I’ve been playing a little bit of television catch up now that my schedule is a little bit more flexible. Recently I finally watched Tales of the City, the recent limited series on Netflix, and the new CW show, In The Dark. While that second show isn’t focused on a queer character, her best friend identifies as a lesbian and I wanted to delve into her role. This article is a bit of a catch all since these shows aren’t exactly connected to each other, but that’s sometimes how my watching catch up goes.
Tales of the City, for those who might not know, is a revival series that focuses on the next generation of people living on Barbary Lane. When Mary Ann Singleton returns to San Francisco she learns that the adopted daughter she left in the city believes she’s her biological mother. This leads her to fixate on trying to fix her relationship with Shawna, even if that means telling her the truth. While Mary Ann is straight, Shawna definitely isn’t. She identifies as queer and when Mary Ann shows up her coping mechanism isn’t entirely healthy. Shawna does find support from a married couple who invite her over and invite her to become part of a sort of throuple situation. When things come to a head between Mary Ann, Shawna, and Shawna’s adoptive father Brian, she runs to New York to try and figure out who her biological family is.
Now this specific relationship isn’t the entire focus, but Shawna’s journey to find out what family is examines found family over biological family. Her found family is so full of loving people who accept everything about her. There is a beautifully done episode focused on early trans women experiences in San Francisco. This is a flashback that focuses on the owner of Barbary Lane, Anna Madrigal, and how she came to be in California. This specific episode showed how experiences can vary tremendously based on how someone presents. When Anna is able to move into a passing relationship with a man she has to cut off her contact with the women she met when she arrived in the city. This choice leads to her eventually being able to go through transition surgery and also buy Barbary Lane. When we jump back forward in time we learn the woman who reached out to Anna is still moving through the streets and helping others to find community, outside of Barbary Lane. She never moved into the big house they both dreamed of living in.
In another transition focused storyline, the focus shifts to Jake and Margo. While they had previously both identified as lesbians, Jake has transitioned and while he still loves Margo, he is starting to feel attracted to men. He wants to experiment and see if this is more than a phase, but Margo isn’t comfortable in an open relationship. Jake does wind up choosing to meet up with a guy and eventually Margo and Jake break up. What is the most interesting element of this relationship is labels. Margo, in a discussion with Shawna, says she still feels like a lesbian, but that Jake says they are queer now. Even though she loves Jake and wants to make it work she is struggling with her own identity in this new relationship. Jake is also struggling with this new transition and coming out and has to find his own way into a new identity. This discussion extends throughout the series as the two work to learn more about themselves and what their new relationship together will be. Of the stories in this series Jake and Margo’s was the one I was the most invested in. The two are going through a series of transitions, both together and separately, that changes their relationship as well as how they feel comfortable identifying within the LGBTQ+ community. Jake is also played by a trans non-binary actor, Garcia, which is great casting.
Now shifting away from Tales of the City, I decided to watch In The Dark on a whim after seeing one of our fellow writers, Stacy Ann Miller’s coverage of the series. This CW show focuses on Murphy, a blind woman, whose parents run a seeing eye dog training program. Murphy drinks heavily, hooks up with anyone she pleases, and isn’t exactly great at her job. She frequently sleeps through the work day, but when she believes she found her friend Tyson dead in the alley behind her building she becomes fixated on learning what happened. As she delves into her investigation, her best friend, Jess finds herself thrown in and acting as Murphy’s backup. While I do have some critiques of the show, the primary one of these being that the lead actress is not actually portrayed by someone with any sort of visual impairment. Now The CW has said that they did attempt to hire a blind lead, but ultimately did not. Perry Mattfield does do a great job of portraying Murphy and they did note that she did a great deal of work with the show’s consultant, who is blind, and did a great deal of cane work in pre-production to prepare. According to Twitter, they are looking to add more visually impaired actors to the series going forward, but I did feel this lack of representation was a bit of a miss step.
Returning to Jess, who is the actual reason I chose to write about this show, she is a veterinarian for the seeing eye dogs and has been Murphy’s best friend for years. She has connected with Murphy and helps her in some situations where she needs a bit of assistance. What makes Jess an interesting lesbian character, is that she has a moment where she finds herself reasserting her identity in an interesting way. After breaking up with her girlfriend, who says she isn’t a lesbian, but never shares her actually identity, Jess is emotionally distraught and finds support from Felix, a guy that she and Murphy frequently make fun of. As they begin to connect as friends the two wind up kissing and as soon as they begin to transition toward having sex, Jess pulls away in a panic. While she was looking for someone to be with she insists she is a lesbian and doesn’t want to have sex with Felix. Leading up to this the two had discussed consent and the scene was set for them to have consensual sex, just to set the scene. The two do remain friends and the moment of Jess asserting her identity shows that she is comfortable in who she is. Jess’ identity though does not define her. She is always trying to help the people in her life and even if that means that she has to bend the rules a little, she will. Jess is the heart of the series and brings all of herself to everyone, even when she is struggling herself.
I know this one is a long one, but I wanted to share a bit about my recent watches. For the next one I’m planning on making it a little bit shorter. Enjoy this one and keep an eye out for another Bi Line in two weeks.