By David T. Valentin
The six-episode docuseries Pride currently streaming on Hulu, wrapped up with an inspiring message of solidarity, change, and the ever-continuing fight for queer liberation. And although the show ended on May 21st, just in time to get everyone fired up and a bit educated for the beginning of Pride month, I wanted the show and its messages to stew for a while before putting any words to pen.
Following six decades worth of queer history, I felt the show seamlessly tied together the interconnectivity of different movements across the years and the way in which the queer liberation movement really evolved decade to decade with both small strides and the huge setbacks. And because of the interconnectivity between the decades, there was a lot of overlapping historical players, generation to generation, who tended to have some relation to activists in the past and the present.
As someone who has not been particularly educated in queer history up until recently, I feel there was this idea in my mind, and the minds of many people when it comes to civil rights movements, really, that all of this struggle and civil unrest happened in the past when in actuality all of it really quickly unraveled over the course of these past six decades. The show introduced me to notable activists in the present and the active movements that have happened in more recent times.
I’m sure that feeling of the distant past, that those struggles are over, done with and solved, is an intentional attempt to saturate important protest movements in order to make people feel content and comfortable with the current status quo; as if there’s no more progress to be made.
Each episode was divided unofficially into two segments, one half of the episode delved into one topic while the other half delved into another topic that was usually related to the first half of the episode. At first, I thought this to be a great strength to the show. Considering the scope of what they had to cover, the two part, two topic episodic formula helped them really hone in on some key moments within each decade. But as the episodes went on, I felt as though the two segments were disconnected from one another and at times I was sometimes confused why they traveled down the certain path they decided to take. And although the second topic was always important, the second half of the episode sometimes felt a bit brushed over.
While it seemed, the show was dedicating the second half of the episode to making an intentional attempt for viewers to understand queer people of color, especially queer Black people who have been excluded in queer spaces by white queers, the topic occasionally felt glazed over when it always deserved more attention. Specifically, I wanted to know more about the origins of the ballroom scene and voguing. So I hope the same directors create another documentary exclusively on the more underground scenes of queer spaces throughout the years.
What I think I enjoyed most about the show was that no matter how heavy a topic, no matter how depressing and hopeless things seemed, there was always a return to a message of hope or inspiration for the viewer. In the episode covering the AIDs epidemic rather than really diving into the heartbreak of the era, they instead focused by exploring the queer scenes and people who were thriving despite the heart break and loss happening due to AIDs.
And at the heart of the whole docuseries, that really is the message, and the message they ended with, that there will always be people making the queer community’s life harder than it already is, but there is a joy for queer people to be able to reinvent themselves and define themselves according to themselves despite the pushback. And in the end that’s what queer liberation is about, finding joy despite knowing there will always be a fight, always be a challenge ahead.