In the age of streaming services and YouTube, queer content is easier than ever to find (as long as you’re not on restricted mode *le sigh*). If I’d had half of what’s available now at my fingertips as a teenager, I would have been thrilled and felt far less alone in the world. However, quality queer content can still be difficult to find. Cheesy lesbian movies in which the whole plotline is queerness (or more specifically, gay panic) abound, while others are just thinly veiled soft-core porn. We ask Hollywood for interesting stories and complex, relatable characters but oftentimes don’t even create them for ourselves.
Recently, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a gem of an LGBTQ webseries based in Vancouver, BC. Titled Inconceivable, the show follows Rita, a 24 year-old lesbian who’s been knocked up by a guy she had a fling with. Sound incongruous? Rita’s unexpected sexual fluidity has not triggered a crisis of identity for her so far in the series, though it has caused some confusion for others.
Inconceivable has a six-episode first season, and the producers are currently seeking funding for a second season. So if you love it, show your support with thumbs ups. The first four episodes have already dropped, and I will recap and review the first three here, then tackle episodes 4-6 once all of them are out. If you want to watch episodes 1-3 before this recap spoils them for you, links are listed below. New episodes are being released every Wednesday on This Is a Spoon Studio‘s YouTube channel.
The series begins with Rita at the clinic, staring at her positive pregnancy test as the doctor piles on more things she’s not ready for, like prenatal vitamins and pamphlets. Thankfully, the pamphlet is about her options and not filled with pictures of aborted fetuses, because this is Canada. Still in shock, Rita returns to the waiting room to tell her friends Trina and Tony, both of whom are also super gay.
Tony entertains the idea that this could be “destiny’s child” and whips out a pack of tarot cards, while Trina urges Rita to look at the facts. “You did not leave your hick-ass homophobic cow town to be knocked up by a dude,” she reminds her. When the cards give no clear answer, she tells Rita she needs to talk to Adam.
Rita: You know how some straight girls ‘experiment’ with other girls in college? Well, you could say Adam was my lesbian version of that.
Adam is a rather goofy, chill guy who acts in and produces a web series called Average Dicks. (Incidentally, this is a real thing that the actor who plays him is involved with. Talk about meta.) He gets Rita’s text to come over and bring a stress reliever, and as one might expect from a dude, he immediately assumes she’s talking about his penis. He already has a Tinder date lined up for the night, so he’s feeling pretty lucky. Adam’s roommate and collaborator, Mac, is not so high on his love life. He’s still mooning over and Facebook stalking a girl named Michelle who he went out with twice a few months ago.
Back at her own place, Rita is rehearsing various ways to break the news to Adam. “What’s got two thumbs, and is super pregnant??” She has little opportunity to say anything once he arrives anyway, as he starts rambling on about what he’s been up to and only stops when he notices the pee stick sitting on the table and asks what it’s for. Once she says she’s pregnant, he’s the dumbstruck one, and she’s the one babbling nervously.
“You’re pregnant?” he finally breaks in, the beginning of a barrage of questions. How did this happen? Didn’t she take the morning after pill? Is she sure it’s his?
Adam: Have you had sex with anyone else?
Rita: No one else with a dick, if that’s what you mean.
Adam’s tone is not accusatory so much as disbelieving, as he is understandably in shock. They took all the necessary precautions. Rita’s quick to point out that he used cheap vegan condoms, to which he says that they were actually expensive but he bought them because he wanted her to think he cared about animals, for some reason. Good old lesbian stereotypes. “Why does everything vegan suck?” he ruminates. A question for the ages.
Rita wants to hang for the night and talk about their options, but Adam still has that Tinder date. Quite the Tinder aficionado herself (as we see next episode), Rita takes it upon herself to evaluate this new girl. “She’s actually pretty. ‘I love beer and watching hockey.’ Gaaaaay.”
The date ends up cancelling before Adam gets the chance, and Rita slips a conciliatory arm around his shoulders. A moment later they start spontaneously making out. When they break apart long enough to question it, Adam begins to ramble again, about how he’s scared and originally thought this was a booty call. Considering this and his remark about how his erection still thinks it’s a booty call, Rita points out, “Well, it’s not like I can get more pregnant” before jumping him.
It’s only a brief reprieve. Once they come down from the high, it’s back to reality. As it sets in, their smiles fade, and Rita sums up the situation with a muttered, “Fuck.”
1×02: “My Dream Life”
Episode 2 is an exposition episode, setting up how Rita came to be in this situation in the first place. Like many a gay young person, Rita got a job in the city to escape her closed-minded small town. It’s revealed that her job is a mental health worker in East Vancouver, which sounds like a pretty rough gig.
Rita’s girlfriend Jessie helps move her to Vancouver, and over beers congratulates her for being “an adult who is not living with [her] parents,” which is sadly a huge accomplishment these days. The idea that a single mental health worker could afford her own one bedroom above-ground apartment in Vancouver is more inconceivable than anything, but okay. Jessie assures Rita that she will be by to visit every weekend and proposes that she move in after her semester is over. Rita awkwardly explains that she wants a fresh start now that she’s moved, since she’s never had a chance to be single. Jessie is understandably pissed, not least of all because she’s driven to Vancouver six times to help Rita move. She calls Rita heartless and storms out.
Brushing that off, Rita sets up her home and revels in how the first step of her Dream Life has been achieved. What follows is a montage of Rita cruising girls on the street and continuously swiping right amidst a parade of Tinder dates. There’s also a deleted scene where one of her dates asks her to accompany her to a family event. She turns her down as awkwardly as she broke up with Jessie, stating that she doesn’t want anything involving commitment.
Rita: God did not give me this long and pointy tongue just for catching snowflakes.
Basically, Rita’s a lesbian f*ckboi.
While walking down the street one evening, Rita gets stopped by this dude who’s promoting an event inside, a showcase of local webseries productions. She’s convinced by the offer of $3 beers (Canadian dollars, remember), and heads on in. She ends up spending $5 per beer anyway to tip the server, because she’s a player like that. In any case, this is where she meets Adam. Adam and Mac are chatting up a couple girls who run a different channel when this overenthusiastic dude gets up in Adam’s face and totally cockblocks him. Mac takes off with Michelle, one of the girls, so Adam grabs Rita to use her as an escape. Adam asks if she has a pipe or rolling papers, and they head outside to smoke up.
Rita: I can’t believe you live in Vancouver and you don’t know how to roll a joint.
Turns out, Adam can’t roll a joint, but Rita refuses to do it for him and teaches him instead. They chat easily and ooze chemistry, platonic or otherwise. The next morning, Rita wakes up to find Adam naked in her bed and promptly freaks out.
When she tells Trina and Tony what happened via group chat, Tony demands “pics or it didn’t happen!” and her camera’s shutter noise wakes Adam up. Rita feels the need to tell him that she doesn’t usually do this, and he assumes she means hooking up with strangers, forcing her to clarify further. Adam ends up just as confused as she is.
Rita: I don’t usually hook up with dudes, ever.
Adam: Wait, what? So you’re bi, then?
Rita: No. I identify as lesbian.
Adam: But we did have sex though, right?
Rita: How ‘bout, you know, you just identify you and I’ll identify me?
Adam is cool with that, and suggests they hang out again. Rita automatically assumes he means he wants to get involved, but he says he just thinks she’s a fun person. Rita concurs that she had fun also, and Adam leaves.
In narration, Rita chalks this up to everyone acting out of character sometimes and admits she never thought anything would come of her and Adam. “The truth is,” she says, “we were just two strangers specifically looking for nothing.”
Back in the present, episode 3 opens with Rita crying in the bathtub as the weight of everything crashes down on her. Her Dream Life collage mocks her from its place on her wall as she gets ready for work. She and Adam go about their days in shock, and in the evening they each take their own approach to dealing – or not dealing – with the situation.
Let’s start with Adam. Upon arriving home, he finds Mac has cleaned the house to impress Michelle because she agreed to have coffee with him again and he’s hoping she’ll come back to their place and see how he’s changed. Adam is so beyond caring or trying to sugarcoat anything, like how Michelle doesn’t care about Mac at all. He drops the news that he got Rita pregnant and pulls out a bag of mushrooms, saying they’ve got some reflecting to do.
Adam: If I keep it, how am I supposed to make movies if I’m busy changing diapers? Like I’d be like a full adult.
Tripping out and wearing a lace shawl as a headscarf for some reason, Adam ruminates on all he stands to lose. Like his career and freedom and ability to go to Disneyland and experience all the magic and the wonder. Equally high, Mac zones out and stares at one of Michelle’s videos until he decides he needs to talk to her and stumbles out of the house.
Meanwhile, Rita is attending a party at Trina and Tony’s place. They ask how she’s doing and how her talk with Adam went before she even gets in the door, to which she says, “Could we have like just one night where we didn’t talk about my uterus at all?”
After kicking Tony out because no boys allowed, Trina promptly introduces Rita to the only other single girl at the party before running off, leaving them to it. Awkward. That’s been done to me, and I just can’t. Thankfully, Rita and the girl, Grace, hit it off. They bond over how they feel way too immature for this event with all the domestic coupled lesbians, and escape outside to smoke. (Rita doesn’t actually smoke because pregnancy, but she’ll take the company.)
Grace: This is such a grown-up event. I’ve never seen so much quinoa salad in my life.
During their conversation outside, Grace remembers that they made out one time at Pride a couple years back before Rita ran off to deal with some ex-girlfriend drama. (This show hits it right on the head with common lesbian experiences, right down to the kiss being in an alley and the ex throwing a tantrum and running away.) Rita apologizes for running off but says if it’s any consolation she remembers the kiss being great. Grace pretends not to remember so Rita will offer to prove her skills, which she does. They’re about to kiss when Rita’s phone starts ringing.
Ignoring the call from Adam, Rita goes ahead and kisses Grace. But he calls back immediately, so she gives in and picks up. Adam’s freaking out because Mac’s high and about to do something stupid. He convinces Rita to come get them. Grace seems unsurprised that Rita is running off again, and asks if it’s more girl drama. Admitting it’s boy drama this time, Rita explains, “So I’m still gay, very much gay. It’s just lately, I’ve been sort of gay for this guy. And then we stopped. But now I’m pregnant.”
The fact that she said “gay for this guy” instead of “straight for this guy” surprised me and gave me a chuckle. Anyway, the pregnancy part seemed to be what shocked Grace more than Rita sleeping with a guy, so that’s a good sign. Biphobia and gatekeeping can be prevalent among lesbians, and I’m so over it.
At Michelle’s house, Mac has sort of a Romeo and Juliet moment with Michelle when he makes a declaration of love from her yard while she stands on the balcony. She’s not having it, though, rejecting his advances and his questions about who she’s with now.
Mac: Michelle, I love you!
Michelle: Yeah, well can you just do that by yourself, please?
Rita shows up moments later, and Adam drags Mac into her car. Mac assures them that they’ll be great parents and they can still go to Disneyland and it will be even better with a kid, and then passes out. Rita tells Adam she kissed a girl and is relieved when he reacts by asking if she was cute. Adam assures her she doesn’t need his permission seeing as they don’t know where they stand, and goes on to say, “I know we don’t really know where we’re headed right now, but… I love you. You are a lovely person.”
Can I just say, I loved the juxtaposition between the two love confessions. One was infatuation from afar that held an expectation of reciprocation, while the other was an honest statement of affection. Rita returns the sentiment and starts the car to go get them some hot chocolate.
Writing and Acting
Rita is played by Katie Stuart, who has an extensive acting resume but is probably best known to lesbians for playing queer-coded gunner Zoe Monroe on The 100. She also had a bit part on The L Word as a lesbian teenager whose brother died in a homophobic attack. Stuart plays the Shane prototype to a T, with an impeccable lesbian swagger and slouch, but she also captures the vulnerable side of her character. The lead-up to her telling Adam about the pregnancy is particularly well done, with Rita’s usual slick and chill demeanor giving way to nervous mannerisms.
Bruce Novakowski also inhabits his character convincingly, navigating Adam’s emotional extremes with enthusiasm and humor. Adam’s a rather clueless guy, but Novakowski makes him lovable. His tentative body language and concerned but helpless expression in the scene where Rita is crying in the bathtub in particular caught my eye.
The supporting cast who play Mac, Trina and Tony also do well in limited screen time. Shawn Richards stands out to me the most in the role of Tony, with his organic portrayal of the flamboyant gay man. Trina and Tony have tangible chemistry with each other and with Rita, and I especially loved the moment when Trina is shoving Tony out the door despite his protests. “What am I supposed to be? Homeless??”
Mac is a rather one-note character thus far, the brooding lovelorn boy, but the actor plays the trope nicely and I look forward to seeing how he portrays any character development in the second half of the season. Across the board, there’s definitely some overacting in terms of facial expressions, but it’s done for comedic effect and played well.
The writing on this show is some of the best I’ve seen in a web series. Admittedly, I am biased because I enjoy puns and humorous miscommunications, and I get all the gay in-jokes. Still, the dialogue is as witty as the show’s title and fosters the good comedic timing we see from the cast. I already highlighted many of my favorite lines in the recap portion of this article, but here’s another for you.
Adam: So… there’s a baby inside you.
Rita: No, no no no no. Nope. Clump of cells. As soon as we start calling it a baby, the whole deciding whether or not to keep it gets way more intense.
Adam: Have you thought about, you know, ‘taking care’ of the cell clump?
Rita: Actually, I’ve been thinking about that a lot more than I thought I would. But I’ve also been considering an abortion.
As I mentioned in the recaps, the show also captures queer culture well, especially that of the Canadian west coast. I live across the water from Vancouver and have spent plenty of time there, and the show does a good job of capturing that vibe and the particular style choices one might see in the region. (Except for the shirt Rita was wearing for the party. It did not strike me as stereotypically gay, but then again maybe I’m a year behind the style trends.) That is, of course, a credit to the costume and location departments as much as the writing staff, but it all combines to feel very West Coast authentic.
Rita’s experiences are extremely relatable to me and probably many other lesbians. Being blatantly set up with the only other single lesbian at a party. Enjoying the newfound freedom as a queer in the big city. Pride shenanigans with girls with crazy dyed hair. The show also playfully addresses a number of stereotypes, such as quinoa salad and veganism (and U-Hauling, in later episodes). It’s fair to say that the show in some ways feels like a big lesbian in-joke, which I’m totally down with.
Speaking of stereotypes, it should be addressed that the lesbian sleeping with a man is a rather annoying TV trope, and I can see why the premise of this show could therefore bother some lesbians. However, this story tackles it from the POV of said lesbian, and it’s not to tittillate the audience or give a male character bragging rights. It’s not a punchline or a side story — it is the story. To be honest, I can relate to Rita’s unexpected attraction to a singular guy and the questions that can raise in yourself and others about your identity. Sexual fluidity among lesbians is somewhat of a taboo issue, and I’m glad to see it being addressed with humor and openness.
Sexual and romantic orientations exist on a spectrum, and while there can be great power in claiming an identity for yourself, it can also trap you. Women who identify as gay but sometimes dabble in the boy waters can be subject to shunning and a lot of ridicule, labeled as traitors or told to just call themselves bisexual even if that identity is less accurate. It is refreshing to see Rita’s friends not react that way. Do we call every straight woman who has fooled around with the odd woman bisexual? Generally, no. There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual, of course, but identity policing is an ugly phenomenon prevalent in the queer community.
But while pressure from within the community can play a role, I think the main reason we see fewer lesbians than straight women experimenting or testing our orientation is because we have already had to examine ours. Unfortunately, because of that there is this assumption that if you identify as gay, you must be sure of your identity because you consciously discovered it. But human sexuality is fluid, and lesbians are humans too.
The show also tackles the disillusionment of young adulthood as a major theme. The opening lines of the series are Rita’s reflections on how she expected her life to go versus what has actually happened. The Dream Life mood board she keeps on her wall is a nicely placed symbolic prop. It reminds her and the audience not only how far astray life has taken her, but of the blind idealism and hope for the future Millennials were raised to have. And how disappointed many of us have ended up.
Life’s curveballs are not all that’s explored here. Navigating the edge of youth and adulthood is especially explored in the aptly named episode “Adulting”, with Adam’s reflections about his possibly impending fatherhood making him a full adult and Rita feeling out of place with domestic coupled lesbians. However, it’s also mentioned in other spots, like Jessie’s congratulations to Rita for moving out of her parents’ house. That was not always such an accomplishment, but young adults today are reaching the traditional milestones of adulthood later than previous generations. It’s often not because we are unmotivated or immature or entitled, like the Baby Boomers love to say in their think pieces about us, but because the economy is awful and our society revolves around money.
As must be obvious from what I’ve said, I love this series so far. It’s funny, of course, but it manages to address some pretty deep topics within its mostly comedic structure. Relatability is its best asset, especially as far as humor goes, but the witty writing also does its part.
As for downsides, most of the things I found disappointing/distracting were just sloppy continuity errors, because I notice tiny things like that. I won’t list them here, because I’ll ruin it for everyone else, but they involved things like mismatching locations. However, those are entirely forgivable sins for low-budget indie productions.
The other thing is that, for a series that feels authentic and relatable, the living conditions were higher than seemed appropriate for the characters given Vancouver’s ridiculous rental market. Adam and Mac live in a run-down little house, a bit more believable, but Rita’s place seems above what her budget should be. Same goes for Trina and Tony’s house. This is a background thing, of course, and as I said, it mostly bothers me because everything else feels so spot on. The show maybe set its bar a little too high in my head with everything else, and hey, that’s an excellent problem to have.
Inconceivable balances relatability with its unique premise, one that could be approached in a degrading way but instead is handled with humor, compassion, and an open mind. It’s a meeting of the universal and the absurd. The sharp writing is fully realized in the hands of Stuart and Novakowski, who skillfully portray the layers of their stereotyped characters. Overall, this is one of the better and more interesting LGBTQ webseries I’ve seen to date. I recommend it to any young queer person who is exploring issues of identity or simply wants to see a unique story.
Images courtesy of This is a Spoon Studios