As someone who has previously studied film at a tertiary level, I have a intense appreciation for film and all that it can represent. Queer representation in film was a focus of mine, and even though I may be a bit rusty and not as up to date with films as I once was, I still know what I like. Which, fair warning, tends to be comedies or cheesy romances.
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
The Celluloid Closet is a 1995 American documentary film directed and written by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. The film is based on Vito Russo’s book of the same name first published in 1981 and on lecture and film clip presentations he gave in 1972–1982. Russo had researched the history of how motion pictures, especially Hollywood films, had portrayed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters.
The Celluloid Closet is an important queer film because it documents and discusses the history of non-heterosexual characters within early Hollywood films. The film talks about how these characters were hidden in subtext, how they were portrayed as villains, and how censorship affects visibility.
I believe that The Celluloid Closet is an important film to watch, to know the history and ways in which queer characters have been represented really allows you to appreciate all the strides forward that society and visual representation have made. That may seem like a trite platitude but knowing that to be queer on screen was akin to a death sentence, really gives you a sense of perspective in how characters can now live on screen.
I am by NO means saying that queer representation is perfect, what I am saying is that I am glad stereotypes and guaranteed negative outcomes have come to an end.
Viewing the negative representations in The Celluloid Closet can be confronting and challenging. However my views on the issue are similar to Harvey Fierstein in the film, “visibility at any cost. I’d rather have negative than nothing.” Even though the film is a bit old, I would really recommend people give it a go, I would also encourage people to read the book, it is a wealth of knowledge and an easy read 🙂
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Megan (Natasha Lyonne) considers herself a typical American girl. She excels in school and cheerleading, and she has a handsome football-playing boyfriend, even though she isn’t that crazy about him. So she’s stunned when her parents decide she’s gay and send her to True Directions, a boot camp meant to alter her sexual orientation. While there, Megan meets a rebellious and unashamed teen lesbian, Graham (Clea DuVall). Though Megan still feels confused, she starts to have feelings for Graham.
This is a go to movie for me, it’s so kitsch, it’s so stylised, and it’s so good. Part of the New Queer Cinema movement (whaaat? it’s like you’ve studied this stuff 😛 ), the film is incredibly tongue in cheek, funny, and cute. I say cute, because the film is ultimately a love story and I am a sucker for those happy endings.
But I’m a Cheerleader is a fun watch, it’s quite camp and has a cult following. If that didn’t convince you to watch the film, then how about Natasha Lyonne? Michelle Williams? Cathy Moriarty? Nothing – fine how about RuPaul? I am sure you now want to rush out and find a copy of the film 🙂
Different for Girls (1996)
Karl Foyle (Steven Mackintosh) and Paul Prentice (Rupert Graves) were best mates at school in the Seventies. But when they meet again in present-day London things are definitely not the same. Karl is now Kim, a transsexual, and she has no desire to stir up the past while she’s busy forging a neat and orderly new life. Prentice, on the other hand, has charm but is a social disaster stuck in a dead-end job. His main talent is for getting them both into trouble. Amid the squabbles, they start to fall in love.
I’m not going to lie, this movie has a lot, a lot, of cringe-worthy moments. Despite this, when I first watched the film I just fell in love with the cheesy romance. I also won’t sugar coat this, there are some tricky moments and representations as Paul comes to terms with Kim but all can be forgiven because of Rupert Graves… and also because of the (SPOILER ALERT) happy ending
I know some people may dismiss this movie, either because of its treatment of transgender issues or the fact that its a pretty formulaic rom-com. Despite all this, I fell in love. Also hey, Kim gets treated with respect and who cares about queer movies that follow specific genres, we deserve to be pandered to like everyone else – I want a happy ending dammit!
I know that for something that is one of my favourites, I have ragged on it a fair amount 😛 However this movie makes me happy, I watch it with a smile on my face, and if less could be said about the ‘it fits’ line, the better.
Guys and Balls or Männer wie wir (2004)
After his homophobic teammates cut him from their ranks, a soccer player (Maximilian Brueckner) vows to assemble an all-gay squad within a month. With the help of his sister and a former star, he prepares a lineup full of misfits to take on his former associates in a grudge match.
I will start by saying that I do not usually enjoy sports films nor do I understand the rules of soccer. Even so I really enjoyed this German made movie. I think I just really enjoy genre heavy films that tell queer stories.
Do not get me wrong, much like Different for Girls, there are some problematic moments and stereotypes in the film, so if you are looking for a progressive and life changing movie, probably keep looking. However, if you have a chance or want to expand your world cinema, I would really recommend Guys and Balls.
Bound – Jennifer Tilly and her voice made this movie for me.
D.E.B.S. -Sooo good. Definitely a guilty pleasure of mine.
Eating Out – It’s so cringe-worthy but I can be the bigger person and admit that I enjoyed it… so much.
Google New Queer Cinema and seriously, give it a go 🙂 I’d recommended Gregg Araki.