Series title: Twelfth Grade or Whatever
Created by: Quip Modest Productions
Starring: Sarah Taylor, Julian Hermano, Kristen Vaganos
Elevator pitch: A girl disguised as a boy to get onto one of the best football teams in the country ends up falling for her best friend…which turns into less of a love triangle and more like a love circle. Hijinks, of course, ensue.
Features: strong female characters, various sets (outside and inside), hidden lovers, m/m relationship, f/f relationship, humor, POC rep, pansexual rep, multiple perspectives, realistic teen awkwardness, woman empowerment, transgender rep, agoraphobia, bisexual rep, genderfluid rep, discussion about masculinity
You would think that Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s more convoluted plays, would be difficult to adapt to a modern setting. A girl disguised as a boy, in the service of a man? How is that plausible today? Rather than being a servant cast up be a storm-tossed sea, Sam (Viola) Messing is in his second year of West Balk School for Boys, which has one of the best football teams in the country but is dead set against letting girls or transgender boys into their school. He wants to explore his passion of film and documentaries, and decides to document his senior year with his friends. Oren Douglas, his best friend and football captain, spotted Liv Belcik once and “fell in love.” So the more feminine Sam is sent to woo her in his stead.
Liv Belcik is trapped inside her home and her mind after the deaths of her brother and father convince her that the world is too dangerous to venture into. She starts vlogs to speak to the world without having to venture into that world. Her vlogs, occassionally taken over by her cousin Tammi, show her small world, which consists of Tammi, Tammi’s best friend Foster, Tammi’s girlfriend Maria, and her neighbor Malcolm. After several boys have chased after her, she declares that she is done being the enigma and manic pixie dream girl that boys are fascinated with.
The vlog format lends itself extremely well to Twelfth Night’s separate timelines and monologues. It’s also full of LGBTQ+ representation, and there’s a lot of discussion about gender. The actors feel like actual teenagers, halting and awkward as they struggle to understand themselves. The editing style reflects that, even though the cuts are sharp and all the indoor shots are high quality lighting and camera work. The creators also take liberties with the ending of the story, which doesn’t at all make sense in a modern setting, and it makes for a fresh and new perspective on an age-old series.