Haters Will Say ‘Skate Kitchen’ Is The Female Version of ‘Kids’

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen has very little in common with Larry Clark’s Kids, yet almost every review of the new film draws parallels between the two. But the need to compare the features comes largely out of a longstanding assumption that most critics (largely men) can only consider a narrative about women in juxtaposition to something created by and starring men. 

Sure, like Clark’s 1995 film, Skate Kitchen takes place in New York City, and employs a group of young non-actors to play roles that are close to their real-life personas. But skateboarding is much less of a focus for the boys in Kids than it is for the girls in Skate Kitchen — which is, incidentally, named after and based on the group who inspired the film in the first place. In Kids, a skateboard is most memorably used as a weapon; in Skate Kitchen, the boards are, as star Nina Moran once described them, broomsticks that allow her and her all-women collective to fly.

Moselle, best known for her award-winning documentary The Wolfpack, first happened upon Moran and Rachelle Vinberg on the G train in New York. She describes seeing them with skateboards and hearing Moran speaking (“so animated and charismatic”), and knowing immediately that she wanted to create a project with and about them. What came first was a short film sponsored by Miu Miu as part of their Women Tales series. “That One Day” starred Moran, Vinberg, and fellow Skate Kitchen members Ardelia Lovelace, Jules Lorenzo, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams, and Brenn Lorenzo in a story modeled on their daily existence. Cameras follow them skating together, ignoring misogyny and laughter from the male skaters while landing kickflips and other tricks they encourage each other to not give up on. Later, they party, dancing in a loud, dark apartment where they end the night laying around on top of one another, opening up about love and relationships, ultimately sharing their love for one another. It’s a naturalistic depiction of friendship — unforced, without an ounce of sap, and genuine.

Some of these same moments are a part of Skate Kitchen, the feature-length film Moselle premiered at Sundance this year. It was fitting venue for the film, as she credits the festival’s director of programming (and out lesbian) Kim Yutani for suggesting she turn away from the plan she had to make a full-length documentary.

“[She] hit me up after she saw the short and said, ‘I really want you to make this into a feature. This is a film I’ve always wanted to see,’” Moselle told Culture Trip. “I thought, ‘If she says that, maybe I have something here that I don’t realize.’ So we made the feature.”

Skate Kitchen is very much about skating — more so than Kids, to be sure, and on par with truly male-focused skating films like Catherine Hardwicke’s Lords of Dogtown  — but it’s also about friendship, and finding your crew; your chosen family. Vinberg’s Camille is our way inside — she’s a burgeoning skater whose overbearing mom doesn’t appreciate her dangerous new hobby. Camille is shy and intimidated by the male-dominated sport, but when she meets Kurt (Moran) and the rest of the crew, she finds a validation and happiness she’s never had before. Unfortunately, things get complicated by her crush on one of her fellow Skate Kitchen friends’ ex-boyfriends, Devon (played by Jaden Smith, the “big name” of the film, and thus, the star-power that’s pushed most of the film’s marketing efforts). Her friendship with Devon threatens her relationship to the rest of the Kitchen, testing everyone’s loyalties and priorities.

Skate Kitchen is not only special in its depiction of how women skateboarders relate to one another, but also in its cast being largely women of color, and also, Moran’s Kurt being an out lesbian whose sexuality and subsequent relationships with women is never made an issue of, nor a point of discussion. Instead, she’s shown making out with girls and delivering quips like, “That girl just fingered me in the bushes, bro!” It’s worth noting, however, that Kurt is not a gross womanizer who sees women as sex objects, the role that butch characters serving as comic relief can often be shoehorned into. The way she speaks about her hookups to her friends is the same way they speak about theirs with men. 

But Skate Kitchen definitely passes the Bechdel Test, probably because much of what was shot was improvised, and (what do you know!?) young women have a lot more to talk about than dudes. What’s most exciting about Moselle’s film is that it speaks to a new generation of young women, women of color, and queer women who will find they don’t need permission to skate or to talk about sex or to have relationships with other women that aren’t based on jealousy or one-upping each other even when they’re literally participating in a sport. And because the Skate Kitchen is a real, tangible crew, it’s an even bigger accomplishment.

“There’s something really special about female friendships, and their being there for each other,” Moselle told Culture Trip. “So many films have this ‘mean girl’ vibe where the underdog tries to make it with the popular group. To me that’s outdated, and it also reflects a society in which girls have to fight to get their way into these small spaces. What I love about the Skate Kitchen girls is that they constantly bring each other up, and bring new girls into the fold and bring them up, too. It’s a very positive inclusion which you don’t see a lot in other movies about girls.”

Outside of Skate Kitchen, LGBTQ women skaters like Lacey Baker, Lauren Mollica, Evelien Bouilliart,  and Hillary Thompson lead the conversation in inclusion in the still quite macho pro skating community. San Francisco’s UNITY and L.A.’s Pave the Way are claiming space in the pools, parks, and half-pipes long thought to be Boys Only.  But being able to see the magic of de-masculinizing skating on the big screen can’t be minimized, especially when the bonus is a story about creating community in a lonely world where being told how to be a good young woman often means ignoring your own happiness in order to please someone else. 

Kids didn’t have that kind of message, and it certainly didn’t offer anything for young women to feel particularly good about.

Kids is about a young boy who is giving HIV to a bunch of people,” Moselle told VICE. “It’s a day in the life, it’s sensational and it’s a great film, and it also shows the youth culture of that time. It’s not a skateboard movie. I understand it’s youth culture and youth culture is timeless. My film is about female empowerment—girls and femininity in a grimy world.”

Skate Kitchen is in theaters now.

‘The Pattern at Pendarvis’: Demystifying the Heritage of Gay Culture-Keepers

From 1935 through the 1970s, Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum preserved Pendarvis House in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and ran a Cornish-cuisine restaurant visited by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. Their relationship as lovers was referenced sideways, if ever, through Hellum’s death in 2000. Dean Gray brings the unseen love shared between these two men back to life in The Pattern at Pendarvis, which made its world premiere at HERE Arts Center, presented by New Dog Theatre Company and StreetSigns, through August 5.

Gray’s play fictionalizes interviews conducted by Will Fellows for his book, A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture. Fellows is transmogrified into the fictional Rich Farnsworth (Gregory Jensen), who, like Fellows, has written Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest. In Pattern, Farnsworth encounters Edgar Hellum (Lawrence Merritt) at his home in Mineral Point in 1997, 14 years after Bob’s death.

Though Farnsworth wants to discuss Hellum’s homosexual relationship with Neal, he’s continually stalled by Norm Hansen (David Murray Jaffe), a “friend” of Hellum’s who is also on the board of Pendarvis. With funds to raise and a board to protect, Hansen acts out of concern that Farnsworth’s project of unearthing the men’s relationship will threaten Pendarvis’ institutional interests. Hellum wonders, himself, why Farnsworth remains insistent on digging up the past.

The play follows the three men as Farnsworth’s interview with Hellum becomes more and more vulnerable. Hansen has to be sent out in order for the two remaining gay men to speak authentically on the past.

At times pedagogic in tone, visually static, and slow-moving, The Pattern at Pendarvis finds its moments of pathos when Farnsworth’s hunger to claim his gay heritage rises to meet and overcome Hellum’s resistance to reopening old wounds. Gregory Jensen (Farnsworth) and Lawrence Merritt (Hellum) play off each other beautifully through the build.

Farnsworth, at his most passionate, wonders aloud:

Many of the negative attitudes that exist out in the larger world about men like us are attitudes that are based on the wrong assumption, that we don’t contribute anything, to the culture, to the community. That we are non-contributing, self-indulgent individuals….

It’s not so. So how do we get that message out there? How do we say, “Here we are… here are people who happen to be this way, who have been leaders — whether it’s in historic preservation or some arena in the arts or social services or, you know, whatever!” How do we get that message out there?

Hellum, for his part, says, “You have to understand something…. Back then, there weren’t any gay people. Of course, there were, but… there wasn’t. There wasn’t because you just didn’t talk about it. So… there wasn’t.” He later reveals that he and Bob had split up and lived separately toward the end of Bob’s life.

The Pattern at Pendarvis warns of the price of demystifying our heritage while affirming that the project is still worth undertaking. Where Farnsworth may have been after a love story between Neal and Hellum for his book, the reality of Bob and Edgar’s day-to-day lives — their “pattern” — in their decades of togetherness was ordinary, maybe even unremarkable.

Hellum ultimately feels he didn’t accomplish as much as he would’ve liked for the cause of gay acceptance, but he encourages Farnsworth (and us) to create new patterns by saying, “Things change. They always do.”

This production of The Pattern at Pendarvis was directed by Joseph Megel and appeared as part of [email protected], “HERE’s curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.” For more on the history of gay preservationists, closeted in their own house museums, see Joshua G. Adair’s essay, “House Museums or Walk-In Closets? The (Non)Representation of Gay Men in the Museums They Called Home” in Gender, Sexuality and Museums: A Routledge Reader, edited by Amy K. Levin.

Images courtesy of HERE

Ariana Grande’s ‘Sweetener’: A Track-by-Track Review

Like Sandra Oh in Princess Diaries, queer people have had a feeling about Friday, August 17. The Queen is coming — and by that, we mean Ariana Grande has released her fourth album, Sweetener.

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The album comes two years after Grande’s last album, Dangerous Woman, and a year after the singer was at the center of international attention when her Manchester Arena concert was the target of a terrorist attack that killed 22 and wounded at least 59.

In anticipation of the album’s release, Grande released two singles, “no tears left to cry” and “God is a woman,” as well as the Nicki Minaj-assisted buzz single “the light is coming.”

But how does the rest of the album stack up? Here’s INTO’s take.

“raindrops (an angel cried)”

Though just a short intro track, “raindrops” is more significant than other intros, like the one to her second LP My Everything. The silky, soothing vocals introduce the mood of the album, which is heavy on breathy Ariana, as opposed to the force that she put into a lot of her poppier singles like “Break Free” or “The Way.” While the 30 seconds is certainly a bit schmaltzy, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

“blazed”

The first of a slew of first-half tracks that are Pharrell Williams-produced, “blazed” is the perfect mix of breezy and toe-tapping to slide you into the album. While much of Sweetener is breezy, that shouldn’t alarm anyone that she’s making an adult contemporary Lite FM album. Williams’ production is bouncy and bubbly, but not imposing. “blazed” sounds like a song that would get everyone on the dance floor at a wedding — and that’s a compliment!

“the light is coming”

The Nicki Minaj-featuring single didn’t get as much early love as “God is a woman” or “no tears left to cry,” but it sounds much better in the context of the Williams-produced album section. While the rest of Williams’ tracks are a little sonically similar and easy, “light” is a little more frantic and energized. Compared to some of Grande’s earlier singles like “Everyday” or “Into You,” calling “the light is coming” energized might sound like a joke, but this is a welcome upbeat track on what is largely a mid-tempo album.

“R.E.M.”

Much of Sweetener sounds “dream like” — .:extreme Mo’Nique voice:. “The behavior you exhibited was dream LIKE” — and nowhere is this more true than on “R.E.M.,” which is literally about dreaming! Talk about form matching content. Grande’s vocals on “R.E.M.” sound so silky I want to wear them to bed.

“God is a woman”

You’ve already heard “woman” and probably have some thoughts about it and probably snapped in delight as Grande fingered a hurricane in the music video. While it was a great single, it does feel like a bit of a slog compared to what surrounds it. But this is Grande vocals at their best.

“sweetener”

The album’s title track is, just as the title suggests, sweet without being saccharine. One of the best things about “sweetener” is that it shows flashes of the artist that emerged on Yours Truly, Grande’s first full-length LP. You can’t listen to “sweetener” without thinking about Grande’s evolution since “Piano,” and “Daydreamin’.” In a lot of ways, Grande is still daydreaming, but this time it’s from the vantage point of womanhood instead of adolescence.

“successful”

It’s rare that we get to see Grande go full braggadocio. And though on first read, it sounds like bravado might not be a dress that would slink easily onto Grande, “successful” is one of the album’s great surprises. It’s something that you can bop to down the street a la Jennifer Lopez’s “Feelin’ So Good.” You can’t help but smile for Grande when hearing the track, but you also can’t help but also feel successful. The track isn’t the last Williams-produced one on the album, but it is the end of the album’s Williams-heavy first half, and it’s a great note to end on.

“everytime”

The transition from “successful” to “everytime” is one of the more dramatic on the album, but it’s also a welcome one. At this moment, the album feels like it goes into a new movement and there are few couplets as good as “you get high and call on the regular/ I get weak and fall like a teenager.”

“breathin”

Britney Spears’ “Breathe on Me” is shook. This might be one of the best tracks about breath ever recorded! OK, mostly kidding. This mid-tempo ode to self care is another one that, like “successful” feels like an intravenous injection of positivity, though a bit more melancholy. This will be on heavy rotation on my anxiety playlist.

“no tears left to cry”

You’ve heard it, you’ve loved it, you’ve lived it, you’ve picked it up. (Still a bop.)

“borderline”

Something about “borderline” is so gloriously retro chic that you can’t help but fall for it. It’s also one of the tracks that best makes use of Grande’s vocals as its own background instrument. Like “sweetener,” “borderline” also feels like a Yours Truly cut, albeit from a more grown-up Grande. Missy Elliott’s verse is good, not great — it’s too damn short — but it’s great to hear her on a track again, period.

“better off”

This far into Sweetener, “better off” sounds like a surprise, mostly because it’s both where the album slows down for a minute but also because it’s the track that most directly seems addressed toward her ex, Mac Miller. And hey, at one point, she talks about fucking on a roof, which is cool. This is definitely the emotional peak of the album and it’s a welcome one.

“goodnight n go”

Those who love Imogen Heap’s “Goodnight and Go” will love this musical ode to Heap’s song, which both borrows from and improvises on the original. (When you get to the song and hear it, you’ll notice how much influence Heap probably had on this album.) Though it’s probably unfair to compare the two, the sampling invites invitation and while I like Grande’s version, I kinda prefer the original?

“pete davidson”

No modern love story has captured the national imagination more than the budding romance-slash-engagement of Grande and Saturday Night Live castmember Pete Davidson. Not to make a second Jennifer Lopez comparison, but this reminds me of Lopez’s “Dear Ben,” except this isn’t a whole song and is much cuter!

“get well soon”

Another ode to self care, “get well soon” has a lot riding on it as a closing track — and it rises to the occasion. It captures the mood of the album and also leaves the listener with the guarantee that, among all the chaos her life, she’s taking care of herself. At the end of the track, and of the album, Grande includes 40 seconds of silence as a tribute to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack. All together, with the 40 seconds, the track clocks in at 5:22 long, a nod to the date of the attack — 5/22.

Final verdict:

In a lot of ways, Sweetener feels like a spiritual successor to Yours Truly rather than a follow-up to Dangerous Woman. But that also makes Grande’s discography feel so much more cohesive. Truly was simple and beautiful. My Everything and Dangerous Woman were focused on delivering bops to pop radio. Like Truly, Sweetener puts Grande front and center and feels more deeply personal than anything the singer has put out before. Sweetener is a cohesive, minimalist, sonic surprise — but it’s also a confident entry in Grande’s discography that solidly moves her from pop princess to pop dauphine.

But How Gay is ‘Crazy Rich Asians’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Crazy Rich Asians? In many ways the culmination of a multi-year arc in Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians is the first major Hollywood film since The Joy Luck Club to have an entirely Asian main cast. It’s an adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel, and follows an NYU economics professor, Rachel Chu, as she finds herself thrust into a world very different than her own: her absurdly wealthy boyfriend Nick’s family home in Singapore.

The wealth comes as a shock for the modest Rachel — “We’re economy people,” she says through her confusion that she and Nick are put in a private first-class suite — but she doesn’t have much time to recover. Because Nick’s family is judgmental as hell, no one more so than mother Eleanor Young. The film is like watching a game of social chess as a romcom: Rachel has to figure out how to outplay Nick’s family and win her king.

Who’s in it? Constance Wu plays Rachel, and Hollywood should immediately cast her in 10 more romcoms. She is the perfect heroine, just plucky and determined enough without being grating. While Wu is the standout on Fresh Off the Boat, in Crazy Rich Asians she demonstrates a whole new set of skills.

She leads a cast that can be best described as “absurdly beautiful.” Seriously, I kept sighing whenever someone new would enter a scene — male or female! And they’re all great! There’s Henry Golding as Nick, pairing his devastatingly sexy smile with a great heart. There’s Gemma Chan, so ably balancing the fabulous exterior and fragile interior of Nick’s sister Astrid. There’s Pierre Png as Astrid’s husband Michael, introduced to us fresh out of the shower. It is a glorious parade of beauty.

Two supporting actresses steal the show, though. First, there’s Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor. This is easily one of the most subtle, precise performances I’ve ever seen. Nothing is big or broad about Eleanor, even though she’s effectively our villain. She communicates her displeasure through small shifts of her neck, or darts of the eyes. She imbues every line delivery with so many different emotions, it’s arguably more important to listen to the way she says things versus what she’s saying.

Then, on the very opposite end of the spectrum, is Awkwafina as Goh Peik Lin, Rachel’s Singapore-based best friend. She is loud, brash, and over the top — and perfect. The performance has been compared to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids and Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip, and for good reason. She gets some of the biggest laughs in the film just through saying “FedEx.” It’s brilliant work.

Why should I see it? Easy: It’s fantastic. I could also make an argument for supporting movies with non-white leads so that Hollywood understands they need to make more, and that’s certainly true. But this isn’t the equivalent of being asked to eat your vegetables. This is a delicious, fluffy, perfectly iced cake, and you’ll be dying to go back for seconds.

But how gay is it? Actually kinda gay! The general vibe of fabulous fashions and hot shirtless men is certainly gay male-appealing, and there’s also Nico Santos as the bitchy-but-generous Oliver, who quickly becomes Rachel’s closest ally in the Young family. He also gets some of the best one-liners, including a fashion sequence where he gets off some great, Michael Kors-esque quips.

There were two other books; will there be sequels? Hopefully! The only way to make sure of that is to see the movie. Multiple times, if you can! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Crazy Rich Asians is in theaters now.

‘The House of Flowers’ Is Netflix’s New Family Dramedy With Multiple Queer and Trans Storylines

If Pedro Almodovar ever decided he wanted to make a Mexican telenovela, chances are, something very close to The House of Flowers would be the end result. Not to downplay writer-director and show creator Manolo Caro’s originality, because his work is wildly original and lush, but much like Almodovar, Caro’s style is provocative and unapologetic.

Much like his films and plays, the Caro Netflix original holds a mirror up to the cultural idiosyncrasies and bad habits of the Mexican people, and with sharp, smart comedic dialogue points out just how outdated and unnecessary some of these frames of mind are. The subjects of casual racism and homophobia within Mexican families are rarely addressed as a problem, but in The House of Flowers, the De La Mora family is forced to do so when they’re bombarded with damaging family secrets and learn — some more reluctantly than others — that public perception isn’t the most important thing in life.

Nothing will kill a party quicker than a dead body. Except a Virginia De La Mora party, because she’s got a reputation to uphold, so after finding the body of a former employee hanging from the roof of the family flower shop, it is decided the party will go on as planned and the body will be dealt with later, but as it turns out, that can only go on for so long because the secrets start rolling out faster than the family can process them.

Upon learning of the long-running affair between Roberta, the deceased, and Ernesto, the family’s beloved patriarch, secret after secret comes to light, starting with the existence of Ernesto and Roberta’s young daughter, who is soon moved into the household upon her mother’s death. It is also revealed that Paulina, the eldest of the De La Mora children, has been privy to their father’s indiscretions for years and is more than familiar with the new member of the family, in addition to her father’s other business venture with Roberta, a drag cabaret which, like their famous flower shop, is also called The House of Flowers.

Naturally, Virginia is incensed. Not only is her picture-perfect marriage tainted, but now her most trusted daughter has betrayed her and her only son, who won’t commit to marrying his longtime girlfriend, is coming to terms with being bisexual and is thinking maybe he should disclose his five-year secret relationship with Diego, the family financial advisor.

These are only a few of the many ridiculous problems the De La Mora’s face in the 13 episode series, so it’s safe to say The House of Flowers can be a little soapy, but that’s the magic in the dramedy, as it embraces its campy telenovela flair and pairs it with the sharp wit of its writing to make it not just believable, but relatable. However, it must be said that beyond its obvious soapy inspirations, perhaps its most candid reminder of the genre is the casting of legendary Mexican singer and telenovela actress Verónica Castro as Virginia, who serves as the lingering influence of Mexico’s traditional views on the controversial topics the series rolls out with every episode.

Dealing with her husband’s infidelity, her daughter’s ex-husband who has just come out as trans, her newly out bisexual son’s explicit threesome sex tape going public, and the family’s frozen assets due to Roberta’s financial revenge upon Ernesto, all during preparations for the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the flower shop, is all too much and Virginia would be unraveling — were it not for the occasional toke of pot in the backyard.

While Verónica Castro is a definite highlight of the series, Cecilia Suarez truly shines as Paulina, the fixer of the family who is dealing with a few serious revelations of her own on top of handling both family businesses and raising a teenage son. Her performance is a nuanced transformation that deserves recognition, if only for her solemn rendition of the 2003 banger, “Muevelo Muevelo,” during Roberta’s funeral service.

In addition to exploring the matriarchal themes of the show, the exploration of sexuality is handled beautifully. While the character of Maria Jose could have been improved by casting a trans actress, it was handled with grace and it was paid the respect it deserves, by both the filmmaker and the actor portraying Maria Jose, Paco León, who expressed the necessity of a performance that steered clear of stereotypes.

“What we wanted to do and what was important for us to do was, take this character out of the stereotypical perception, in a sense that would create a healthy dialogue about LGBTQ issues by providing a positive portrayal of a trans woman, and we hope Maria Jose did that.”

Clearly, Mexican cinema has a long way to go when it comes to telling LGBTQ stories, but considering the country’s traditional views, every step is a significant one and The House of Flowers is a big one.

The House of Flowers is now streaming on Netflix.

Bonnie Milligan Leads Lesbian and Plus-Sized Representation on Broadway as Pamela in ‘Head Over Heels’

Bonnie Milligan, a self-proclaimed “Midwest gal,” made her Broadway debut last month as the beautiful Pamela in Head Over Heels, featuring the songs of The Go-Gos. Spoiler alert: Pamela eventually realizes she’s a lesbian, in love with her best friend, Mopsa. She’s also a plus-sized woman whose size receives no fatphobic jibes in the script. The musical is notable, also, for being the first Broadway musical in which a trans actor, Peppermint, has created a leading role.

INTO spoke to Bonnie about her breakthrough role, lesbian love on Broadway, and her personal experience with fatphobia.

More spoilers follow. This interview has been condensed.

How does it feel to be making your Broadway debut in Head Over Heels?

I feel very lucky. It’s something I’ve wanted for so long, and so it’s not lost on me, the amazingness of it all. So I feel very grateful, is really the word for this kind of opportunity, and to be doing a show that has such a beautiful message and with this character, which I’m obsessed with.

What is the message of the show?

Love and acceptance, and that can apply to yourself and to others — that finding your true authenticity, and embracing it, can lead to such joy.

What’s different about your role in Head Over Heels from previous roles you played?

Well, that she gets to, first of all, have a whole, real part. [chuckles] What I love about playing her is being the vain, beautiful girl who has to go on a journey of finding out what’s really going on inside of her.

I feel like so many roles I get, especially as a plus-sized girl, usually will reference my weight, and usually, the journey is finding her own self-love, and how does she overcome all these obstacles of being overweight, and will someone love her? And [in Head Over Heels], that’s not an obstacle. [Pamela] loves herself from the beginning, and it’s actually finding out, What else is there? and what does she really want out of life? and embracing it.

Do you feel like playing this role has taught you about yourself in any particular way?

It’s amazing to go on the stage and, eight times a week, sit out there and go, “No, I really feel beautiful,” and sing my opening number, “Beautiful,” about my own beauty, and just appreciate that a little bit more, invite the beautiful things that I find about myself, which sometimes can be hard to do. I think it’s taught me to be kinder to myself, and to embrace what I love about myself.

What is it about Mopsa that causes Pamela to fall in love with her?

Mopsa is her best friend. Mopsa’s the one who always puts Pamela in her place, because [Pamela’s] not mean-spirited at all. She sings, “You might think I’m crazy — so what if I am? My head is full of good things, enough for everyone.” So she honestly thinks she’s doing what’s right when she’s calling her sister plain. So it’s Mopsa who is there saying, “You lose sight of gentleness.” “You’re going too far.” [Mopsa’s] the one who always keeps [Pamela] in check. And we have this playful tête-à-tête, back and forth, that I love because it’s just fun. It’s this person who is always there, who believes in the best in Pamela and feeds the best in Pamela. So it’s this beautiful, complicated, deep relationship that has always been there.

You recently tweeted, “I dream of a world filled with love and respect and inclusion…with Correct pronouns and ‘provocatively cast’ women ‘trampling’ stereotypes.”

It was definitely after the Ben Brantley New York Times review,* where he was so flippantly addressing nonbinary [people], and he called “binary” the “most overused word of the decade,” and it was so rude, so transphobic. He incorrectly addressed the character Pythio’s pronouns with a joke, misused Peppermint’s pronouns, and it was mean-spirited.

He also addressed me as “provocatively cast,” which to me felt like a mean side-eye of fat-shaming, because he called me “provocatively cast” [as] the beautiful princess. And in the script, it was always Jeff [Whitty’s] intention to have me, and have a plus-sized actress, but have nothing in the dialogue discussing that. But that was to be on stage — a beautiful ingenue being the plain girl, and the beautiful, plus-sized girl playing the beautiful girl, and that’s part of the lesson. I have a line saying, “For Beauty’s standard through all time defines inconstancy,” meaning the standards change all the time. You can’t keep up with them.

Back in the day, I would have been the picture of beauty, because you look at all these paintings and sculptures, and they were round! They were chubby! Because that meant wealth, that meant status. So I just found [Ben Brantley’s] whole… it was heartbreaking to me. It had been such a joyful opening, and our audiences had been so receptive and beautiful and amazing, and to have to see that was just… it broke my heart.

And so I really do dream of a place where people are respected, where you don’t have to comment on what someone’s pronouns are, or what someone’s size is, or who someone loves. How does that affect your life? It doesn’t. And I just wish that we could move to a place where it isn’t a thing, that we don’t have to defend ourselves for existing. It’s frustrating to me.

One of the things I loved so much about Head Over Heels is that it’s a queer story that’s just a lot of fun, which feels revolutionary, in a way.

That’s just been so much of this, too: The reception of, especially Mopsa and Pamela’s storyline, that the obstacle is Pamela figuring out what that piece of the puzzle is. It’s not her not wanting to be gay. It’s not her not wanting to accept that part of herself. She just doesn’t understand it yet. She knows something feels different, and it’s a little scary, and it’s very different, because she’s known [Mopsa] forever, and it never felt weird around her [before]. There’s no toil, there’s no, “Well, should we come out?” It’s actually just joy for us. And when we do come out, we are accepted.

Joy is, sadly, revolutionary on a Broadway stage. [In Head Over Heels, we] have a lesbian love story that just exists. I am so glad to be able to provide that.

In many ways, fatphobia is an enduring struggle within the LGBTQ movement, even as we’ve made so much progress in so many other areas. What’s your relationship with fatphobia today?

I mean, it’s definitely something I still work at. There are days that I feel so gorgeous, [chuckles] and I’m like, “Yes, nailing it.” I leave and I feel amazing and sexy. And there’s a lot in the show, that I do feel sexy, and I can go out there and be like, “Absolutely, yeah,” singing “Beautiful” and meaning every word of it.

It was so hard for me to find an opening night dress that I felt beautiful in. And I was trying to work with stylists, and people were turning me down because I wasn’t an easy size to work with, and that was soul-crushing. Everyone in my cast is so gorgeous. Like, literally everyone. And looking at all the girls, [they were] pulling their dresses during previews, and they all looked stunning, and I would sit there, and that voice kicks in, where you’re like, “Well, you’re not going to look that good.” I got to a point where I was like, “I just don’t even want to go to this opening party. I’m so discouraged.” And I had to make the choice to not listen to that, and that’s very hard.

I had a friend help me, and we did a Rent the Runway, and again, many things didn’t fit, and it was really frustrating. But I found one that did. And then, making the choice to be like, “No. Remember those times when I felt gorgeous and beautiful?” and embrace that. And, as I got ready, just really being like, “No, you look amazing,” just kind of retraining [myself], because it’s so hard.

We’re constantly told, in this world, by magazines, by TV, by everything, especially like… I get scripts where everything is so [laughs] offensive if you’re a plus-sized actor. What they want you to constantly do in these scripts, and say about yourself, is just heartbreaking, and you have to rebuild yourself up every time.

You’ve said recently that therapy was a big part of your journey to self-acceptance.

Oh yeah, for sure. I had been in the city for a while, and I didn’t really start “going for it” for five years. I had left school, and I’d had all these self-doubts placed in me, and words from others, people that had said, “It’s just going to be really hard for you,” and I took it in as fact that I wouldn’t work. And I came to the city and I thought, “Oh, I can figure this out.”

But I didn’t really tackle what those words had done to me, and all the hurt inside that I was already dealing with. And I was taking a voice class in the city, and we were doing a tongue tension release day. And all of a sudden, I just started sobbing, and I started talking out things that had been said to me before, that I didn’t realize, that I thought I had moved on from, that had really stayed in my head and my heart. And I then kind of stopped and looked back at myself, and I thought, “I’m so unhappy.”

I hadn’t done anything in a year, which was longest since I’d started acting that I hadn’t done something, and I’d just been nose-to-the-ground working, and paying my rent. I realized I was dealing with a little bit of a depression, and I wasn’t doing anything, and I had a friend help me, honestly, fill out the paperwork for a therapist, because I was just in a rough spot, and then I started on therapy, and dealing with things I had never, ever dealt with in my childhood.

So yeah, finding a therapist was integral to me finding healing, in so many ways, to realize maybe that the girl that was so gung-ho and believed in herself before the world kind of broke her down, maybe she wouldn’t come back, but that I could find a way to find some of that self-love again and come back a stronger person because of those things that had happened to me.

If success had happened before I had dealt with all these other things… gosh, I don’t even know. I would have been such a mess. So it was from that, honestly, a little bit after that is when I finally started to take off in my career.

What would you say to other plus-sized actors, either on the verge of entering the industry or in training programs where they may be given toxic messages about their size?

I think that it’s most important to really find your self-worth and know what you bring to the table. This business, in general, is really hard for everybody, but especially as a plus-sized human, because people like to really put things in boxes, and when they find out what your “other” is, that’s your box. And the “fat” box is not always the kindest box, and again, you’ll get scripts that just make you want to go, “Oh my god.” And you’ll get that all the time!

And it’s really hard, and you have to really have a strong sense of self, and the feeling of, well, maybe you can go into rooms and change people’s opinions, and bring what you bring to the table. Surround yourself with the right people, and know that you’re special, and you are beautiful and that things are changing, and things are shifting and that change takes time, which is frustrating. And we have more to come up against, but you’ve got to stay positive, hang in it, and just ground yourself in true self-love because it’s very important.

Bonnie can be seen eight times a week in Head Over Heels at the Hudson Theatre at 141 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. See headoverheelsthemusical.com for more information. She will additionally appear in a Showtime mini-series, Escape at Dannemora, directed by Ben Stiller, this fall. Follow Bonnie on Twitter at @BeltingBonnie or Instagram at @beltingbons.

*NB: The New York Times has since redacted Mr. Brantley’s most queer- transphobic remarks in his original review of Head Over Heels. The publication’s statement on the subject can be found here.

Images via Getty

‘We The Animals’ Explores A Queer Child’s Rejection of Toxic Masculinity And Subsequent Self-Discovery

In his 2011 debut novel We the Animals, Justin Torres weaved a fictional narrative about his upbringing as one of three sons born to a Puerto Rican father and Irish-Italian mother struggling to make a life for themselves in upstate New York in the early 1980s. Part of that story was lead character Jonah’s young curiosity about his sexual identity, one he’d later discover was not the same as his father or brothers. It would ultimately set him apart from his family who otherwise shared the same struggles and secrets.

A new film adaptation of We the Animals opens this weekend, and somehow director Jeremiah Zagar has managed to translate the powerful prose from Torres’s pages into a cinematic showpiece — a live action version of an already quite visual book that plays just as well on the screen. It’s perhaps because Torres was so involved that the movie could be a near-equal in quality; whereas with other pieces of fiction-turned-film the original writer is often kept out of the screenwriting process, Zagar acknowledges that the only way to be true to Torres’s original was to have Torres on hand.

“I just wanted Justin there every minute of every day we could have him,” Zagar tells INTO. “It was such a personal book, that it was like if we didn’t have the author intimately involved with the screen adaptation, then it wasn’t going to work. So instead of thinking it as an adaptation, I wanted to think of it as a translation — like we’re just translating this book to the screen and we’re going to do what it takes to get it right for the screen, and that was how we approached it.”

Zagar says Torres was involved both through the screenwriting process and on set, as well as in the editing room. He acknowledges how rare that is in Hollywood, but says the success of the film so far, having premiered earlier this year at Sundance to positive reviews, has validated his decision.

“I felt an added pressure just to make sure that we honor the book,” Zagar says. “Common wisdom is that when you option a book, you try to keep the author at arm’s length so that you can translate it or so you can adapt it for the screen. And so we just took the opposite approach. We made sure there was nothing in the movie that the author wasn’t going to be happy with.”

Zagar’s rendition follows the book quite closely, which means highlighting the physical abuse Jonah’s mother, referred to as Ma, endures from his father, Pops, as well as the confusing tenderness they also share. 

“That’s how children see violence,” Zagar says. “Sometimes you see your parents argue — like you do in the big truck scene — but when it’s deep, disturbing violence, it’s usually hidden from the kids. They’re then processing that. What happened? How did that happen?

While Pops (Raul Castillo) is less physically violent with his sons, Jonah is the most affected by the emotional effects. His relationship with Ma is a special one — he is the youngest and also the most vulnerable to his mother’s feelings. Still, Ma (played by Sheila Vand) can lash out at her children at times, her inability to fully process or improve her circumstances reaching a boiling point that often spills out onto the young boys. 

“The movie is very much interested in not quantifying or prescribing what is good or bad,” Zagar says. “This is the way people interpret love. It’s sometimes the way people interpret love is brutal. And sometimes the way people interpret love is joyous and beautiful and so what we’re trying to show, what Justin shows in his book is, and why we’re so moved by the book, is that depiction of love had something so nuanced and that was the most important thing to me.”

Raul Castillo says it was Torres’s writing that had him “falling in love” with the polarizing role of Pops. Initially courted by Zagar before having read the novel, Castillo recalls picking up a copy in Brooklyn and reading it in one sitting.

“I love being introduced to new Latino writers and especially people who are going it in a really fresh and exciting way for me,” Castillo says of Torres. “He’s telling a story about this mixed-race family in a way that you don’t get to see often and he’s talking about family life and sexuality in ways that are, not such a black and white, not such a concrete, cut and dry kind of way. He’s telling stories that are complex and they don’t tie it up in a neat, little bow.”

Castillo says Torres’s availability on set was hugely beneficial, especially considering the script (and likewise, the character of Pops) was so faithful to Torres’s fictionalized life story.

“He was able to tell the stories about his family that weren’t in the book,” Castillo says. “We got photos of his family. I got to see photos of his father and just tell us — I mean, the book is incredibly nuanced, but he was able to give us more anecdotal nuance.”

Jonah (played by Evan Rosado) is not yet 10 when We Are the Animals begins, but his world is only just beginning to expand beyond his brothers and his parents. He’s quiet but playful, and spends his time sketching in his secret notebook, making drawings that are homo-erotic and based on a neighbor boy he longingly stares at and eventually attempts to kiss later in the film. His older brothers (Isaiah Kristian and Josiah Gabriel) are more rough and tumble, taking after Pops in their want to wrestle and swear and watch pornography when they can get away with it.  It’s at this point in Jonah’s life that these differences in the way they each move through the world begins to weigh on him, especially as it relates to his feelings for and about masculinity and other men.

“Well, sexuality is confusing, you know. I think especially for young people,” Zagar says. “The way you watch pornography and discover sexuality in my generation is very different from the way kids watch it and discover it now.  … I think a lot of it has to do with information that they receive and these young boys are receiving all the kind of conflicting sexual cues, strange sexual cues from their parents — they’re receiving you know sexual cues from the TV, they’re receiving sexual cues from people out in the world, and how they are processing those things is interesting. And we weren’t trying to say this is how they’re processing them, we were just trying to say they are processing. They’re kids and they’re dealing with it, so if they’re dealing with it, than you can imagine how they might interpret it.”

Jonah’s self-discovery is private until his notebook is uncovered. It’s one of the most tense moments in the film, one that is emotional in a somewhat unexpected way.

“I think that when Ma finds out that Jonah is gay, it is less of a betrayal of her because of some ethical, moral ideology or something; it’s more that she can’t believe he’s been keeping a secret from her because they have such a strong alliance,” says Sheila Vand. “He is the only one that she feels understands her in this man’s world she’s in that it just all Pops and boys becoming Pops.  I don’t think she puts together where his sensitivity comes from or this is why they connect so deeply, but I think for her, she just felt like she knew him completely and entirely and when she finds out that there are these parts of him that he hasn’t shared with her, I don’t feel like she’s supportive or non-supportive — she’s just surprised that he’s been withholding.”

Castillo says this scene, in particular, proved difficult for young Rosado, as he and his two on-screen brothers were not actors before signing onto the film. Instead, they learned through coaching on the job and familial bonding sessions off-camera.

“By the time we got to that scene, I think we had reached these levels of intimacy and we communed in a way that by that point, we just had this natural rapport,” Castillo says. “And Evan is — he’s such a special, young boy. He’s so sensitive — he’s incredibly sensitive and Jeremiah had to really work with him to push him. It was hard for him to be angry — to sit in that space of anger. It was handled with sort of reverence, thankfully, and I know that for Evan, that was a really challenging scene, and I think we were all there to support him to go on that journey.”

We the Animals is never a condemnation of a young boy’s homosexuality — instead, it’s an exploration of a family through the eyes of a child who is feeling out the rights and wrongs from within a world where there are too many inconsistencies to be completely sure. The lack of vilification extends from Torres’s original text, and Zagar thankfully extends it into the dialogue and camera shots of what is a gorgeously rendered rural landscape of lower class coping mechanisms for a mixed-race family at the height of the yuppie infiltration of nearby New York City.

“I do think that the movie touches on more of a human space of confusion,” Vand says. “And I also think because of [Ma’s] background and the socioeconomic thing, she just doesn’t have the tools to even know how to help [Jonah] or guide him. But I do believe she’s supportive and eventually, she gets to that place — and I like that the movie doesn’t have a scene where when the family does find out that it’s just about condemning and scolding and pain.”

We the Animals is a portrait of toxic masculinity tempered by the alternative. In a world where men like Pops are conditioned to act violent and physical instead of expressing vulnerability or emotions, boys like Jonah question their innate abilities and proclivities to process feelings otherwise. With life being so defined by social status and the gender binary, among other rules instituted by self-appointed officials now challenged more than ever in 2018, We the Animals is a timely tale of what it means to think and to feel differently, and how lonely that calling can be.

“He’s a baby who’s seen things and feels things that are beyond what the parents are ready to understand,” Zagar says of Jonah and his journal being discovered. “I think about the other thing that the book does and that scene is really about is self-loathing. It’s really Jonah’s perspective. It’s really about him wanting to tear himself up into pieces. The family can only do so much harm to you. It’s you ultimately that has to do the deep harm to yourself. It’s like that break, that moment is about whether or not he’s going to continue to harm himself or overcome or find freedom afterward.”

We the Animals is in theaters now.

Toni Braxton Misspelled Every Single Name in Her Aretha Franklin Memorial Post

Grief hits everyone in different ways. For some people, it gets you right in the spell check.

While trying to memorialize Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Thursday, iconic singer Toni Braxton inadvertently found herself the subject of a Twitter roasting. She posted a photo of herself with Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Clive Davis, but accidentally forgot to crop out her Google search, which revealed that Braxton was unable to spell anyone’s name in her frantic scramble to honor the queen.

Braxton’s search reads, “Arthrea Franklin, Toni Bracton, Whitney Hoiston, Clivrs Drvis.”

Twitter got to roasting right away.

Thank you, Toni, for that lovely laugh on what has been a heavy day for many.

Toni Braxton Weed GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Michelle Tea Gets The Tea From…Brontez Purnell

Brontez Purnell is one of my most favorite artists, and lucky for me he creates in so many mediums, so there is a lot of his work to be dazzled by. His book Johnny Would You Love Me grew out of his cult zine, Fag School; his illustrated The Cruising Diaries is confessional comedic pornography.

In his recent novel, Since I Lay My Burden Down, Brontez tempers his outrageousness with a sober reckoning with the past, bringing a new depth to his voice and winning him a Whiting Award, the prestigious prize for emerging writers. We in the queer underground have had Brontez for a while now, beginning back when he was a go-go dancer for party band !!!Gravy Train!!!, through his punk outfit The Young Lovers, his dance and performance project Brontez Purnell Dance Company, acting in indie films like I Want Your Love and creating his own films, the semi-autobiographical 100 Boyfriends Mixtape, and the documentary Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock. Brontez himself is an unstoppable force but he slowed down long enough to answer my 15 questions.

AND ONCE IN COLOR (photo by @beowulfsheehan )

A post shared by Brontez Purnell (@brontezpurnell) on

 What is the most uncanny thing that you have ever experienced?

That no matter how much older or “wiser” I become I still make the same five or six mistakes over and over and over again. I used to hate it; now I’m simply in awe of myself.

 

What is in your bag right now?

A W-2 form I filled out, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson, fake eyelashes from Kryolan, eyelash glue (also from Kryolan), and a hoop earring with a key on it like Janet Jackson circa Rhythm Nation. If you had asked me this the day before this would have also included Sylvia Plath: The Collected Poems.

 

Please share the 15th picture on your cell phone.

  

How are you like or not like your sun sign?

Well, I’m Cancer Sun, but Sagittarius Moon and rising. I’m all deep conflict. I am basically boiling water. A boiling crab? I like the trappings of home, stability, and comfort but will throw all of it away at the drop of a dime for an adventure far from home. I also hate conflict with people, at heart, but when I do choose to go to war I’m a pretty staunch ruthless bitch – but, unlike most Cancers who hold grudges, I will literally call up an enemy (usually while high) and say “Girl, I’m sorry – can we squash it?”

 

What is the last book you read? Song you listened to? Show or movie you watched?

Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson. “Moving on Up” by Azealia Banks. And Pose on FX.

 

What was the last meal you cooked?

It wasn’t technically cooked: It was raw oatmeal and avocado toast.

 

Where would you like to go on vacation right now?

Somewhere in South America or Haiti. 

 

Tell me about getting to meet someone you idolize or admire.

I’m one of those super lucky people who is actually friends with all the people I idolize and admire. John Waters asked me to sign my book for him once tho — that was cool!

 

What are you like when you’re sick?

Literal fucking man baby — I call everyone and demand help. It’s gross. 

 

What are you obsessed with or inspired by right now?

The idea of rediscovering your friends. Does that make sense? Like, I turned 36 and now there are all these people I know who have been in my life a decade plus, and now we all seem like really different people and it’s like learning and loving a whole new animal who you’ve known all along — it’s like getting to fall in love again.

 

What are you upset about right now?

Same thing everyone else is upset about I’m sure. 

 

What is the most recent dream you remember?

I’ve been doing a lot of ancestor work lately — like with spirits and such, and it’s hitting me hard. My last dream was me sitting in the last room my great-grandmother lived in before she passed away (the back room at my grandmother’s house) and it was just an empty bed and, like, photos with cobwebs on the wall, and I kneeled by the bed and started crying, which is freaky to me because I don’t ever remember crying in a dream before or crying for my great-grandmother’s death. On the other side of the room was a huge amount of gun ammo and fishing reels – I knew this was an altar to my dead dad cause fishing and hunting were his main joys in life. It made sense that they were in the same room because they were friends in life and used to drink whiskey together. The dream left me shook. I’m actually tearing up thinking about it, tbh.

 

Who are your queer ancestors?

Ed Mock (I did a documentary about his life called Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock), Andy Warhol, Essex Hemphill, Eartha Kitt, James Dean, Marlon Brando, all the unnamed family who passed without family in the AIDS epidemic, homophobic violence or general societal neglect, Valerie Solanas, Sylvia Ray Rivera (we have the same birthday: July 2nd), Billy Tipton, Sylvester, this one trans person who ran the cash register at the bar-b-que restaurant my family ate at growing up, basically every queer soul floating around in the fifth dimension who carved a path, lit a torch, or laid a secret treasure map for my gay ass to exist and GODDAMN THERE ARE MANY. 

 

What is your dream project?

A fully-funded retrospective of every piece of art I’ve ever done showing at the MoMA in every city simultaneously — though I would settle for a lead role in an HBO comedy/drama.

 

What are you doing this weekend?

Ballet, gym, and typing my new book, 100 Boyfriends.

‘Queer as Folk’ Rewatch: The Big 3-Ho

Queer as Folk premiered almost two decades ago on Showtime. Its depiction of gay life among a group of Pittsburgh friends is intriguing, problematic, heartwarming, cringe-inducing and often corny. But the stories it wants to tell often have a lot to say about gay life in 2018. INTO is embarking on a rewatch of the entire series, all five seasons and 83 episodes. In this week’s “Rewatch,” staff writer Mathew Rodriguez revisits episodes nine through twelve of Season One. You are invited to follow along on Netflix, where all five seasons are currently streaming.

Turning 30 really isn’t a big deal. Maybe it’s because we live in the age of “zaddy,” but I haven’t dreaded 30 as much as Queer as Folk wants me to. To the characters on Folk, however, 30 is a wildebeest gnawing at your ankles, looking to hobble you Annie Wilkes-style.

Of course, I’m no idiot. Yes, I know that our beloved queer community still idolizes youth way too much and throws away people over 50 for the most part. Queer spaces are full of ageism and loneliness among our LGBTQ elders is sky high. But I just don’t hate the prospect of 30.

Folk finds itself in quite a pickle. The characters perform the queer reality of “dead at 30” by having the characters tease each other about their age. But the underlying argument of the show is that this bunch of late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings have lives that are worth investigating. So the show undermines its thesis just by existing!

Anxiety around turning 30 is mostly experienced by resident geek Michael this episode. When he talks to his gay uncle about turning 30 and wanting to go out to bars, his uncle snaps, “Get out before they kick you out!” echoing just how much older gay men feel tossed away by their youthful counterparts. The show is making an argument for the worth of all gay men, and yet it just can’t help but shower attention upon its youngest character, Justin.

Even though the season opened by seeming to be about the central four characters a la Sex and the City, Justin comes through and dominates the show in a way that you didn’t know a 17-year-old twink could dominate. Even the 20- and 30-something characters on the show can’t seem to help but all coalesce around Justin. In just a few short episodes, the character goes from Brian’s one-night stand to a hangaround to a central part of the main group’s frustrations.

The group coalesces around Justin and gives him unending jockstrap-like support. When he loses his house, Brian takes him in — after only having had a few casual hookups with him! When he runs away to New York City, the group chases him down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I talk often about the fantasies the show gave me about my own maturation. I thought maybe I’d find some group of older gays who’d nurture me from crawling baby gay to stumbling toddler gay. But, alas, that didn’t happen!

Watching it when I was younger, I could only see the show from Justin’s point of view. Now, I can parse out most characters’ motivations. Justin wants desperately to seem like an adult. Brian desperately wants to cling to Justin’s youth. The group believes they’re helping a homeless queer youth find his way. Seen through one lens, everyone in the show is acting pretty charitably. They’re all looking out for each other.

But through another, each one is using the other to get some kind of social status. Justin gets homo street cred, Brian gets his Cum Fountain of Youth and, well, I don’t really know what the rest of the group gets, I have to admit.

In a show obsessed with queer mythology, turning 30 was bound to be a plot point. As Michael deals with this age milestone and Justin deals with running away from his parents, Emmett deals with another central part of queer television: the HIV test. Surprisingly, the show is earnest and good when it comes to presenting an HIV test. Emmett misses a phone call from the clinic and spends his weekend going through the Rolodex of guys he’s slept with, fixating on the silliest acts that probably wouldn’t lend itself to HIV transmission. That guy had a cut on his lip! He sucked on someone’s fingers!

Increasingly, Queer as Folk seems to be a show centered on queer anxieties — being too young, receiving an HIV+ diagnosis or growing older. But if there’s one thing that’s made me anxious, I’m gonna say it’s being gay, so good job!