‘Sally4Ever’ is Queer In Every Sense of the Word

I have to be honest: Sally4Ever is not for everybody. It’s not even really for me—but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch.

The new HBO comedy from Julia Davis is about as absurdist as absurdist television gets. The seven-part first season, released in the final months of 2018, is peak cringe-comedy—each episode feels like a strong cocktail of The Comeback, mixed with Ja’mie: Private School Girl, and a mountain of cocaine. It’s extremely difficult to binge, because you become so uncomfortable so quickly that it must be taken in small doses. That being said, Sally4Ever is about queer women, so you’re probably going to watch it anyway.

#20GayTeen brought us a deluge of lesbian content on and off the big screen, from the queer roles of Rachel Weisz to lesbian superheroes to a bicurious Anna Kendrick character. Many of the works of this extraordinarily gay epoch proved one thing: Queer female characters are no longer able to be boxed into tired tropes and dated stereotypes. They’ve been set free to be as silly or as terrible as they please. And that culminates in the craziness of Sally4Ever.

The comedy follows a woman named Sally (Catherine Shepherd), a timid, drab woman who is physically incapable of asking for what she wants. She breaks off her painfully boring engagement with a man after having a dance club tryst with a stranger named Emma, played by the writer and director, Julia Davis. Over time, Sally discovers that Emma is psychotic, and a pathological liar, but by that point, Emma is already way too ingrained in her life. Sally also finds out that she has many suitors in her life, both male and female, all of whom are equally bizarre.

One of these admirers is her boss Deborah (Jane Stanness), who puts Sally in countless uncomfortable scenarios, including forcing her to a share a room on a work retreat and subsequently bathing in front of her, and relapsing as an alcoholic, leaving Sally to pick up the messy pieces. If any aspect of this show was able to be taken seriously, I would call it problematic for all the sexual coercion and lack of consent, but it’s just too out there. Or actually, yeah, it’s problematic—it’s just absolutely bananas.

But nothing can compare to the lunacy of Emma. She puts Sally through the wringer with her psychotic manipulation tactics, from darker calculations like attempting suicide to ensure that Sally will marry her, to pettier inconveniences like shitting the bed, or fucking Sally’s male friend, and allowing him to shit on her face. There’s a lot of shitting in this show.

Even though most of Sally4Ever is hard to endure, at times unwatchable, I have to say, it was refreshing to see queer female characters in a show like this. Queer women have long been the butt of the joke in comedies, and while the landscape is starting to improve—there are fewer gay jokes and more lesbian or bisexual characters in major roles these days—queer female characters never get to have fun like this.

Part of the reason I loved Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite so much this year was for this very reason. There just aren’t many comedies, in film or TV, where lesbians or queer women are given the platform to be funny and queer, to fall in love and be awful, to do the bad thing and be likable. In The Favourite, the three protagonists, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and Abigail (Emma Stone), are locked in a lesbian love triangle that fuses love and Sapphic lust with manipulation and retaliation. The characters are equal parts hilarious and awful. This is the same reason why Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve was so intoxicating; the show offered us two queer female leads who are powerful, candid, and complex—and they’re queer.

The same is true for the two leading ladies in Sally4Ever; both Catherine Shepherd and Julia Davis are unbelievably funny, plus, they also happen to be queer in the show. The comedy isn’t some dreary lesbian sob story—which, don’t get me wrong, I love every once in a while too—and it doesn’t have tropey characters who get offed in the end. These women are audacious and demented and untethered—it’s queer female characters like we’ve never seen them before.

Even the sex scenes are brimming with this madness. In the first episode, when Sally and Emma first get together, the scene is both steamy and hysterical, with slow-motion cuts of their breasts smashing together, which is less male-gazey and more satirical, like a caricature of lesbian sex. In another episode, the women’s aggressive scissoring leads to the near-death of a shocked old woman.

As a queer film and TV critic, I usually dissect lesbian sex scenes as I watch them, mulling which ones feel sexy and true to form, and which feel stripped of sexuality or infused with the male gaze. But in Sally4Ever, I was able to sit back and laugh at uncomfortable or over-the-top sex scenes in a way that way straight people take for granted; almost every hook up in shows like Insecure or Broad City (which does feature one similarly hilarious queer tryst) feels this way. Lesbian sex scenes are often too serious and devoid of fun or lightheartedness.

If you have a high cringe threshold, I’d definitely suggest giving Sally4Ever a shot, because it truly is one of a kind—and hopefully just the first of its kind. If you’re not up for vomit, shit, and bloody tampons, that’s totally forgivable. But just know that queer women are finally being allowed to be funny and gay, and 2019 will hopefully bring us a hell of a lot more of that.

The Hoodwitch Shares Her Advice and Wisdom for 2019

As we head into 2019, wouldn’t you feel better about the upcoming year if you knew a bit of what to expect? Say, if you had some advice from the supernatural?

The Hoodwitch, a sorceress otherwise known as Bri Luna, markets both a store and community online, selling what she calls “everyday magic for the modern mystic.” She joined with INTO and Refinery29 to offer some wisdom headed into the last year of the ’10s. 

Among the advice she gives: avoid stagnancy in 2019. “If you are a creative person, and you are feeling very blocked, I always say: solitude,” she says in the new video. “Go into nature, unplug, disconnect from the things that make you feel inferior. Do something that will change the energy, and shift it.”

For more of her advice, and to learn more about the Hoodwitch (both person and brand), watch the video below.

Coming Out in the Projects

Who’s going to kill me first? A cop who fears the color brown or someone brown who discovers the bright colors of my rainbow?

Imagine thinking like that at 10 years old. At 13, I watched my friend get jumped by a group of men — that’s right, adult men — because they suspected that he was gay. And because queerness is synonymous with perversion to most cis-heterosexual people, they accused him of sexually assaulting all the little boys he played with. I watched as the rumors scattered like feathers out of a ripped pillow. I watched as people who defend Bill Cosby today (despite 60 women coming forward) label my friend a rapist based on accusations with no victim coming forward. Those people were eager to connect queerness with perversion, just as people still try to associate pedophilia with the LGBTQ community.

That’s when I learned how much my world hated me.

My mother told me about her deceased gay friend, how someone chopped him up and scattered his body parts around the Bronx. Though she always spoke about him with profound sorrow, a warning always clung on to every word of that story. My mother knew that I was queer (even though I didn’t tell her at that time). I think that’s why she told me.

Secrets are like two-sided coins. One side contains the power to strengthen and destroy bonds between friends. The other side can be the rust on a razor that threatens the throat.

When I was 10, I discovered a secret about myself. My distrust for others embittered the flavor of that secret. My shame made it taste like hellfire that scorched every corner of my mouth, leaving the most disgusting and painful flavor on my tongue. Accepting the truth of my secret would mean allowing the searing bitterness down my throat, subjecting the rest of my body to the pain of being an abomination.

Instead, I swallowed gelid lies about myself. Back then, I figured that was better than allowing the truth of what I am to continue burning me, to continue reminding me that I am both my earthly and heavenly fathers’ biggest regret, my mother’s nightmare, and my neighborhood’s greatest insult.

Accepting my secret would have been an unnecessary punishment.

I like boys. That’s my secret, my most painful truth. Discovering that secret was like discovering that I am a magical being. I am a magical being. Everyone should know about the magic that comes with being queer. But the world was — and probably still is — ignorant to that type of magic. Ignorance allows history to repeat itself, and I’m not yet ready to become a part of history.

As a child, I couldn’t find my utopia—not even in my dreams. How could one imagine a perfect world when they feel like they don’t deserve to live in their less-than-ideal reality? How can I not deserve more than a place where large puddles of piss soak the elevators, where the homeless shit in the staircase and smear their excretion on the rusty lead banisters, where our secrets inevitably transform into lies that devour us like a murder of ravenous parasites?

The beginning of my autobiography will begin with who I thought I was as a kid. I thought I was nothing but a dumb, black faggot boy from the projects, where there’s always a witch hunt  —  where black people, like me, are hunted by our neighborhood cops. Where queer people, like me, are hunted by our neighbors.

Maybe she wasn’t homophobic. Maybe she was afraid of what could happen to me. Maybe we shared a secret without knowing it.

I don’t have a romantic coming out story. I have a weird and confusing one that reminds me of the pain I felt when I was a kid. I have a reminder that coming out is difficult when your world despises your identity.

Image via Getty

Why Isn’t ‘Nanette’ Showing Up on More Year-End Lists?

Is Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, the Netflix stand-up special literally everyone couldn’t stop talking about this past summer, being ignored by TV critics in their year-end lists?

The thought struck me Friday, when Slate writer Inkoo Kang tweeted out her list of top TV of 2018. Hers was the first list on which I saw Nanette. Surely this was just a case of me not reading enough lists — that such a phenomenon as Nanette had to have been noticed in plenty of year-end lists.

But in fact, according to the compilation site Year-End Lists, which cross-references every major end-of-2018 list, Nanette has appeared on exactly two official best-of-TV lists: Willa Paskin’s, also at Slate, and Erin Trahan’s, at WBUR’s The Artery. Additionally, though for some reason it’s not listed on the compilation site, The Daily Beast‘s list included Nanette. Compare this to, say, The End of the F***ing World, a British dark comedy that is the antithesis of buzzy. (I’ve heard the title maybe twice before today.) That show appeared on seven listsVida, the under-the-radar Starz drama about Mexican-American sisters, appeared on four.

My puzzlement is less a defense of Nanette‘s quality — I enjoyed it, but it wouldn’t have made my top 20 TV shows list — than confusion over how a hugely popular, universally critically beloved stand-up special somehow only merits mention on three year-end TV lists (four, if you count Kang’s tweet).

The first explanation is a simple one: Many outlets ranked Nanette only in lists of stand-up specials, not TV shows. Decider, MashableTimeVulture, and Paste all did that, and actually came in at number one on three of them. (Vulture ranked it 10th, and Decider 8th.) Considering the different classification, leaving Nanette off the TV lists seems understandable.

But think about that for a second or two longer. For one, not everyone has a top 10 stand-up specials list. And for the publications that do, and ranked Nanette number one, it’s even more puzzling that it didn’t make their equivalent TV lists. Imagine ranking every drama on TV, and then making a whole separate list of best TV shows that doesn’t include the best drama. Stand-up specials are still TV! And Nanette was, no doubt, one of the most discussed bits of TV this year.

You could argue that Nanette is not a TV show, but a stand-alone TV experience. That feels like splitting a hair, though. TV is changing, and the forms are changing, too. When we’ve got Facebook releasing shows and Netflix airing choose-your-own-adventure Black Mirror episodes, strict definitions of what is a “show” should really get thrown out the window.

Again, this isn’t me as a Nanette stan arguing that it was all-but-ignored — it didn’t make my list! Rather, it’s me as a consumer of culture expressing my confusion as to how one of the biggest, most critically acclaimed TV hits of 2018 isn’t making a splash as critics remember the best TV of 2018.

New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum infamously eschewed lists years ago, for one reason among many that they weren’t sufficient for properly recapping the cultural year. I love a list, but Nanette‘s near-universal exclusion kinda makes the argument for Nussbaum (who also didn’t include Nanette in her sprawling anti-list). If something as unique, celebrated, and beloved as Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up special isn’t being recognized in lists mere months after it practically broke the internet, maybe it’s the lists that are the problem.

Power-Ranking the ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4’ Queens Post-Snatch Game

Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Saturday, we’ll debrief the previous night’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. This week, as we do the walk of shame from our post-Snatch Game of Love dates, we deliver to season 6 veteran Gia Gunn her parting words, and check in with the incredibly tight final seven.

8. Gia Gunn — ELIMINATED (last week: 8)

Gia Gunn went out about as sympathetically as you could imagine, opening up about why she defaults to bitchiness as a defense mechanism. Her final heart-to-heart with Manila was a nice moment, as were her final words on the runway. There’s not much use beating a dead horse, so we’ll just remark that her Snatch Game was the clear last-placer of the week, and her elimination came at the fairest possible time.

7. Latrice Royale (last week: 6)

I really didn’t expect Latrice’s first critique on the All Stars 4 stage to be a negative one. Unfortunately, she really let Gia trip her up in the Snatch Game of Love, and got knocked by judge Ross Mathews for losing her usual professional composure. Latrice needs a main challenge win fast, because this is a competitive crop. She doesn’t have much room for underwhelming at this point.

6. Monique Heart (last week: 5)

You could easily swap Monique and Monét this week; they both don’t shine in Snatch Game, and seemingly only barely find their way into the safe middle group. Here’s the thing that separates them, though: Whereas Monét treated being called safe as a blessing — she was cognizant of her poor performance — Monique looked miffed that she wasn’t in the top. Which, girl. You weren’t the worst this week, but you definitely weren’t the best. I have remarkably little patience for Monique’s attitude during critiques, so this was enough to make the difference for me this week.

5. Monét X Change (last week: 4)

Monét should count her blessings that the judges decided to rag on Valentina this week, because from where I’m sitting, she could easily have been in the bottom three — or even bottom two — for her misfire of a Whitney Houston. What’s particularly rough about Monét’s performance is that, of all the queens left, she is the only one to place high in her original Snatch Game. (Seriously, this crop is not great at this challenge: Monique and Gia both went home on their first rounds, while Naomi hit bottom two. Everyone else managed safe at best.) This was Monét’s challenge to win, and she definitively did not.

4. Valentina (last week: 1)

Valentina makes landing in the bottom look good. Her Eartha Kitt wasn’t great, but it was kinda weird and fun in a way I can appreciate. (I do agree with Michelle Visage that Val’s runway was better in concept than execution, though.) Still, it was in the deliberation segment, when Valentina expertly steered Manila away from eliminating her through pure social prowess, where Val really shone brightest. She was born to be an All Star, but she really can’t afford to fall into the bottom again.

3. Naomi Smalls (last week: 3)

I was tempted to knock Naomi out of the top three solely because something about her isn’t clicking with the judges. They keep placing her in the top three, never giving her a win. It’s perplexing, especially when, by my count, her Wendy Williams was easily the second-best performance of the week. She gets ragged on for wearing sandals on the runway instead of boots, but I can’t imagine that was enough to cost her the win. Still, because of her strong performance, and because she’s yet to come anywhere near the problem, the season 8 fashion girl stays in third.

2. Manila Luzon (last week: 7)

Manila served genius runway, killer lip sync, and plenty of drama in the deliberations. What more could we want from her? Well, maybe a better Snatch Game performance; her Barbra Streisand feels like a default winner considering the chaos of her group. That said, Manila really knocks it out of the park this week in general, and makes a fan out of this Manila skeptic. If she keeps this up, the self-described “old bitch” could give the young girls quite a run for their money.

1. Trinity the Tuck (last week: 2)

Is Trinity the Tuck beatable? Maybe not! She’s won two of the three maxi-challenges this season, plus one of the lip syncs. (She also was hardly bad in this lip sync, just outmatched by Manila at her best.) Moreover, she’s striking a note of technical perfection that shows she really prepared for this season. Alaska, BenDeLaCreme, and Shangela all demonstrated similar preparation, and hey, they all did pretty damn well. We’re still in the early days of this season, but I’d place safe money on the Tuck to run the board.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4’ Recap: “Win, and Beat Me”

The Lip Sync for Your Legacy format is broken. Of that, there is little doubt; it inspires fairly lackluster lip syncs and fails to conjure up the kind of drama one would hope sending home a fellow queen would. RuPaul and the RuPaul’s Drag Race production team designed Lip Sync for Your Legacy to make All Stars more strategic, but on the whole, it doesn’t work that way.

Until Manila Luzon gets her hands on it, that is.

Manila and Trinity

I am of very mixed emotions regarding Manila: I usually don’t love her performances in Drag Race‘s challenges, and her runways — while usually stunning — can’t close the gap for me. And while I think her “MacArthur Park” lip sync in season 3 is one of the all-time greats, her follow-up efforts have been far less impressive.

What I do think Manila is fantastic at, however, is being a reality TV character. She is immensely watchable, and is terrific at driving story without self-producing. Her instigation skills are without peer — without her, the Heathers vs. Boogers arc in season 3 likely never heats up as much as it did.

So I’m thrilled to see her win the challenge this week (although I do think that win is somewhat dubious) and immediately get to scheming. What follows is the best deliberation session since Alaska’s temper tantrum in All Stars, and some of the very best TV of the year.

Snatch Game of Love

This week’s challenge is Snatch Game with a twist: This time, it’s the Snatch Game of Love, kind of a cross between Match Game and The Dating Game. Considering how the traditional Snatch Game format has gotten somewhat tired, the change of pace is welcome. Unfortunately, the format is a little wonky. The eight queens are split into two groups, each vying for the heart of a different celebrity: Olympian Gus Kenworthy for group one, and Love, Simon‘s Keiynan Lonsdale for group two. This split means we’re deprived of some characters interacting, and because of one particularly bad performance in group two, three other performers don’t get much of a chance to shine.

Trinity the Tuck (née Taylor) and Gia Gunn have both brought the same character for Snatch Game: Caitlyn Jenner. One might call this a fool’s errand, since Sharon Needles’ Caitlyn Jenner from the Battle of the Seasons tour is a pitch-perfect parody already. But nevertheless, the two queens spar over who should take it. Gia insists that, as a trans woman, she’d be the correct choice. The other queens thoroughly shoot her down, and instead encourage her to do Jenny Bui, Cardi B’s nail technician. (If you didn’t know her before now, don’t worry, I didn’t either.)

Gia’s shit-stirring the last two episodes really comes back to haunt her this week. The other queens form a united front against her, verbally pushing her away from Caitlyn and into Jenny. It’s clear manipulation on their part, a bit of strategy and alliance-making that’s rare on Drag Race, even for All Stars. Gia does make the swap, but not before taking a swipe at Trinity, telling her as both Caucasian and having “a fucked-up nose like her,” she’ll fit Caitlyn much better.

Snatch Game of Love

Trinity knocks it out of the park as Caitlyn, and is the clear winner of the week. She plays Caitlyn as a crotchety old grandma, and sits with her legs cartoonishly parted in a white suit. Most impressively, she utterly dominates group one in Snatch Game of Love, grabbing every possible joke and riffing with her competitors, RuPaul, and Gus Kenworthy. Gus winds up picking her as his bachelorette because she’s the funniest, leaving Naomi Smalls’ terrific Wendy Williams (complete with faint), Monét X Change’s underwhelming Whitney Houston, and Valentina’s misguided Eartha Kitt loveless.

Group two is some “romper-room fuckery,” to quote Latrice Royale circa season 4’s Snatch Game. Monique Heart’s Tiffany Haddish is just Monique, although admittedly she fires off some good jokes. Manila’s Barbra Streisand, complete with rather large nose prosthetic (in questionable taste, in my opinion) and heavy Barb accent, is funny enough, but a distant third to Trinity and Naomi. The true disaster is Gia’s Jenny, simultaneously not humorous and constantly talking. She sucks all the oxygen out of the group, and especially throws off Latrice Royale.

As the late Della Reese, Latrice seems mostly like Latrice, but we never get much chance to see her fully embody the character, because Gia keeps stepping on her. Gia-as-Jenny also calls Latrice fat and says she looks like a man, which especially upsets her. It’s disappointing that a queen as funny and talented as Latrice has now done poorly as three different celebrities — as Aretha Franklin in Snatch Game season 4, as Oprah Winfrey in All Stars 1‘s ill-advised Gaff-In!, and now as Della. It clearly weighs on her, too; you can see it in her face both on the challenge stage and on the runway during critiques.

Latrice Royale

After a fun boots runway — in which Manila knocks it out of the park as an S&M bunny, and Valentina gets knocked by judge Michelle Visage for a nude bodysuit that doesn’t quite fit right — Manila, Naomi, and Trinity land in the top, while Valentina, Gia, and Latrice wind up in the bottom. I’d expect Naomi and Trinity to win the challenge, but it seems the judges dock points because Naomi wore gladiator sandals instead of boots. Manila wins instead, giving her her first win of the season and fifth in her Drag Race career. (I’d argue she deserved one, maybe two of those wins, but I’m trying to be nice today.) Gia winds up in the bottom, sitting next to an unlucky Valentina. Latrice seemingly gets away with Gia being blamed for her performance, and avoids the bottom two.

And here is where the episode transforms from a solid one into a legendary one. Right at the start of deliberations, Trinity calls Manila over to the side to chat about the decision they have to make. Trinity insists that the choice of who should go home this week is obvious. Gia was the clear worst. Manila doesn’t disagree, but also doesn’t see that as the only reason to send someone home. She thinks this could be a chance for her to send home a strong competitor in Valentina. This panics Trinity, as Valentina is her ally and season 9 sister.

Manila and Gia have a heart-to-heart, Gia admitting that she didn’t realize competing on Drag Race as a trans woman would be so difficult. “I just wish there was another way for me to do this,” she says, starting to cry. “To show you can be whoever you want to be as a trans woman.” She shares further in confessional that while drag used to be an outlet for her to feel in touch with her real identity, now it’s frustrating for her to be in this competition. She also expresses major regret for personally insulting Latrice in the game. It’s the most authentic Gia’s been all season, and thus no surprise it’s also the most compelling she’s been all season. And it clearly resonates with a tearful Manila.

At the same time, Trinity meets with a very relaxed-looking Valentina. She’s in the bottom next to Gia; she knows she won’t be going home. Until Trinity warns her about Manila, that is. Valentina’s whole persona shifts as she leans forward. “So you think that i could go home tonight?” she asks. Her voice shakes a little on the last word. She seems both petrified and primed to attack. It’s a fascinating transformation, seeing Valentina go from cool cucumber to focused strategist. She takes that attitude with her to meet with Manila — and inspires an amazing 90-second tête-à-tête.

Valentina drink

Manila starts strong, complimenting Valentina as one of Drag Race‘s strongest competitors. But, she admits, “That scares me, because I think, ‘How can I keep up with these young girls?'” Valentina’s response? Sipping her drink. Manila says she has Valentina in a corner, and admits she’s very much considering sending Valentina home. Valentina says she thinks she’s done well on All Stars, and she wants to stay,. So, Manila says, let’s make a deal.

“How about this: Can you promise me, if you ever land in the top, and I’m in the bottom, [to] show me grace?” she asks. “For an old-ass bitch like me.” The way she poses after making this offer could best be described as “Ursula after telling Ariel she just wants her voice.” It’s delicious.

Valentina immediately turns the deal down, saying she’d never ask Manila to promise the reverse. Instead, she offers Manila a challenge: Keep her in the game, and beat her fair and square. “Can you handle it?” she asks. As she puts it in her confessional: “Win, and beat me, bitch.”

Valentina as cunning strategist is the kind of thing we’d never see on Drag Race‘s flagship series, but All Stars‘ format is perfectly suited for. It’s not her drag skills that help her this week, it’s her social game. It’s Big Brother in heels and wigs. And as a Big Brother fan, I’m certainly thrilled by this development.

Manila Luzon

Manila and Trinity face off in the lip sync to Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” giving Whitney a fourth lip sync song on Drag Race and tying the record held by Paula Abdul, Britney Spears, and Madonna. The two queens give one hell of a battle to commemorate the occasion, with Trinity frenetically bopping to the energy of the music and Manila giving a full acting performance as a young lover. Trinity’s very good, but Manila is spectacular, finally matching the promise of “MacArthur Park.” Most impressively, she kills the lip sync without a single split, trick, or anything. She just fully embodies the spirit of the song, and delivers on every front.

Unlike most Lip Syncs for Your Legacy, this one actually has some real tension. We know Trinity won’t send Valentina home, but Manila just might. So Valentina looks mildly petrified walking to the front of the stage with Gia, who seems far more resigned to her fate. Manila ramps up with a big speech — she wants this more than any of the other girls, and has been competing for longer, too. It really does seem in the moment like she’s going to pull the trigger — but instead eliminates Gia. Valentina gets off with just a warning shot.

It’s farewell to Gia Gunn, a contestant I don’t have much love for, but can still have compassion for. I can only imagine how psychologically taxing it is to compete in a drag competition as a trans woman, and especially to be pummeled with hate online. While I wish she’d come into the competition with more strategy than mere villainy, I trust she’ll continue to succeed outside of the werk room.

So here we have our final seven! Truly, it’s anyone’s game; everyone but Naomi has a win (if you count Latrice’s Reading Is Fundamental mini-challenge win), and she’s been in the top three every single week. Every cut from here is going to be deep. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folks: It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Show grace for some old-ass thoughts:

• Though Snatch Game of Love wasn’t quite the right fix, I do hope Drag Race continues to experiment with the Snatch Game formula. It’s been the same for so many years, and it really does need freshening up.

• Manila is smashing the runway in a fashion unparalleled by anyone else this season. Naomi’s looks are usually strong, but missing the prompt on the boot this week was a major unforced error. Trinity and Valentina could rise up to challenge them if they really pull out the stops in the next few weeks. Latrice’s runways are too basic, Monét and Monique’s aren’t quite refined enough.

• Naomi nails Wendy Williams’ faint perfectly. I’d have given her the win for it alone, shoes be damned!

• Trinity gets off plenty of great jokes in Snatch Game of Love, but saying that Gus Kenworthy looks “like a Democrat and broke” might be my favorite.

• RuPaul’s runway look this week is amazing, a short, sparkly cocktail dress with killer hair. (I won’t mention the shoes, out of respect.) Her legs look killer, and she sashays down the runway like she knows it. I’m happy to see she’s stepping outside of the long gown and high blonde hair combo she’s become so accustomed to in recent seasons.

• Gia Gunn is now the first and only queen to go home on Snatch Game twice. (No one on this season won their original Snatch Game, so there was no potential to match BenDeLaCreme’s two-win record.)

• Though they both look good this week — especially in wrestling garb — I’m iffy on both Gus Kenworthy and Keiynan Lonsdale as guest judges. Keiynan just doesn’t keep up with the quips on the runway, and has not much insight to add during critiques. Gus is a bit better, but says something clumsy about how important it is for Gia to represent for trans women — well-meaning, but inadequately expressed. Jenifer Lewis’ best guest judge of the season title goes unchallenged for another week.

• God bless Valentina, who strikes a pose even when facing potential elimination in the bottom two. She really has come into this season ready to play the telenovela character to the hilt.

• To address an elephant in the room: Yes, this episode was leaked online in its entirety last Friday. In some countries outside the U.S., RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on the WOW Presents Plus app. Seemingly, the episode was mistakenly uploaded to that app, and was captured and reuploaded across the internet. It’s a rare instance of such a leak, especially from such a notoriously secretive show. That said, no leak can change what an excellent episode this is. To me, it’s the best All Stars episode since “Revenge of the Queens.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars returns next Friday — in fact, next year! — on January 4, at 8 p.m. Eastern on VH1. Have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve!

What Even IS Good Representation? A Helpful How-To Guide for Cis-Hets Creating LGBTQ Characters

I am of the mindset that every one of us searching for good queer representation goes through a phase where we’ll take whatever we can get. I’m talking the most minuscule of table scraps, the kind that have been left on your kitchen counter overnight cuz you were too tired to wipe them away before bed.

Eventually, we reach a point where we decide that we’re done with the bare minimum. No more bury your gays. No more blink and you’ll miss it. No more Voltron: Legendary Defender, a show that managed to make us stans of robotic space cats… but not of its attempt at queer representation. From everyone’s favorite space dad losing his loved one off-screen—leading to an apology from one of the showrunners—to a wedding at the tail end of eight seasons where said space dad ties the knot with… insert shrugging shoulders emoji.

I used to be OK with a few members of the studio audience being content with this messy kind of representation, but with Voltrons finale I realized something: what if the representation had been… good? What if folks didn’t have to go through the I’ll settle for whatever phase because their options were actually well thought out? That’s what Voltron—and a lot of shows before it—could’ve been. That’s what a lot of shows could, and should, strive for in the future.

Which begs the question: what even IS good queer representation? How do we do better? Well, I’m glad I asked!

  • Develop your characters

Speaking as a writer, I know that fleshed-out characters are the lifeblood of fiction. I can give you a pretty good synopsis of My Hero Academia, for example, but if you make the mistake of asking me about my favorite character? We’re gonna be talking about Izuku “Best Boy” Midoriya for a good long while.

Despite this being common knowledge amongst writers, some folks forget the importance of characterization when they decide to add queer to the mix. They stress so much about portraying “the gay” that they miss the most basic point: we don’t just want the label, we want the person; more importantly, we want the person to be part of the story as a whole instead of some box you check off on a representation list.

If you take nothing else from this piece, at least take this bit of advice: don’t stop after your character gets past the closet door! Insert hand clap emojis between each word for maximum emphasis.

  • Romance is optional

Yeah. I said what I said.

Look, romance is fine, y’all, but kinda boring when you only have it there to prove that someone has a rainbow bumper sticker. If your character ain’t feeling a love or lust connection, try the following:

Visual cues: There are pieces of LGBTQ flair that can be used to signify someone’s gender or sexuality. Flags—such as the rainbow themed easter egg in PS4’s Spiderman. Headbands—like the one Titus works out with in Kimmy Schmidt. Tennis shoes that I don’t need but really, really want, like, do they have to come for our wallets during Pride Month!? It’s like an exclusive handshake between all of us, that feeling of I’m not the only one when you see someone wearing a rainbow themed lightsaber shirt, or a pronoun button at a convention.

Just say it: Let it come out naturally, of course, unless a bisexual song and dance fits the character. Speaking of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, shows like this and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are great examples of characters who announce their orientation and even play on the bumbled attempts of friends trying to do the most when they find out. But at the end of the day, just like my first point in this piece, White Josh and Rosa wanna be treated like people, not queer caricatures.

  • If you want romance, develop the love interest

Treat them as more than a “This character over here is queer” tool. We wanna care about the love interest just as much as the main character. We care about both Ruby and Sapphire in Steven Universe, not just because they make up Garnet, but because they’re loveable, adorable, individual characters. Same with Yuri and Victor from Yuri on Ice, Bubblegum and Marceline from Adventure Time, and my if they make it to the big screen please don’t yuck it up Marvel babies, Billy (Wiccan) and Teddy (Hulkling).    

These romances weren’t there to prove a point, they were there because the characters had chemistry.

  • Queer suffering

Listen. I love me some angst. So I’m not saying to not have your characters go through shit. I’m not even saying that you can never, ever, kill someone. Just… make sure that their only reason for being isn’t to suffer or die. If you’re familiar with Young Avengers you know that Billy Kaplan’s middle name is ANGST. He suffers. A lot. But just because he’s a queer Jewish kid doesn’t mean he’s only on the team to be an emotional punching bag because the writers don’t wanna hurt the straight folks in the story. Everyone has something they have to face so it doesn’t feel disjointed when the queer characters are hurting, too—especially since it’s part of the plot and not an I have a gay guy so he’s gotta deal with homophobic baggage B-story.  

That’s not to say you can’t have queer characters who deal with homophobia. For queer creators, writing can be an outlet where we’re allowed to dissect those issues. But here’s the thing, we’re not gonna treat it as a subplot: it’s gonna be the main focus, we’re gonna flesh it out and make sure it’s not an aside. We’re also gonna make it more well-rounded because discrimination is a varied beast that ranges from blatant, derogatory language spray-painted on someone’s locker to I’m not saying two girls can’t kiss during the Thanksgiving parade but children are watching/I have queer friends/I’m fine with queerness but…

Basically, you’re doing a real disservice to the community if you make hatred so by the book, especially if it’s only there so your straight characters can feel good about themselves because hey, at least they’re nice to the poor wittle queer kid. Please remember that we are a community that thrives on chosen family. We have been saving ourselves for years, whether it’s straight up leaving a toxic situation or finding ways to escape when we can via safe spaces outside of school, work, or home. Hell, we have the Internet and hashtags we can follow.

People are more than their struggle. Focus on the triumphs and self-care as much as you focus on the pain.

  • One isn’t enough

You know what’s better than one queer character? Two. Or more. Kinda like Pringles.

It’s always kinda disingenuous to me when a story only has one queer person. You mean to tell me in a city as huge and diverse as New York, Carrie Bradshaw’s only source of queerness is Stanford Blatch? That she can’t handle the concept of bisexuality? That she’s stunned when self-proclaimed try-sexual Samantha Jones dates a woman? That in the second movie Stanford marries the only other gay man we ever saw more than once on the show even if they hated each other? Carrie… you live in one of the biggest cities in the country, buy enough shoes to put you out of house and home, and you write a sex column…how are you missing all of the queer?

Beyond that, when you’re part of a community that’s prone to dealing with hate, you try and find others like you—consciously and subconsciously. Shows like The L Word where the entire group of friends are queer…are a lot more likely than you think. Even if it’s a small group of friends like my Sex and the City example, there’s still that bookstore with the All Are Welcome sign or the car you drive past with the HRC bumper sticker.

There is not only one queer thing in the world.

Extra pro-tip: by only having one queer person in your story you put a lot of extra pressure on yourself. That lone character becomes the representative the audience latches onto, so whatever happens to them they will be judged harder than Scarlett Johansson taking any role for the next 50 years.

Give the audience—and yourself—options.

  • Don’t be afraid of the word “and”

As a black, queer woman… please?

Intersectionality is more than a word that gets tossed around every once in a while, and if you don’t realize the impact of it, then I’m gonna politely ask that you check out Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi from Black Lightning. Your queer character is allowed to have multiple layers to them. Diversity doesn’t just stop at sexuality. Oh, and that and? Can involve multiple facets of the queer community itself. Transgender and? Yes, please.

  • Let your characters out themselves

There is nothing more frustrating than having a creator come out of the woodwork to give an oh by the way statement. It sounds great on paper until you start to wonder… why didn’t we get that in the story itself? This also applies to creators making grand declarations before their work is released. I know you wanna prove that you have us in your thoughts and prayers, but that quote you just made in that interview creates monumental expectations. Clearly, you spent a lot of time on this character, otherwise, why even bring them up? So if the representation is nothing but a passing glance the audience feels cheated, at best.

If you have to tell us someone is queer instead of letting the story illustrate it, then you’ve done the character, and the community, a great disservice. Let the story do the talking.

The key to good representation isn’t anything new, or even groundbreaking. It just requires as much love and care as every other element in your story.

Illinois Transfers Trans Woman to Women’s Prison After Four Abuse Lawsuits

Content Warning: This article details extreme abuse against a transgender person.

It took four lawsuits and a judge’s order, but transgender inmate Strawberry Hampton has been moved to a women’s prison in Illinois.

Hampton’s case has drawn national attention in one of the most serious transgender prison abuse cases ever alleged. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel excoriated the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for ignoring  “substantiated” sexual abuse complaints while denying Hampton’s requests to be housed with women.

Rosenstengel ordered IDOC to train its staff on transgender issues and re-evaluate Hampton’s placement, noting that prison staff “never considered whether Hampton felt safe or secure in a men’s prison.”

Rosenstengel added that prison staff also never met with Hampton to interview her about her placement, a finding that raises questions about Illinois’ compliance with with federal prison law.

Federal law mandates that state prisons place transgender people on a case-by-case basis. The Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed in 2003, requires prisons to interview transgender inmates about where they think they should be placed in terms of gender and to house them where they will be safest.

Hampton, however, alleged abuse behind bars so extreme that some of it cannot be published in print. The 27-year-old filed four lawsuits in which she claimed that guards at Pinckneyville Correctional Center sexually assaulted her and then forced her and a cellmate to have sex.

When she reported the abuse, she was beaten and held in solitary confinement for a year, she says. Sexual, verbal, and physical torment continued at three other men’s prisons, she claims.

IDOC did not respond to a request to comment. But Lindsey Hess, a spokesperson for the department, previously told INTO that IDOC has a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

“The Department maintains 100% compliance with the national standards of the Prison Rape Elimination Act as determined by certified independent privately contracted auditors,” Hess said in an email. “The Department carefully considers housing assignments and the unique needs of offenders who identify as transgender.”

Hampton’s case against IDOC remains pending. She is seeking damages from the department, and her attorneys are demanding that she have access to mental health services while in custody. She is due to be released in November 2019.

It is unknown how many other transgender women have been placed in women’s facilities in Illinois. Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center, which fought Hampton’s case, said he knows of at least one other trans woman who was previously housed at Logan Correctional Center, the women’s prison where Hampton now resides.

“It means that [Hampton] is no longer subject to the daily harassment and pressure that is inevitable when a woman is placed in a man’s prison,” Mills said. However, he added, “Our hope is that this will not be a one-off occasion.”

Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center, which also represented Hampton, echoed that sentiment in a statement.

“IDOC has done nothing to remedy the systemic failures that created the persistent harm Strawberry has endured since she entered IDOC custody,” del Valle said. “The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun.”

When Can Spider-Man Be Queer?

Every night, I force my brain to do something that shuts off the anxiety of the real world and takes me to a different world altogether. In this world, anything is possible — I go on dates with my dream man (Jake Gyllenhaal), accept all types of awards, win every work argument, and live a life in my head that will probably stay in my head.

Growing up, this nightly dreaming commonly put me in the shoes of a superhero, like Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield’s iteration of the web-slinger appeared on screen during a particularly paramount time in my life: When I tried to figure out if I was gay. (Spoiler: I was). I fell for not only Garfield, but for Peter Parker, a somewhat simple character who represents an everyday person overcoming the odds to be super.

Spider-Man represents the common person. Unlike wealthy characters like Iron Man or Batman, Peter Parker was a regular kid from a modest family who became one of the biggest heroes of all time. That simple appeal has made the character a cultural icon. He’s funny and smart and it’s harder to find things about the character to dislike.

The longevity of the character comes from this everyday appeal, which could explain the move in recent years to make Spider-Man not always be a straight, white man. But this month, actor Shameik Moore makes his debut as Miles Morales, the first-ever half-Black/half-Latinx Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He will no doubt inspire many young people of color, who have never seen themselves reflected in the iconic character on screen. Joining Morales is Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker, a Japanese-American girl who has a psychic connection to a spider, and a pig voiced by John Mulaney who also took up the Spider-Man mantle.

So, if Spider-Man can be a talking pig, why can’t he be queer?

Comics as a whole lack queer stories. The comics juggernaut behind Spider-Man, Marvel, recently put their most high profile openly queer character, Iceman, back in the closet. In their films, Tessa Thompson portrayed the queer character Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, but of course, the only scene involving her queerness got cut.

From a creative standpoint, showing Spider-Man through a queer perspective could do wonders. A trans woman who struggles to balance life as a superhero and as a transgender person? A non-binary Spider-Man who goes between genders to help their everyday superhero-ing? The possibilities for in-depth and meaningful storytelling are endless! You could even make Peter Parker bisexual! (Yes, Marvel I will write for y’all.)

Spider-Man would be a great character to lead a queer story. In a world that is getting queerer by the day, it would be a courageous leap for Marvel to give one of the most prominent characters a new development. If done right, it could not only change comic book canon, but have a lasting impact on queer youth.

Representation positively impacts marginalized people people because it validates our feelings–the ones that most of the world tries to invalidate. I’ll never forget the feeling when I first saw Willow kiss Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a time when my sexuality was sending me on a downward spiral, that small expression of queer love gave me a look at a future I didn’t know I could hope for. When I’m feeling alone and isolated in a world that doesn’t make it easy for queer people to find and fall in love, there’s comfort in watching two guys go on a date. That is confirmation that I can find love.

I have an ongoing joke with my friends that if something isn’t gay I don’t care about it. They think I’m kidding, but I’ve seen enough straight content in my life and would rather see queer stories. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that we’ve all seen the straight, white man storyline enough for six lifetimes. The “default” mode of the straight, white male gaze is one that we have come to expect and are forced to conform to. We pick apart pieces of heterosexual stories told most often through a male gaze to try and apply them to ourselves.

Comics are a place for the fantastical. The world has fallen for superheroes as a whole because they tell stories of people doing amazing things to save people. Why not make a character who is supposed to represent the everyday person an everyday person?

People happen to be gay. They also happen to be straight. Yet with such a small percentage of queer stories, we have have been forced to find pieces of ourselves in straight stories. Why do only straight, white kids get a hero to identify with? When do the queer kids get someone to root for?

Wonder Woman inspired women across the world, while Black Panther became a cultural phenomenon. As Into the Spider-Verse shows us, Spider-Man can be anyone and anything. Towards the end of the film, Morales states that “anyone can wear the mask.”

It’s time for a queer person to put on the mask.

20 Songs That Shaped My Lesbian Awakening (And Just Turned 20)

As a kid in 1998, living in a household where everything on TV over a PG-13 rating was locked behind parental control, there wasn’t much that captured my imagination beyond Xena: Warrior Princess and I Love Lucy reruns. Sure, as a latchkey-lite kid there was time to figure out the passwords every once in a while, but all that deciphering taught me two valuable lessons: that it was a waste of time, and that I had no business watching Oz at the tender age of 13 anyway.

Music was fair game though, and so my teen years were spent watching MTV (it used to be a channel for music back then) and VH1. Pop music helped shape me, and got me through some painful and awkward years as a young queer kid in a Catholic household coming to terms with my lifelong conflicted feelings for Kirstie Alley in It Takes Two. Music videos made me realize it wasn’t just Kirstie Alley I had these feelings for, but all women.

Making a playlist recently, I noticed most of my favorite throwbacks are from that time, and it made me realize 1998 had some serious bops. Here are 20 of them that shaped my lesbian awakening.

“The Boy Is Mine” – Brandy & Monica

It might be hard to understand how a song about two girls fighting over one guy could inspire any kind of Sapphic feeling, but the music video explains some things. Brandy and Monica spend most of the time sulking in their respective apartments over a guy that’s clearly playing them both, but the match that sparked my fire was the moment in the end where Mekhi Phifer knocks on Brandy’s door thinking he’s slick, only to find Monica is also there before they slam the door in his face. Art is up for anyone’s interpretation and I interpreted this as two former rivals who have fallen in love and now live together and would soon be adopting two cats.

“This Kiss” – Faith Hill

Long before Taylor Swift glided across the line between country and pop with the finesse of a ballerina and the business savvy of a stockbroker, there was Faith Hill, whose country-lite pop hit “This Kiss” cemented her crossover status. It’s a song about a snog that you can sing along to without thinking about pronouns. It also features lyrics that my little gay ears immediately zoned in on where Cinderella tells Snow White she’s wanted a white knight with a soft touch and a fast horse before adding, “Ride me off into the sunset, baby I’m forever yours.”

I ship it.

“You Look So Fine” – Garbage

The first time I listened to Version 2.0, the album from which this single hails, I felt like someone was slowly pulling my heart out of my chest, and the first time I saw Shirley Manson in the video for “You Look So Fine” I wanted her to be the one to do it. Everything about her made my heart race; her red hair, her unapologetic feminism, the gritty melancholy in her voice. Sure, Garbage has always been an LGBT ally, but we all want Shirley Manson to sing us back to consciousness on a sandy beach and that’s the true takeaway.

“Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is arguably one of the best albums recorded in the past 30 years. Hill’s meticulous blend of heart-wrenching lyrics and haunting melodies made her solo debut album an essential part of anyone’s music collection. It was not only an awards magnet, but a masterclass in what makes a great album. I was nowhere near experienced enough to understand the complexities of of “Ex-Factor” in 1998, but it did preemptively give me a go-to breakup song that I’ve revisited more than once since then, and no one gets it like Ms. Lauryn Hill.

“…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears

I envy those who didn’t live through the stress of Britney vs. Christina. The pressure of picking between two pop queens was a demand I was not equipped to undertake then, nor am I now, but Britney came first so, let us all appreciate the schoolgirl outfit that both divided a nation of creepy adults who considered a 17 year-old girl’s midriff a perverse abomination, and united a generation of kids, queer and straight, who agreed that Britney Spears was a gift to pop music.

“Heartbreak Hotel” – Whitney Houston

It’s Whitney Houston, featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price. I don’t think this needs much of an explanation. There are three beautiful women, Whitney’s got a white fur coat on, they sound amazing, there are no men in it. It’s the perfect video for a pretty good song.

“Reflection” – Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera’s debut single was from Disney’s Mulan, and it is a song written from the point of view of a girl who has to hide her real self from the world, pretending she’s something she isn’t for the sake of those around her. If you don’t see how “Reflection” is a coming out power ballad, then you’re probably straight.

“Are You That Somebody?” – Aaliyah

Aaliyah was a talented, charismatic, beautiful artist who overcame an ordeal no girl should have to overcome, and publicly no less. Despite the gossip that surrounded the release of her first album regarding her relationship with R. Kelly, she achieved admirable success during her short career in both film and music, and out of the perseverance came “Are You That Somebody?” Apart from being an absolute bop, I dare you to watch this video and not be existentially changed by Aaliyah in that crop top and baggy pants.

“Jumper” – Third Eye Blind

Coming out is a process, and that process begins with first coming out to yourself. For many it can be a struggle. Whether the challenge is spiritual, familial, or something else, coming to terms with one’s identity can be bleak, and “Jumper,” which is a song Stephan Jenkins wrote about a gay high school friend who committed suicide, takes all the toxic, self-harming thoughts and turns them into an anthem about survival and leaning on each other. That kind of message really resonates when you’re at catechism class and a nun is telling you being gay is a sin.

“Suavemente” – Elvis Crespo

“Suavemente” has been playing at every Latinx function since its release in 1998. From baptisms to weddings, this song is still the best way to fill up a dancefloor. And since the only acceptable public girl-on-girl contact in Latinx family parties is dancing, it’s also the best way to dance with the really cute daughter of the family friend who only comes around for special occasions.

“I Don’t Want To Wait” – Paula Cole

Technically, this song was first released in 1996, but it blew up in 1998 when it was used as the theme song for Dawson’s Creek, and it will forever be a song I associate with my love for Joey Potter, the character played by Katie Holmes in the teen drama, and my theory that she was in fact a lesbian who deserved to live her best life with Jen Lindley, played by Michelle Williams.

“Too Much & Stop” – Spice Girls

The cinematic masterpiece that was Spice World premiered in 1998, and from it came the boppiest soundtrack we could have hoped for. Spice Girls gave young girls a sisterhood philosophy and four Sex And The City type characters to identify with. I was a Ginger who secretly wanted to kiss Mel B.

“I Get Lonely” – Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson had me at “Rhythm Nation” when I was four, but “I Get Lonely” made me nervous and squirmy in a way I didn’t yet understand. I’m pretty sure this the root of my thing for women in ties.

“Kind and Generous” – Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant has a voice like a beautiful witchy lesbian that lives in a cabin by a river, where she grows her own food, has a pet goat, and occasionally takes in queer runaways from nearby villages. I’m convinced that if Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks had a baby, you’d get Natalie Merchant, human embodiment of Lilith Fair and mother to Florence Welch, probably.

“Ray of Light” – Madonna

There’s no particularly Sapphic reason to include this song except that Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell’s relationship is my favorite celebrity friendship of the 90’s and when Madonna was on Rosie’s talk show to promote Ray of Light, it was the League of Their Own reunion we deserved.

“Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia

Where were you when you found out “Torn” is a cover? I don’t personally recall but I do remember learning Natalie Imbruglia was dating David Schwimmer and recognizing immediately that she was far too good for him or any man.

“Malibu” – Hole

Everyone was in it for Courtney Love, but my heart belonged to Melissa Auf der Maur, the band’s ethereal bassist. Not long after the release of this single, Auf der Maur left Hole to pursue a solo career, but she will always be the reason I changed the channel every time my mom walked in the room and the video for “Malibu” was on, just in case my gay was showing.

“Uninvited” – Alanis Morissette

Something truly terrible must happening in the world for gay icon Alanis Morissette to have become culturally irrelevant. She didn’t have to go this hard for a movie soundtrack, and yet here she is, and wigs are flying off all over the place.

“Believe” – Cher

Cher said “Gay rights!” when she gifted us the epic Believe album, which still holds up today. The iconic diva has been blowing people’s expectations out of the water throughout her career, but no one saw the explosion of “Believe” coming. The single was everywhere, including Spanish radio stations, and it introduced a new generation to Cher’s iconic body of work through TV specials like Behind The Music on VH1, a made-for-TV biopic titled The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story, and even reruns of Cher’s variety show from the 70’s, simply titled Cher. I know the gays like to claim Cher, but citing Silkwood as reference, I believe the lesbians have a strong case for custody.