Image description: Stills and photos (left to right) of The Handmaiden (2016), Dorian Electra, Druck (2018-present), and Rina Sawayama, with heart and stars doodles on top.
Article and header image by: Adele Lukusa
The ‘10s have more than provided on the frontier of LGBTQ+ media. From film, to music, podcasts — we’ve made great strides in including and creating media that is created for and by, as well as includes, LGBTQ+ folks. The beginning of the 10’s brought us Glee, Rupaul and Lady Gaga, and the list has only grown longer with undeniable icons such as Billy Porter, Janet Mock, and Lil Nas X. As we begin a new decade, let’s not forget the great albums, films and, shows that might’ve had gone under the radar due to the almost overwhelming amount of queer media that has spread across the world.
But no fear — We’ve come up with a list packed with all sorts of LGBTQ+ media from the last decade to catch up on in this new year. Risen Zine presents 15 underrated LGBTQ+ media of the last decade (in no particular order):
Image description: A portrait of author, Gabby Rivera. (Source: Julieta Salgado)
I hate to give too much away about this book, so to cut is short — Gabby Rivera's Juliet Takes A Breath is an ode to every sapphic woman of colour, specifically to latinx lesbians, out there dealing with the intersectionalities of race and sexuality. As a latina lesbian herself, Rivera understands the ways in which WLWOC make their way throughout their world, their struggles with coming out and talking about sexuality with family, in contrast to the alienating and often violent experiences sapphic women of color have with white sapphics. This book was a heartwarming but also cathartic and relatable read and is still, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read to this day.
There’s something so sweet about watching friends become lovers — and Christopher Barzak just gets it. Wonder of the Invisible World throws the reader into a fantastic, wholesome and adventurous fantasy set in present-day midwestern where a seemingly ordinary teenager, Aiden Lockwood, gets thrown headfirst into. Anyone who is a big fan of magical realism and wholesome gay stories will love this tale, so I beg you to run for your nearest bookstore or library and devour this book as soon as possible.
Image description: A still of actor Luka Kain as Ulysses, from Damon Cardasis’ Saturday Church. (Source: Samuel Goldwyn Films)
While not particularly advertised as a sapphic film — Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favorite is a blend of comedy, politics, and drama spun tightly between three 18th century English women, one being Queen Anne, and their fight for power and love. The film focuses less on historical accuracy and more on the dynamics between these strong and complicated women, which only makes the added lesbian love triangle an unexpected but welcome edge to these characters. The three leads — played by Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Olivia Coleman — have excellent chemistry and made this film so enjoyable. Seeing sapphic women have the space to be complicated and unique, to teeter between good and evil, is riveting to watch.
Watch Luka Kain and MJ Rodriguez deliver vocals, moves and more in Damon Cardasis’ 2017 musical Saturday Church. The film follows a fairly typical path of discovery, following an effeminate boy figuring out his identity, but what sets it apart is that it has a majority Black cast who give their all in this film. Despite the often awkward placing of musical scenes and lyrics, what makes Saturday Church such a compelling watch is the earnestness and honest storytelling, not to mention Kain’s ease and finesse when it came to voguing. (PS: This film also marks Pose co-star Indya Moore’s first acting role!).
There’s something odd, but heartwarming, to see Nick Offerman play a character that’s as emotive as his character Frank, but his relationship with on-screen daughter, Kiersey Clemons, makes it all the better to watch. As Frank prepares Sam (and himself) as she leaves home for college, their indie-pop hit — a result from one of their many jam sessions — goes viral, and Frank struggles with letting her daughter go or living out his rockstar dreams. While that plays out, Sam has a budding romance with Rose, played by Sasha Lane. This story is a lighthearted, sweet somewhat comedy with a dash of drama, with a nice soundtrack to boot. If you needed any more convincing to watch this film, Rose suggests Sam listen to Mitski (which she does!) — how much gayer could it get?
Now, not many films directed and/or written by cishet men are able to capture the beauty of lesbian romance — but Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden? Made several points. I can’t remember having as much fun watching a film as I did with this one. Every single part of this movie is exquisite — from the acting, to the score, to the pacing, to the cinematography and I could truly go on. It’s based on Sarah Waters’ The Fingersmith, and I promise you it is worth every single minute. The film revolves around a scheme organized by a Korean pickpocket and a conman to swindle a Japanese heiress out of her inheritance, which gets complicated when the woman falls for the pickpocket acting as her maid.
The trailer alone is phenomenal and deserves several, if not all, Oscars. I know it’s been four years since, but it’s never too late to give thanks to a literal classic.
Image description: The leading cast of Now Apocolypse, (left to right) Roxane Mesquida, Beau Mirchoff, Avan Jogia, and Kelli Berglund. (Source: Katrina Marcinowski for Starz)
Have you ever wondered how the Norwegian web series Skam would look like in different countries and languages? Probably not — but there’s no need to imagine, as there are remakes after remakes being released worldwide. One that is close to my heart is Druck, Skam’s German counterpart, most notably their third season (that I unabashedly skipped to). While most remakes go for recreating the series almost scene by scene, Druck takes some liberties in their rendition, which is most evident in their casting of Lukas Alexander, a trans actor, to play the role of the new kid in school as a (closeted) trans teen, David Schreiber. This interpretation might not have been as layered and meticulous as the original third season of Skam, but it definitely brings a different side, not only by making one of the boys transgender, but also through the dynamic between Matteo and David. The two are softer, seemingly younger than Evak, paired with the magnetic chemistry between these actors, this season is definitely worth bingeing with friends.
In full Gregg Araki, fashion comes STARZ’ short-lived series Now Apocalypse. It’s bright and cheesy and colorful — combining all of Araki’s favorite things: aliens, comedy, Los Angeles, drugs, beautiful people, and unabashed queerness. Honestly, this show is best enjoyed if you like wholesome but somewhat realistic stories of dumb people getting into dumber situations, with a splash of bizarre, unexplainable side plots. Although most come into the show under the impression that the relationship between Avan Jogia’s Uly and Tyler Posey’s Gabriel as the focal point, the real romance worth staying for is between Uly and Isaac, played by Glee’s Jacob Artist. The chemistry between Artist and Jogia is light years ahead of Uly and Gabriel’s. Not to mention Beau Mirchoff as Ford, Uly’s hopelessly straight and all-around clueless best friend (serving us himbo realness) is nothing if not a hilarious, and alarmingly sweet character, I admittedly was surprised I liked so much.
Now Apocalypse is wacky, unique, weird, and just an all-around fun time — cop a STARZ subscription and watch this as soon as you can.
Image description: A screencap of artist Dua Saleh's music video "Sugar Mama". (Source: Braden Lee)
For all the folks out there who love hyper weird, maximalist, and glittery pop — then Dorian Electra is the right fit for you. I had the chance to see them perform before they released their debut album as Rina Sawayama’s opening act and they were quite literally electric. Once they slid onto the stage, donned with their signature dyed blue hair and pencil-thin mustache, and I heard the lines "You know I ain't straight / But Ima say it straight to you" — it was a wrap. I had to listen to them. Their debut album Flamboyant is filled with dance-worthy, flirty and fun tracks (on the same wave as Charli XCX's Femmebot, which they feature on) paired with bold and bright music videos, with lyrics you can't help but want to laugh and sing along to.
Every single day, I give thanks to sir Kevin Abstract for introducing me to Ryan Beatty (again), because Boy In Jeans is truly an Album™. I first learned the name Ryan Beatty through my sister, at 14 years old, as she sang off-key to his bubblegum pop hits at the time — which is why when I heard his voice in Brockhampton songs, then was recommended to listen to Boy In Jeans, my sister reminded me that was the same guy who gave us “Hey L.A” which - wow - what a journey.
Although Ryan Beatty has stayed within the pop genre, Boy In Jeans is unforgettable unlike his first singles — it takes the seemingly always-summer aspect that Brockhampton’s so good at capturing, but spun in Ryan Beatty fashion, with a nice helping of sweet, gay longing on the side. There’s something about the tenderness of tracks like “Cupid” and “Party’s Over” that hooked me, but upbeat bops like “Powerslide” has me replaying the album to this day. Boy In Jeans is the perfect soundtrack to a gay love story, and I will continue to hype this album until it finds a place on TV or film that matches its dreamy, warm, and hopeful energy.
11. Nūr by Dua Saleh
After scouring Spotify’s genre of music titled “escape room”, I stumbled upon Sudanese-American artist Dua Saleh’s “Warm Pants”. It wasn’t an instantaneous click, but the name was familiar and something about their voice told me to come back to them. Fast forward a couple of months later, listening to spoken word was when I realized where I knew the name from — their raw and lyrical poem Pins and Needles was one of my favorite spoken word pieces from Button Poetry. Listening to their past poems only makes more sense when comparing it to their tracks like Sugar Mama, giving us mouthy and vibrant lyrics minutes into the song, I had to become a fan. Their recent single “Pretty Kitten”, as well as COLOURS’ performance only solidifies their place within my heart, and only makes me excited for what’s next for Saleh.
The first time I heard “Take Me As I Am” it was over — I was an instant fan. I played this 2000s Britney-esque dance track at home, in school, on the bus, in the shower — anytime I could, I would play that song. And the wonderful EP that that song comes from is pure gold. Sawayama with Clarence Clarity producing her tracks by her side? A duo made in heaven. It’s been three years since that eight-track EP landed in my lap, and I’m still listening to it to this day. Seeing her perform live only solidified my love — Sawayama is clearly a force to be reckoned with; she has the tunes, vocal capability, lyricism, style, and dance moves to match and she’s only getting better with each passing day.
Although she was underrated in the ‘10s, I know without a doubt Miss Sawayama is going to kill it this next decade - it’s undeniable. Singles like “Flicker” and “STFU” only further proves that she’s a pop star with incredible range, and she’s here to stay.
Image description: A watercolor painting of a canyon in different shades of red, for The Whisperforge’s audio drama Caravan. (Source: Marina Vermilion)
13. GayV Club
They may have only started out in late 2019, but they have without a doubt had an impact on my taste in films. I’ve never really been a movie-watching person but listening to hosts Deah and Merry go on about the good, bad, and ugly of LGBTQ+ cinema only makes me even more excited for this next decade and all the gay ass films to come. They’re on a break right now — so make sure to catch up before their next episode, so that you too can contemplate on the endless list of terrible gay biopics, how critics did Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post dirty, and the dozens of Xavier Dolan films you need to binge ASAP.
From the longest-running queer theatre, comes The Youth/Elders Podcast, that centers around intergenerational conversations between LGBTQ+ community members of Toronto, Ontario. Since hearing Evalyn Parry talk about Buddies in Bad Times’ first project to connect young and old LGBTQ+ people of all walks of life, I knew I had to listen to this podcast. It is insightful, funny at times, and honest to God just a good listen. For those who’d like to hear the perspectives of queer Canadians, I can’t recommend this podcast enough, specifically their episode on the holidays. Whether or not you relate to their experiences, there is no doubt you’ll learn something new listening to it.
For my Now Apocalypse fans who just finished the season and are aching for a story with a gay South Asian lead being dumb, funny and sexy? Well, this audio drama is perfect for you! Take a trip to one of the seven rings of hell with Samir, who quite literally falls into this world filled with demons, vampires, cowboys and more. If this is your first dip into an audio drama, I’d advise you to buckle your seatbelt — because this audio drama is wild, but such a great listen. And for those who aren’t into podcasts, for serious or silly reasons — they have full, descriptive transcripts available on their site!
Fun fact: Caravan was crowned “the horniest podcast of 2019” and honestly? It fits!