We're Here, We're Queer

We’re In A Queer Content Renaissance. How Do We Keep It Going?

· Updated on October 4, 2023

August has been a massive month for queer representation on screen, no matter what you’re into.

Cheesy rom-coms? Head over to Amazon for Red, White & Royal Blue. Family-friendly fun? Netflix has you covered with Heartstopper’s second season. Raunchy comedy? Head out to the cinema to catch new indie flick Bottoms, hitting theaters this Friday.

Indeed, we’re in the midst of what you could call a queer content renaissance, with multiple queer stories pulling in viewers across the media landscape.

“My fear is that it’s a fluke,” Matthew López, director of Red, White & Royal Blue, told Variety in a recent interview. “My hope is that it represents a willingness to allow queer filmmakers and queer storytellers to own their work in ways that I think we’ve never been allowed to before. We are not a monolith. We have as many stories inside of us as there are queer individuals who are telling stories.”

So, what sets this month’s deluge of queer content apart from the scattered queer stories of years past? An appeal to underserved audiences, for one thing.

Take Heartstopper. Its first season was an unprecedented success back in 2022, and with its new second season, the graphic novel adaptation has proven it has staying power. A big part of that is its unique appeal to a queer teen audience, a massive (yet underrepresented) demographic.

“We were trying to make a show that appealed widely to all ages, but specifically to the younger teen audience,” Patrick Walters, executive producer of Heartstopper, told Variety. “And there just wasn’t a show like that.”

“We said to Netflix, ‘You’ve got to be part of this because it’s doing something that’s not been done before, and that’s really exciting,’” Walters continued.

Then there’s the matter of genre. Queer stories are easy to box into categories like coming-of-age and romance, but of course, queer people exist everywhere and should be visible in every genre.

That’s a banner Bottoms proudly carries. The movie, which centers on two teenage lesbians starting a fight club to attract the hot girls at their school, harkens back to the teen sex comedies of the early 2000s, stark white void poster and all.

“I wanted to bring [that genre] back, and part of bringing it back for me is making it queer and female driven,” Emma Seligman, director and co-writer of Bottoms, told Variety. “But that doesn’t change the genre. It’s just our version of it.”

Of course, queer creatives can’t do it alone. The third all-important ingredient to this wave of queer stories is support from higher-ups, and though major studios aren’t anyone’s favorite at the moment due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes, they can’t be faulted for giving a platform to queer storytellers.

“It is not very in vogue for a member of the WGA to say anything nice about a studio,” said López of Amazon Studios, which produced Red, White & Royal Blue. “So I’m saying this as a member of the DGA: I had real support from the studio to make this movie. I never went begging for more cash.”

Walters agreed that studios have changed their tune around queer content. “When I started out, you’d have one queer show in the U.K. on TV a year — or every other year — and that was it,” he said. “It was a niche thing: One and done, and then we move on to more ‘mainstream’ stories.”

Finally, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case. This year’s already produced a plethora of queer stories to be remembered as classics, and it’s not slowing down. Andrew Haigh’s All Of Us Strangers, starring Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott, just made headlines for the first look at its central romance, long before it gets a wide release this December. And movie buffs are already clamoring for the U.S. release of French romance Passages, which promises sex and intrigue in a queer love triangle.

“I think the real danger, in terms of being a queer producer and queer creative, is that you don’t go, ‘OK, we’ve done that one thing, and we’re not going to get it again, so we’re not going to ask again,’” Walters said. “You have to keep going back to the decision-makers. There is such an appetite for all different types of queer stories. We should keep going.”♦

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