Disney + Gay = Conflicted

(photo courtesy of shopDisney)

Disney is hella gay. You’re laughing but think about it. The LGBTQ+ community and Disney fans have a large amount of overlap. That hypothetical Venn diagram would be close to just one giant circle. (That circle would, of course, be made out of glitter, glow-in-the-dark paint, and recycled Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again posters, because duh.) From personal experience, the world of Disney has been an accepting one. Its stories are ones that I can escape into, away from oppression or the woes of the world. Worried my rights will be taken away by new Supreme Court justices? Might as well take a trip under the sea with my favorite mermaid. Called a ‘faggot’ on social media by cyberbullies? Let me step away from it all and attend the coronation of Genovia’s new queen.

These films, these stories, these characters all let me enter new and fantastical worlds. On top of that, the Disney company has been a welcome one for members of the community for decades. In 2014, Glassdoor.com, a workplace insight website, compiled the Top 25 Companies to work for if a member of the LGBTQ+ community, where Disney ranked at Number 15. The company is welcoming, supportive, and embraces the members of the community.

Recently the Walt Disney World resort held remembrance events for the Pulse nightclub shooting, had panels featuring important LGBTQ+ figures within the company, and always have a large presence in California and Florida pride events. They are great allies to have, especially since theyare consistently vocal about their support of the community with words and their money. . They were the biggest donor to the OneOrlando fund set in place after the Pulse shooting and just donated $50,000 to GLSEN, an organization promoting inclusivity in schools relating to sexuality.

For me, Disney has always been the ultimate safe space. I may see a “Make America Great Again” hat, but I know they aren’t the norm at Happiest Place on Earth. They have their arms open wide and ready to welcome anyone and everyone into their kingdom.

Now, when you look at Disney’s television properties, they’ve done a decent enough job portraying individuals who identify as part of the community. ABC has been a great example of this, thanks to their progressive and openminded mindset for their programming. In 2007, Dirty Sexy Money featured the first transgender actress in recurring role on broadcast television, played by Candis Cayne. Shonda Rhimes’ trio of “Thank God It’s Thursday” shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) have all had major LGBTQ+ characters from their inception. Grey’s Anatomy also holds the distinction of having the longest running LGBTQ+ character in television history, with Callie Torres (played by out bisexual actress, Sara Ramirez) starring in over 200 episodes.

Even more recently (and more problematically), Roseanne featured a genderqueer child as part of the Conner family. While the discussions about him on the show weren’t ideal, as they saw their genderqueer family member as “the only good one.” Their views that were mentioned numerous times on the show contradicted their progressive attitude toward their genderqueer family member. While the representation was there, I’m hopeful that with Roseanne’s removal, The Conners can tackle the child’s experience more as a genderqueer character on television, such as the bullying, the idea that other parents have to tell your kid how to act, the idea of toxic masculinity, etc.

Disney Channel also recently broke ground by having their first out LGBTQ+ character on Andi Mack. Played by Joshua Rush, Cyrus revealed that he was attracted to Asher on the show, breaking major ground for a children’s network. No other tween-centric show on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon has ever discussed sexuality in such a frank way, especially when considering a major tween character. The moment was such an emotional one for me (which I discussed here). Seeing someone discussing their confusion with their own sexuality was something I experienced firsthand, and seeing how big its impact could be moved me profoundly. As Cyrus sat next to his friend Buffy and silently nod his head that he was jealous of Andi, since she was with Asher and not him, I felt all those suppressed feelings I had in middle school, crushing on guys but knowing I couldn’t say anything. It was beautifully done and so important.

While all the good we’ve received from the parks and television branches of the company, the film branch has left something less than desired. To be completely frank, they screw up. A lot. It has started to become offensive their lack of awareness on their ignorance of the LGBTQ+ community. There are a few major instances of their ignorance, so let’s break them down individually:

The Beauty and the Beast Lefou Debacle of 2K17: This ordeal was making the definition of over exaggeration from all parties involved. In an interview with director Bill Condon, he stated that LeFou (Gaston’s humorous sidekick) would have an “exclusively gay moment.” Expectations immediately went through the roof from those excited for seeing representation, finally, from a Disney film. Would there be a kiss? A sentence saying that he was dating another man? What would it be?!

The backlash was fast and from large entities, and no one had even seen “the moment.” China, Russia, and Malaysia all upped their movie ratings to the equivalent of PG-13 so children weren’t exposed to this “exclusively gay moment.” A drive-in theater in Alabama banned the movie from being shown for fear of tainting the residents of the state, I guess? It was all much ado about nothing.

Well, it was next to nothing. In the final dance number, LeFou ends up in the arms of a male French village person. That’s it. That was the moment. This moment led to backlash from countries across the world, boycotts, and gay hysteria. It was underwhelming, boring, and insulting.

What made it worse was Bill’s declaration that it was in honor of Beauty and the Beast musical genius, Howard Ashman. He wrote the lyrics for the show back during the film’s inception but passed away from AIDS in the 1990s. As an out gay man, I can guarantee you that he would’ve been stunned at how stupid and small this “exclusively gay moment” ended up being.

So, not only was the moment not a moment at all, but it was in honor of a pioneer of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s a big ‘ole double whammy.

Mulan and its Anti-Shang Live-Action Remake: The Disney animated film about the titular character dressing as a man and going into war to save her father from possible death has become a favorite amongst the LGBTQ+ community for many reasons. The power that Mulan feels by cross-dressing/the power she had all along has become an allegory of sorts for the coming out process. (On a smaller note, the vaguely homoerotic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” has been celebrated as such for years.)

However, the biggest takeaway and internet movement to come from the film is Shang as an accidental bisexual icon. His role in the movie as Mulan’s love interest is more prevalent once Mulan reveals she is actually a woman and not “Ping,” her male persona. However, he is seen as being confused and attracted to Ping throughout the film, before her reveal. He is attracted no matter the gender. The internet took this and ran with it and he has been called Disney’s first bi character, even though it is never said in the film.

Mulan is one of the next films on the docket for a live-action remake, and the controversy around the film has been prevalent since the jump. Many worried that Disney wouldn’t cast actual Chinese actors in key roles (which is a whole other can of worms to open at a different time). Some were concerned that female voices wouldn’t be represented behind the scenes, and even after a female director was hired to helm the film, many were disappointed it wasn’t a woman of Asian descent.

Yet, the biggest controversy was the exclusion of Shang as the love interest in the remake. That’s right, the character who fell into being a bisexual icon has been removed from the film’s newest incarnation.  Shang will be replaced with Chen Honghui, described as “a confident and ambitious recruit who joins Commander Tung’s unit. He becomes Mulan’s most important ally and eventual love interest.” The worry is these bisexual ideas and tendencies will be erased completely.

That is how badly the audience wants an LGBTQ+ in Disney films. That the one that only kind of fits that box being removed is a 5-alarm controversy. Here’s hoping Chen can fill the void of no Shang for the community.

#GiveElsaAGirlfriend: Like mentioned above, the LGBTQ+ community is so hungry for representation, that they will call something gay when it hasn’t been discussed at all. Frozen brought another wave of those discussions with Elsa’s 11 o’clock number, “Let It Go.” The song became, just like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” a gay anthem. The song is an accidental allegory for the coming out experience. “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see…Let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.” The lyrics really held true to a lot of individuals coming to terms with their sexuality.

So, from that, came the Twitter campaign. People on the internet decided that Elsa should have a girlfriend in the sequel. It was that simple. #GiveElsaAGirlfriend began and the klout of the hashtag spread like wildfires.

The conversation grew from the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter, to the Twitter audience at large, to news organizations, and eventually, the people involved with the film. Jennifer Lee, the sequel’s writer and director responded to the hashtag movement when asked about it by The Huffington Post by saying “I love everything people are saying [and] people are thinking about with our film―that it’s creating dialogue, that Elsa is this wonderful character that speaks to so many people. It means the world to us that we’re part of these conversations. Where we’re going with it, we have tons of conversations about it, and we’re really conscientious about these things.”

That response showed that Jennifer was at least considering the idea of Elsa having a girlfriend, but it wasn’t a confirmation. In other words, no one should be holding their breath about the possibility of Elsa turning up in the sequel with a new girlfriend in Arendelle.

Idina Menzel was asked about it by Entertainment Tonight, to which she responded with “I think it’s great. Disney’s just gotta contend with that. I’ll let them figure that out.” So, Idina’s on board. Jennifer is on board. Let’s see if Disney follows through with the idea and actually makes it a reality.

Marvel Comics vs. Films: Marvel, now owned by Disney, has had a fraught reputation with LGBTQ+ representation since at least the 1980s. It all stems back to the comics division, aka the root of Marvel’s success. A 1980 issue of Rampaging Hulk featured the first two out-gay characters in a Marvel comic. Yet, they were rapists, luring in Bruce Banner with highly inappropriate and offensive language. Jim Shooter wrote the issue and then became the editor-in-chief of Marvel comics for a large majority of the decade and he was rumored to have instituted a “no gays” policy in all Marvel comics.

The next character to finally make an appearance as gay was Northstar, who was apparently intended to be gay since his premiere in 1979. Shooter had a major role in rejecting an AIDS storyline for Northstar in 1986, further diluting any representation for the LGBTQ+ community. The new editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, the representation count has been numerous. X-Men have had same sex marriages, Iceman and America have placed identifying members at the forefront of their own stories, etc. It has been great in the comics branch of the company.

And yet, now that the comics have a plentiful array of characters to choose from and highlight in their films, they continue to pass them over. Even more worrisome, they have brought to the screen many characters who are out and proud in the comics, but completely skip over their sexualities when it comes time to feature them on screen.

Black Panther, released this February to great acclaim and box office receipts, cut a scene with two members of the Dora Milaje flirting with each other. One of them, Ayo, has had a queer storyline for her in two various Black Panther based comics, the titular series and World of Wakanda. Writer for the latter, Roxanne Gay, found the cut scene very disappointing, saying “Even when great progress is made, some marginalized groups are told to wait, are told, not yet, are told, let’s do this first and then we will get to you. And we are also told we’re asking too much, that we should be grateful for what progress is being made. But I don’t buy into that. It would have been incredible and so gratifying to see a queer black woman in what will likely be the biggest movie of the year. Alas, not yet.”

Valkryie in Thor: Ragnarok, released last November, has been queer in the comics for years, becoming a key part of her constant storylines in the comics. However, in the blockbuster film, there was no mention or insinuation of her sexuality. In fact, Tessa Thompson, the actress who portrays her, has recently come out as bisexual herself, but her character remains silent.

Jeff Feige was asked, point blank, if future Marvel films would feature an out queer character. He responded by saying multiple ones would be featured, “both ones you’ve seen and ones you haven’t seen.” Many believe that Valkryie is one of the characters that will get an out queer storyline in the future, but we have yet to see or hear and traction.

Feige’s response is the perfect example of the LGBTQ+ representation in films. They say it’s coming. They hint at it being present in upcoming films. Sometimes, they skirt around the question, so people can create these elaborate answers in their head, even though they confirmed absolutely nothing in reality. Disney has been doing this for years and even more so in recent memory. Looking forward into the upcoming slate of films, I’m personally not sure if it will even come to fruition.

Just like mentioned Roxanne Gay’s quote above, the LGBTQ+ community has been told to wait, be patient, and look towards the future for decades now. The community isn’t asking for a lot from Disney, either. They just want an out and proud character to be on screen after that iconic Disney title card plays at the beginning of the film.

My worry is that we’ll be waiting for a while. With the current administration in office and the “political aura” surrounding this country, representation has become a weapon. Will saying someone’s gay, or highlighting a narrative from a person of color, or having a woman lead a major storyline cause half of our Trump voting public to boycott the film?

These worries should not be present. Disney should know their own strengths and pursue highlighting these marginalized voices of the LGBTQ+ community in films, especially considering that they are one of the largest media conglomerates on earth and, simultaneously, one of the strongest LGBTQ+ allies in the world. Disney is “hella gay,” yes, but embracing that feeling of compassion, representation, and lifting up one another through LGBTQ+ storylines in their films would make Disney even gayer and would make me, as a queer Disney fan, even prouder. Here’s to the future of multiple sexualities in Disney films and multiple individuals around the world feeling safer knowing that Disney supports their truth.

The Downfall of Roseanne

Roseanne might be laughing at the end of her theme song every episode, but she doesn’t seem to be laughing now. Her quick downfall, especially in the eyes of ABC, has sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and has left ABC empty-handed, yet again, for a successful reboot on their network. As the current television climate has allowed for many a reboot to be ordered and thrive, ABC was slow to greenlight one for their network. Will & Grace’s announcement (and later success) gave ABC the drive to go ahead and announce they’d picked-up a new season of Roseanne, the hit 1990s sitcom that was the number one show on television (according to Nielsen ratings) from 1989-1990 and remained in the top 5 for Nielsen ratings for its first 6 seasons. The pick-up was a no-brainer. Bringing back one of the most beloved sitcoms of all-time would translate to immediate ratings glory, right? Well, as the news has showed us, that decision back fired.

Roseanne was picked up for a 9 episode “return season” that began airing this past March. Before and after the show premiered, the internet was filled with many a think piece (like Ira Madison III’s covering the show’s depiction of “Middle America”) recapping the show’s past, highlighting what made it so good, reposting infamous clips (like Laurie Metcalf’s “Dad’s DEAD!” scene), all in preparation for the return of the show. However, whilst the joyous nature of the show’s return was going on, things took a political turn from the jump. Roseanne has been an active Trump supporter since he announced his campaign back in 2015, tweeting out multiple conspiracy theories presented by Trump himself and his vocal supporters. When the show was announced, some were trepidatious and insulted that someone had been spewing such hatred could be allowed to star in a primetime sitcom. Some of her prior hatred had included calling President Obama racist things and insulting democrats based on looks, sex, and race.

The lead-up to the show revealed that in the reboot, the character of Roseanne would be a known Trump supporter on the show. The backlash seemed to grow, as internet users (and many journalists, like the aforementioned Ira Madison III) couldn’t believe that someone who has already gotten in trouble from her “Trumpist” ways would be allowed to spread them through the means of a weekly sitcom on a broadcast network. However, in a way, this was always the plan.

ABC’s ratings have been hurting for the last few years. The fall of the network into 4th place was due to many factors, including their lack of football or the Olympics airing on their network, along with declining ratings on returning and new programming (Scandal, once the crown jewel of the ABC line-up, fell sharply after season 5 in the Nielsen ratings, while Tuesday nights at 10 have been a revolving door of shows like Killer Women, Mind Games, Lucky 7, and Forever). They’ve had a rough go at finding new programming that stick with large ratings their entire run. Channing Dungey, the current President of ABC Entertainment, and Ben Sherwood, the President of Disney/ABC Television Group, both realized that they had been overlooking America’s heartland in their most recent TV seasons. Sherwood, according to a piece by The New York Times, was quoted as saying “There’s a lot about this country we need to learn a lot more about, here on the coasts,” which started their push to highlight those voices. Both have said that picking up Roseanne for a reboot was directly based on Trump winning the election.

The idea that middle America isn’t represented on television in the current “Golden Age of TV” is a welcome one. The biggest shows on TV are set in large metropolitan areas on the coasts. D.C. is home to NCIS and Scandal, Pasadena is home to The Big Bang Theory, and the Seattle is where Grey’s Anatomy resides. There is no major show on network TV that is set in the middle of the country and featuring those viewpoints. Young Sheldon is a recent addition, set in Texas, but that’s a recent entry. ABC doesn’t have a big hit show set somewhere that isn’t directly near the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

The term Middle America also brings up a multitude of “stereotypes,” for lack of a better word. The term is associated with Republican views, red states, less progressive views, etc. In ABC’s eyes, the best way to get the best of both worlds was to bring back Roseanne, as it could directly cater to red states, while also bringing back a beloved property with instant brand recognition.

The build-up to the premiere was plagued with the aforementioned controversy regarding Roseanne’s views. She had a large build-up of offensive posts and views under her belt before the show was greenlit, so the go ahead to bring the show back had an underlying feeling of confusion and awkwardness. The interview circuit, however, seemed to ignore these ideas directly to her face. Many individuals she interacted with along the media tour prior to the premiere ignored the flagrant racism and talk more about her in general terms. The View brought up questions of her decision to make her character a Trump supporter, avoiding calling her out specifically.

The show premiered in March to incredible ratings and led to it becoming the Number 1 broadcast show for the 2017-2018 television season. And then, the tweet hit.

She tweeted a highly offensive racist comparison to Valerie Jarrett, former Senior Advisor to the Obama administration, and the bubbling bomb underneath Roseanne that had been present since the reboot was announced finally exploded. Within minutes, Twitter lit up with messages to Channing Dungey, ABC, and Disney CEO Bob Iger stating that this needs to be the last straw. They agreed, as within a few hours of the tweet, Roseanne was effectively cancelled.

This was unexplored territory for ABC or broadcast television, for that matter. Never in the history of the major 4 networks has the Number 1 show on television cancelled, especially after being picked up for a second season. It was bold, but the right move to many. ABC was praised for finally making the call to get someone with vile views off their television, but others complained that it should have happened sooner, or the show shouldn’t have been greenlit at all.

The craziness surrounding the cancellation did nothing but grow, as the day of the cancellation was the 1st day of the writer’s room being open for season 2. That, of course, didn’t happen. Her actions and decision to tweet that incredibly racist sentiment led to the lack of jobs for over 200 cast and crew.

Now, even though Roseanne has been cancelled and she will no longer be featured on the network, the repercussions of her presence will be felt for years to come on ABC.

ABC has been known as “the progressive network” for years. This is, in part, due to Shonda Rhimes’ presence. Grey’s Anatomy premiered in 2005 was groundbreaking for bringing television a female lead, something the broadcast networks hadn’t seen a lot of at that point. The cast was also incredibly diverse, before that word became “thee buzzword” of media. The cast featured people of all races, genders, and sexualities. It holds the record for the longest running queer character in television history (Dr. Callie Torres), who was a Bi Latina woman. This led to create a stream of ABC being the network that features people from all diverse backgrounds (Modern Family’s married gay couple, Desperate Housewives featuring 5 female leads, Scandal giving us the first black leading woman on broadcast TV in over 40 years, etc.) And yet, the underlying hope and need to pull in Trump-voting viewers has led to the 2018-2019 being a “qwhite” interesting one.

At the time of the upfronts, where ABC presents their new season to the advertisers, Roseanne was still their crowning jewel. The ratings success of that morphed into their decision making for next season. Out of the 8 shows picked up by ABC for the new television season, 6 have white leads and white producers. One has POC (people of color) leads and white producers, while one has POC leads and POC producers. ABC was frequently seen as “The Diverse Network,” but the success of Roseanne showed them that getting as white as you can possibly get brings in the viewers from those red states, in their eyes.

While all other networks increased their POC in front and behind the camera (especially CBS, often maligned as “The White Network”), ABC went in the opposite, and frankly discouraging, position.

It is imperative that they showcase various types of people from various backgrounds as it allows people to see themselves on screen, which is essential for self-esteem and appreciation for one’s self. The success of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal is due to their ability to show so many different types of people and, not only that, but have those different voices behind the camera as well. Diverse writers, directors, and actors all add up to create a beautiful portrait of our world.

The worry, now, is that ABC will stick to their “white ways” for the foreseeable future. They’ve been taking so many “risks,” even thought that word has a negative connotation in this case, to bring new voices and faces to television screens across the country. However, now that they have seen in one singular example of whiteness and homogeneity doing well on their network, I’m worried that this will become the new normal for an extended period of time.

Once ABC officially booted Roseanne from the line-up, they had to fill that space in their fall schedule, as it was the cornerstone of their Tuesday plan (a day that has been a major struggle for them for years). Campaigns began on twitter to pick-up passed on comedies with various POC involved. Comedies included an Alyson Hannigan-led sitcom executive produced by Kerry Washington and an Yvette Nicole Brown and Lesli Margherita-led single camera sitcom.  However, ABC decided to go with the safest and scariest option with a Roseanne spin-off.

The Conners will premiere this fall in the same time slot as Roseanne. The think pieces have already made their way into various entertainment publications. Will the spin-off kill off Roseanne? Is it worth it to stick with everything from the original show, except your star? Has Roseanne tainted it enough for viewers to not give it a second chance? These are all valid questions that will be interesting to see once the show premieres this September.

The entire original cast is coming back, sans Roseanne. However, many critics found that the reboot’s first season didn’t have the same “umpf,” for lack of a better term, as the original carnation of the show had. It tackled the Middle America, lower-middle class experience with humor and gusto that may other show tried to emulate but could never accomplish. The show discussed racism, classism, sexuality, etc. This go around, the Trumpism seemed to taint the jokes and comedy surrounding the show, according to critics. Darlene’s genderfluid son was a plot point in one of the introductory episodes, but the slant was problematic. A Trump voter is fine with this genderfluid kid because it’s there’s, but their political views would suggest otherwise for the mass population (a big problem members of the LGBTQ+ community have to face).

The new reboot also featured an episode about Islamophobia, where Roseanne thinks her Muslim neighbors are building a bomb. Of course, they are not, and then she becomes high-and-mighty in a grocery store and says they are just “normal people,” even though her visible political support on the show suggests she wants a Muslim ban.

These key plot points have taken the former Number 1 show on television in the 90s, known for its powerful messages mixed with pitch perfect comedy, and turned into a MAGA Sympathy program. The worry is that, not only will these ideals and stories continue into the reboot, but that it will affect ABC’s programming for some time to come.

This season on ABC will be the big tipping point. Will the homogeneity of ABC’s programming be successful? Will taking the “Super White Crown” from CBS be successful or detrimental to viewership and ratings? We’ll have to wait and see, but as a hardcore Disney fan, my hope is that ABC fails drastically.

ABC has been my saving grace amongst the sameness of broadcast TV since high school. Strong female leads led my favorite shows on the network since I became an avid television viewer. I started with Revenge, starring Emily VanCamp, but quickly moved onto the Shonda Rhimes #TGIT trifecta, with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. Those three shows alone gave women lead roles with complicated, messy, sexual personalities that actresses could sink their teeth into. On top of that, all four of the aforementioned shows gave us major queer storylines, something still relatively new to broadcast programming. As a queer individual myself, growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality, seeing characters who shared that experience, but who were still allowed to be themselves (whether that be complicated White House workers, doctors who just wanted a simple and happy life, or flat-out murderers who were still trying to study for finals).

ABC has been the queen of sharing all types of people and all types of experiences on their network. Just look at their line-up of successful sitcoms. Fresh Off the Boat gives us the Asian-American experience in the 1990s. The Goldbergs gives us an 80s slant on a Jewish family, with a heavy dose of popular culture for good measure. Modern Family gives us three distinct households, including a gay couple and a major Latina lead character. Blackish gives us an upper middle-class view on a Black family and trying to come to terms with their “blackness” on a daily basis. All of these shows are cornerstones of the ABC brand. They are going to show America. All sides. All experiences. All people.

So, when I look at how Roseanne has, arguably, tainted the next season of ABC, I am disappointed. I expect more from the company that has given us Meredith Grey, Jessica Huang, and Annalise Keating.

All we can do from this point is show ABC through numbers and words. Be vocal. In this age of social media, live-tweeting and TV-based hashtags have become the new water cooler. If you believe we should be receiving more diverse entertainment on ABC, make it known! Eyeballs on these TV shows is what drives cancellations or season renewals. Make sure to watch the shows with POC and LGBTQ+ characters in front of and/or behind the camera live. Whether or not they begin this upcoming season, still show your support through your views.

What we can hope is that ABC sees that diverse voices are marketable and profitable. Whether it be a writer, director, creator, or actor, getting these voices to mass audiences is not only essential to creating a more accepting society, but can actually be profitable for the company (and why are we kidding ourselves, it’s always about the money). People seeing themselves on screen creates confidence and pride in oneself. On the flip side, people seeing “others” on screen helps to make them realize we are all one. Everyone is unique, but we are all human and connect, and making people the heroes of their own stories is essential to getting that message across.

So, Roseanne blew up in ABC’s face and seems like the aftershock is still hitting the network. However, let’s look to the future. The future of the network as a diverse and hopeful network, like it was previously. One that shows the human experience, no matter the person’s background. Now, THAT is a reboot I’d like to see.

ABC’s Minnie Driver & America Ferrera gets frank on Feminism in Hollywood

The Hollywood Reporter has a series of Roundtables every year released around their respective award shows, highlighting those who have given us inspired performances within their mediums. The TV episodes are starting to be released just as Emmy nominations are being locked in. I wait with bated breath every year for the TV Comedy Actresses panel as they are consistently the most real, honest, and inspiring conversations. This year is no exception.

There are two veterans of ABC this time around, with America Ferrera (who won the 2007 Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy and Golden Globe for Ugly Betty) and Minnie Driver (currently starring in the fabulous Wednesday night sitcom Speechless, which is a required Hulu binge).

Both talk about the importance of intersectional female stories being told on television, the underlying patriarchal basis of nudity on television, and the many factors that go into the pay disparity for women in the workplace and whether or not it has become a lose-lose situation.

The conversation is fascinating, enlightening, and all the women on the panel (including the fabulous Issa Rae, who’s HBO show Insecure was a highlight of this television season) bring poise and humor to the topics discussed.

It is an hour long, so grab a snack and a cup of tea (literal and figurative) and hang out with these fabulous women talkin’ ’bout feminism.