‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Fellow Travelers’: Honor Pride Month with These and Other Great Gay Love Stories

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‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Fellow Travelers’: Honor Pride Month with These and Other Great Gay Love Stories

While LGBTQ+ stories have become more prevalent on television in the past decade or so, such plotlines have often veered toward the marginal at best or the tragic at worst. The difficult reality of queer life is no doubt important to highlight, but this Pride Month, inspired by recent Peabody winners Fellow Travelers and The Last of Us (more on them below), we’re also excited to celebrate something even more essential: stories of great gay love. Since the fight for gay rights is, in the end, the fight for people to love whomever they choose without persecution, truly romantic (and dramatic, and sexy) LGBTQ+ love must be given the same attention in media as heteronormative love has for so long. In fact, audiences can feel along with any love story told well, no matter the identities involved. As Fellow Travelers showrunner Ron Nyswaner says on an upcoming episode of our podcast, We Disrupt This Broadcast: “It’s not [just] LGBTQ history. On the set making the show, I would say to people, ‘We’re making a show about human beings. Grief, love, despair, and having your heart broken are not restricted to us.'”

As important as Roseanne’s first gay TV wedding in 1995 and Friends’ first lesbian TV wedding just weeks later were, we’ve come a long way since then. Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave us one of the first fully realized lesbian relationships on television between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) in 2000. A year later, Six Feet Under delivered a nuanced, complicated long-term relationship between the uptight, insecure undertaker David (Michael C. Hall) and the aggressive, emotionally withholding Keith (Mathew St. Patrick). (More on them below, too.) By 2004, The L Word could build an entire soap opera around a group of lesbians and bisexual women in Los Angeles. In the 2010s, Glee gave us several gay teen relationships, while Modern Family brought the extremely normcore Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), signaling that gay characters needn’t be on the fringes. They could, indeed, just be boring.

Several Peabody-recognized shows have featured some of the greatest love stories told on television, no matter the gender or orientation, including:

‘Fellow Travelers’

A serious history lesson wrapped up in a swooning, sexy, sweeping melodrama, Fellow Travelers tells the story of 1950s U.S. government workers Hawkins Fuller (Matt Bomer) and Timothy Laughlin (Jonathan Bailey), whose affair is made even more treacherous when McCarthyism trains its sights on gay people within federal ranks. (The supposed theory behind this purge was that queer officials could find themselves blackmailed, because of their sexuality, as the Cold War set in.) Though Hawk and Tim’s fraught love sparks during this time, known as the Lavender Scare, their story spans decades, as Hawk marries a woman and has kids and Tim becomes an activist. They’re eventually reunited by tragedy during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, making their story, based on a novel by Thomas Mallon, one for the ages. It’s also—we cannot emphasize this enough—very, very sexy.

Where to Watch: Paramount+

‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Few network television shows had taken lesbian relationships seriously when Grey’s Anatomy‘s brash orthopedic surgeon Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), who’d previously hooked up with men on the show, fell for heart surgeon Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) in 2008. But the series, created by Peabody winner Shonda Rhimes, followed through on what could have been a stunt or a whim on another show. (This was, after all, the era of the sweeps-week kiss between women.) Though Smith was soon written off the show, Callie found long-term magic with chipper pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), through coming out and giving birth, a mass shooting and a plane crash. In other words, a classic Grey’s Anatomy couple, though this one helped to normalize queer love in prime-time broadcast television. Ramirez has since become an LGBTQ activist and come out as nonbinary.

Where to Watch: Netflix

‘The Last of Us’

This video game adaptation about a mass fungal infection that causes American society to collapse is great as a whole, but its third episode, “Long, Long Time,” tells a tender, gripping, and ultimately devastating story of one unlikely love that blooms amid post-apocalyptic destruction. While the overall series focuses on the adventures of smuggler Joel (Pedro Pascal) escorting immune teen Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the country, this stand-alone dives into the fate of survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman), who had intended to ride out the pandemic on his own after his suburban neighborhood was evacuated, but finds himself falling in love with a trespasser he reluctantly helps, Frank (Murray Bartlett). We see their love transform them both over 20 years, making a surprisingly beautiful life together amid the destruction. This is more than a tearjerker; it’s a heaving-sobs-jerker. The good news: You can watch it as a standalone, whether or not you want to commit to the entire series.

Where to Watch: Max

‘Orange Is the New Black’

The intense relationship between the entitled New Yorker Piper (Taylor Schilling) and her on-again, off-again girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon) fuels the entire series: Piper lands in prison with Alex after transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her. The fact that Piper has gotten engaged to a man in the meantime is no match for their volatile passion for many reasons, including the fact that fiancé Larry (Jason Biggs) is very boring, Alex is very charismatic, and the two women are literally locked up together. The show’s explosive success not only kicked off the Streaming Era as Netflix’s breakthrough binge-watch, it also marked a watershed for queer women on television, with several kinds of relationships taking the spotlight throughout its run and trans Black actress Laverne Cox becoming a major star.

Where to Watch: Netflix

‘Six Feet Under’

Before The L Word, before Grey’s Anatomy, before Modern Family, there were David and Keith on HBO’s brilliant funeral home family drama Six Feet Under. From the beginning, with the show’s 2001 premiere, a still-closeted, very uptight David is dating the smoldering, temperamental cop Keith. As David comes out and the two come into their own as a couple, they struggle with universal problems—they learn “I-statement” communication at therapy and dabble in non-monogamy—but also take viewers into gay culture—clubs, choir, and brunches where either or both don’t necessarily fit in. Were they good for each other? Maybe not, but they were a fascinating and complex—and very grown-up—portrait of adult couplehood.

Where to Watch: Netflix

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