Happy new queer: 18 reasons to be excited for LGBTQ arts and culture in 2018
Previewing the year's most notable film, TV, books and music, from The L Word to Xavier Dolan to RuPaul
Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.
Out with the 2017 best-of lists, in with the 2018 preview lists — and frankly, when it comes to anticipated LGBTQ film, TV, music and books, the latter sure was fun to compile. Say what you want about the state of the world, but the next 12 months seem likely to offer up enough queer cheer to get me excited to ride out the apocalypse.
It wasn't easy to narrow down (so please excuse any omissions, and feel free to note what you're excited for in the comments), but here are 18 reasons why 2018 is already on track to be an epic year for LGBTQ arts and culture. (And this is only the stuff already on our radar....)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story and Pose
You don't have to wait long for one of 2018's most anticipated TV events, LGBTQ or otherwise: on January 17, Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story follow-up to the intensely acclaimed The People Vs. O.J. Simpson debuts, and it takes on the events surrounding the 1997 murder of famed fashion designer Gianni Versace. Édgar Ramírez plays Gianni, while Penélope Cruz, Darren Criss and none other than Ricky Martin depict Gianni's sister Donatella, his murderer Andrew Cunanan and his lover Antonio D'Amico, respectively. Between that cast, Murphy's recent track record (see also Feud: Bette & Joan) and the source material (Maureen Orth's meticulous Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History), there's no reason to not expect fabulous things. Same goes for Murphy's as-yet-unscheduled other big 2018 project (does the man sleep?), the dance musical Pose, which is set in 1980s New York and features the largest transgender cast ever for a scripted series.
Buddies in Bad Times's 2018 offerings
Toronto's standard-setting LGBTQ theatre heads into its 40th season in the fall, and while we won't know what's in store for it until a few months from now, it's sure to be as groundbreaking as the 39 that came before it. In the meantime, we still have the second half of its 39th season to be excited about. It kicks off January 10th with Dave Deveau's Vancouver import My Funny Valentine and continues into the spring with the likes of Saga Collectif's Black Boys (returning to Buddies after its stunning debut there in 2016), Guillermo Verdecchia's Bloom and Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken's Mouthpiece. Check out the whole program here.
Casey Plett's debut novel
Vancouver's Arsenal Pulp Press annually offers many reasons to be excited for new LGBTQ lit, and 2018 is no exception. Windsor-based writer Casey Plett (who notably wrote this wonderful piece for CBC Arts a year ago this week) will see her debut novel Little Fish released through Arsenal come April. It follows Wendy Reimer, a 30-year-old trans woman in Winnipeg who comes across evidence that her late grandfather — a devout Mennonite farmer — might have been transgender himself. The book has already received quite the rave from Plett's fellow trans author Meredith Russo: "I have never felt as seen, understood or spoken to as I did when I read Little Fish. Never before in my life. Casey remains one of THE authors to read if you want to understand the interior lives of trans women in this century."
Conversion therapy: the movies
Not one but two adaptations of acclaimed books dealing with gay "conversion therapy" arrive this year with an extraordinary amount of talent behind them. Later this month, director Desiree Akhavan (whose first film Appropriate Behaviour is fantastic) will premiere her adaptation of Emily M. Danforth's book The Miseducation of Cameron Post at Sundance. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher, Jr., Forrest Goodluck and Jennifer Ehle, it follows a young Montana girl who is sent to "de-gaying" camp by her conservative aunt. Then, in September, we'll get the male perspective via Joel Edgerton's adaptation of Garrard Conley's memoir Boy Erased. Lucas Hedges will play the lead opposite a dreamy cast that includes Edgerton himself, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Cherry Jones, Flea, Troye Sivan and our very own Xavier Dolan.
The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Speaking of Xavier Dolan, it's going to be a big 2018 for the Montrealer, who — in addition stepping in front of the camera for Boy Erased — will be offering us the first look at his highly anticipated seventh directorial effort, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. His first film in English, it too has quite the cast in Jessica Chastain, Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon and Thandie Newton. Harington plays the title role, a closeted American TV star who begins a correspondence with an 11-year-old British boy (Tremblay). Dolan chatted a bit about the project to CBC Arts last summer.
Dee Rees's lesbian horror film
If you haven't seen Dee Rees's Mudbound, it was one of the best films of 2017 and is available on Netflix right now. Her follow-up may or may not be ready by the end of 2018, but whenever it comes out you can be rest assured anticipation will be sky high. In May of last year, it was announced that Rees would be teaming up with Get Out producer Jason Blum for "an untitled horror project centred on the domestic lives of black lesbians in rural America." Consider us beyond sold, whether it's this year or next.
Freddie Mercury and Oscar Wilde biopics
Two of the most legendary icons of LGBTQ culture will be depicted on big screens in 2018, via Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince and Dexter Fletcher's Bohemian Rhapsody. The former (debuting at Sundance this month) stars Everett himself as Oscar Wilde, while the latter (set for a Christmas release and already the source of controversy after Bryan Singer was replaced by Fletcher as the director last month) has Rami Malek taking on the role of Freddie Mercury. How each handles their subject's sexuality remains to be seen, but it's hard not to be very curious about both.
Him or Her
Issa Rae will be a very, very busy woman in 2018. In addition to working on the third season of Insecure and co-starring in the film The Hate U Give, Rae has two new TV projects in development at HBO, including Him or Her, a single camera half-hour that details the dating life of a bisexual Black man and "the distinctly different worlds and relationships he finds himself in." Rae will produce the series alongside openly bisexual writer Travon Free, whose credits include The Daily Show and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.
I'm Afraid of Men
Speaking of very busy people, Canadian writer, musician and filmmaker Vivek Shraya is following up a big 2017 with a new book, I'm Afraid of Men. According to this interview with CBC Books, it'll explore the writer's experience with "toxic masculinity" and "reflect on its pervasive manifestations as sexual harassment and abuse, homophobia, transphobia and bullying." Says Shraya: "With this book I really wanted to explore the lifelong pressures of masculinity I've endured, and the urgent need to reimagine traditional ideas about gender." Penguin Canada will publish the book this fall.
Joshua Whitehead's debut novel
This list has already made clear it's going to be a notable year for LGBTQ Canadian literature, and here's yet another reason why: not even a year after releasing poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer, Joshua Whitehead's debut novel Jonny Appleseed will be out in April from our friends at Arsenal Pulp Press. Being marketed as "a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter and dreams," the book follows the titular character, a young two-spirit/Indigiqueer "trying to find ways to live and love in the big city."
A Kid Called Jake
The Sundance Film Festival is always a huge launching pad for LGBTQ cinema (see Call Me By Your Name last year) and we've already mentioned a few films that will be premiering there later this month. Well, here's one more: A Kid Like Jake, the latest film from Silas Howard (who will also be directing episodes of the aforementioned series Pose). Starring Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Amy Landecker, Ann Dowd, Priyanka Chopra and Octavia Spencer, Jake follows a married couple (Danes and Parsons) at odds over how to approach parenting their four-year-old son when he begins to express gender identity concerns.
Love, Simon and Leah on the Offbeat
Just try and watch the above trailer for Love, Simon and not cry — perhaps simply because it's for a movie that actually exists. A studio-produced coming out film that is going to receive a wide release, Love, Simon could change many young folks' lives in the process (it sure would have changed mine if it came out in 1999). Based on Becky Albertalli's best-selling young adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the film stars Nick Robinson as a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality. Out this March, you can get a head start by reading the book it's based on, and then come April you can read Albertalli's sequel, Leah on the Offbeat.
After making waves with his 2013 short film Rough Trade, Canadian filmmaker Drew Lint will be premiering his feature debut M/M at the Slamdance Film Festival (which runs adjacent to Sundance and showcased many Canadians last year). Its synopsis is enticing: "Wayward Canadian Matthew, crushed by the isolation of being new to Berlin, turns his sexual desires toward Matthias that spiral into a dark fixation of assumed identity. Soon, this obsessive power struggle between the two careens toward brutal passion and violence in a bid for dominance."
Reboots, revivals and remakes, oh my!
2017 may have brought us the return of Will & Grace, but that was just the beginning. On tap for 2018? More Will & Grace, Showtime rebooting The L Word with much of the cast returning, Netflix bringing back both Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and Tales of the City, and Shonda Rhimes teaming up with Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg for a Stateside adaptation of Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies' brilliant British series Cucumber and Banana (both excellent if you haven't seen). It seems very likely that a Queer as Folk reboot itself is not far behind.
Sodom Road Exit
Vancouver's Amber Dawn has a new book out this March, and if her Lambda Literary Award-winning novel Sub Rosa (2010), the Vancouver Book Award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life (2013), and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize-nominated poetry collection Where the words end and my body begins (2015) have anything to say about it, it's going to be a 2018 literary highlight. Set in the summer of 1990, Sodom Road Exit is described as "at once a compelling family melodrama and a lesbian supernatural thriller," which is such an unlikely genre blend that it's easy to get behind.
Two new seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race
There will be so much lip-syncing for lives in 2018. On January 25, the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race: All-Stars will kick off, bringing back the likes of Trixie Mattell, Chi Chi DeVayne, Aja and BenDeLaCreme, among others. And then at some point in the spring we'll get the 10th season proper of Drag Race, sure to be packing bars with the show's growing hives of enthusiasts every Friday night. 2018 shall once again prove there's no such thing as too much RuPaul.
Uzodinma Iweala's Speak No Evil
Nigerian author and physician Uzodinma Iweala's 2005 debut novel Beasts of No Nation won rave reviews and was adapted into the award-winning 2015 film of the same name. Over a decade later, Iweala has written his follow up, and it sounds extraordinary. Featuring a queer protagonist, it's already been called a "a wrenching, tightly woven story about many kinds of love and many kinds of violence" by The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar. And we can discover it for ourselves when Speak No Evil is released on March 6th.
Years & Years' new album
It's not quite been years and years since Olly Alexander and company graced us with their 2015 debut album Communion, but it's close enough to feel impatient for its follow-up. And it looks promising that 2018 will mark the end of that wait. Last March, Alexander already said the band had been in the studio for a few months and that we can expect something that sounds a little like Donna Summer meets Loose-era Nelly Furtado. Which I don't know about you, but that's exactly the kind of soundtrack I want for my 2018.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what LGBTQ arts and culture you're excited for in the comments.