Kristen Stewart’s gay ghost hunt is the spookiest of Pride tie-ins

Rebecca Nicholson

Actor promises a paranormal romp in a queer space, whatever that might mean

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart: queer eye for the spirit world? Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Kristen Stewart: queer eye for the spirit world? Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Happy Pride month to all who observe it, particularly the massive construction corporation building several housing estates at the end of my road, which has proudly displayed the rainbow flag outside its showroom and from which I assume LGBTQ+ applications for mortgages will be fast-tracked and discounted. Thanks, guys!

This is the month of rainbow packaging on your favourite products, gay-friendly for June only, though it should let us know whether the NHS gets to keep the rainbow as a thank you for all of its hard work during Covid, or whether the rainbow will return to its rightful place on a lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato sandwich. The first brick was thrown at Stonewall so that guacamole could stand for “gay”.

This year, the drip-feed of Pride-adjacent news has been less crudely commercial than usual, or less “hi, gay!”, to quote comedian Meg Stalter, whose videos are in danger of becoming an annual balm (please watch Stalter’s first “Corporations this month” video and this year’s sequel, both of which made me cry with laughter), than Rebel Wilson announcing that she is dating a woman. “I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” she wrote on Instagram.

Joe Lycett will host a Big Pride Party in Birmingham for Channel 4, to celebrate Pride’s 50th year. And in the only Pride merch tie-in I can enjoy, apart from that Royal Mint 50p, Cher has collaborated with Versace, releasing a £280 “Chersace” T-shirt in rainbow colours, with matching socks that cost £80.

But the ultimate has to be Kristen Stewart’s casting call for LGBTQ+ paranormal experts on Instagram last week. She has teamed up with the producers of Queer Eye to executive-produce a new ghost-hunting show, fulfilling a promise made in the New Yorker last year, when she talked of developing “a paranormal romp in a queer space”.

She posted a video/casting callout, looking for experts “who will lead the pack on this super gay ghost-hunting adventure”. Even though I don’t believe in mediums and spiritualists, I love the idea of a paranormal romp in a queer space, particularly if everyone is wearing Chersace T-shirts and socks. An A-list movie star pivoting to a format made famous by Derek Acorah and Yvette Fielding was not on my Pride checklist this year, but I will happily wave the flag for it.

Alison Bechdel: moving the goalposts was a wise decision

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel: a graphic rethink. Photograph: Oliver Parini/The Observer

The cartoonist Alison Bechdel, whose graphic novels are the kind of graphic novels that make people who do not read graphic novels take them seriously, found herself in the news, in an odd offshoot of an ill-considered tweet about a film streaming on Disney+.

It started with the kind of nightmare online scenario that brings me out in a cold sweat. An American writer and podcast producer tweeted that she thought Fire Island, a movie centred on two gay Asian men and based loosely on Pride and Prejudice, did not pass the Bechdel test. In fact, she awarded it an F- and criticised its “drab lesbian stereotypes”. Bechdel came up with the test in 1985; it measures representation by running a film by three simple criteria: whether a movie has at least two women in it, who, two, talk to each other, about, three, something besides a man. Applied to a film about gay men, it has, perhaps, slightly less relevance in this case. The writer, clearly having not thought this through, posted a more thoughtful apology and deleted the tweet.

It grew beyond its original form, however, to become a bigger debate, as these moments often do, but in a lovely coda to this fire (island) storm, Bechdel then amended her own test. “Two men talking to each other about the female protagonist of an Alice Munro story in a screenplay structured on a Jane Austen novel = pass,” she said.

I look forward to the extremely broad application of this note to all future films with the exact same premise.

Graham Norton: slipping into a warm bubble bath of words

Graham Norton
Graham Norton: take comfort in books. Photograph: Carlo Paloni/REX/Shutterstock for BAFTA

I’m not a podcast aficionado – I claim to lack the time – although in the hope that I might become one some day, I have subscribed to several hundred of them.

At one stage, I thought I was definitely going to listen to a US podcast about permaculture that exceeds the two-hour mark each week and, ironically, ignoring the notifications for all of the podcasts I do not listen to probably takes as long as it would to just listen to an episode every now and then. But there is one that I listen to with true devotion and that is The Graham Norton Book Club, the third series of which began thislast week.

It is on Audible, which means you do have to pay for it, and it’s Amazon-affiliated, like almost everything else. But it is an audio bubble bath that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Norton interviews authors and, as his long-running chatshow proves, he is unmatched at personable, personal chats. Big-name actors read bits from classic novels and, best of all, a panel of clubbers (book, not night) discusses that week’s book club choice. All-time greats are panned as often as they are praised, usually within the same conversation. I love it.

The sub-heading of this article was amended on 12 June 2022 to use the term “actor” rather than “actress” in accordance with style guidelines.

Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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