“Hexer is the show I wanted to see growing up.”
With this final article in our series on queer representation in media, we will look at where we want to see queer media go in the next decade, wrapping up our queer media series. Researching this final leg of the series was difficult, as it's hard to research the future, but we did our best. We interviewed the main team of a project in production, and the Executive Director of Represent, all of whom gave us insight into the present state of queer media, and using our research into the patterns of our past we can get a glimpse of what the future holds.
First, we will look at our interview with Executive Director of Represent, Tamila Gresham. Represent is a non-profit organization based in California that supports and fosters the representation of marginalized communities in media, including stage, film, and television. With a focus on intersectionality and education, they work to push forward queer and otherwise marginalized creators and work as consultants to help screenwriters and film executives make their films and series better concerning representation.
When asked about where queer media was at the moment and what was missing she said: “We lack in bisexual and transgender representation, and also the representations that we have are not intersectional.”
We can’t help agreeing. In the more mainstream examples of queer media, we often see our community represented by a middle or upper class, able-bodied, white, cisgender, gay, men. That's only a fraction of our actual community, but still, it is the majority of how we are seen and portrayed by popular media.
It has led to many negative effects for our community, beyond not having all aspects of our community represented and Gresham pointed that out saying “When the mainstream thinks about the LGBT community or LGBT issues, they have an image in their mind of cis white gay men and not the rest of the community.”
Because of this image, we are often left with most allies and activists working towards making things better for that part of the community and forgetting the rest of us.
This leads to a deep divide within the queer community, as the white cisgender gay men move forward to represent the community they often push people out of the way. One of the clearest historical examples we can see of this is with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and all the other transgender women of colour who were pushed out of the early pride parades in favour of having the spotlight on white cisgender gay men so they could seem more “respectable.” This appearance of respectability politics is not the first time we have seen it in our series. Looking at our World War Two series, we explored how the few memorials to the queer victims of the Holocaust were focused on gay cisgender men. Even we, ourselves, slipped and did not mention transgender women in an article about queer women during the Holocaust, and though the mistake has since been corrected, we need to look at the attitudes that cause such slips.
Often those attitudes begin with what we discussed the last article about the codes that the queer community relied on to talk to each other that quickly turned to stereotypes under the hands of heterosexual cisgender allosexual/romantic film executives. They used stereotypes to represent the queer community, and rarely explicitly stated that a character was queer even after it was no longer illegal. So when they did manage to have a queer character on screen, they had to be close to other things that mainstream society values, such as being white, or able bodied, or middle class.
So from a young age, we only see that kind of representation in the media we are consuming. Often media is the only place we see queer people at all for various reasons. Which is not meant to excuse such things as lack of queer characters who are also people of colour, or also women, or poor, or disabled, but only to explain it. As Gresham explained: “They have to be conscious of it, I’m a big believer that when people know better, they do better.”
So where do we go from there? We are conscious of these problems in our media, and we know why they happen, what next?
Represent is a great example of what we can do as activists, as Gresham herself said: “Those who can, and want to, and can do the work, also need to be willing to teach. Because teaching is hard, and that’s not everybody's job. Sometimes I have to take time off because I’m like, I can’t, I can’t teach today.”
So, if you can be in contact with a people and educate them, and do that work, that is fantastic. But it is also hard work, and we have to recognize, that not everyone in the community will be able to or even feel comfortable doing it.
So what can the people who can’t be activists do? When you can’t go on twitter every morning and fight every homophobic egg, there is another option: consuming and supporting media that does not fall into these traps and supporting queer creators who put a focus on intersectionality in their work. We were lucky enough to be able to talk to some of those people for you.
First, to introduce the project we are going to focus on, let’s look at the history behind it, as that is what our project is known to do. We are going to be looking at Hexer a web series that has been in the works for two years, and was started by the showrunner Matthew Ekberg and the head writer Olivia Carass, both people who have been a part of numerous other projects but have come together to now build something themselves. They have moved from a couple of different funding sites, starting at Seed and Spark, then once they had enough funding to begin the project, they moved to Patreon and entered in the New Voice Crowdfunding Rally. The New Voice Crowdfunding Rally is a contest that promises thirty thousand dollars, and a production deal to whichever project entered that gets the most follows. From the beginning, it has been a project that has found its roots in support of the people. They have worked tirelessly to produce a show worth watching, and now are trying to fund it so they can share that show with a global audience.
And on the same day, we talked to Tamila Gresham; we also got a chance to talk to Olivia Carass, Matthew Ekberg, and Alice Evans. We read the script of the pilot of Hexer to confirm it was a quality project, and you can see our review here if you are interested. And to give you a brief summarization in their own words Ekberg, the showrunner, said: “It’s a cool magicky web show, it’s like a sitcom meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
But in this article, we will focus on the intersectionality and creation of the show.
With a selling point about great representation and not killing off their queer characters they had a lot to live up to, and in my viewing of the Pilot it seems like they will do just fine in managing to do so.
With two out of the three show runners we talked to being queer, we are hopeful that they will have a deeper insight into the queer community which will allow them to avoid problems that people outside the queer community might not know about. It will allow the people under the spotlight in the discussion of queer representation to be actual queer people because it often happens that queer “icons” and people who speak most about the queer community aren’t queer people. Like Evans, the screenwriter pointed out: “Well because it’s the internet a part of me is like, yeah it’s fine there are loads of queer YouTubers, but the people making films and getting deals on specials are not really.”
Although the showrunners aren’t members of every community their characters will be a part of, they promise to keep contact with people who are, Carass, the head writer, saying “We want to do an open dialogue with people, like how do you feel about what happens in the show.” To which Evans added, “Especially with communities we are not a part of.”
So with all of that, there is already a significant amount to justify hope, but what pushes that even further forward is the intersectionality. There is a wide array of characters with an equally wide array of backgrounds, including bisexual, asexual, transgender, people of colour, and neurodivergent, people.
This is just one example of a project we see the birth of. Right now, there are many other people working on projects like this one, but the point still to be determined is if these projects will get the support they need. To gain better representation in the mainstream media, we must first show that representation gets viewers and support. Unfortunately, in the society we live in, what matters most to the people who have enough money to fund projects like these, is that they will get their investment back. Right now, everyone can help prove that it is a viable option, that people want to see this kind of series, by supporting the ones that are beginning now.
So that is what we discovered, that our future can be bright, but it is up to us to make it so. The best ways to do so is to educate, create, and support. None of our future is certain, and that can be a terrifying concept, but it can also be a beautiful one. Though it isn’t possible to have the future we want without working for it, we can make a substantial change with the work we do, in whichever way each can, whether that is creating you, sharing and supporting other queer people’s work, or educating society. We have the chance to shape the media that queer children generations from now will grow up with. We have the chance to support queer creators, or be ones ourselves, and direct where the coming years will take us, but we have to take action. We have the chance to change the world. So let’s get to work.
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