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glamorous.jpeg

The Dizzy, Fizzy, Sparkly 'Glamorous' Shimmers With Queer Joy

By Chris Revelle | TV | June 29, 2023 |

By Chris Revelle | TV | June 29, 2023 |


glamorous.jpeg

The queer stories we decide to tell matter. They can act as expressions of what we feel is possible for queer to have, feel, and experience. There’s the enduring presence of queer miserablism in media: characters are beset by shame, repression, and/or HIV/AIDS. There’re rarely expressions of queer joy that get taken seriously. The brain gives more weight to negative things than positive, but another contributor is the classic “noble sufferer” trope in which the oppressed are one-dimensionally tragic, defined singularly by their pain. They suffer the slings and arrows nobly and usually die, too queer for this sinful world. It can sometimes feel like a pound of flesh is expected in return for representation. Heavens forefend c*s-h*ts see us happy and queer. Shouldn’t queer joy be just as crucial as queer misery? If you can’t be what you can’t see, shouldn’t we show all the budding 2SLGTBQ+ folx out there what happiness can look like for them? There must be a happy queer counterweight to the sadness of queer media and the terror of queer reality.

Glamorous is here for us. This show understands that queers want to have fun too! This series that dropped on Netflix (a word on that later) is here to give us a dizzy, fizzy, sparkly romp starring Miss Benny as Marco Mejia, an exuberant make-up artist with sass and swish to spare. They work the counter at Glamorous by Madolyn Addison, a beauty brand run by a former supermodel. Enter a mysterious customer who turns out to be Madolyn herself (star of the canceled-too-soon Queer As Folk reboot Kim Cattrall). She senses something in Marco when she asks him to do her make-up. After hearing his impassioned thoughts about the expressiveness of make-up and getting to decide who you will be each day, offers him a position as her second assistant. Thus starts Marco’s journey in a set-up that combines shades of The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty (without the transphobia). There’s a dynamic ensemble including first assistant Venetia (Jade Payton bringing “big sister” energy), Madolyn’s Superman-bodied son Chad (Zane Phillips, Fire Island), designers Ben (Michael Hsu Rosen full sweetie-pie mode) and Britt (Ayesha Harris, Daisy Jones & the Six), and social media maven AlyssaSays (the hilarious Lisa Gilroy). Workplace antics are plentiful whether it’s pining after a crush, losing product prototypes, or scheming in the dramatically-lit bathroom. We see Marco outside of work when he’s at home with his fierce and loving mom (Diana-Maria Riva), hanging out at the club with gender performance artist Dizmal Failure (Damian Terriquez), or flirting with musclebound business bro Parker (Graham Parkhurst).

As a well-made and delicious piece of televisual candy, Glamorous could’ve stopped there. With the big characters and their big hearts, the show could’ve been a fun, frothy soap that touches on but doesn’t explore the challenges of queerness in America. Thank queer Christ that Glamorous has more depth than that! This show discusses internalized homophobia, gender roles and gender performance, rainbow-washing, and allyship. A plotline involving a Pride campaign could have very well lived on the surface and taken corporatized Pride at face value, but instead, it interrogates the messages of rainbow capitalism and has a great deal of fun clowning on how empty they are. That’s another aspect this show nails: it’s funny! The comedy is generally broad with everyone playing heightened characters and it gives the whole show a lighthearted energy that persists even when we get to heavier topics. I have writer and creator Jordon Nardino to thank for the line, “I’m a twink on PrEP, I can do anything!” Queer media by queer people, for queer people; there’s nothing like it!

Glamorous should also be commended for being creative with its own formula. It would be very easy to stick to the drama at home/drama at work/drama in the love-life triangle this show establishes, but it serves and swerves with unexpected flourishes. For one thing, it’s a series on a mainstream platform that centers multiple queer people of color, and in a world where the face of queerness in America is typically white, that’s notable and refreshing. For another, like my beloved The Other Two, it’s queer in such specific ways that you can tell it came from queer people. For example, Marco and Ben go for a wild night at the club together, but instead of merely getting drunk and gyrating under 4th rate muzaak, they roll on Molly and tear it up to “Not Myself Tonight” by Christina Aguilera. It’s not only an underappreciated bop, but it’s arguably Aguilera’s most queer song, especially with a video full of drag-style lewks. The granular touches make Glamorous stand apart from the other summer fun series out there. I certainly didn’t expect the show to spring for an extended Clue sequence that had me gagging. Just take my word for it if you don’t already know: roses are red, violets are blue, and queers love Clue. It’s just a fact. You have to make it to the finale that ends on a wonderfully game-changing development that has me so excited for another season.

As mentioned above, all episodes of Glamorous are available on Netflix. That the platform offers shows like this one and Heartstopper alongside the output of committedly uncreative transphobes is a reflection of their both-sides approach; they’ll make money off us and the bigots alike. I wish Netflix chose to be on the right side of history, but its goal is money way before its equitable representation. In a media landscape that still has a long way to go in terms of representation, ebullient fare like Glamorous pulls off a tremendous double act: it’s indulging in cotton candy fantasies while normalizing the lives and joys of queer people. Before Pride month is over, give yourself a gift and savor the treat that is Glamorous.

Chris Revelle shouts into the media void with his pals on Why Did We Watch This?