Her Story ****
Starring: Jen Richards, Laura Zak, Angelica Ross, Christian Ochoa
Director: Sydney Freeland
Even today it can be difficult to find accurate and balanced depictions of LGBTQ people on screen. While depictions of sexuality are now more diverse than they have ever been before, there are few that are able to capture a realistic essence of its fluidity due to limitations imposed by its supposed marketability. Which is why, often, some of the most interesting and accurate explorations of this topic nowadays can be found in web series, where the stories are free from editorial control and are subsequently able to find their own audiences. And of the web series I've seen so far, Her Story is the cream of the crop.
Allie (Zak) is a journalist, who is looking to write a piece about trans women. Believing that Violet (Richards), a shy waitress in a bar, is the only one she has met, she approaches her for an interview. Initially reluctant, she is inspired by her headstrong friend Paige (Ross), who encourages her to speak to her. As they talk, Allie begins to question her feelings toward Violet, but her friends tell her that to date her would make her not a lesbian. Meanwhile, Paige meets the handsome James (Ochoa) and has to wrestle with when the appropriate moment would be to tell him of her gender identity.
Over the course of its short six episodes (each is less than ten minutes long), Her Story covers a remarkable amount of ground with its small cast and concise plotting. The relationship between gender and sexual identities is its most immediate theme, forming the crux of most of its storylines. Violet struggles with her sexuality, Allie doesn't know how to react to her attraction to Violet, Paige is reluctant to reveal her gender identity; but most interesting of all is its exploration of transphobia within the LGBTQ community. Allie's lesbian friends are most discouraging of her exploring her relationship with Violet, claiming that she's "not really a woman" and subsequently, Allie would no longer be a lesbian. The way this is expressed is off-the-cuff and bantery, in a way reminiscent of the way gay people were discussed twenty years ago. Seeing it in these terms really showcases the limitations inflicted on Queer people even by its own community in a wholly frustrating way.
Violet and Allie are likeable characters, whose relationship serves as the beating heart of the series. However, it is Paige who is the standout, serving as a refreshingly empowering depiction of a trans woman. During one episode, she compares herself to Kerry Washington and it almost feels as though the character has been based on her. Vividly drawn as a powerful lawyer, her professional interests become key to the plot that will no doubt carry Her Story through to its next series. This isn't just the story of people going on dates - through Paige, it's about the balance between doing your job and campaigning for the rights of your community, when sometimes the two can seem opposed to each other.
The only real downer on the series is that its entry point is through the eyes of Allie. In a series that centres around trans women, it is Allie's life and Allie's dilemmas that have been positioned as the central storyline. Although Allie is a well-drawn and interesting character, I can't help but wonder whether the series would have been better served in shifting its perspective to Violet, albeit just for its opening scenes, to feel like the show was being portrayed from a trans viewpoint. Oh and one of the characters has a really bad British accent too. But now I'm just nit-picking.
Totalling less than an hour in its entirety however, Her Story is well worth your time and is available to watch on YouTube. You could even watch it on a bus if you want! But however you watch it, you'll wish there were a heap more episodes of this fabulously diverse and engaging drama. Roll on season two!