Web Series: Giving Voice to the Voiceless

By Erin Caine 
Senior Writer

Though modern television has come a long way as far as bringing greater diversity of characters and experiences to the foreground, many feel as if underrepresentation is still a big issue for mainstream media.

It’s difficult to turn on the TV or go to the movie theater and not have to stare at a seemingly endless cavalcade of white, straight, male characters. Recent movies like “Love, Simon” and “Black Panther” are generating a lot of excitement and optimism, but these stories are unfortunately still few and far between.

In recent years, however, web series have been picking up the slack and giving a wider range of people a well-deserved storytelling platform. Here are just a few of the series that are definitely worth checking out.

1. “Her Story” (2016). This romantic drama has been praised by critics and even snagged a Primetime Emmy nomination. The series is directed by Sydney Freeland, a Navajo filmmaker who premiered at Sundance with much acclaim, and was co-written by Laura Zak and Jen Richards, an outspoken transgender activist and one of the stars of the show respectively. The series has received a lot of attention for being one of the very few that realistically captures the lives of transgender women in America. “Her Story” navigates the complexities of romance and identity as it examines the dating lives of two trans women, Richards’s character Violet and her friend Paige, who is played by Angelica Ross.

2. “Ackee & Saltfish” (2015).  In 2014, British filmmaker Cecile Emeke directed a short film, “Ackee & Saltfish,” that follows two friends around East London in their quest for the Jamaican dish that gives the film its name. This became a web series of the same name in 2015.

Emeke is also known for, among her many other works, a documentary called “Strolling” which interviews black pedestrians about a range of issues from gender to mental health to religion. Though “Ackee & Saltfish” is a series about the mundane moments of banter between two close friends, it has an elegant directing style and down-to-earth atmosphere that draws you in. Olivia and Rachel, the series’ quirky duo, are a pair full of unflagging personality, wit, and chemistry.

3. “The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo” (2016). This currently five-episode long offbeat romantic comedy shot into the public eye thanks to a now iconic scene involving its most memorable character, Freckle, declaring: “Sometimes, things that are more expensive are worse.”

Hilarious, clever, and chaotic, this series follows Caleb (played by series director Brian Jordan Alvarez) struggle with relationship drama and get tangled up in a confusing love triangle. Each character—from the bi-curious “Lenjamin” to the genderfluid star-of-the-show Freckle—bursts into a scene with an eccentricity uniquely their own. Not to mention, the acting and dialogue are always smartly (albeit oddly) realistic.

4. “Couple-ish” (2015). Fans of the wildly popular “Carmilla” series will recognize Kaitlyn Alexander as Dee, a non-binary freelance illustrator locked into a lease they can’t afford, and Sharon Belle as Rachel, who becomes Dee’s roommate. Eventually the secret that Rachel’s been keeping comes out: much to everyone’s shock, she has claimed Dee as a common-law partner in order to avoid deportation. The pair create a YouTube channel to prove that they are indeed “in love.” Strained but mutually beneficial, this is a relationship set up for some interesting drama. For those who enjoyed the character LaFontaine’s appearances in “Carmilla” but wanted to see more, “Couple-ish” is a series where Alexander’s straight-faced humor can really shine.

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