Each year there’s chatter about how queer culture has finally reached the mainstream, but there’s no denying that 2014 was a benchmark. We were literally everywhere you looked. RuPaul ruled with airwaves with her game-changing hit RuPaul’s Drag Race and was a staple in headlines after a misguided columnist for The Advocate called the icon “transphobic.” Even several of Ru’s burgeoning performers became superstars, such as Bianca Del Rio became a ubiquitous, but very welcome presence. On the music front, new songs from our Queen Madonna came out months ahead of schedule. Sam Smith was touted as the second coming of Adele. The debate over whether James Franco was gay-baiting us with his queer-themed projects and teasing Instagram posts took second stage when he got served by Nick Jonas. All things considered, 2014 was a very good year.
So scroll down for the TV shows, films and music that were truly standouts during a very progressive year.
Honorable mentions: Transparent, The Normal Heart, RuPaul’s Drag Race
It’s been a banner year for LGBTs on TV. Amazon’s original series Transparent won wide acclaim, particularly for Jeffrey Tambor as a trans woman of a certain age, a character based on creator Jill Soloway’s father. Ryan Murphy always makes the list for his LGBT-inclusive projects and foremost among them was his adaptation of Larry Kramer‘s searing, fact-based The Normal Heart delivered an indelible history lesson to younger gays while reminding older viewers of the horrors they survived. Murphy also filled his deranged anthology American Horror Story: Freak Show with a queer sensibility and cast numerous LGBT actors such as Eve Erkin as Amazon Eve and Matt Bomer as a tragic gay hooker. And to we even need to mention how amazing the cast, especially Laverne Cox, is on Orange is the New Black? Gay storylines and fully dimensional characters popped up on countless network series, such as The Comeback, Scandal, Marry Me and How To Get Away With Murder, which featured gay sex scenes so racy that conservative viewers complained to creator Shonda Rhimes, who promptly shut that bullshit down. Looking, HBO’s insightful dramedy about a group of friends in San Francisco with relationship problems, received some criticism from viewers for its leisurely pacing, but haters can tune into any of the aforementioned programs for speedier thrills. We love Looking not just because it’s one of the few series written, produced and directed by gay people, as well as starring out actors Jonathan Groff and Russell Tovey, but because it subtly and convincingly portrayed the complexities of everyday life. It’s the pro-sex series many of us have been hoping for and we can’t wait for season two.
Honorable mentions: The Skeleton Twins, Stranger By The Lake, The Imitation Game
Stranger By the Lake stunned viewers with its gritty sex. Gay fave Benedict Cumberbatch did justice to the story of late queer hero Alan Turing in the riveting The Imitation Game. Bill Hader’s astonishing performance as a suicidal gay man in The Skeleton Twins made the comedy-drama a must-see. The Brazilian drama The Way He Looks was spellbinding. The documentary The Case Against 8, which examined the historic battle for marriage equality in California, was short-listed for an Academy Award. Plus, on a shallow note, we finally got a brief peek at the prodigious penises of Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris in the chilling Gone Girl. But Pride, which tells the true story of a gay rights group who went to the aid of striking coal miner’s in Thatcher-era Britain, was not only a compelling drama, it was one of the year’s most buoyant crowd-pleasers.
Winner: Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
Honorable mentions: Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear; Fly Young Red, “Throw That Boy Pussy;” Jimmy Somerville, “Travesty”
If anything good came from all the hacking scandals of the year, it’s that eternal Queen of Pop Madonna responded to the early leak of demos from Rebel Heart, her album due Spring 2015, by releasing half a dozen of them on iTunes. Bi pop star Sia delivered one the year’s biggest and most inescapable hits “Chandelier.” Bearded Conchita Wurst was the take-no-prisoners winner of Eurovision. Fly Young Red dropped what was undoubtedly the year’s raunchiest jam “Throw That Boy Pussy,” while Drag Race fave Adore Delano released several songs that quickly became queer anthems. Veteran queer artist Jimmy Somerville previewed his upcoming disco album with the release of the thrillingly retro “Travesty.” But let’s all give it up for Sam Smith, who with his rich baritone all-but-owned radio and iTunes this year. His debut album In the Lonely Hour heralded a brilliant new talent and sold more than a million copies.