Gone are the days when queer characters on screen were one-dimensional sidekicks present only for comic effect. And we are glad. They might have been the pioneers of queer politics on screen, but we have long moved past that. With Heartstopper season 2, and Red, White and Royal Blue lined up for release this August, it is going to be a pretty packed month when it comes to queer representation on screen. While waiting, catch up on these recent shows and films that show heartfelt and realistic depictions of queer characters.
- My School President (2022-23)
This Thai BL series is the cutest queer romcom on the block. Gun, the leader of his school music band, Chinzilla, is determined to save the music club from getting scrapped. The odds are against his favour till he ropes in help from the school president, Tinn, not knowing that the latter has a crush on him. My School President is deceptively simple but shows a beautiful story of growing up, acceptance and discovering your sexuality. There is no exaggerated hue and cry when Tinn and Gun confess they like each other. It is a reflective, private and precious moment.
At the same time, they face discrimination from around them and realise how hard acceptance can be to come by. In a touching scene from the show, Tinn’s father tells his strict but caring mother, who is shocked to know of her son’s relationship and is worried about people’s judgement, “We should be our son’s peace of mind when he comes home.”
The show is a delightful watch with the hilariously chaotic band members and their adventures, foot tapping OSTs, and at the same time, sensible depictions. Queer shows do not always need to be tragic to be sensible and My School President certainly proves that.
- Queens of the Qing Dynasty (2023)
Shrouded in an air of wistfulness, mystery and yet, deeply relatable, this movie is a heartfelt tale of friendship and love between two queer teens. As The New York Times noted, it portrays queerness the way Bell Hooks stated it is, “as a “self that is at odds with everything around it.”
The protagonists of the movie are Star, a suicidal teenager who gets admitted to the psych ward after an attempt and An, a Shanghainese exchange student volunteering at the hospital. The landscape of the movie is hauntingly absurd, with Star, neurodivergent and struggling to grasp the reality around her and An, who wants to transition and tells tales of Chinese courtesans.
Star and An bond over a flurry of texts that at once draw them closer but also, keep them apart. Their friendship eventually moves on to a deeper bond. There is no extraordinary tale of realisation but instead, a search for a meaningful connection that both the leads seek within themselves as well as with each other.
- Monica (2023)
As a queer person, dealing with family can often be difficult. In Monica, the titular character is a trans woman who had been kicked out of her house by her mother, Eugenia, when she was a teenager. Years later, she gets called back home by her sister-in-law because Eugenia is fatally sick. Monica had lost all contact with her mother who had refused to accept her identity but she decides to make the journey back home anyway.
However, Eugenia is not able to recognise her due to her tumour-addled brain and Monica’s transition since she left home. Nevertheless, Monica strives to forge a bond with her, caring for her under the assumption that she is a regular care nurse. An emotional bond forms once again between the two which makes for a heartfelt watch. Monica is a quiet and emotional film without any melodramatic bombast.
- Our Flag Means Death (2022)
Looking for a good laugh? Don’t miss this wonderfully refreshing drama. Although there are only ten episodes for now, it is enough to gauge that this series is a lowkey gem. Featuring Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby as two pirates who fall in love, this series brings an eclectic mix of pirates, queer identities and sensible humour together. Darby stars as Captain Stede Bonnet who aspires to become a pirate but is not very good at it. While on his adventures on the high seas with a mostly disgruntled motley crew, he encounters the fearsome pirate, Blackbeard.
At times, it might seem there are just too many things going on in the series with none of them finding any footing. Nevertheless, it redeems itself through the casts’ performances. It has moments of subtle retrospection and charged chemistry. A second season is on the way and we can’t wait to see what our favourite pirates are up to, once again!
- Drag Me to Dinner (2023)
Looking for a queer reality show? Well, here is the perfect one featuring some of the biggest names in drag. In each episode, four drag queens get together in teams of two to face off in a thematic dinner party challenge.
You will be left in awe of the presentations which include everything from décor to food and even cocktails. The creativity showcased in this series is chaos and entertainment all at once. Get some inspo as well as catch up on fun content!
- Moonlight Chicken (2023)
Moonlight Chicken is a compelling series that intertwines themes of queer exploration, infidelity, and teenage romance. Set in Phuket, the story follows the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect, leading them on a journey of self-discovery and emotional turmoil. Jim runs the Moonlight Chicken Diner, a small but popular chicken rice joint. One night, he bonds with Wen, a drunk customer and they spend the night together.
However, Wen still lives with his ex-boyfriend and they have unresolved issues between them. At the same time, Jim’s nephew, Liming befriends Heart, who has recently turned deaf due to an illness. Although they start off on the wrong foot, the two eventually form a deep emotional connection as they both comfort each other in their struggles of growing up and discovering their sexuality.
Only eight episodes long, Moonlight Chicken is deep in its explorations. It tackles multiple topics in a realistic and sensible manner. The characters and their relationships with each other, even beyond the main pairings, are worth watching.