for those sent to a gay conversion therapy centre. 

Starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, the narrative follows the teenager as she’s sent to a treatment camp, called God’s Promise, after she’s found kissing the prom queen at her school. Set during the early nineties, it’s hard to believe that gay conversion therapy still goes on in today’s society. At times a tough watch, there are also elements of humour littered throughout.

Disclosure

Director Sam Feder’s Disclosure looks deeper into the world of Hollywood and the depictions of transgender portrayal throughout the history and the media. 

Immediately in the trailer, American actress Laverne Cox reels off a statistic that’ll not only shock those watching but will also make them think deeper into its underlying message: According to a study from GLAAD, 80% of Americans don’t actually personally know someone who is transgender. The documentary sets out to break down the representation of transgender in society, media and how we can continue on the long journey ahead of many of educating and understanding. 

Vital viewing to learn and educate yourself during LGBT+ History Month and beyond.


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