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Beyond 'Orange Is The New Black': The Summer of the Lesbian Web Series

By Aymar Jean Christian | Indiewire September 19, 2013 at 12:39PM

This summer I was on my way to see a friend’s band when Regina Spektor’s voice pierced my ears. It was coming from a ground-floor flat: “Yooouu’ve got tiiiiiiiiiime!” "Orange Is New Black," via title credits, leapt from my laptop to my city street. I’ve never heard a web series broadcast so publicly. Netflix’s drama has touched a nerve, no doubt. It’s sparked some discussion about women in prison, and the racist injustices, if not the operations, of the prison industrial complex. But more than anything else its popularity demonstrates widespread desire for television dramas about people other than white, straight men (they’re not all "Breaking Bad").

The Freaks

Outside comedy, two shows slipped their first few episodes onto YouTube, hoping to generate interest in larger, ambitious narratives.

"Lyle," created and directed by Stewart Thornike, is a horror series about a couple (Gaby Hoffman and Ingrid Jungermann) who have a newborn and want to purchase a Brooklyn brownstone. In the first three episodes, the baby’s behavior goes from puzzling to frightening quickly enough to leave me wanting more.

"Lyle," Episode 1: 

The team behind "The 3 Bits," Max Freeman and Margaret Singer, are also releasing one-third of their series, a planned 27. "The 3 Bits" is one show with three separate but loosely linked storylines told in three separate genres: 1) Roman (Singer), a lesbian drug dealer, has romantic and money problems her stylish thriller, 2) Henry (Cole Escola), Roman’s brother, is a coquettish gay man trying to have a good time, and 3) Madison (Erin Markey), a Park Slope mom, whose episodes are premiering soon.

“I think we want the vibe to be fun and free and inclusive. So Roman’s story opens with a trans guy in bed with a lesbian, who tries to stab him to death. We’d like it to be open to all sorts of stories and people,” Freeman told me in an interview.

"The 3 Bits," "Roman":

When I asked if they were challenging the normative impulse among today’s gay establishment, they agreed. Freeman said we’re losing the radicalism that made gay culture possible in the first place. But Singer said they try not to worry too much about representing the community at large. 

“It’s hard to shirk that weight,” she said. “It’s the burden of being a minority artist. Gay men are bad. Lesbians are way worse. They’re policing those stories so hard.”


After releasing the first set of episodes the team are planning to crowdfinance the full season to realize the complete vision. What’s online is great, particularly for first-time series producers. Roman’s thriller is as moody and sleek as thrillers should be, while Henry’s gay rom-com is fun and just naughty enough. "The 3 Bits" is a refreshing departure from the relatively safe stories populating most of television and mainstream online video.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, web series, Queer Cinema, Women's issues

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