When We Rise | 09
We’ve told stories of real-life people, we’ve told stories of on-screen characters, and now it’s time to look at an entire show that speaks about LGBTQ folks, and does a fabulous job of raising awareness.
In this episode, Mahir implores you to watch “When We Rise”.
From MotorMouth Podcasts, I’m Mahir and you’re listening to the MotorMouth Original – Queer’s The Word. This is a show where I bring to you every single thing queer, from real-life stories and experiences to queer representation on screen. And today, we kind of incorporate both these aspects of the show into one penultimate episode.
In the previous episode, we spoke about the generosity that was the character of Blanca Evangelista from the FX original series, Pose and the absolute phenomenon that is Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. Now, Pose was a show that was truly unique, not only did it boast the largest trans cast to have ever worked on a show before, but it also was a show that was quintessentially queer at its very core. It gave present day queer folks a glimpse into the history of the AIDS pandemic and how life was in the United States back then and that is something I believe we all need to know. Because unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, stories of people with HIV were not being told with the same vigour back then. So now, there is a ton of history that needs to be showcased, and a certain television show does it exceedingly well. Today, we talk about the eight part American docudrama miniseries, When We Rise, on ABC.
In February 2017, shortly before the two hour long Pilot of When We Rise premiered on ABC, TIME magazine headlined their article saying that, the show isn’t subtle and that is why it works. And that’s exactly what the show is, not subtle. When We Rise is based on the memoirs of LGBT activist Cleve Jones as it chronicles the personal and political struggles, set-backs, and triumphs of a diverse group of LGBTQ+ individuals who helped pioneer a portion of the civil rights movement from its infancy in the 20th century to the successes of today. The 45-year saga tells the evolving history of the modern gay rights movement, starting just after the Stonewall riots in 1969. Pose is a subset of the larger story that When We Rise tells and there’s also a shift in perspective between the two. POSE is based out of New York City whereas the story of Cleve Jones and his friends is largely rooted in San Francisco, California. And well the golden city is a protagonist in itself, I can assure you that by the end of the eight episodes you will absolutely associate a kind of familial congeniality with The Castro neighbourhood, that is quite popularly known to be one of the first queer neighbourhoods around the globe. What the show does best is that at no point does it hold back on telling you the bitter truth and the stories of these real-life activists aren’t whitewashed to be more palatable to the larger audience. It is a character and story driven plot and it translates off the screen impeccably.
And there’s mostly one person to thank for it all. When We Rise is created, written and directed by the Academy Award winning screenwriter – Dustin Lance Black, who is also the husband of Olympic Gold medallist Tom Daley. In an interview with the press, Black said that he found it mind-blowing that a traditional network like ABC was soliciting LGBT pitches. And he absolutely embraced the challenge. In 2006, Black visited the icon that is Cleve Jones while he was researching on another film. That was when Jones very casually told him something that ultimately found its way into the show 11 years later. He said – What is it like to be a part of the first generation in this country with no purpose? And what are you going to do about it? And though people of India cannot fully resonate with that sentiment because boy do we have a lot to fight for – but the question does highlight the importance of knowing and understanding your history. Because only when you know where you’ve come from can you have a clearer vision of where you want to go.
On the other side of the break, I will be sharing with you a short poem I’ve written keeping in mind When We Rise and the history of queer people around the world.
Welcome back! This is Queer’s The Word from MotorMouth Podcasts and I’m Mahir. Today, we’re talking about not a character, but an entire TV miniseries that is based on real life events right from the aftermath of the Stonewall riots in 1969 to the legalization of gay marriages in 2013.
Now I said this in the previous episode, I’m going say it again – I implore you to watch When We Rise. And especially for Indian queer folks who don’t really have a ton of homegrown media that give us an insight into our history – this is something that at least comes close. But if you are adamant to learn more about the queer history of India, I recommend you to read the 70 page report – “Less Than Gay – A Citizens’ Report on the Status of Homosexuality in India” which was published in late 1991 and is considered to be the first document that openly talks about queer rights in India. The report has some truly heart-warming stories that will surely move you.
But for now, it’s time for me to share with you a short poem I’ve written today.
existence is nothing but a banal colouring book –
shiny covers of resistful red fusing into a vibrant violet
envelop a volume of dry, sepia pages with frayed edges;
edges that were chewed off by rodents
we so fondly call – humanity;
i sharpen my charcoal pencil of docile dutifulness
to trace the perimeter of yet another – rotten fruit,
a sedan with three wheels and an arboreal farm that had no fences –
i filled in colours beyond the boundaries, askew and wild,
unprofessional to the trained eye that chants canticles
from the yesteryears of privileged glory and bigoted laughter;
i press my gentle fingers against raw wood to redraw
lines and curves
for i wouldn’t let them colour my last just yet.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Queer’s The Word.
I’ll see you in the next episode.
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You can also check out more episodes of this show and other MotorMouth Originals on our website – motormouthpods.com
You can find music and other credits in the episode notes.
This episode was written and hosted by me, Mahir.
Sound production, design and mixing by Prateek Sharma.
Our show cover art is designed by Rishikant.
Our Creative Director is Gargie Sharma and this show is
Executive produced and created by Prateek Sharma, for MotorMouth Podcasts.