Inclusive media highlights to brighten a stressful break

Image credit: Netflix via YouTube

Let’s take a break from revision, heteronormativity, and gender binaries this Easter break. The following books, TV shows, and films subvert the traditional white male protagonist trope and try to capture sexuality in non-traditional ways.

Orlando: A Biography is a fantastic book that transcends gender binaries and centuries. It was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West, and both were part of the Bloomsbury Group, which was known for its liberal views on sexuality. Orlando is a nobleman in the 16th century who gets granted eternal life but changes gender at some point throughout the book. It is a fascinating read with hilarious moments but it also criticises the expected roles of women in society and how gender non-conforming people are treated badly. The film adaptation, directed by Sally Potter, is equally inclusive and Tilda Swinton perfectly captures the ambiguous gender role.

If you want to go on a Netflix binge this break, Queer Eye is a good contester for a few hours of inclusive and positive representation of sexuality. It is a surprisingly refreshing show that does not play with overhauled stereotypes, but does deal with the difficulties of coming out, and the Black Lives Matter campaign. A team called the Fab 5 give a wide range of men a makeover to help them feel more confident and able to achieve their goals. The show encourages healthy relationships and includes diverse personalities and tastes. Definitely watch it if you feel revision is becoming a bit too much and you need something to cheer you up. Other great inclusive shows on Netflix are Sense 8Grace and Frankie, London Spy, and Please Like Me.

Moonlight is another highly inclusive film in which the introverted Chiron has to navigate his sexuality and the societal expectations of masculinity and race. This slowly unfolding and magnificently crafted coming-of-age story follows his early life in three acts and culminates in the acceptance of his sexuality. The film focuses on black lives, which is in contrast to an industry that produces films famous for whitewashing and often devoid of any BME characters. The film is set in a Miami neighbourhood with no white person in sight, and concerns a narrative that explores black struggles and the dichotomy of nature versus nurture. The film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards last year and it was encouraging to see that this year has had many other inclusive contenders like A Fantastic WomanCall Me by Your Name, and The Shape of Water, all of which are worth watching.

If you are more into poetry than prose, Ocean Vuong might be up your alley. His poetry includes themes like his Vietnamese heritage and his homosexuality. Initially, he did not want to be defined as an Asian or gay poet but has since acknowledged the importance of spaces where queer and ethnic literature is paid attention to. He emphasises that this is crucial in order to break down stereotypes and cultural walls. His poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds won several prizes — an impressive feat since he is only 29 years old. His poetry is not gay for the sake of being gay but beautifully captures his experiences and feelings.

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