'We Live Here: The Midwest' — Hulu documentary shows diverse families

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday December 19, 2023
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Families in the Hulu documentary 'We Live Here' include Denise, Courtney & Marek. (photo: Hulu)
Families in the Hulu documentary 'We Live Here' include Denise, Courtney & Marek. (photo: Hulu)

The title of the Hulu documentary "We Live Here: The Midwest" is a somewhat misleading misnomer. A far better name for the project, featuring interviews with LGBTQ couples, would be "We Live Here: The Rural Midwest."

The Midwestern states represented in the doc include Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, and Minnesota. First stop is Iowa, and the home of Nia and Katie. The land of "Iowa nice," a passive/aggressive behavior as described by trans lesbian Nia, that is defined by people not saying "I don't support you" to your face, but instead starting a letter-writing campaign to disparage you (actually, when it comes to the Midwest, that's not limited to the borders of Iowa).

Des Moines natives who never left, Nia and Katie met in second grade, attended the same "progressive evangelical church," dated, married, and started a family. And then Nia came out as trans. It turns out the church wasn't as progressive as they thought.

Mario and Monte in the Hulu documentary 'We Live Here' (photo: Hulu)  

In Nebraska, where Mario and Monte are "one out of three Black families, let alone gay families," we learn about their history (and struggles), which is also connected to a church community. The married fathers of a baby girl, Mario and Monte provided the "mystery sperm" (both mixed together) for surrogate Ariel. They arrived in Nebraska (after living in more liberal Colorado) where Mario, who is in the Air Force, is stationed.

Courtney and Denise, who live in Kansas with their son Marek, always wanted land, to be closer to their food, and to ranch goats. It was definitely an adjustment for the couple, who had met in Lawrence, Kansas, especially for Denise who had lived in New York, Portland, and Austin. However, it was Marek's experience of being bullied in school that opened their eyes to the ways in which (again, rural) Midwestern culture is resistant to change.

The next stop is Ohio, the furthest east Midwestern state, where married gay couple Russ and Mark live. Russ is a high school teacher who came out later in life. They talk about how representation matters (Russ' students know that Mark is his husband) where they live, as well as how following the presidential election in 2016 a change occurred resulting in a backlash against all the progress made by the LGBTQ community prior to that.

Russ and Mark in the Hulu documentary 'We Live Here' (photo: Hulu)  

Finally, we arrive in Minnesota. This segment includes an interview with indigenous queer Heather Keeler of the Minnesota House of Representatives. But the main focus is trans couple Jenn and Debb, and features interviews with Jenn's daughters, as well as her ex-wife Tricia.

With a runtime of less than an hour, and only five couples (and assorted others, including family members and neighbors) as interview subjects, it's reasonable that "We Live Here," would come up short. Making matters worse is that it feels incredibly amateur and unclear in its messaging (i.e. Jenn's daughters still refer to her as "dad"). It's admirable that Melinda Maerker wanted to address a segment of the population that doesn't get much attention, but the execution is flawed. Rating: C-


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