Horrorthon365 · Microreview · Politics · Television · ThanksKilling 2023

ThanksKilling 2023: ‘Fellow Travelers’ and the Horror of Political Persecution: Unpacking the Real-Life History of the Lavender Scare

Joseph McCarthy’s reign of paranoia and terror in the 1950s and repercussions long beyond began with the so-called Red Scare, a targeting and persecution of Americans believed to be communists or sympathizers. But there was another social and cultural hunt happening at the same time. They called it the Lavender Scare, and it involved outing queer people who worked for the government and effectively ruining their lives. And it’s the Lavender Scare that’s the subject of Ron Nyswaner’s poignant — and heartbreaking — new Showtime miniseries ‘Fellow Travelers.’

Flipping between the present of the 1980s and the three decades previous, Hawk (Matt Bomer) and Tim (Jonathan Bailey) meet while working at the State Department in DC just as McCarthy (Chris Bauer) broadens his targets to include queer folks. An ironic inclusion of persecutions spearheaded by McCarthy’s openly gay fixer Roy Cohn (Will Brill) — one whose antidemocratic and corrupt machinations extended to the Orange Menace who occupied the White House from 2017 to 2021.

Part love story, part political thriller, and part period piece, ‘Fellow Travelers’ unpacks a perspective about the State Department and government ongoings in Washington DC we rarely, if ever, hear about. The result is fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure. The hard choices people had to make to either be true to themselves, or escape persecution are both straightforward and surprising.

‘Fellow Travelers’ is an issue-heavy narrative that also touches on racism and the civil rights movement, the AIDS epidemic, and so many other important American historical milestones from a queer perspective that adds fresh nuance to these events. The fact that these stories are being told now in 2023 is a small example of how far we’ve come. But still so far to go yet for equal rights on an intersectional front.

And the irony isn’t lost on me that the descendants of European settlers who were escaping religious and other persecution in their founding of the USA would turn around and do the very same thing to marginalized communities. It’s shocking how many people died by suicide during the Lavender Scare after being outed by their own government. I hope those lost souls will one day rest in peace.

‘Fellow Travelers’ is streaming on Showtime and Paramount+. Watch it.

✨Snow globe/5 stars. Highly recommend politicians stop legislating their bigotry.✨

🦃ThanksKilling Terrors 2023 is the newest installment of my Horrorthon365 project, eclectic and unexpected genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. Browse the entire collection here. 🍗