Summer Sizzle: The Lavender Tube on 'Star Wars,' Sandra and more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday June 25, 2024
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Amandla Stenberg in 'The Acolyte'<br>(photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm LTD)
Amandla Stenberg in 'The Acolyte'
(photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm LTD)

As much of the country swelters under a "heat dome," TV controversies are heating up. Debate over Eddie Redmayne's fabulously decadent Tony Awards performance continues. We are Team Redmayne. (Fight us!) In a night of stellar performances, his was camp perfection. Christopher Isherwood would have loved it.

The Tonys were such a Pride event for us, we had to write a personal piece about the ceremony and our life-long love affair with theater. (

But as Redmayne recedes into the very online, a new controversy, this one over the Disney+ "Star Wars" series "The Acolyte," has arisen.

What happens when viewers think a show is queer AF and the creator doesn't? On June 20, Leslye Headland, showrunner of the Jedi drama starring Amandla Stenberg, told The Hollywood Reporter that she "is proud to inspire LGBTQ fans," but says the story is being read, well, wrong.

Maybe, but that's how art goes. We the People get to decide which prism we view through. And we view "The Acolyte" through a queer, queerer, queerest lens. And the right hates it, calling it "woke" and giving it bad reviews.

Headland is an out lesbian and the first out queer person to create and direct a "Star Wars" series. Headland co-created the Netflix series "Russian Doll," along with Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler and is married to "Russian Doll" actress Rebecca Henderson, who plays Jedi Master Vernestra Rwoh in "The Acolyte."

'The Acolyte' series creator Leslye Headland  

Headland stated that her show is not "Queer with a capital Q," and she is "unsure what 'gay' would even mean in that context."

"I was surprised by the question. Amandla [Sternberg, the show's star] and I just burst out laughing because that's our knee-jerk reaction to being asked that, but to be honest, I don't know what the term 'gay' means in that sense. I don't believe that I've created queer, with a capital Q, content."

We think the lady doth protest too much. Headland says she always had "The Hate U Give" star Stenberg in mind for "The Acolyte's" dual lead role of identical twins Osha and Mae Aniseya. Sternberg identifies as nonbinary and gay. Also in the cast is "Russian Doll" co-star Charlie Barnett, who has said he came out as gay at age 13!

And then there are the twins' mothers, Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mother Koril (Margarita Levieva), who read as a lesbian couple. Plus Aniseya used her powers to impregnate Koril, so there's that.

Headland has an explanation for the parthenogenetic lesbian conception. She told THR: "They're in a matriarchal society. As a gay woman, I knew it would read that their sexuality is queer, but there also aren't any men in their community," she explained.

"So a closeness between the two of them would be natural. It seemed plot-driven. I would say it's really reductive to call them lesbians. I think it means you're not really paying attention to this story."

Or maybe we're just reading it the way we feel it.

Charlie Barnett and Amandla Stenberg in 'The Acolyte' (photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm LTD)  

Queer inspiration
Headland doesn't want anyone to think she's disavowing queer actors or interpretations and she is deeply in love with her creation. She told THR, "I'm proud of being a gay woman who's accomplished this feat, and certainly, if my content is called queer, I don't want to disown whatever queerness is in the show. I would be proud to create something that inspired queer people."

But the online attacks on her baby have left Headland a little bruised. She said, "It makes me feel sad that a bunch of people on the internet would somehow dismantle what I consider to be the most important piece of art that I've ever made."

On June 22, Fox News weighed in, noting, "'Star Wars: The Acolyte' has proven to be one of the most divisive entries in the 'Star Wars' franchise since its debut on Disney's streaming platform earlier this month. Despite being a hit with critics — it currently features an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating among professional movie reviewers — it has a 14% audience score, the lowest rating in that category among all 'Star Wars' content."

Fox added, "The Disney-owned film franchise has been criticized by fans in recent years who claim the company has embraced 'woke' storylines and characters, with fans slamming 'The Acolyte' as the most progressive one yet." (

Even Fox News host Laura Ingraham, long rumored to be gay herself, had a comment, on a recent episode, between talking about President Biden's "decline" and Vice President Harris's laugh that the GOP is fixated on. So you know you gotta watch "The Acolyte."

Jimmy v TFG
Jimmy Kimmel is our favorite late-night host. He's consistently funny and he is in an ongoing feud with Donald Trump, who hates him, that has been fuel for many a laugh. When Trump voiced his support for posting the Ten Commandments in the schools (does he even know what they are?), Kimmel explained the Trump version hilariously.

The monologue also features comments on Trump's top two picks for VP, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. (Sorry, Tim Scott, we told you getting engaged to that white lady with three kids you met in church and talking about how there's no more racism in America still wouldn't make Trump pick you.)

Sandra Bernhard and Morgan Fairchild in 'Roseanne'  

Sandra & Morgan
So remember when Sandra Bernhard and Morgan Fairchild were a couple on the "Roseanne" show? Bernhard told Andy Cohen on the June 21 episode of "Watch What Happens Live," that she had a "snotty little attitude" on the "Roseanne" set.

"It's one of my biggest regrets," the actress said of how she treated her co-star, Fairchild, who is known as one of the nicest people on Twitter. Bernhard said she wanted to apologize and did.

"I was a little, you know, dismissive of Morgan," Bernhard, 69, said on the Bravo talk show.

Turning to face the camera directly, she said, "I would like to say to Morgan, you are incredible to work with, you went there. We were the first gay couple on TV — unlike everybody thinks everybody else was, we were! — and you're fabulous, and you are on the right side politically. I owe you an apology, I adore you, and thank you for putting up with my snotty little attitude." (

Fairchild spoke about her experience playing Marla on the "Behind the Velvet Rope" podcast just last year, saying her agent was "on the fence" about whether she should take the part.

Fairchild said, "Because a lipstick lesbian had never been done [on TV]. I am just this weird person that I like doing iconoclastic things. I don't like doing the safe thing. I like doing things that are gonna shock people or make them think about something or make them look at you a different way. So, I said yes."

She added, "I thought it was a chance to create a discussion in society, because it was a very hot show and I knew it would be water-cooler talk."

Cohen forwarded the apology to Fairchild via Twitter/X and Fairchild said, "I'm very touched by Sandra Bernhard's words. Very nice of her. Yes, it was a difficult set for me, but that's show biz. I already follow her on X, but she doesn't follow me. She can DM me any time & I'd say "Let's grab coffee." Love to you all." (link||>)

Bernhard replied and they're getting together.

There may be no classier or more gracious person than Fairchild, who sets the bar high for the rest of us. (

Bridge it
As Pride winds down, here are some queer things to watch to make you feel Prideful.

Lucas Aurelio and Luke Thompson in 'Bridgerton' season 3 (photo: Netflix)  

"Bridgerton" is aggressively heteronormative, but Season 3, Part 2 features queer romance. Benedict's (Luke Thompson) involvement in a steamy throuple with Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New) and her friend Paul Suarez (Lucas Aurelio) is quelle surprise. Plus, showrunner Jess Brownell tells TVLine that the super-hot, second-born Bridgerton is pansexual.

The 2023 National Geographic documentary, "Pride From Above," with exclusive access to some of the world's biggest celebrations of LGBTQ+ culture, delivers a new perspective on Pride, from the air.

National Geographic says the documentary "reveals the historic activism, fearless creativity and logistical ingenuity required to pull off these technicolored festivals of hope, showcasing a community that not only celebrates their identity, but continuously fights for progress globally."

Stream "Pride From Above" on Disney+. And for the dry heat, not the humidity, you really must stay tuned.

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