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Trigger warning: suicide

Image Source: A24

“This is not my home!”

By the time Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) screams these words in I Saw The TV Glow, there’s no denying the power of the Pink Opaque. In these heartbreaking moments, Director Jane Schoenbrun (We’re All Going to the World’s Fair) proves just how crucial Queer and specifically Trans storytelling are in film. A surrealist portrait of Queer self-discovery is no small feat. Long after the TV static has silenced, audiences are left with a hopeful exploration of identity bathed in the glow of neon nostalgia.

Seconds in, viewers come face-to-face with Owen - a viewer whose eyes dart at the audience, challenging them with reflection. Thus begins a blurred line across reality, perception, and the fantastical. Smith thrives as the anxious Owen, who has taken the literal backseat to a world full of “drain lords” - toxic masculinity, cishet expectations, etc. Their mother’s worried eyes are all too familiar to Queer children burdened with discretion.

Despite I Saw The TV Glow’s universal themes, its Trans specificity is its superpower. The idea that a more honest and whole version of oneself is buried in another dimension is both terrifying and romantic. Tender language distinguishes the project as well. Concepts such as change and transformation are embraced as simply “special.” Even suicide is framed through a compassionate lens - as a sort of “survival.” In an era where Trans youth suicide rates outnumber their cisgender counterparts, Schoenbrun leads with intentionality while never pulling punches in Horror imagery. There’s even a repeated wink to 1983’s Sleepaway Camp!

Image Source: A24

Queer art and friendship are reflected as some of the only motivations in this haunting 90s “void” of reality. For many Queer audiences who grew up without social media, art was the only gateway to feeling seen. Brigette Lundy-Paine’s "Maddy" is both Owen’s only hope and worst fear. Their mission is to save their friend’s heart from melancholy by believing in something “more real than reality.” Superb acting and striking visuals illustrate the hues that color the world - as well as the very things that drain it of color. Schoenbrun’s script is a live wire sparking with reminders that no matter the crossroads, there is still time.



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