Here is a review of the fantastic tv series, Eastsiders, which I have called The Desperate Necessity of Eastsiders.
Kit Williamson said that “as a writer I’m interested in exploring relationships that are murky and complicated and bringing levity to dark situations” and nothing could convey the tone of Eastsiders more appropriately. For those of you who don’t know, Williamson plays Cal in the dark comedy series, Eastsiders, and he also wrote and directed the show.
Originally a web series, with the first two episodes self-funded by Williamson and released in 2012, the rest of the show was crowdfunded with a Kickstarter campaign. This is truly a passion project made for the fans who supported a queer show they loved and believed in. The series was sold to Netflix in 2016, and two more seasons were released and well received.
Since it’s initial release, Eastsiders has received two Indie Series Awards and several Daytime Emmy Award nominations. So, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people love this show, but why?
Well, firstly, I think queer audiences are sick of seeing LGBTQ+ characters and stories portrayed through a narrow lens, often as a quick side-plot that offers little to no depth; sometimes relying heavily on worn out stereotypes. We want to see real people on the screen, and that includes having flawed, complicated queer characters navigating life like their straight counterparts.
In an interview with IndieWire, Kit Williamson talks about his goal to “create the kind of LGBT series that TV networks refuse to, one where the main characters were not only gay, but flawed, complex individuals trying to navigate their messy lives, just like their straight friends” which is exactly what I said we wanted – and with Eastsiders, that’s exactly what we get.
Cal and Thom are not happy, they are not settled, and they have no idea what they are doing with their lives. The fact that they are gay adds another layer to that, rather than their sexuality being the only side of their personalities we see.
This isn’t Glee, where we were promised queer representation and were given a caricature with little to no depth. Every queer character in Eastsiders is a living, breathing, flawed human with strong dislikes, odd obsessions, beautiful dreams for their futures. Whether we’re seeing Cal, Thom, Quincy, Jeremy, Bri, Douglas, whoever, we are getting a full, complete human being, and that’s all we’ve ever asked for.
That’s a low bar for main characters in any story, but one that hasn’t been surpassed enough with queer characters in straight films or TV in the past. Yes, there are exceptions, but we can probably count them on one hand, and most are written by Russell T. Davies.
Secondly, independent media has become a lot more popular over the last ten or twenty years. People are finding audiences for their books, music, short films, anything, online, and these audiences can be huge. How do you think Bo Burnham got to where he is today? Without YouTube, the executives and producers in that industry probably wouldn’t have seen the potential in that type of content as it’s not something that was mainstream.
The ability for any creative individual to find an audience online creates all these incredible opportunities. And sure, that means the competition is even higher, but sometimes if the quality of your content is good, it will be found by people desperate for more of what you have to offer.
Eastsiders was a lightning rod for everyone who had been looking for a queer TV show with amazing characters, plenty of laughs, an engaging plot, and a story that didn’t bury their gays, because we’ve seen enough of that.
If you watch the half-hour documentary on YouTube about the creation of the show, you can see the passion everyone working on Eastsiders had for the project, whether they were involved in everything like Kit Williamson, or they had a minor acting role for one of the episodes. There is a joy in watching something like this and knowing it was made with love and care and passion. We desperately need more stories like Eastsiders on our screens.