In this post, I’m going to attempt to write about LGBTQ+ cinema – a warning that it isn’t something I’m an expert on by any means, and so my opinions are just that, opinions (although, as always, feel free to share your own and to disagree with me!) There’s a lot of LGBTQ+ films I haven’t seen and others that I have seen, but won’t be talking about here.
In honour of LGBTQ+ History Month, I’ve been watching a few queer films, a combination of ones which I’ve seen before and ones which I haven’t – now that we’re over halfway through February, I’m writing this to consolidate my thoughts, of which (no surprises here!) I have several. I think they can broadly be divided into four main categories, though.
Bury Your Gays
This is quite a common trope on TV and film – basically, it’s when queer characters are killed off, particularly in ways which further a straight character’s storyline. The trope is further explained here: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BuryYourGays
A lot of queer storylines revolve around death – and how I feel about it depends so much on the context and on how it’s done. With true stories, like Pride or Milk, it’s unavoidable. With some plots, it’s necessary (like, I think, Philadelphia) – it shouldn’t be the only story that’s heard though, and sometimes death seems like a narrative punishment for queerness. While a TV show and not a film, here a lot of my side-eye goes to Joss Whedon for his treatment of Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
All the White Men
With a few notable exceptions, queer cinema isn’t very good at showing other kinds of diversity. This may just mean that I’ve been watching the wrong films, but literature seems so much better at this, although there’s still a long way to go. Carol centres on two women (and despite having read the book, I didn’t realise that it was written in the 1950s before, although the film is obviously much more recent). In Pride, there’s a few jokes made about how few women there are, and although it is based on a true story, the character of Bromley is, I think, an invented one – but he’s still a cis, white male. It’s like producers and directors can’t get their heads around (or think that audiences won’t be able to get their heads around) people having multiple marginalised identities simultaneously.
If things seem bad for queer women, disabled people and people of colour, representation wise they are even worse for trans people. I’m not sure I’ve actually seen a film about a trans man before, and trans women are often played by cis men – this furthers the idea that trans people are ‘just acting’. I’m thinking particularly of the Danish Girl here – why is it that when cis men play trans women they are called brave, but trans women (particularly trans women of colour) are at huge risk of physical harm? I came out of the Danish Girl having seen it at the cinema saying ‘it should have been so much queerer!’
Why Isn’t It Queer??
Speaking of ‘it should have been queerer’, Whip It definitely falls into this category. It’s a film about roller derby and it stars Ellen Page – OF COURSE it should be queer. But no, they shoehorn in a fairly unbelievable heterosexual romance subplot. So many films end up doing this – it’s a cinematic ‘no homo’ and a form of queerbaiting. I think it also goes someway to explaining the popularity of fanfiction – viewers can rewrite stories to see themselves in them.
There were a lot of other things which came up in the different films I watched, but for the sake of this blog post not turning into a dissertation length diatribe, I’ll stop here, though I may continue at a later date!