Graphic by Samantha N. Olson. Photo via Netflix.
For Black History Month, Shifter has compiled a list of strong, three-dimensional Black queer main characters in popular TV shows and movies. Although there have not been many Black queer main characters in popular tv shows and movies, the characters that are represented have been complicated, compelling and engaging to watch.
From characters in popular shows such as “Sex Education” to characters in foreign films such as “Rafiki,” here are the five best movies and tv shows with Black Queer characters to watch this year.
1. Anissa Pierce – “Black Lightning” (2018)
Where you can watch: Netflix (with subscription), The CW App (with subscription)
By far one of the best superhero shows on The CW, "Black Lightning" tells the story of Jefferson Pierce, a principal born with genetic powers of controlling and generating electricity. His powers are passed down to his two daughters: Anissa and Jennifer.
Anissa Pierce, Jefferson’s oldest daughter, develops the powers of strength and invulnerability. Going by the name "Thunder," Anissa's ability to reject bullets breaks down the stigma of "bury your gays" which often kills the lesbian character of a tv show.
You can watch Anissa and her family kick butt in the season four final premiere of “Black Lightning” on The CW. Netflix subscribers can watch the first three seasons of “Black Lightning” to catch up!
2. Eric Effiong – “Sex Education” (2019)
Where you can watch: Netflix (with subscription)
BAFTA-nominated actor Ncuti Gatwa brings his character Eric Effiong out of the stereotypical “gay best friend” trope by making him the most authentic character with real internal and external conflicts.
Netflix’s hit show “Sex Education” is not only amazing at representing different sexualities and genders but it’s also fantastically funny. It’s a British comedy-drama television series that explores young adolescents discovering who they are with the help of Otis — a young sex therapist.
3. Kena & Ziki – “Rafiki” (2018)
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video (with subscription)
Premiering at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, “Rafiki” became the first Kenyan feature to be shown in the event’s official lineup. It was then banned in the director Wanuri Kahiu’s home country of Kenya for its portrayal of homosexuality.
The film tells the love story between Kena, who works hard to achieve her goal of going to nursing school, and Ziki, a free spirit who yearns for travel. From their parents' disapproval to the illegality of same-sex relationships, the girls' strength and love for one another overcome the obstacles set against them.
4. Bradley Darnell Lyle – “Leave It on the Floor” (2011)
Where you can watch: YouTube, Tubi (free)
“Leave It on the Floor” is a wonderfully made musical that depicts a story about a young man named Bradley, played by Ephraim Sykes, who is kicked out of his home for being gay and eventually finds a new home in the drag scene of Los Angeles.
Viewers can relate to Brad as he figures out who he is and deals with the consequences of not being accepted as is the case for many people in the LGBTQ+ community.
5. Ryan Wilder – “Batwoman” (2019)
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video (with subscription), The CW App (with subscription)
Another amazing superhero show on The CW is “Batwoman” who was originally played by Ruby Rose during the first premiere but was then replaced by newcomer Javicia Leslie — making her the first Black, queer “Batwoman” in a tv series.
Javicia Leslie’s character “Ryan Wilder” is contrastingly different from Ruby Rose’s “Kate Kane” with her character having no experience in crime-fighting but nonetheless, she’s still a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Fans of the “Batwoman” series and comics are now able to feel seen and represented with Javicia Leslie’s character “Ryan Wilder” as she fights the evil forces of Gotham City.
The importance of these characters being represented in movies and TV shows allows people to be seen, validated and most of all — heard.