But How Gay is ‘The Upside’?

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 The Upside? A remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, the much-less interestingly titled The Upside tells the story of unlikely friends Dell Scott and Phillip Lacasse. After a hang-gliding accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down, Phillip needs a life auxiliary, and hates every single person his assistant Yvonne brings in for him. Dell Scott needs work — or, at least, signatures to show his parole officer he’s looking for work — and accidentally finds himself interviewing for the life auxiliary job. Phillip likes his DGAF attitude and hires him on the spot.

The rest of the movie follows their relationship, from Dell’s early days unable to perform even the simplest of life auxiliary tasks, to their disagreements about music. (Phillip likes opera, Dell prefers Aretha. They eventually find common ground.) Along the way, we see Phillip branch out into dating again following the passing of his wife, and Dell try to reforge a relationship with his young, sensitive son Anthony.

Who’s in it? Likely the only reason you’ve heard of The Upside, unless you’ve caught a trailer for it here or there, is because it’s the movie Kevin Hart was promoting during his infamous appearance on Ellen. He plays Dell, while former Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston plays Phillip. Nicole Kidman plays Yvonne, in a role entirely too small and one-note for an actress of her caliber. (Quite a few things in The Upside annoyed me, but this most of all.)

The rest of the cast is mostly filled with folks you know primarily from TV or supporting roles in films (Aja Naomi King! Tate Donovan!), but Julianna Margulies gets a big, juicy scene later in the movie. I won’t spoil it for those who do want to see The Upside — or, like, watch it on Netflix in six months and fast-forward to her scene — but it’s the only part of the movie that felt bracingly honest and painful in a real, earned way.

Why should I see it? Well, it’s based on a true story, so if you like a heartwarming true story, there’s that. But then again, you could just watch The Intouchables instead. So I’ve got nothing.

Here’s the thing: The Upside isn’t bad. It’s enjoyable enough to watch, if a bit emotionally manipulative. It mostly just isn’t anywhere near good enough to justify its own existence. Considering everything happening with Hart, it’s also hard to justify supporting him at the box office by buying a ticket. So this is overall a pass from me.

But how gay is it? Hoo boy. So it’s not gay, save Kidman and Margulies’ appearances (though again, the former really doesn’t get much to do). Moreover, a lot of Dell’s disgust early in his work is with physical contact with Phillip. There’s an extended scene in which he has to change Phillip’s catheter, and can’t even bring himself to say the word “penis.” I’m sure these scenes wouldn’t play well no matter what, but in light of Hart’s past homophobic jokes, they play all the worse.

Why is an adaptation of a onetime Best Foreign Language Film-shortlisted French film coming out in January instead of Oscar season? Again, it’s not great, so that’s part of it. But there’s also a messy development situation here. The Intouchables was first optioned for remake by The Weinstein Company back in 2011. Paul Feig came on to write and direct in 2012, with a whole score of interesting actors attached. Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Jamie Foxx, and Idris Elba were all considered for Dell before Kevin Hart finally signed on in 2014. Colin Firth was set to play Phillip, and both Jessica Chastain and Michelle Williams were considered for the female lead (likely Yvonne).

The movie then went through three different directors, with Feig dropping out, then Tom Shadyac, then Simon Curtis. During these changes, Bryan Cranston came on as Phillip. Finally, in late 2016, final director Neil Burger came on, and Feig’s script was thrown out entirely. (Jon Hartmere wrote the script Burger used.) All of this is to say, this movie clearly went through development hell, including and especially being optioned by The Weinstein Company. (Their name does not appear on the final product.) It’s a wonder The Upside got made at all.

Will this movie make me feel any better about Kevin Hart? Nope! While his performance is fine enough, the hint of gay panic will only bolster your feelings about him if you’re aleady not a fan.

Does Hollywood need to stop offering Nicole Kidman thankless roles like this? They sure do.

The Upside is in theaters now.

Do Queer Artists Deserve to Control Their Legacy?

Who gets to dictate your legacy?

If you’re Dr. Don Shirley, it’s straight white men. The late queer Black musician is the subject of the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar favorite Green Bookdespite his family’s speaking out about how the fictional film depicts Shirley, and how hurtful it was to see the erasure of his relationship with his family and the glorification of his relationship with his white driver, Tony Vallelonga. 

“I remember very, very clearly, going back 30 years, my uncle had been approached by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony Vallelonga, about a movie on his life, and Uncle Donald told me about it,” Shirley’s nephew Edwin Shirley said. “He flatly refused.”

“God knows, this is the reason that he never wanted to have his life portrayed on screen,” Edwin continued. “I now understand why, and I feel terrible that I was actually trying to urge him to do this in the 1980s, because everything that he objected to back then has come true now.”

But with the star power of leads Viggo Mortensen (playing Tony Vallelonga) and Mahershala Ali (Shirley), and the palatable it-will-play-in-Peoria White Savior narrative, Green Book has mostly eclipsed any feelings Shirley and his family have had about his life being brought to the screen. The same can be said for Mary Poppins and its creator P.L. Travers.

The lavishly marketed The Return of Mary Poppins has only banked $102.3 million in the first few weeks of the year (a disappointment by Disney box office standards), but the real travesty is its existence, as Travers would never have wanted it to be made in the first place.

Travers (nee Helen Goff) passed away in 1996, and it was then that Disney went looking for a way to convince her estate holders to let them make a sequel. It was well-known that Travers voiced her dislike for the original film (despite her love of Julie Andrews) and never granted the rights for another to be made. She only allowed for a stage musical to go forward on the understanding that no one involved with the film be a part of the show (it was supposed to be based solely on her books), and no one American, either. (The producer, Cameron Mackintosh, agreed initially but ignored her requests after she passed, making a deal with Disney so he could use the songs from the film.)

Travers was not a fan of most of the music in the original Mary Poppins, nor the animation sequences. She infamously asked if they could be removed after attending the film’s premiere. 

Sadly, creators rarely get to have a say on the adaptations of their work. More upsetting than the continuation of Mary Poppins was the 2013 Disney-made film Saving Mr. Banks in which Emma Thompson portrays Travers as initially wary but eventually thrilled with the Disney version. And like Green Book, Saving Mr. Banks also erased pivotal relationships she had while alive, as well as her sexuality — most notably her relationship with Madge Burnand, her longtime live-in companion who she was thought to be involved with romantically during the time she was working on Poppins. 

“I don’t know whether they were lovers or not, but she did live with Madge for a long, long time, and she certainly had very complex, passionate relationships with both women and men,” Thompson once told The Advocate. “She was an explorer of her own condition, and very possibly her own sexuality.”

Another woman, Jessie Orge, detailed a relationship with Travers in her own diaries, as well as their gal palling around with known lesbians like Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, Georgette Leblanc, and Elizabeth Gordon, a group which called themselves The Rope. Orge also wrote about the tumultuous relationship between Travers and Burnand.

In a New York Times interview in 1994, two years before she died, Travers was noticeably irritated by being asked about herself, saying, “I would rather not discuss my personal life.” Similarly, Shirley was said to respond to questions about his sexuality with a tongue-in-cheek, “Why? Are you interested?”

Despite Travers and Burnand having lived together during the time Saving Mr. Banks covered, the relationship was left out of the film entirely. Akin to the moment in Green Book where a brief gay sex act is mentioned, there is a fleeting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-moment in Saving Mr. Banks in which Travers is thought to be checking out a woman’s butt. 

“She would absolutely hate it!” Thompson’s co-star Tom Hanks once said of what he believed Travers would think of Saving Mr. Banks. “She would say, ‘Why don’t you make a movie about the poetry I wrote?!'” That poetry was highly erotic. (A select line from The Triad: “The silky hush of intimate things, fragrant with my fragrance, steal softly down, so loth to rob me of my last dear concealment.”)

Travers is hardly the first person to have her life and her life’s work crafted into an unrecognizable and erroneous narrative under the guise of someone else’s creative project, but it’s especially frustrating considering she’s been both desexualized and ignored several times over 53 years. Instead, the narrative about Travers became that she was difficult, a spinster, who was too precious with her creation, a figure based on her aunt who came to take care of her family after her mother attempted suicide. In the Disney version, Mary Poppins became now a fashionable, pretty nanny who danced with singing penguins.

“They had to wait for her to die, and she did die, and then her estate were suddenly much more up for it,” Ben Whishaw said in an interview with Yahoo UK

“She’d probably dislike it just as much,” Dick Van Dyke said of the sequel in which he makes a cameo.

The trustees of Travers’ estate gave the rights to Disney for Saving Mr. BanksMary Poppins Returns, and even spon-con such as Aqua Shard’s Mary Poppins-themed tea. Travers would have most likely detested it all, but does anyone care?

“I think I was disturbed at seeing it so externalized, so oversimplified, so generalized,” Travers said in a 1967 interview reprinted in her New York Times obituary. “I think that Mary Poppins needs a subtle reader, in many respects, to grasp all its implications, and I understand that these cannot be translated in terms of the film.”

Decades later, Travers and Shirley’s wishes are still being ignored, but they’re not alone. Currently, a version of Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues is in the works, despite the trans author’s explicit wishes for the novel to never be adapted after a botched first attempt. Bohemian Rhapsody, also a Golden Globe winner, takes a revisionist approach to the life and sexuality of Freddie Mercury. The movie versions of people’s lives and creative work may more often than not disappoint (Stephen King still hates the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining to this day; Anne Rice wasn’t a fan of the casting for Interview with a Vampire), but when someone like Travers was so synonymous with her creation, so often referred to as “The Real Mary Poppins,” it’s all the more frustrating to see her wishes explicitly ignored and her public persona and legacy becoming that she was a difficult woman.

Mary Poppins is the story of my life,” Travers once said. How sad that it keeps being rewritten.

Could ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Really Win An Oscar For Best Picture?

On the surface, it seems like Bohemian Rhapsody might possess a kind of magic that few other movies could match. After topping the box office in multiple countries that criminalize homosexuality, the Freddie Mercury biopic went on to reign supreme as the highest-grossing LGBTQ film in Hollywood history. Not even middling reviews could stop audiences from going (radio) gaga over the film in cinemas, and now Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have won over the industry too, receiving two awards at the Golden Globes this week.

While Rami Malek’s win for his portrayal of Mercury wasn’t particularly surprising, many were shocked to see Bohemian Rhapsody beat out better-received films like Black Panther and If Beale Street Could Talk for the accolade of Best Motion Picture (Drama). Not only did Bohemian Rhapsody receive the weakest reviews of the bunch, but many in the LGBTQ community were also disappointed by the film’s portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality — and the less said about original director Bryan Singer, the better.

Despite all of the controversy, this double win makes it more likely than ever that Bohemian Rhapsody will also be recognized by the Academy Awards. Given that the cast has also been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards, history tells us that the much-maligned biopic will almost certainly become a contender for Best Picture come February, alongside other favorites such as Green Book and well, The Favourite.

What still remains unclear though is whether Bohemian Rhapsody has what it takes to break free and secure the win. As Freddie himself once sang, “It’s a hard life,” and the biopic that tells his story will surely have a “long hard fight” on its hands too.

Both Best Film winners at the Golden Globes are usually guaranteed a nomination each year, but only nine of these have been awarded the Oscar since 2000. Although part of this has to do with the way that the Globes split Best Film across two categories (Drama and Musical/Comedy), the Globes also possess a populist streak which undoubtedly came into play here regarding this year’s surprise win.

Despite the film’s popularity, high box office earnings rarely translate to clear wins in the major Oscar categories, and what’s popular among the Golden Globe voters might not be so well liked by the Academy voters. After all, the voting pools that both ceremonies draw on don’t overlap too much, so the Oscar voters might have different favorites entirely, something which we’ve seen play out numerous times before.

Although a double win at the Globes helped propel Bohemian Rhapsody into the headlines at a crucial moment during the Academy’s deliberation window, publicity of this kind could also harm the film’s chances further come February 24. Remember when James Franco was snubbed by the Academy last year following his controversial Globe win and the sexual harassment claims that followed? The backlash that Bohemian Rhapsody is currently facing could derail any chance the film might have of taking home the Oscar for Best Picture.

In Bohemian Rhapsody, we watch Queen perform the song “We Are The Champions,” but in real life, it might be Freddie and Co. who bite the dust thanks to some pretty stiff competition from the likes of A Star Is Born and Roma. In fact, Roma could be the one to beat, despite some snobbery among cinephiles who resent its Netflix origins. At the Golden Globes, foreign language movies aren’t eligible to compete in the Best Film categories, and that’s why Roma wasn’t pitted against Bohemian Rhapsody there, but anything goes at the Oscars, and Alfonso Cuarón’s track record with the Academy isn’t to be trifled with either.

If I were a betting man, I’d say that Bohemian Rhapsody is unlikely to beat any of the aforementioned movies at the Oscars, and it looks like other betting men and women agree too. Oddschecker reports that the odds of it winning are unfavorable at around 5/2, and Gold Derby currently ranks Bohemian Rhapsody in ninth place with odds of 18/1. If these particular predictions are to be believed, then it’s currently a tight race between Roma and A Star Is Born, leaving Bohemian Rhapsody to languish almost out of sight completely.

Of course, the show must go on, and there’s still plenty of time for Bohemian Rhapsody to surprise us yet again by stealing the show completely. Freddie Mercury didn’t play by the rules, so it’s to be expected that a biopic based on his life might not either.

The 91st Academy Awards will take place at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019.

Ranking Every Song On Britney’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ From Best To Best

On January 12, 2019, 20 years will have passed since Godney first blessed us with a holy collection of instant classics. While we wait for the world’s various governments to celebrate this anniversary as an official holiday, we here at INTO have decided to celebrate by ranking every song on Britney’s debut album from best to best.

Of course, such an undertaking is entirely subjective. Every single song on …Baby One More Time has been seared into the minds of young girls and fledgling gays everywhere since it first came out in 1999. Therefore, any attempt to rank each track is pointless. Indulge us though as we take a look back at a time when Britney Spears ruled the world, long before she made slaves of us all.

14. “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”

I stopped loving this bonus track a very long time ago.

13. “The Beat Goes On”

Fans are often quick to dismiss this early Cher cover, but if Beatney re-released it as a duet with the “Believe” singer now, it would instantly skyrocket to number one on this list and in our hearts too.

12. “I Will Still Love You” (ft. Don Philip)

Messy doesn’t even begin to describe the awkward reunion that Britney and Don Philip shared during the X Factor USA auditions in 2012, adding new and cringey layers of meaning to the line, “Time may take us apart, but I will still love you.”

11.  “Autumn Goodbye”

Like pumpkin spice lattes, “Autumn Goodbye” is a basic yet enjoyable treat that everyone should enjoy exclusively between the months of September and December.

10. “E-Mail My Heart”

Remember that time Britney Spears invented Email? Of course you do, and it’s all thanks to this ballad that Techney herself once claimed “everyone can relate to.”

9. “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”

It’s somewhat ironic that Britney ditched her sexy schoolgirl image in a promo directed by someone who was once referred to as “the Martin Scorsese of the erotic thriller.” Gregory Dark’s previous career in porn worried the label once news got out, but the wholesome song and video still remain Britney’s most innocent.

8. “Thinkin’ About You”

Honestly, I spend my days thinkin’ about Britney’s gorgeous deep register which comes to the fore in this chilled deep cut. Modernney could learn a lesson or two from this track.

7. “Soda Pop”

Whether you originally encountered “Soda Pop” on …Baby One More Time or the first Pokémon movie soundtrack, the fourth track on Britney’s debut fizzes with some reggae vibes and a not so subtle metaphor about male ejaculation.

6. “Deep In My Heart”

“Deep In My Heart” is joy personified and it was foolish of Jive Records to leave it off the original US track listing. Facts are facts, America.

5. “I Will Be There”

Imagine a world where the southern twang of “I Will Be There” propelled Britney to country stardom and she ended up recording a whole album full of Shania Twain inspired ditties. Y’all know you want it too.

4. “Sometimes”

Sweet like bubblegum, Britney’s second single slowed things down to a surprising degree back in 1999, and unfortunately, she rarely sings it live these days, but diehard purists will always have a soft spot for this gooey classic.

3. “(You Drive Me) Crazy”

If the single remix was included on the album, “Crazy” could have potentially taken the number one spot, because honestly, what song doesn’t benefit from a breakdown where Britney shouts “stop!”?

2. “Born to Make You Happy”

Not only is “Born To Make You Happy” the soundtrack to countless pillow fights worldwide, it’s also one of the best ballads that Britney has ever recorded, something which we Brits knew when we helped propel it to number one on the UK charts.

1. “…Baby One More Time”

Dun DUN DUN…  You’re not surprised, we’re not surprised and anyone with ears shouldn’t be surprised either. This is the one true Mona Lisa of pop music and literally any other choice in the top spot just wouldn’t make sense. To suggest otherwise would be blasphemy against both Godney and the Holy Spearit combined.

What We Know About ‘Killing Eve’ Season 2 So Far

Sandra Oh made history twice at the Golden Globes last Sunday. She became the first Asian-American to host the ceremony, as well as the first Asian-American to win Golden Globes in multiple categories (her first was for her supporting role in Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Cristina Yang, and the second was this year, for her titular role in the BBC America’s Killing Eve).

The series, returning for a much anticipated second season on April 7, sounds as if it’s picking up right where it left off: Villanelle has disappeared, and Eve is left reeling, having no idea if the woman she stabbed is alive or dead. With both of them in deep trouble, Eve has to find Villanelle before someone else does… but unfortunately, she’s not the only person looking for her.

From the new teaser, we know Eve is being questioned by MI6 about what really happened in Paris. (You know, when Eve went nuts on Villanelle’s stuff, drank her champagne, and then recited a soliloquy of Shakespearean proportions to Villanelle before suggesting they take a little siesta together in her bed, and then promptly climbing on top of her and stabbing her in the stomach.) What we don’t know is how Villanelle is going to react to Eve’s unexpected attack once she’s healed. According to Jodie Comer, who plays the queer assassin, her reaction might not be what audiences are expecting.

“I think what happened in episode 8 brings them closer together in a way that neither of them expect,” Comer said during a red carpet interview at the Golden Globes. “A lot of relationships were tested in Series 1, so I think the dynamics have really shifted.”

Will Villanelle be impressed with Eve’s finesse with sharp objects? Will she be pleasantly surprised to find that Eve is, in fact, a top? Considering that Villanelle is one of the most complex, unpredictable characters currently in television, any reaction she might have is unexpected, yet completely true to character.

“She’s never just straight-up upset about anything,” says show creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge about Villanelle. “She sees the world in a different way, so it would have a different impact on her I think.”

For Season 2, Waller-Bridge, who is being kept busy with a number of projects, has handed over head-writer duties to Emerald Fennell, an author and actress who played lesbian nurse Patsy Mount in the British period drama, Call The Midwife. While the Fleabag star and creator remains active behind the scenes of Killing Eve, she’s taken more of an executive producer role, according to Variety.

As far as storyline details, we‘ve learned via Sandra Oh in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Season 2 will spend more time with the two women interacting.

“It moves from a chase to being together — in the same room,” Oh said. “For me, it just gets so much more psychological. It’s trippy talking about it while I’m still in it, but these characters have established that they know who the other is. It just gets deeper and deeper.”

The story of Eve and Villanelle was introduced as one of mutual obsession, but their interactions were limited. It should be interesting to see how their dynamic evolves once the element of the chase is no longer a distraction.

Season 2 of Killing Eve airs on BBC America April 7 at 8pm.

Images via BBC America and Getty

These New Apps Rate Businesses Based on Size, Gender, Disability, and POC Accessibility

In Portland, Oregon where I live, I often work from a local laundromat and cafe. I love the place, but am always anxious to grab a specific spot at the sole bench against the wall as to avoid the inevitable bruises that come from the only other seating options: chairs that cut into my thighs, leaving indentations for a couple hours. Sitting in those uncomfortable chairs is a reminder of how I’ve failed to conform to the thinness that society requires of me in order to sit comfortably. I avoid them at all costs.

When I saw those very same chairs around my own dining table, brought in by my well-meaning but thin housemate, I didn’t know what to say. It’s hard to know what to say about fatphobia, and it’s terrifying when it sneaks its way into your own home.

As people with bigger bodies navigate a world designed for thin people, apps that aim to tell you which places have actually considered their needs helps mitigate fear and anxiety. Both Ample and AllGo, two Portland-based apps with the purpose of identifying and rating businesses on their inclusivity of marginalized bodies, were founded due to personal anxiety and experiences like my own.

For Ample’s Alissa Sobo, it was being fat-shamed at her doctor’s office in a small California town while she was pregnant. “I had one particularly terrible experience that was traumatic for me. I lived in a small town and didn’t have any way of finding a less fatphobic doctor,” said Sobo, now based in Portland.

Ample founder Alissa Sobo (L) with Ample graphic designer Gus Cannon (R)
Ample founder Alissa Sobo (L) with Ample graphic designer Gus Cannon (R)

AllGo’s Rebecca Alexander, a fat, queer fundraiser, said she was tired of   searching the background of pictures on Yelp to see if the restaurant she was taking a new client to had chairs big enough for her.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years raising money for nonprofits,” Alexander told INTO. “Involved in that job was meeting people I’d never met before who had lots of money [to contribute to my causes]. The anxiety I had on a daily basis meeting these people in new places was traumatic.”

During Alexander’s entire senior year of college, the only chairs available in her own apartment left indentations in her outer thighs for almost six hours every time she sat in them.

“Ninety-five percent of self-identified fat respondents [to AllGo’s initial user surveys] reported anxiety about going places with friends. For people who didn’t identify as fat, they felt excited. It didn’t even register,” Alexander told INTO. “So much of the world is just not designed with human diversity in mind.”

AllGo founder Rebecca Alexander. Image via Canweallgo.com.
AllGo founder Rebecca Alexander. Image via Canweallgo.com.

So when Alexander shared her anxieties and desire for a solution with Michele Amar, a tech and design strategist in the Fall of 2017, the two decided to collaborate on an app (Amar has since stepped away from the project). Businesses that appear in the app are given a green checkmark or a red X for having or not having things such as armless chairs or moveable tables, allowing potential visitors to decide if their whole party will feel comfortable at an establishment prior to going there physically. There is also space for users to submit a more extended review.

AllGo’s initial Kickstarter campaign was supported by some famous names in the fat and body positive communities, such as the queer writer Roxane Gay, who donated five signed copies of her critically acclaimed book on the emotional and psychological struggles around food and body image, Hunger, to their fundraiser (a pledge that sold out the first day). Tess Holliday, a plus-sized model who has graced the cover of Cosmo, posted to Facebook, “This app is going to make it easier for people like my mom to visit new places.” The campaign raised over $55k, allowing Alexander to hire some coders.

I'm so excited that AllGo – An App For People of Size is making the world accessible to fat and plus size people! This…

Posted by Tess Holliday on Saturday, March 24, 2018

Portland is a fertile and ideal testing ground. Despite the aforementioned cafe with the terrible chairs, Portland is the home base of many fat activists and organizations such as queer fat femme blogger Bevin Branlandingham, as well as body-positive hiking groups Fat Girls Hiking and Unlikely Hikers. Portland hosted the Association for Size Diversity and Health conference in August 2018, and hosts an annual plus-sized fashion show called Knockout. The city is also home to indie plus-sized clothing shop Fat Fancy; and Chunky Dunk, an outdoor pool party that celebrates the natural diversity of human bodies, and offers fat-inclusive swimming every summer. (It was the setting for a significant pool party scene in the upcoming TV adaptation of Lindy West’s Shrill, starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant).

“Queer people understand what it means to be excluded from public conversation,” Alexander said. “So many queer women and men have contributed to [fat activism]. There’s a lot of queer people doing the work. They want to see a queer entrepreneur [like myself] succeed.”

The amount of fat acceptance and celebration in Portland is one reason this big bottom has remained planted here. So it’s not surprising that another app dedicated to promoting accessible businesses, Ample, also began its journey in Oregon’s biggest city.

For founder Alissa Sobo, it was discussing her idea for a “fat Yelp” with Virgie Tovar, the creator of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to hold your hand through finally breaking up with diet culture, that gave her the final push to start Ample. “[Tovar] loved the idea, and initially she was the impetus for me for taking it from just reviewing doctors and healthcare providers to including restaurants, hair salons — everything we now include,” Sobo told INTO.

Sobo uses Google to gather businesses so almost anything is available to review. If it isn’t already in Ample, users can add any business they like, upload pictures, and continue the review process in addition to choosing a rating of one to four stars on size, disability, trans, and BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) inclusivity (the latter two coming at various points in the initial design process). It became her goal to take conversations that were happening on Facebook, Twitter or other personal groups, and make it accessible and searchable to anyone.

“I think, particularly in fat community, the information gets ‘trapped’ in our small, often geographically specific social media groups,” Sobo said. “And there isn’t one central trove of data that everyone could access for everywhere in the world.”

Image via Ample
Image via Ample

Because Sobo is a coder, she was able to take a more DIY approach and just created an initial prototype herself, but even she couldn’t do it alone. When she moved to Portland, her best friend and graphic artist Gus Cannon joined the team in charge of design. As a trans man, Cannon saw a lot of overlap in the hurdles trans people and fat people face in public spaces, such as gendered restrooms or use of incorrectly gendered language.

“So we expanded the project then,” Sobo explained, “We thought it made sense to allow people to review a place from an intersectional perspective.”

The app added ratings for trans inclusivity alongside the ones they already had for size and disability. Initially, they decided not to include a BIPOC rating on the advice of a POC friend, because none of the contributors were people of color, but after some feedback at launch, ultimately decided it was important to include.

“Shauna McDavis-Conway, the president of [fat activist organization] NOLOSE called us in on the POC perspective being discounted, and as soon as we realized that the community wanted it, and as soon as we realized the error of our ways, educated ourselves a bit more, we worked frantically to include it,” Sobo said. “I worked a solid few days to add it in, practically without stopping, because I wanted to show the community that we cared. We deployed the feature [adding star ratings for this new group] just a few days after it was called to our attention.”

With such a broad target audience, Ample has had to scale back in some other ways. Initially written as an iOS app, Sobo decided to launch Ample as a website first. “Eighty-five percent of all apps are only opened once,” Sobo said. “Our volunteer UX designer, who is a fat babe activist and total badass at her job, also felt that it doesn’t make sense to build a mobile app until you have a reliable and dependable user base. If people opened the app and there wasn’t anything yet in their area, would they ever open it again?”

Sobo hopes to grow the user base organically and has done so in a few different ways. By plotting all the places with reviews on a map, she has a visually engaging way to see what places are rated well in your area. She has also corralled a team of “Amplifiers,” members of the community who have volunteered to identify accessible businesses.

“Businesses are ‘amplified’ when a business or provider are recommended outside of the Ample platform,” Sobo explained.  “This can be from a face-to-face conversation or from a discussion they see on social media. Amplified businesses will show up on the Ample map and in the top search results, alongside businesses that already have reviews. A badge will appear on the pages of Amplified businesses, letting users know that this place or provider is being recommended even if there are not yet firsthand user reviews.”

Businesses can also participate by “claiming” their Ample entry. They only have about 75 claimed listings so far but, “Most of them take our inclusivity pledge,” Sobo said, which consists of a promise to, “treat people of all genders, body sizes, races, and abilities equally.” Business owners pledge to: “keep an open and eager mind towards learning how [they] might improve accessibility on an ongoing basis.”

Sobo emphasized that they’ve had positive feedback from businesses as well as users. “This isn’t a business-bashing tool. We hope its an educational tool and an awareness-raising tool.”

Alexander also hopes businesses will see her project, AllGo, as an opportunity to grow and change, as well as a marketing tool. “One-third of the population is considered overweight or obese,” she said. “If potentially one-third of their customer base can’t fit into the seats at a new restaurant, with an industry with that slim of a profit margin they can’t afford [to alienate them]. We can help them out.”

Both Ample and AllGo continue to grow. Alexander expects betas to launch in up to 10 other cities this year but is looking to angel investors to help make that happen. She also has some other projects directed at plus-sized consumers that should become public in the coming year.

Sobo hopes more programmers and Amplifiers will want to participate. I have personally already used both apps when deciding what coffee shop to work from. It’s good to know that I can quickly glance at either Ample or AllGo to check if I will be comfortable at a meeting spot suggested by a friend.

“[AllGo] would save me and people like me so much anxiety,” tweeted Roxane Gay. It also gives thin people a chance to learn how to be allies. Maybe then our new knowledge will make our options feel ample, and ensure that we can all go to places we feel comfortable and welcome.

The State of Queer Women in Pop Music in 2019

When lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko dubbed last year #20GayTeen, none of us were ready for how queer it’d it’d actually be.

Last year, queer women in music were more visible than ever before, with major releases from Lesbian Jesus herself, Halsey, Cardi B, St. Vincent, King Princess, problematic transgender queen Kim Petras, and the massive (and controversial) Rita Ora/Cardi B/Charli XCX/Bebe Rexha collab “Girls.” Just eight days into 2019, the queer women of pop haven’t wasted a single second; they’re already out here dropping new visuals and teasing us with new music. Yesterday alone, four super queer acts announced new projects coming soon. I’m elated, vibrating, and ready to dance. Here’s the current state of lesbian and queer pop music, and everything queer women have to look forward to this year that isn’t Captain Marvel.

To kick off 2019, Annie Clark (AKA one of Cara Delevingne’s exes AKA St. Vincent), announced the gayest of gay collaborations: In 2019, our queer lady thirst will be quenched with a brand-new Sleater-Kinney album—their first in four years—and it will be produced by St. Vincent herself. Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Carrie Brownstein has dated both her bandmate Corin Tucker and Clark, furthering my belief that the future of queer pop music is collaborations with gay exes. I also portend that the future of pop will be unanimously inspired by Cara Delevingne (see: Rita Ora’s supposed Sapphic single nodded to her fling with the British model). Please look for my dissertation on gay exes in pop music, coming this summer to Twitter dot com.

In addition to Sleater-Kinney and St. Vincent, it looks like lesbian alt-pop will have quite a moment this year, as Tegan and Sara revealed on their website that new music and a memoir was on the horizon. King Princess is set to tour her most recent EP, Talia, and even has some major festival dates set, like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Firefly.

Actually, it’s worth mentioning that Coachella is getting gayer and gayer (despite being owned by an anti-LGBTQ Republican donor). This year, queer female artists like Janelle Monae, Lizzo, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Christine and the Queens, and transgender DJ SOPHIE will also be performing. Plus, Ariana Grande will be headlining the California festival—she doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but has been lovingly and aggressively adopted by the community. Grande will be the fourth woman to ever headline Coachella.

Speaking of A-List pop stars, queer Top 40 queens like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are already delivering in a major way. In November, the pansexual singer-songwriter released her first single post-Younger Now, a throbbing bassline, disco-meets-country collaboration with Mark Ronson called “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart.” She performed the song in a dazzling dressed-up tracksuit on Saturday Night Live. The recently married musician’s seventh studio album is due out this year, and I’ll be crossing my arms and impatiently tapping my foot awaiting more disco tracksuits lewks. I really need a new phone background—new year, new wallpaper!

Lady Gaga, who once came out as bisexual and maybe-kinda-sorta rescinded it, launched her brand-new Vegas show Enigma on December 28th. The show, which features robotic Transformer-like set pieces, has already stunned fans of the flamboyant performer, and is set to run through November, with four special jazz and piano performances. According to NME, Gaga’s sixth studio album is currently being recorded at NYC’s Electric Lady Studios, and the working title is LG6 (sound familiar, Little Mix fans?). Hopefully, we’ll get our grubby gay hands on that music this year rather than next. Until then, we have awards season to look forward to, and a possible Oscar for the decorated musician’s role and song in A Star is Born.

And JoJo Siwa is set to release music on—I’m totally kidding. Can you imagine?

Like Gaga, bisexual pop stars are dropping music left and right. Today, former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui announced a second single from her debut solo album (untitled so far). “More Than That,” the follow-up to “Expectations,” is set for release on January 11th. The sultry singer revealed the goddess-like album art for the single, which offers a strong nod to Sandro Botticelli’s iconic painting of The Birth of Venus. Bisexual artist Halsey has already tweeted her support for her “Strangers” collaborator.

Speaking of, a new album is expected from Halsey either this year or next—no date yet, but the pop star said she’s started “collecting” new material. 

The very pregnant and bisexual Kehlani also teased a new song and video. The single, “Nights Like This,” is due out tomorrow (Thursday). It’s been two years since the release of her debut EP, and since then, she’s been featured on everything from Cardi B tracks, to Hayley Kiyoko’s album, a pregnancy, and my tombstone, probably. Can my epitaph please say “(feat. Kehlani)?”

Cardi B, Kehlani’s frequent collaborator and fellow bisexual mother in hip-hop, is reportedly in the studio working on her second studio album. Her debut record Invasion of Privacy swept pop and hip-hop fans off their feet last year. The reigning queen of hip-hop took to Instagram Live to announce the second album, which she hopes to release around the same time that Invasion of Privacy came out, which was in April of last year. Personally, I’m looking forward to more outrageous music videos, Instagram rants, and queer collabs from Cardi B this year. In December, the Bronx-native released her “Money” music video, which intercut shots of a strip club and the MC breastfeeding her baby Kulture. So, I’m definitely hoping for more motherhood meets hip-hop content, which was the most ambitious crossover event in history.

Another hip-hop/pop fluid queen, Lizzo, who told Teen Vogue last year that she refuses to identify as straight, released a new music video for her single “Juice” this week. The ’80s-inspired video is the vivacious performer’s latest release since last year’s singles “Good As Hell,” “Truth Hurts,” and “Boys.” No word on when her next album will drop, but according to Vulture, 2019 is the year. I want to say my body is ready, but how does one actually ready their body for a full album of Lizzo bangers? Unclear.

Of course, there’s R&B star Janelle Monae, who might just be the hardest working pansexual in pop music. As previously mentioned, the Dirty Computer singer will be performing at Coachella in April. She’s also set to headline Glastonbury this summer. After wowing queer fans with her gilded red carpet look at the Golden Globes, Monae released a music video for “Screwed,” another track from Dirty Computer, yesterday, and yes, it’s another video starring Tessa Thompson.

But wait, there’s more! Betty Who, who came out as bi in 2018 and gifted us with multiple Sapphic music videos, is currently on tour with the pansexual-led Panic! at the Disco (the same tour that Hayley Kiyoko opened for in 2018!). Last week, Betty teased a new song on her social media called “I Remember.” 

And finally, queer pop singer-songwriter FLETCHER has also announced a new project in 2019, hopefully coming soon—I adored her 2017 and 2018 releases “You Should Talk” and “I Believe You,” both of which perfectly blended the happy-sad sounds of pop with lyrics about painful memories and longing. Queer women love to yearn—it’s kind of our thing.

Currently, there’s more mainstream music being released by queer female artists than ever before. Just a year ago, while anxiously awaiting Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album Expectations, I felt severely underrepresented in pop music, which is not only my favorite genre, but is unimpeachably one that belongs to the LGBTQ community. Queer fans have created and elevated pop music since its very inception, but it wasn’t until very recently (arguably last year) that our stories were being centered in the art form itself.

In a post-Expectations, post-Dirty Computer world, I’m fucking thrilled that me and other queer women aren’t begging for scraps of music about women loving women, or once-a-decade male gazey bops like Demi Lovato’s “Cool For The Summer” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” I’m thankful for the sheer volume of Sapphic pop music that’s flooded my Spotify playlists in 2018, and am overwhelmed by 2019’s gay pop forecast. Consider me soaked—sorry, I meant quenched.

Header image via Getty

‘The Fosters’ Spin-Off ‘Good Trouble’ is An Inclusive Show and A Good Watch, Too

Good Trouble is the new Freeform series by Joanna Johnson, Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg, the team behind The Fosters, a show centered around two moms and their foster children that redefined what a family drama is supposed to look like. It starred Teri Polo as Stef, and Sherri Saum as Lena, an interracial San Diego lesbian couple raising their four foster kids, Callie (Maia Mitchell), Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), Jesus (Noah Centineo) and Jude (Hayden Byerly), in addition to Stef’s biological son from her first marriage, Brandon (David Lambert). The show wrapped its five-year run last summer, and soon after, the spin-off centered around Mariana and Callie was announced.

The new series, premiering tonight on Freeform, follows the Adams foster sisters one year after The Fosters left off. Transitioning from college life to their first real jobs in Los Angeles proves to be a challenging experience for Callie and Mariana, whose moving truck is robbed quickly upon their arrival. There’s also the issue of their new digs, which, previously unbeknownst to Callie, is a communal living situation in a downtown Los Angeles loft, the only place Callie’s law-clerk salary will allow them to rent.

*Caution: Spoilers ahead*

We quickly learn that while Mariana makes enough in her new job at a tech startup for them to not have to share a bathroom with eight other people, Callie insists on splitting living expenses down the middle. Mariana’s new co-worker, Gael (Tommy Martinez), also happens to live in the building — and Mariana intends on making him her boyfriend.

Alice (played by out comic/actress Sherry Cola) is the lesbian loft manager who has yet to come out to her parents; she is introduced as the caretaker of the loft, and by extension, the roommates. She’s in charge of repairing broken appliances, providing the toilet paper, and introducing Callie and Mariana to the others, including Malika (Zuri Adele).

Malika is a former foster child and social justice activist who brings up the case of a young black man who was killed by the police when he was presumed to be carrying a weapon. Later, Callie learns that her new boss, a conservative Federal Judge, will be taking over the case, setting up what could potentially be a conflict between the roommates.

Elsewhere, Mariana is having trouble with her new team, which is composed of male co-workers who appear to have no intention of taking her seriously, instantly assigning her work that mainly involves sorting files that include crude graphics of female bodies. Thinking she could at least make an impression by approaching the company head with an idea for an app, Mariana is instead reprimanded for going over her supervisor’s head.

The pilot deals with the hurdles of entering the workforce, and what that looks like for young female professionals in fields that are predominantly male. It also introduces Callie and Mariana to a more adult environment that now involves drinking and sex, cementing that the Adams foster sisters are all grown-up and that this is a different show from its predecessor. Still, Good Trouble stays true to its socially-conscious roots.

What made The Fosters groundbreaking was its depiction of LGBTQ characters. From interracial lesbian moms Lena and Stef, to trans men characters like Aaron and Cole (played by actual trans actors Elliot Fletcher and Tom Phelan), these characters helped increase queer and trans visibility in television. That intent seems to be carrying over to Good Trouble, with characters like Alice and Gael.

After a grueling first few days, Callie and Mariana sit by the gorgeous rooftop pool in the building that realistically no person in their 20s can afford unless it’s split between eight people, so kudos to the writers for keeping it real, and Callie finally admits she hooked up with Gael on their first night there without knowing who he was.

Just as they’ve decided they do not want to fight over a guy, they spot Gael in his room, which is conveniently visible from across the pool, and thirstily watch him remove his shirt. Moments later, a second male enters the bedroom and Gael kisses him, the camera panning away just as things begin to heat up between them.

Mariana quickly decides she’s no longer interested, but judging by glimpses of future episodes, Callie might not be so quick to give him up just yet. That’s good news, as we’re overdue for a bisexual leading man who isn’t dismissed the moment his sexuality is revealed. Grown-ish, another spin-off about young adults, had the chance to explore a similar storyline in Season 1, but the writers chose to go another route.

When Nomi (Emily Arlook), Grown-ish’s bisexual character, learns a man she’s dating is also bisexual, she immediately dumps him. Rather than delve into Nomi’s internalized biphobia and the double standard bisexual men face every day, the storyline is never visited again. That Good Trouble might explore an alternate take is a promising and refreshing prospect.

For those missing the rest of the Adams foster clan, expect to see familiar faces sooner rather than later. Mariana’s twin brother, Jesus (Noah Centineo) is slated to make an appearance as soon as episode 4, while Stef and Lena are also expected to pay a visit at some point in the future, among other members of the Adams foster family.

While Good Trouble has a decidedly different tone than The Fosters, out lesbian EP Joanna Johnson hopes it will resonate with audiences in a familial way.

“When you leave home, you go out in the world and you create your chosen family of friends and people that you work with, and that’s what this show is about,” she tells Variety. “It’s still a family show, but it’s the family you choose to surround you and support you.”

Good Trouble premieres January 8 on Freeform, and the pilot is now streaming on Hulu.

Images via Freeform

This Masc ‘Overwatch’ Hero Was Announced As Gay and I Don’t Care

Even before it had any officially out gay characters, Overwatch has been, like, the gayest game.

Pretty much from the beginning, fans of the game have been shipping the characters. In the Overwatch comic published December 2016, it was announced that Tracer is a lesbian — a pretty big deal at the time considering Tracer is literally the face of the game.

Now, through a new short story, Jack “Soldier 76” Morrison, arguably the other main character of the game, was also announced as gay. In the context of the story, Soldier is talking about a previous relationship with a man named Vincent.

“Vincent deserved a happier life than the one I could give him, Jack sighed. ‘We both knew that I could never put anything above my duty. Everything I fought for was to protect people like him… that’s the sacrifice I made.’”

The reaction to Soldier’s sexuality has been overwhelmingly positive — Soldier has been regarded as the daddy of Overwatch forever so this is a big win for representation, that’s for sure! But while I really don’t want to be a buzzkill, I just can’t bring myself to care about this. My immediate response was a thought of “Oh, cool” and not much more — “What’s for dinner?” I feel so distant from this piece of lore because the character doesn’t feel gay, he feels like a straight man who happens to like men.

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but sometimes I think this is why pieces of fiction add gay characters — because it’s not required to do anything beyond that. Overwatch has been recently criticized for not having a single Black female character in its roster. While the developers can’t just decide one day that an existing character is Black, they can do that for queer characters. It’s an attempt at getting the acknowledgment of diversity without really doing any work toward it. I don’t just want a label, I want an identity with dimension.

What I mean is that beyond this short story (and a follow-up tweet from head writer Michael Chu) that says he is in a relationship, nothing about the character of Soldier 76 reads as queer and I’m tired of that. If we’re getting a gay male character, I want one who says “Sashay away” when they get a kill or has a voice line of a Madonna lyric. Things that my friends would actually do or say.

Obviously not all gay men watch Drag Race or listen to pop stars, but it’s a good place to start. When I first came out, Blaine and Kurt were starting to become a couple on Glee and even then, I remember being annoyed with this trope. Blaine never felt like a gay character to me, he just felt like a straight man they flipped in order to be a romantic interest for their gay character.

A part of this frustration stems from the fact that we either get super masculine straight men or caricatures of effeminate gay men, no in-between. Instead of trying to figure out an empowering way to portray feminine men, creators default to making vague male characters that are gay in name only.

The details of someone’s queer interests aren’t just superfluous, they’re what make a character. I’m not friends with people because they’re gay, I’m friends with them because of the gay culture we both engage with. How am I supposed to relate to a character if I don’t know how he exists within that culture also?

Even if this representation doesn’t give me joy, the anger that it gives straight gamer nerds will definitely give me joy. What’s interesting about Soldier 76, and a positive point in all of this, is that he was designed to be the most traditional hero in Overwatch, in that he most resembles a regular shooter game both in terms of gameplay and appearance. If you’ve played Call of Duty, you can understand the basics of how to play Soldier in Overwatch. So, it feels kind of gratifying that the roughest and toughest masculine hero in the game is now gay as heck. The straight nerds are not pleased.

Obviously I would like gay characters that felt like they were more thought out and well-written — characters that feel like they were gay from the start, but if simply announcing a character is enough to upset these dorks, then I’m all for it.