Bisexual & Proud: Discovering myself through Sugar Rush

To celebrate Bisexuality Day 2017, I am going to talk the moment where I first realised I might like gals and guys (as a teenager in a small town, i had no idea there were any genders other than guys and gals), and the TV show that had the biggest influence on my sexuality to date. Let’s talking bisexuality!!

In 2005, Sugar Rush graced our screens for the first time. I was 14. I felt like I knew everything, as most teenagers do. I’d had crushes on boys and i’d had strange feelings for girls. Of course I now know they were also crushes, but growing up in a very small town with little to no exposure to anything other than heteronormativity meant that I really couldn’t process those feelings until a long time afterwards. I had a weird fluttery feeling when I was around one of my friends, that I just couldn’t place. After watching Sugar Rush, I realised it was an attraction. The show allowed me, and I am sure many other young women in the early 2000s, the vocabulary and space to articulate having feelings for someone of the same gender. It was, something I’ve only recently realised, a seminal show. Nothing quite like it, for women, has graced our screens since.

Sugar Rush, inspired by Julie Birchill’s novel of the same name (but PLEASE don’t it judge it on that*), tells the story of Kim (Olivia Hallinan), a 15 year old girl who has been forced to move with her hapless Dad, irritating stepmother and weird brother to Brighton, away from her school and friends. She befriends and becomes enamoured with Maria ‘Sugar’ Sweet (Lenora Crichlow). Sugar is that girl. You know the one – stunningly good looking, knows how to get booze, has men clamouring to be with her. The girl who never takes anything seriously, who lives life for today. If you haven’t been friends with someone that fits that description, it’s probably because you are her. No cares, no worries, always fun, all the time. This is in total opposition to Kim, who has led a relatively sheltered life in comparison. The series follows Kim’s infatuation with Sugar, and the ‘adventures’ the two of them have. I say adventures, but it’s a lot of sex, drugs and genital crabs. It’s a brilliant show.

Sugar Rush worked so well because it didn’t try to glamorise any part of teenage life. From the awkward masturbation scenes, to drinking vodka and coke from used cans, to drunken misdemeanours. As well as being wildly funny, it was also down to earth and gritty. Unlike Skins, which idealised the drug taking, anorexia and abuse of it’s characters, Sugar Rush always felt realistic. Sometimes things were great, and sometimes things were terrible. Kim’s pain of unrequited love for Sugar is heartbreaking – as we all felt at 15. Sugar’s ‘carefree’ lifestyle leads her to some deeply awful places, and the show doesn’t hold back from showing those.

Of course Sugar Rush employs the gay-girl-falling-in-love-with-her-straight-bestie stereotype, but the developed characters and genuine dialogue manage to move it beyond this pretty quickly. Kim and Sugar’s friendship feels very real, and the happy ending of series 1 felt absolutely deserved. And let’s face it, even today it’s tricky to find a lesbian tv show where everyone doesn’t end up dead or heartbroken (with the exception of San Junipero *heart eyes*). So, in that respect, Sugar Rush was an amazing achievement.

What I really want to talk about though, is just how revolutionary Sugar Rush was for it’s time. It was the first show aimed at young people that involved conversations about sexuality and had a lesbian protagonist. Scrap that, it was the first show I had aimed at anyone which had a lesbian protagonist and opened up conversations about different sexualities.

Never before had I seen anything in my immediate ‘media’ circle (by which I mean, on terrestrial TV or at the cinema) which included lesbian, bi or gay characters. Well, that’s not strictly true. Eastenders had included gay, male characters but there was little out there to be inspired by in terms of female sexuality. Representation is a big thing, and when there isn’t any out there, it’s hard to accept yourself for who you are. Sugar Rush made me feel normal. It made me feel like there were other people in the world who were attracted to women and that I wasn’t a freak. The things Kim and Sugar did were familiar to me (sneaking alcohol out in plastic bottles, avoiding judgemental parental eyes and generally just wishing for more in the world), and so Kim’s infatuation with Sugar felt completely normal too. Which meant maybe I was normal, and there wasn’t nothing weird or perverse about having feelings for other girls. 

The addition of Kim’s on again and off again girlfriend Saint in the second season is pretty revolutionary too. Saint and Kim begin dating but hit setbacks (mostly due to Kim’s unfaltering love for Sugar). By the end of the series, they agree to try again, and Kim seems to finally be moving on – which is the best things for her. Saint is a pretty revolutionary character – especially considering this was 2006 – because she dates men and women. I can’t actually remember if the word bisexual is ever said during the series, but Saint makes it pretty clear that she is attracted to both genders and happy in herself.

It took years (literally, 8 or 9 years) for me to become accepting of my sexuality. I’d like to think that if there were just a few more tv show and movies where bisexual characters aren’t portrayed as cheaters, maniacs, confused or non existent – then maybe I could have got there a little sooner. We’ll never know! What I do know is that Sugar Rush was ahead of it’s time, and I am eternally grateful for it.

Amazing news, Sugar Rush is AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON ALL 4!!!! I know what I will be doing for the rest of the weekend.

*Julie Burchill, for those who are unaware, is a horrid journalist TERF who seems to make it her life’s business to be as transphobic as possible.

‘Year of Hell’ – How to Deal With 2017 Using ‘Star Trek: Voyager’

During season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager there is an episode called ‘Year of Hell’. It’s pretty self-explanatory; everything that can go wrong for the crew aboard the SS Voyager, does go wrong. Unimaginably so. To give a little backstory to those who have never seen Star Trek: Voyager  before: a Starfleet crew and a Maquis crew (traditional enemies) are stranded in the uncharted Delta quadrant, many lightyears from home. The two crews band together in an attempt to cross the galaxy, a journey that will take over 70 years. It’s desperate, it’s tough and (unsurprisingly) it’s pretty eventful. The crew is headed up by Captain Janeway (queen of my life) who won the hearts and minds of so many Trek fans as the first female Captain. She’s badass, she’s strong but she’s also weighed down with the massive task of bringing her people home.

‘Year of Hell’ and ‘Year of Hell Part 2’ are possibly the most desperate episodes of the series. The crew, including Janeway, lose hope of ever returning home. Things just keep going from bad to worse, to ‘let’s just give up now’. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s been a bit like this through 2016, and it’s probably going to carry on next year. Okay, we aren’t lost in a galaxy far from home and we aren’t being continually attacked by unknown alien species. However, we have had to suffer through the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the West, and the conflicts in Syria and the Middle East are just getting worse. It’s been a really tough year. What makes it worse is that all of the repercussions of Trump, Brexit etc are going to come to fruition in 2017 – meaning that we aren’t even nearly out the other side. The proverbial shit has only just hit the fan, as they say.

 For some reason, for me anyway, watching the Voyager crew struggle through their own shit, feeling helpless but overcoming the odds every single time has been…well…pretty comforting at times.

I began my re-watch of Voyager before the major shitstorms of 2016 began. Like the other Star Trek series, Voyager portrays a world where Earth is a peaceful planet. People of all races, ethnicities, countries and genders work harmoniously together. Starfleet is a organisation of space exploration, and the prime directive is not to interfere with alien species that they encounter. A far cry from Britain’s colonialist past, or the Western involvement in any country that has oil. Star Trek, as a franchise, depicts a hopeful future for humanity, and Voyager is no different. Janeway and the crew could blast their way through the galaxy, destroying anyone who stands between them and home, but they don’t. They explore, they learn and they face moral dilemmas at every turn.

Considering that Star Trek represents a unified world, free from racism, sexism, misogyny and hatred, it couldn’t be more relevant that I began re-watching it this year. The UK’s departure from the EU (which I have to keep telling myself has not happened yet), represents the complete opposite of what Star Trek hoped to achieve. Though the Federation itself has some questionable initiatives, it succeeds in uniting the entire of Earth and various alien species along with it. Brexit Britain is basically the complete opposite, and America’s President-elect has made it clear that he has no intention of uniting with other nations – unless it’s in the mutually assured process of destruction. Yippee.

Shortly before ‘Year of Hell’ and ‘Year of Hell Part 2’, Seven of Nine joins the Voyager crew. She is a former Borg, assimilated into the Borg Collective at a very young age, and whilst some of the crew have their doubts – Janeway decides that Seven should be allowed to stay with the crew and be treated as part of it. The Borg are a universally hated species, owing mostly to their tradition of assimilating or destroying every species they come into contact with.

The hatred of the Borg species is actually really interesting, because pretty much all Borg were formerly another species that has been assimilated into the Borg Collective. There are humans, Vulcans, Klingons… you name it, the Borg have probably assimilated some of them. Throughout the Delta Quadrant, whomever Voyager came into contact with – the response regarding the Borg was always the same. We hate them.

Though in many, many ways very different, there is a similar and awful feeling all over the UK since June 23rd. Of course, I am not for one second suggesting that immigrants and refugees are comparable to the Borg (UKIP are much more comparable due to their lack of empathy and general bloodlust), but the intense and widespread xenophobia that the vote revealed in society has been shocking. Instead of seeing people as individuals, the Leave campaign wanted us to see immigrants as ‘groups’ (or a collective, perhaps). They aren’t individual people who have been forced into a tragic situation, Farage and co want us to see refugees as part of a hive-mind – brainwashed and radicalised yet wholly responsible for their own situation. Seeing refugees as an ‘evil’ and dangerous collective completely dehumanises them, hence why Match of the Day received complaints when Gary Lineker dared to suggest that perhaps those fleeing war were human, and you know, might require our help?

Much the same way as Donald Trump, refusing to acknowledge refugees as individual people who need our help makes it so much easier to ignore them.

In ‘Year of Hell’, Seven of Nine proved to be one of the most valuable crew members. She continues to be an integral part of the crew right up until the series finishes. Of course we shouldn’t rank people solely based on their economic or social helpfulness, but it still proves that we should never, ever discount people based solely on their race. Or gender, or sexuality, or religion for that matter. Instead of opening our borders and enriching our society with different cultures, traditions, languages, creativity, thought and ideas, we have chosen to close them off. Instead of a future of togetherness, collaboration and unity, we are faced with a sense of impending doom. Janeway would be furious.

All we can hope is that our year of hell is not followed by ‘Year of Hell Part 2’, as it is in Voyager. If it is, I guess we will all have to try to be more like our beloved Captain Janeway…We’ll hold our heads high, be counted and stand up for what is right.

 

‘We’re Not So Different’: Tradition, Culture and Falling in Love in ‘Bride & Prejudice’

Originally posted at Bitch Flicks as part of their Interracial Relationships theme week 

The late 90s, early 2000s saw a boom of Austen inspired adaptations hitting our screens. Clueless, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Bridget Jones Diary and the later 2005 Pride & Prejudice are just some of the well loved movies which are pretty much straight translations from the book itself. Continue reading “‘We’re Not So Different’: Tradition, Culture and Falling in Love in ‘Bride & Prejudice’”

The Closer We Get (Karen Guthrie, 2015): Unflinchingly Honest

Five minutes into The Closer We Get, you’ll feel fairly confident that you know where this story is going. Continue reading “The Closer We Get (Karen Guthrie, 2015): Unflinchingly Honest”