The BBC’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” gives lesbians a happy ending

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I was massively looking forward to Russell T. Davies’ version of the Shakespeare play. Russell, if you don’t know, is most famous for his series Queer As Folk, originally a British series set in Manchester about a group of gay men, and remade for North America. Then, more recently the series Cucumber, the main narrative arc of which was the breakdown of a relationship between two men, and the spin-off series Banana and Tofu. It is fair to say, then, that much of his writing has been pretty gay.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream starts off promisingly in terms of high drama. The Athenian king Theseus is reimagined as a Nazi dictator style guy in a completely made up-o world, whose “bride” Hippolyta is a woman he’s keeping captive. She’s wheeled out on one of those Hannibal Lecter-style upright trolleys with a human muzzle. Theseus delivers his love speech with irony and terrifying steeliness; Hippolyta is made to read hers off an autocue.

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But the problem with this production is there’s not enough gay stuff. Demetrius falls for Lysander for about five full seconds, under the influence of the magic flower that gets rubbed in everyone’s eyes. That mistake is quickly corrected, so he falls in love with Helena instead of Hermia, as Helena is desperately in love with him, as per the original.

There is a lesbian love angle, at least. Oberon and Titania have fallen out over Hippolyta, whom Titania has the hots for, instead of the changeling child as happens in the original plot. Yep, that’s right: Titania has a thing with the Hannibal Lector bride.

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Near the end, creepy Theseus goes through his entire marriage ceremony with a Hippolyta in a kind of straightjacket with padlocks, which is a genuinely unsettling sight. That might be partly because that’s a little bit how I actually feel about marriage, but also because it’s so obviously wrong. And in this horrible dictatorship, everyone just pretends everything is fine and carries on with the wedding.

When the badass fairies turn up (of course it’s the fairies that save the day, it is Russell T. Davies, after all) Titania removes Hippolyta’s straightjacket with her fairy magic and Hippolyta’s wings unfold. They both fly up to the ceiling to make out, and if that’s not a strong visual metaphor for coming out and being your true self then I don’t know what is. Hooray, finally the lesbian bit!

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It’s only an hour and a half long which means quite a bit of the original plot has been cut out. Whilst 90 minutes is plenty long for a film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is such an ensemble piece with so many subplots I think you need a bit more time to properly invest in the characters.

Also, there should be more gay stuff in it. I think Russell T. Davies should have a go at a few other Shakespeare adaptations too–Romeo and Juliet where Romeo is a cute boi played by Kate Moennig; Macbeth where he kills Banquo because they’re in love and Banquo threatens to out him; As You Like It with Sarah Paulson as Celia and Holland Taylor as Rosalind dressed as a man (I don’t care if you think they’re too old), and obviously they fall in love. Let queer writers remake all of Shakespeare.

Overall it’s a fun watch, although it has the feel of an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess crossed with a Christmas movie. Like a packet of Cheetos, despite the fact it’s cheap and cheesy, it’s still very enjoyable.

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