What makes a TV moment gay? Is it just about including gay or otherwise queer characters in stories about them? Is it centering on queer love stories specifically? Or is it some more ethereal element, one that we only know when we see it?
Whatever makes them such, the following six scenes and stories from TV in 2017 stick out to us as the gayest. They’re celebratory, triumphant, painful, or hilarious some all four at the same time. They resonated with us long beyond their airing, and stick in our minds as we remember the television year as a whole. They are the half-dozen best, brightest, and gayest parts of the televisual year; let us explain why.
Elena’s coming out
What show: One Day at a Time
Who: Isabella Gomez
What made it gay: Netflix’s revival of a classic Norman Lear sitcom this time, cast with a Cuban family in Echo Park, California could have been a schmaltz-fest. A laugh track and a slew of Very Special Episode themes seemed to spell doom in the far-different 2017 television climate, after all. Credit the show’s immense charm for beating the odds, matched with some of the best, most clever, most heartfelt sitcom writing TV’s seen in a minute. No plot better exemplified this than when teen daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) came out. The story was sensitively handled, progressing naturally (first accidentally telling her brother, then choosing to tell the rest of her family). It had plenty of conflict, as Elena learned her birth father wasn’t supportive, even walking out on her at her quinceañera. But then the story ended with Elena’s chosen family her mom, brother, grandmother, landlord, and mom’s boss dancing with her as one, supporting her through her process. If you didn’t tear up at the season finale, you weren’t paying attention.
What show: The Handmaid’s Tale
Who: Alexis Bledel
What made it gay: No story on TV this year was quite as heart-wrenching as Ofglen’s. As portrayed by Alexis Bledel, Ofglen real name Emily suffered the worst abuse of The Handmaid’s Tale’s fictional theocracy, the Republic of Gilead. First, like all the fertile women in the Hulu series’ world, she was captured and enslaved to work as a handmaid. Then, upon the discovery that she is a lesbian, she was mutilated and made to watch as her partner was killed. And finally, she was put right back to work, drained of the rebellious spirit she had before. So one crucial scene, when Emily took command of a car against all the rules of the Republic, plays as a particularly triumphant one. She takes brief, beautiful agency in her life, even using the car to kill one Gileadean soldier. It was a short rebel yell, but watching the scene of a queer woman fighting for herself, it’s easy to feel energized and ready to fight oppressive forces in our own world, too.
Lionel’s straight crush
What show: Dear White People
Who: DeRon Horton
What made it gay: Who hasn’t been in Lionel’s shoes, crushing on our hot, straight roommate? It’s a sad experience, but a uniquely collegiate one, and one creator Justin Simien depicts perfectly in Netflix’s Dear White People. As Lionel, DeRon Horton nails the protagonist’s pining for the gorgeous Troy (Brandon P. Bell). Of course, considering Lionel is writing a profile on Troy, the ethics of the situation are murky at best. Credit Dear White People for indulging Lionel’s longing only up to a point before providing him with a much-needed reality check. It’s easy to sympathize with Lionel, as well as cheer him once he finally outgrows his crush and finds real affection with someone else a bit more available by season’s end.
Valentina doesn’t know the words
109a. Nina Bo’nina Brown vs. Valentina – Greedy (Take 1) pic.twitter.com/UpY57hQ06s
— santa tell me if he really cares 🎅🏼🎄 (@lgbtvelour) May 21, 2017
What show: RuPaul’s Drag Race
What made it gay: This was pure insanity, one of the best lip syncs in RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory. Because it was good? Oh, no: Because when it came time to defeat Nina Bo’Nina Brown in a lip sync, season nine frontrunner Valentina completely fell apart. She didn’t know the words to Ariana Grande’s “Greedy,” and failed to cover for her mistake in any reasonable way. An attempt to keep her face covered by a mask was met with indignation by host RuPaul in one of the most gasp-worthy gay moments of TV this year. Sometimes, the gayest TV is political, or evocative, or heartbreaking. Sometimes, it’s a gonzo clip of a drag queen getting demolished in a lip sync. Months later, we’re still living for it.
Kat and Adena’s airport sleepover
What show: The Bold Type
Who: Aisha Dee and Nikohl Boosheri
What made it gay: An interracial relationship between a black and Arab woman? On a Freeform show about a women’s magazine? Believe the hype: The Bold Type is one of the year’s best programs, with two of the most wonderful characters in Kat (Aisha Dee) and her closet key Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). Their love was destined to be strained by distance, but in the season’s penultimate episode, their airport terminal sleepover gave us the couple story we’d been looking forward to all season. If you’ve not yet checked out The Bold Type, the holidays are the right time to enjoy.
What show: Will & Grace
Who: Sean Hayes and Jet Jurgensmeyer
What made it gay: The last thing we expected of the Will & Grace revival was a thoughtful, sharp take on conversion therapy camps. But lo and behold, we got it, paired with a heartwarming episode about Jack (Sean Hayes) meeting his biological grandson. It’s easily the gayest, most progressive episode of a show that can sometimes feel like gay content for straight people no shade, just an important distinction. But watching Jack and his grandson, Skip, bond over Lady Gaga, not to mention the former’s emotional tribute to the latter being just the way he his, was enough to leave us sobbing. “Grandpa Jack” is perhaps the most pleasantly surprising TV episode of the year.