Sights and sounds: The Lavender Tube on shootings, shrinks and 'Swarm'

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday April 4, 2023
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Covenant School mass shooter Aiden/Audrey Hale (ABC7)
Covenant School mass shooter Aiden/Audrey Hale (ABC7)

When was the last time an LGBTQ person was headline news and it was a good thing? If you said "never," you'd be right. When people ask us why we still work in LGBTQ media, the reason is always the same: balance.

The reveal that the suspect in America's latest horrifying school shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville was a trans man, Aiden/Audrey Hale, 28, was a shock. And beyond the horror of the shooting itself and the lives it took, the shooter's gender identity has been used by the GOP to ramp up attacks on trans people, which are already dangerously rabid.

Never mind that all but four mass shootings have been perpetrated by men with guns. Now the GOP is reifying their mantras about the dangers of trans people. Yet we know — as do Democratic politicians like the President and Vice President — trans people are actually disproportionately victims of violence, not perpetrators of it.

According to their social media, Hale began transitioning a few months prior to the March 27 assault that killed three children and three school staffers. The transition came after the death of a female partner, according to a former teacher, Maria Colomy. (The Daily Beast)

Hale was under the care of a doctor for an "emotional disorder," according to Nashville Police Chief John Drake and had stockpiled seven assault weapons while lying to their parents, with whom they lived and who believed Hale should not own weapons, that the one weapon Hale admitted to having had been sold.

Moments before the shooting began, Hale texted a former high school basketball teammate, Averianna Patton. The messages to Patton read, "This is basically a suicide note. I'm planning to die today," and "You'll probably hear about me on the news after I die ... This is my last goodbye" and "One day this will make more sense. I've left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen," according to screen grabs. (New York Post)

The shooting was plotted out over several months, according to Nashville police reviewing a 60 page manifesto as well as maps and drawings of the school and its entrances and floor plans that Hale left in their car.

The GOP has been uniformly terrible in response. Ignoring the desperate need for an assault weapons ban, GOP House and Senate members have focused on demonizing trans people. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the House GOP's most vociferous anti-LGBTQ member was suspended from Twitter for a week for transphobic comments.

You can read my in-depth report on Hale and the Nashville shooting on EPGN. This is another tragedy in the long list of mass shootings. Attacking trans people instead of the gun lobby will only add to the threat against the community.

Brian Michael Smith and Jennifer Coolidge at the GLAAD Awards  

GLAAD Awards
A counter to the demonizing of trans people in the wake of the Nashville shooting were two profiles of Black trans actor Brian Michael Smith. The "9-1-1: Lone Star" star appeared in both Entertainment Weekly and People on March 31 talking about life as an openly trans male actor and about his marriage to teacher Denisse Perez.

At the 34th Annual GLAAD Awards on March 30, Smith was schmoozing with media about the awards and the work he is doing—not just as an actor, but as a visible trans man in a transphobic industry.

"Bros" and "A League of Their Own" took the top prizes at the GLAAD Media Awards, with "The White Lotus," "What We Do in the Shadows" and "Los Espookys" among the winners at the Los Angeles ceremony.

"White Lotus" star Jennifer Coolidge joked, "here I am again, surrounded by gays." (Rolling Stone)

Check out the "Biggest Moments at The 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards" on the GLAAD website and just breathe in all the fabulousness.

Amazon Prime takes a dark dive into the world of obsessive fans with "Swarm." The psychological horror/thriller series was created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover and follows Dre (Dominique Fishback), a young woman whose queer obsession with Ni'Jah (Nirine S. Brown), a global pop star, takes a really dark turn.

Dominique Fishback in 'Swarm'  

"Swarm" is definitely a play on the Bey Hive, Beyoncé's dedicated fan base. In the series, the fans are known as "the Swarm." We watch as Dre, a Houston-based fan, goes to increasingly violent lengths for her favorite singer, as she tries to connect with her, traveling across country and — what's in that trunk, girl?

It's a chilling presentation of psychological devolution. Dominique Fishback is scarily pitch-perfect as she plots and schemes to get closer to the woman she's developed an unhealthy and unreal attachment to.

There's a lot going on here in "Swarm" about the violence of obsession (Be forewarned, it's grisly) and how the overwhelming desire for fame and connection can meld in the mind of someone who is on a psychological edge to really bad results (Think John Hinckley Jr.). The series costars Chloe Bailey, Damson Idris, Rory Culkin, Paris Jackson, Billie Eilish and more.

As a recent widow, Apple TV+'s new comedy "Shrinking," about a psychiatrist whose wife has died and who is drowning in grief (yes, it's a comedy about grief; just go with it), really resonated for me.

"Shrinking" stars one of my all-time fave comedians Jason Segel as psychiatrist Jimmy Laird, who is having serious issues. While dealing with his own severe grief at the loss of his wife, he begins to breach ethical barriers by telling his patients what he really thinks. Dramedy ensues.

Involved in this problematic unraveling are Harrison Ford as Dr. Paul Rhoades, a senior therapist and colleague of Jimmy's at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center who has Parkinson's disease and who is a father figure for Jimmy and Lukita Maxwell as Alice, Jimmy's teenage daughter, who is dealing with her own loss.

Jason Segel, Michael Urie and Devin Kawaoka in 'Shrinking'  

The series also stars gay actor Michael Urie as Brian, one of Jimmy's friends who is also gay and a lawyer. No spoilers, but it's a compelling gay storyline that runs through the entire series. But as always, the best of the best is Segel, who I absolutely adored as the lover of trans girl Simone, played by the luminous Eve Lindley, in AMC's brilliant and under-rated "Dispatches from Elsewhere."

"Shrinking" also stars "The Daily Show's" Jessica Williams, and Harrison Ford is just spectacular. It's really, really good. Apple TV+ just renewed it for a second season, so you can binge season 1 and not be crushed that it's not continuing. And wow, do we need some humor about grief these days.

Ted Lasso, Shadow and Bone
Some returning series have queer storylines building, so you want to be watching. Everybody loves "Ted Lasso." President Biden and Dr. Jill even hosted the cast at the White House recently for a mental health discussion.

Sam Liu and Billy Harris in 'Ted Lasso'  

Now — spoiler alert! — season 3 of "Ted Lasso" includes a gay male character, Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) one of the soccer players (hinted about earlier), who wakes up with his boyfriend, Michael (Sam Liu) but then in a later scene they both remain closeted at a dinner party (at another soccer player's restaurant). But journalist Trent Krimm (James Lance) accidentally sees them kissing. What will happen next?

We're not big on fantasy series ourselves, but "Shadow and Bone," based on the Leigh Bardugo trilogy, is pretty good. And we are all-in for the stellar Asian lead, Jessie Mei Li, as Alina Starkov, a First Army cartographer with her own super powers who is also queer.

Now "Shadow and Bone" includes a gay male storyline between season 1 fave Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) and Wylan van Eck, who is played by rising queer star Jack Wolfe. It is hot, so if you like this fantasy series, this storyline will just add to your enjoyment.

Jack Wolfe and Kit Young in 'Shadow and Bone'  

60 Minutes
Finally, the longest-running news magazine in history, "60 Minutes," has often interviewed controversial political figures, among them Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher and Yassar Arafat. But we were gobsmacked when "60 Minutes" promoted an upcoming interview by award-winning journalist Lesley Stahl with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

I responded to the "60 Minutes" tweet to our 144k followers, saying, "Why are you giving the respected platform of 60 Minutes to a seditionist white supremacist anti-semitic racist homophobic transphobic hater who has literally called for civil war, accused Jews of manipulating the criminal justice system and attacked children? WHY?"

I did not get an answer.

Normalizing these people, who are dangerous and whose ideologies are harmful to whole groups of marginalized people, is a slippery slope. It's appalling that a show of "60 Minutes" caliber would do so.

So for the negative, positive and always surprising, you know you really must stay tuned.

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