Even before the recent spate of “Don’t Say Gay” laws forbidding discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools in certain states, LGBTQ history and culture has largely gone undiscussed at institutions of all kinds and unknown by even many on the queer spectrum.
For too long, the hardcore truth is that only the most dedicated and self-motivated research-loving among us are well-versed in queer movement fundamentals.
Fortunately, an increasing number of media companies are showing an interest in helping to start to fill the queer knowledge void.
Add Discovery+ to that growing list. The streaming service, launched in 2021, is being promoted as having “the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service at launch,” most of it drawing from the vast libraries of “factual programming” from Discovery’s main channel brands, including Animal Planet, TLC, the Food Network and HGTV.
Its newest and likely queerest offering is the original series The Book of Queer, all five episodes of which will premiere during Pride month. Produced by B17 Entertainment, the new series is a documentary with staged reenactments, a show intent on being as entertaining as it is educational.
The series aims to “celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and their contributions throughout history” — “from Ancient Egypt to the Stonewall Riots” — largely by taking an approach “blending comedy with social impact.” The Book of Queer uses witty recreations “to bring each of the stories to life with a modern tone, and features interviews with revered queer historians and experts who are as colorful as the rainbow flag.”
An ensemble cast made up exclusively of LGBTQ-identified actors is tasked with carrying out the recreations as they work to portray nearly 200 historical figures.
Keeping them in line and on fact will be more than a dozen historians, including Lillian Faderman, Blair Imani, Michael Young, Susan Stryker, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Eric Cervini, who curated the narratives.
Meanwhile, color commentary comes from narrators Margaret Cho, Dominique Jackson, Leslie Jordan, Ross Mathews, and Alex Newell.
Each episode culminates in an original song and music video, created and performed by queer pop artists, including Betty Who, VINCINT, Shawnee Kish, Mila Jam, and Kaleena Zanders.
“Throughout the centuries, LGBTQ+ stories have been kept under wraps for far too long,” says Howard Lee, president of TLC Streaming and Network Originals. “The Book of Queer will shine a surprising light on queer history that will make heads spin.”
The Book of Queer premieres Thursday, June 2, with new episodes released every Thursday, on Discovery+.
Requires a paid subscription, although Verizon customers on select plans can get up to 12 months free. Visit www.discoveryplus.com.
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