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Summer film and TV preview

The LGBTQ productions that will take you to the ‘Heights’

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Summer is coming, once again, and this time it feels like a pretty big deal. For the first time in more than a year, we can look forward (fingers crossed) to a return to semi-normalcy, and it’s reasonable to make plans for enjoying at least some of our time outside the socially distanced safety of our living rooms.

That said, the waning of COVID also means that the television and film industry has an embarrassment of accumulated riches ready to offer us – and even if we have binge-watched our way through the past 14 months, we say, “Bring it on!”

There’s so much queer-flavored entertainment on deck in the coming few weeks that it can be a bewildering task to keep track of it all. Fortunately, the Blade is here to help, with our list of the movies and shows that seem likely to represent the cream of the crop.

First, the television:

PRIDE (May 14, FX)

Summer LGBTQ film
A scene from ‘PRIDE.’ (Screen capture via YouTube)

This six-part documentary series from VICE studios may have already started, but it’s a great kick off to Pride Season – and thanks to “FX on Hulu,” it’s easy to catch up at your leisure. Chronicling the struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights in America from the 1950s through the 2000s, seven renowned LGBTQ+ directors explore stories of queer experience, from the FBI surveillance of homosexuals during the 1950s “Lavender Scare” to the “Culture Wars” of the 1990s and beyond, exploring the queer legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the battle over marriage equality. Offering profiles of familiar heroes like Bayard Rustin and Christine Jorgensen, as well as of lesser-known figures like Madeleine Tress and Nelson Sullivan, the show charts the evolution of LGBTQ+ rights and identities through interviews and archival footage to provide a valuable perspective on queer history, just in time for Pride month.

SPECIAL (May 20, Netflix)

Max Jenkins and Ryan O’Connell in ‘Special.’ (Photo courtesy Netflix)

Freshly dropped is the second and final season of this surprise hit series from Ryan O’Connell, a semi-autobiographical comedy about a writer with cerebral palsy (played by O’Connell himself) trying to navigate life in the Los Angeles “scene” as a gay man with a disability. The abbreviated (only four episodes) final arc follows Ryan as he tries to “get his shit together” after the disastrous events of season one – including a fight with his mother Karen (Jessica Hecht) that has left them estranged ever since – that have left him with a nasty case of writer’s block. New relationships are also on the horizon for both Ryan and BFF Kim (Punam Patel), and the journey toward self-discovery and self-actualization takes center stage as this disarmingly charming and refreshingly unsentimental comedy – currently the only show on television to feature a disabled LGBTQ person as its main character – comes to a close. Max Jenkins, Charlie Barnett, Ana Ortiz, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lauren Weedman, and Leslie Jordan are among those joining the show for season two, alongside returning cast members Marla Mindelle, Gina Hughes, and Patrick Fabian.

MASTER OF NONE (May 23, Netflix)

Naomi Ackie and Lena Waithe in ‘Master of None.’ (Photo courtesy Netflix)

Returning for a much-anticipated season 3 is this acclaimed series, co-created by Aziz Ansari and Emmy-winner Alan Yang. Always strongly “queer-adjacent” thanks largely to the involvement of Lena Waithe, who played the lesbian character of Denise throughout the first two seasons and became the first Black woman to win a writing Emmy for the episode “Thanksgiving,” based partly on her own experience coming out to her mother. In its third installment, the show takes a radical departure from following Ansari’s lead character (struggling actor Dev Shah) and instead focuses all of its five-episode run on the relationship between Denise and partner Alicia (played by BAFTA-winner Naomi Ackie).

Directed by Ansari, who also co-wrote with Waithe, this new season touts itself as “a modern love story that intimately illustrates the ups and downs of marriage, struggles with fertility, and personal growth both together and apart.” Judging from its past excellence, this new installment is likely to be one of the summer’s best bets.

BALLERINA BOYS (June 4, PBS)

“American Masters” presents a portrait of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (“The Trocks”), an all-male ballet company that has captivated audiences for over 45 years with their signature style – classical ballet en pointe and in drag, delivered with a blend of rigorous technique and satire that challenges the rigid gender norms of the art form – while also delivering a message of equality, inclusion and social justice. This profile from director Chana Gazit follows the legendary troupe as they tour the Carolinas, and culminates with their 2019 performance at the Stonewall 50th anniversary concert in NYC. The hour-long doc broadcasts on June 4 (check your local listings), but it will also be available via the PBS video app in honor of Pride Month.

LOVE, VICTOR (June 11, Hulu)

George Sear and Michael Cimino in ‘Love, Victor.’ (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

The popular teen dramedy, inspired by the hit LGBTQ teen romance “Love, Simon,” returns for season two as the newly out Victor (Michael Cimino) enters his junior year at Creekwood High. As his story continues, Victor faces challenges such as a family struggling with his revelation, his heartbroken ex-girlfriend Mia (Rachel Hilson), and the difficulties of being an openly gay star athlete – all while navigating the excitement of his relationship with new boyfriend Benji (George Sear). Odds are good that this continuation will deliver more of the same blend of heart, humor, and diversity that helped the first season become one of last summer’s must-see highlights. Anthony Turpel, Bebe Wood, Mason Gooding, Isabella Ferreira, Mateo Fernandez, James Martinez, and Ana Ortiz also star.

REUNION ROAD TRIP: QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (June 17, E! Entertainment)

As part of the network’s special event series, “Reunion Road Trip,” the original “Fab Five” – Thom Filicia, Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez – reassemble in Los Angeles to do a makeover for Jai on his 40th birthday. As the group works their magic, they think back to their most heartfelt, meaningful makeovers and the impact on the LGBTQ community then and now, delivering a satisfying (and long overdue) trip down memory lane for fans of one of the most important and influential queer shows in television history. Airs at 9pm PT/ET.

Now for the movies:

PINK – ALL I KNOW SO FAR (May 21, Amazon Prime)
Amazon Studios launches its summer with this intimate documentary about award-winning performer and musician Pink as she embarks on her record-breaking 2019 “Beautiful Trauma” world tour and welcomes audiences to join her chosen family while trying to balance being a mom, a wife, a boss, and a performer. Directed by Michael Gracey (“The Greatest Showman”), this look into the private and public sides of a trailblazing artist – who is also a fierce and vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community, where she has long been a fan favorite – mixes footage from the road with behind-the-scenes interviews and personal material, giving audiences a glimpse behind the curtain of “the circus that she calls life.”

THE SOUND OF IDENTITY (June 1, VOD)

Lucia Lucas in ‘The Sound of Identity.’ (Screen capture via YouTube)

This award-winning documentary from director James Kicklighter profiles international opera star Lucia Lucas as she becomes the first known transgender woman in opera history to perform a principal role. Capturing Lucas on the cusp of international stardom as she prepares for her historic performance at the Tulsa Opera, it showcases the collaborative process between Lucas and her mentor (renowned composer Tobias Picker), as they bring Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” to life – with Lucas, a world-renowned baritone, taking the spotlight and all the pressures that come with it. Along the way, Lucas provides fresh insights into her transition, the professional risk she is taking, and what it means for those who follow. A must-see exploration of the role played by identity in our personal and professional lives, as well as a portrait of an artist at the height of her career.

JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY (June 1, VOD)

Another documentary profile of a pioneering trans artist, this Susan Sandler-directed film takes audiences on an entertaining but emotional roller coaster as it follows the comeback of Julia Scotti – formerly Rick Scotti, who appeared on bills with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock – after her transition during “a time when the words gender dysphoria and gender reassignment surgery were rarely heard.” Shot over a period of five years, this inspirational doc tracks Julia’s triumphant comeback, the rough life on the road, and the complex process of reuniting with her children, as her comedy becomes a shared language of identity, healing, and joy.

SUBLET (June 11, VOD)

John Benjamin Hickey in ‘Sublet.’ (Screen capture via YouTube)

Fans of steamy international LGBTQ cinema can look forward to this film from Israeli director Eytan Fox, whose haunting gay military romance “Yossi & Jagger” broke ground in expanding support for LGBTQ movies in Israel when it was released in 2002. In his latest offering, 50-something American writer Michael (John Benjamin Hickey) travels to Tel Aviv on assignment, where he sublets an apartment from local student – and sexual free spirit – Tomer (Niv Nissim). The young man quickly becomes his tour guide, and as the two spend time together, they soon find themselves exploring more than just the city – despite the clash of generational attitudes between them. Slated to debut at the cancelled-due-to-COVID 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, it’s getting the release it deserves, as a reminder that Pride stretches across all borders.

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (June 18, in Theaters)

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, this documentary profiles its EGOT-winning subject with a look at her 70+ year career, following the beloved performer from her poverty-stricken youth in Puerto Rico, through her time as an all-purpose “ethnic stock player” in Hollywood (even after the triumph of becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar for her role in “West Side Story”), and her eventual rise to the iconic status she enjoys today. It also chronicles not only Hollywood’s not-so-hidden history of racism, sexism, and abuse, but Moreno’s personal struggles – including a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando and her own bout with serious depression – before her talent and resilience allowed her to triumph over adversity, break barriers, and forge a path for new generations of artists to come. The film features extensive interviews with Moreno, as well as George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

IN THE HEIGHTS (June 18, HBO Max and in Theaters)

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera in ‘In the Heights.’ (Photo courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures)

Make no mistake, the long-awaited film adaptation of the 2005 Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel “Hamilton” Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hughes is sure to be the big-ticket movie of the summer. With charismatic bodega-owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) at its center, this sweeping musical portrait of Manhattan’s Washington Heights – a neighborhood mostly populated by immigrant people of color and their families – showcases a remarkable and diverse cast that also includes Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Gregory Diaz IV, Dascha Polanco, Jimmy Smits, Marc Anthony, and Olga Merediz reprising her Broadway role.

The show was a Tony-winning smash onstage for its infectious celebration of community, as well as its uplifting message of following your dreams in the face of adversity. On film, as helmed by “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, it’s a return to triumphant form for the Hollywood musical, executed with breathtaking cinematic vision and a healthy dose of “magical realism” that does nothing to undercut its streetwise swagger – and it’s probably something you should plan to see on the big screen.

After so many months of isolation, you deserve a special treat.

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Sports

Carl Nassib comes out as gay, first active player in NFL history

Nassib also announced that he is donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project

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Carl Nassib. Courtesy of Instagram @carlnassib.

LAS VEGAS – Carl Nassib, who is a fifth-year defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, became the first active NFL player to announce he is gay. The Raiders defensive end is now the NFL’s only openly gay player.

“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in a video he posted on his Instagram account. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life. I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for. I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know I’m not doing this for attention, but I think representation matters.”

Nassib also announced that he is donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project.

“The Trevor Project is grateful to Carl Nassib for living his truth and supporting LGBTQ youth. This generous donation will help us scale our life-saving crisis services to reach the more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth who seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S.,” said Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project in an emailed statement to the Blade.

“Coming out is an intensely personal decision, and it can be an incredibly scary and difficult one to make. We hope that Carl’s historic representation in the NFL will inspire young LGBTQ athletes across the country to live their truth and pursue their dreams. 

“At a time when state lawmakers are actively trying to restrict transgender and nonbinary youth’s participation in school sports, this news should serve as a clarion call for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the locker room and on the field,” Paley added.

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Television

Sesame Street embraces ‘Gay Dads’ for this year’s Pride month

Love is love, and we are so happy to add this special family to our Sesame family and Happy Pride to all!!!!

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Screenshot via Sesame Street YouTube

NEW YORK – The iconic children’s program Sesame Street enhanced LGBTQ visibility this Pride season introducing two gay dads and their daughter, in a special episode directed by Japanese American actor and theatre director Alan Muraoka who also plays Alan, the current owner of Hooper’s Store on the show.

Muraoka shared the exciting news on Facebook, saying he was “honored and humbled” to have directed such a milestone episode, “Love is love, and we are so happy to add this special family to our Sesame family. Happy Pride to all!!!!,” he posted. 

“The ‘Family Day’ episode of Sesame Street sends the simple and important message that families come in all forms and that love and acceptance are always the most important ingredients in a family,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Frank and Dave, as Mia’s dads, are the latest characters in an undeniable trend of inclusion across kids & family programming, one that allows millions of proud LGBTQ parents, and our children, to finally get to see families like ours reflected on TV.”

Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop), which produces the show for National Educational Television on PBS has long embraced LGBGTQ visibility and equality. In addition to having openly gay celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Eichner, Billy Porter and recently Lil Nas X, guest star or make appearances, the show has produced several shows with positive LGBTQ themes over the past decade.

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Sports

Mexico soccer fans punished for anti-gay slur chanted at games

FIFA sanctions team by banning spectators from first 2 World Cup qualifier matches

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Estadio Azteca Mexico City

MEXICO CITY – When the Mexico men’s national team play their all-important 2022 World Cup qualifiers come September and October, they will do so without a single fan cheering them on. As Yahoo Sports first reported, FIFA has sanctioned the team and ordered it to play to an empty home stadium because its fans won’t stop using a controversial chant—widely seen as anti-gay—during matches. 

For years, fans have shouted “puto” during opposing goal kicks at almost all Mexican men’s national team games, a word that one soccer fans site described this way: 

“For some, it’s a harmless word that they’ve been shouting at opposing goalkeepers for decades. For others, it’s a salty, inappropriate swear word you’ll hear at some soccer games. And for many others it’s a homophobic slur that denigrates LGBT individuals and makes attending a soccer game feel like an unsafe space.” 

“On behalf of the FMF, the players, the Liga MX, the clubs and all the national teams: Let’s stop. Let’s stop the fucking cry, please,” said Yon De Luisa, president of the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) at a press conference Friday, as reported by El Economista. “It is taking us away from our team and although many think it is fun, it is not.” 

Coach Gerardo Martino, added: “I invite our fans to make a reflection so that they understand once and for all the meaning and scope of this type of attitude. They are great at cheering, but we ask that you focus exclusively on the selection. We have a great concern.”

The punishment of banning spectators will reportedly impact two World Cup qualifying matches against Jamaica and Canada in September and October at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium. It is in addition to a fine of 60,000 Swiss francs—roughly $65,000 specifically being levied for the chanting of “Eh, puto” at two Olympic qualifying games held in March in Guadalajara, according to Mexico News Daily. An investigation has also reportedly been opened into chanting of the word at Mexico’s friendly against Iceland last month in Arlington, Texas.

Despite what the coach and FMF president said, there are many straight soccer fans who argue against “puto” being considered a slur. Soccer writer Elliot Turner, who has lived and worked in Spain, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, explained that in a 2014 piece for Fusion:

“In Spanish, the term puta means prostitute, and Spanish, like other romance languages, has gendered nouns (a noun is either male or female). Thus, the term puto is the masculine form, meaning a male prostitute. (The feminine form is puta.) 

Did you just get a big tax bill from Uncle Sam? You’re likely to say ‘putos impuestos!’ Did your boss just give you a shitty assignment? You may mutter under your breath ‘puto trabajo.’

‘Puto’ is thus used similarly to ‘bloody’ in the United Kingdom and ‘fucking’ in the United States. It’s pervasive. The chant only reflects the ugly linguistic reality of Latin America and Spain. Everything that provokes rage is a ‘puto.’”

“Puto” can also mean “coward,” Turner argues, and writes “the typical El Tri fan means ‘coward,’ not ‘fag’ or ‘queer.’ And contextually, that has some support. Fans only use the term when the opposing goalkeeper punts the ball up the field.”

But because it also means “faggot,” a clearly hateful slur, Turner concludes the puto chant is “a form of prejudice and homophobia.”

This year, Mexican officials have stepped up efforts to stop the chant but social media campaigns and stadium announcements have failed, according to the Washington Post.

The chant was widely used at Mexico’s June 3 and 6 games against Costa Rica and the U.S., but as Yahoo Sports reported, officials enacted only Step 1 of FIFA’s three-step protocol, which call for match stoppages and PA announcements whenever the chant is heard; temporary match suspensions – with players returning to locker rooms – if the chant is heard again; and forfeits if it arises a third time.

Whether having to watch the team on TV, playing in front of 87-thousand empty seats, has an impact on this fan tradition remains to be seen.

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