195 Lewis tells a wonderful coming-of-age story of love, lust, and life in one of America’s blackest and queerest cities.
Last year, the hashtag #GayMediaSoWhite began a discussion of the unbearable whiteness of mainstream queer media. For too long, QTPOC have been regulated to being background roles, sidekicks, or as the latest victim of the Bury Your Gays trope. Luckily, there have been queer creators of color producing content independently. The most recent example of this is the new series 195 Lewis.
Created by Rae Leone Allen and Yaani Supreme and directed by Chanelle Aponte Pearson, the series features a tight-knit group of Black lesbians in Brooklyn. These women include Yuri (a struggling painter), Camille (an unemployed P.h.D. graduate), Anne (Camille’s younger sister), and Kris (an old college friend of Yuri’s). The main focus is on the characters Yuri and Camille as they try to be honest with each other in their polyamorous relationship.
With a small cast of characters, 195 Lewis manages to provide validation for Black lesbians in different circumstances. Both Yuri and Anne are stud lesbians who are artsy in their respective mediums and sexually bold with the women they desire. Camille is strict and maternal toward Anne as a sister and insecure about her romantic relationship in a way that’s sympathetic. Finally, Kris is the baby lesbian being guided by Black lesbians with more knowledge than her.
Not only are these characters authentic and refreshing because of their different perspectives, but their conversations also add to their appeal. One of the most striking pieces of dialogue occurs in episode three, which is titled “Femme of Color Brunch”. In this episode, Anne takes Kris to a Femme of Color brunch at a friend’s house and Kris talks about sex positivity with the host. To see such an important conversation take place in a safe space filled with beautiful femmes of color was so lovely.
Besides sex positivity, conversations about polyamory are also well done. In the second episode, “The Morning After”, Yuri has a frank discussion with her manager friend Sierra about her interest in another girl and how that affects Camille. Sierra basically asks, “Where do you see this going?” Yuri’s reply is uncertain yet passionate, showing how feelings in a polyamorous relationship can get complicated.
At the same time, Yuri’s dialogue also shows what it is like to deal with people who don’t understand polyamory well. In the final episode “The Harlem Renaissance”, Yuri tells Kris about her and Camille being polyamorous. Kris’s response is rude and judgmental due to her being new in the lesbian scene, but her response could also apply to straight people who are ignorant.
Of course, the conversations about polyamory are also supplemented by what isn’t plainly said. The series also shows Camille’s side of the relationship as she begins to feel neglected as a primary partner and suspicious about Yuri’s interest in other girls. Although Camille chooses not to discuss her discomfort with Yuri yet, her inner feelings and fears are expressed well through point of view shots.
In fact, the cinematography in the series provides a sensual, down-to-earth ambiance for the characters and their stories. One of the most striking scenes is Camille’s imagining of Yuri’s secret sexual encounters with a mysterious girl. The use of shadows represent how Camille feels she is being kept in the dark, while the use of light brings out the beauty of the naked skin and the casual sex.
Another striking scene that feels almost documentary-like occurs when Kris is told about the five different types of lesbians while attending a bar party. The party is mainly lit in a pink light that adds a touch of femmeness to the Black and brown women present. As the five different types of lesbians are explained to Kris, shots of different lesbians are seen, accented by different lighting for each type.
As a whole, 195 Lewis is a poignant show that feels like coming home to new and familiar faces. Whether in themselves or others, Black queer viewers will recognize the characters and love them. Through the efforts of the creators, director, and the cast, 195 Lewis tells a wonderful coming-of-age story of love, lust, and life in one of America’s blackest and queerest cities.
195 Lewis will be available Thursday Nov. 16th at 8pm EST at 195Lewis.com