Why we love: Tales From Pussy Willow
Alexandra Penelope dives into the world of queer animation.
In Tales From Pussy Willow, animator Kate Jessop humorously reveals the daily heteronormative and misogynistic happenings all too familiar to queer women.
The web series – currently airing its second installment – features a mix of live action talking-heads and animation, creating a surrealist atmosphere that heightens the absurdity of its situations. This year it was picked up by REVRY, the first global queer streaming service, and its pilot episode Parent’s Chat was shortlisted by Toronto WebFest for best LGBTQ Story. Queer viewers have responded positively to the series, but Kate explains mainstream audiences have been amusingly unnerved by the show’s blunt portrayals of queer people’s realities.
In Parent’s Chat, Kate explores the frustration accompanied by coming out to supportive – albeit terribly ignorant and misguided – parents. The jokes – including the mother’s dry sentiment to “not get AIDS” – have brought stunned silence from mainstream audiences. As Kate explains, “By not talking about attitudes that still exist in our society we won’t address it or move on.” She hopes using humour will provoke a positive reaction, encouraging discussion and self-reflection.
Another episode – Staff Room – tackles femme visibility, and reminds us society still follows notions of “hetero-until-proven-queer”. “You’re a l-l-lesbian?”, a colleague stutters, “but you’re so pretty and normal!” Such remarks are a daily reality for a femme, continuously faced with coming out to unbelieving strangers.
While Pussy Willow is the brain-child of Kate, she frequently collaborates with others, aptly calling her team “Animation Girl Band”. Over the years, she’s worked with several artists, creating short films, motion graphics, music videos, and other multi-media projects.
In 2016, Kate directed Queer Heroes, an animated short celebrating historical and contemporary queer figures in art, politics, and science. The piece was a collaborative effort, combining the talents of 14 animators, each passing on their last frame to the next animator to create one seamless work.
Along with Pussy Willow and Queer Heroes, Kate’s other notable works include the Love Works duology – Chariot Riders and Little Elephant – two shorts exploring the intersection between racial identity and sexuality. Although her queerly focused animated works have been successful across many film festivals in the UK and abroad, Kate explains it is only recently she’s begun to think of “queer animation” as a genre. On a recent animator’s panel, Kate explained how queer animated films often find themselves lost between animation festivals that don’t know what to do with queer content, and LGBT festivals that don’t feature animation.
One of animation’s many merits is its ability to deviate from reality, using abstraction and visual metaphor to convey difficult subject matter in new and approachable ways. Kate’s works take difficult to digest topics and stylistically repurpose them to generate conversation and reflection, demonstrating the importance of art as a tool for change.
Tales From Pussy Willow is made largely for a queer audience, with winks and nudges to interactions and situations we undergo daily, but its reach extends outside our community, using brazen humour to enlighten those who ignorantly perpetuate stigma.
The final episode of the second series goes live tomorrow, Friday 3 November, so go catch up with the residents of Pussy Willow now!
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