Yeah we'll just post Lil Nas X videos any time they drop...
The Lady and The Dale
If someone pitched this as a movie, it would likely get rejected as being too far fetched, and when it's laid out in four action-packed episodes, the never-less-than-eventful life of Elizabeth 'Liz' Carmichael does stretch credulity.
After an early life as a smalltown grifter, Liz (who was assigned male at birth) begins a double-layered transition. She undergoes surgery and begins to live as a woman (all the time with the complete support of her wife, children and close friends) and she spearheads the creation and manufacture of a revolutionary, three-wheeled car model, The Dale.
Both aspects of her life are remarkable. She lives with apparent fearlessness as a trans woman, having to put up with intrusive reporting and dangerous insinuation as her profile becomes more and more public. She also has to fight the hostile reaction from a patriarchal car industry that hates competition, and added into that mix there's also the fact that she's entering a business from dabbling in various 'get-rich-quick schemes'.
The twists are so compelling that it would be a shame to spoil them here, but for a variety of reasons, the legality of the car venture is called into question and Liz has to fight on all fronts as commercial, legal and personal tensions reach a breaking point.
The conclusions about Liz's intentions are left to the viewer and there's discussions to be had as to whether she was a well-meaning entrepreneur or a scheming con artist, her devotion to libertarian politics notwithstanding. What's not in question is her absolute rejection of society's judgements and her unswerving devotion to her family.
This limited series is, in turn, an analysis of the motor industry, a crime caper, a look at what it meant to be trans in the 1970s and 80s, and a portrait of a charismatic dreamer whose drive, whichever way you look at it, was remarkable.
Various trans commentators put events into an accessible political and social context, and the jaw-dropping moments of hubris, valor and humanity make for an incredible ride. Liz Carmichael was an amazing woman, not least because she would not care one jot about your opinion of her ambition - to make automotive history while looking after her kids.
It’s A Sin
From Queer As Folk to Doctor Who, the writing chops of Russel T Davies aren’t in question, and - especially with the original UK QAF series - he has helped bring some truly groundbreaking shows to fruition. His latest project looks at the unfolding AIDS crisis though the eyes of young, queer Londoners.
Amid sexual discovery as small-town young adults arrive in the Big City, the looming sense of dread grows and an evocative 80s playlist soundtracks gut-wrenching developments. Although not written with this in mind, the parallels with the COVID pandemic are hard to ignore - there are deniers, desperate ‘cures’ as people try anything to survive, social outrage and political clashes.
The protagonists are fighting homophobic families, societal acceptance and the existential threat of a virus that politicians are trying to ignore. It’s in turns joyous, provocative and devastating. The analogue panic of pre-internet information networks is a stark reminder that in the 1980s, going bar-to-bar with leaflets was the way that people sought to protect each other. Marches had to be organised by phone and letter. Disinformation took more effort to counter. Volunteer-run phone lines were vital.
It’s not a perfect show. Tropes are simplified and there’s some reductive views as the script tries to fit the intricacies of a huge public health emergency into five episodes. Some of the character arcs are flawed, but the questions it raises - and especially seeing the same frustrating political mistakes that have been made in the past year with COVID - are important, and approached critically, it’s a worthwhile watch.
Star cameos from Neil Patrick-Harris and Stephen Fry elevate some of the best scenes, and the young cast are consistently engaging. It’s a tough story, and it’s one from which we're still learning lessons.
We couldn't NOT have this on the list. You've seen it. But it really was the stand out video of the year. And that's Unwrapped (Un-WAP-ed?).
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