Southern comfort: New series explores queer life in the South

Southern comfort: New series explores queer life in the South

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A new drama series is giving audiences a peek into the lives of queer young adults living in the Deep South.

 

“Feral,” an original TV show debuting Oct. 6 on Dekkoo.com, a streaming service dedicated to gay men, follows the lives of a group of 20-somethings trying to survive and deal with love, loss and friendship in queer and arts communities of Memphis. See the trailer here.

The show’s creator and director, filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, said he called the show “Feral” to describe the protagonists, who are somehow all left on their own — whether it’s financially, identity-wise or family-wise. He said the show is somewhat inspired by HBO series like “Looking” and “Girls.”

“The reason I’m drawn to those shows is basically they are giving us a view into a simple version of everyday life and that is something that is very relatable for a lot of people,” Fox said. “That’s something that has been around but it’s a newer movement in TV and film. It’s just kind of seeing how life is for these 20-somethings or people in their mid-30s. A lot of them are artists or people who are trying to carve out a space for themselves in the world. That’s why I relate to those shows.”

Besides steering clear of high drama, “Feral” also doesn’t conform to the typical time structure of TV shows; most episodes clock in at under 20 minutes. Fox said streaming networks allow shows freedom from time constraints, noting the episodes of “Feral” are as long as they need to be.

“I started to get into the episodic space and explore the different platforms that are available,” he said. “Things are starting to change. There have always been half-hour or hour-long episodes. That’s been determined by the history of TV and TV shows having to fit into advertising brackets and time slots. As new platforms start to pop up, I think that a lot of people are trying new models. How long do we need to give someone for a single episode? What are people’s attention spans? How much do we need to stick to these models? For me, it was a matter of creating these episodes and figuring out how long they would be later. I don’t work with traditional scripts. I sort of have a general outline and there’s improv involved. So that’s why there are episodes that are 16 minutes long and there are other episodes that are over 20 minutes. So it’s more about what we needed for that space and time.”

Fox said one of the things that sets “Feral” apart from other gay-themed shows is that the gay community on which the show focuses isn’t as insular as communities in bigger cities; as a result, the content isn’t driven entirely by gay issues. 

“People are surprised at how integrated in some ways the queer community is with the straight community in Memphis,” he said. “People think maybe it would be the opposite. We don’t have a giant queer community here. There are less and less people at the gay bars in Memphis. A lot of the reason is artists hang out with artists. Hipsters hang out with hipsters. People end up in the same spaces. To me, it’s having these characters go along and deal with the issues that everyone deals with. And I’m not trying to intentionally shy away from people having to deal with being a queer person in the South because certainly that is still a thing. I’m not trying to airbrush that. But it’s important for me to show the place and world in which these characters exist and not to overdramatize things early on. A lot of that has to do with my experience. I have dealt with issues but it’s amazing how well the greater arts community here in Memphis embraces queer people. We don’t have enough people to have a segregated community in that way. There’s something really special about that. In other seasons, I’m not going to shy away from that.”

Fox said he isn’t trying to change people’s perceptions of life in the South as much as he wants to tell queer stories that aren’t set in major cities on the East or West coasts

“I didn’t set out to shatter any of those stereotypes but I do like the fact that that could happen,” he said. “I want people to understand that it’s not all terrible and you’re not instantly going to get gay-bashed coming to the South and hanging out at a straight bar. Certainly there are parts of Memphis out in the suburbs or further away from midtown that I would be almost a little bit hesitant to hold my boyfriend’s hand. So it’s not all glossed over, but I’m focusing on the parts of the community that are safe in that way. If that allows people to see a different window into what life is like for queer folk in the South, then I like that for sure. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of stories told in the South or even just general regional stories. I like seeing people from different regions represented in TV and film. I hope that’s refreshing to people and hopefully it inspires other writers to write and tell their own stories as well.”

“Feral” premieres on Dekkoo Oct. 6. For more information, visit www.dekkoo.com.


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