On Poetry and Culture Shock

Queerness in commercial movies

I cannot remember where I read that a staple of commercial fictions (mind the plural: I don’t mean only novels) is the death of everyone who is not white, middle class and straight, so that the very white, middle class, and straight protagonists can be left alone in a wonderfully homogeneous world and the audience can feel good about themselves because their pity for the dead characters tells them they don’t discriminate. I thought that was a bit silly and simple, but life is silly and simple sometimes.

I have seen two movies in a row about homosexuals in a hostile environment. The first one was Fresa y Chocolate (1994) because I needed a feel-good movie and the other was The Children’s Hour (1961) because Audrey Hepburn is the protagonist and that’s more than enough for me.

You would’ve thought that the world changed enough in the thirty years between these two movies. The earlier one has two women friends, one straight, the other a closeted lesbian. Rumours about them destroy their lives. Eventually the lesbian commits suicide and the other leaves the town. The second movie is about two men, one straight, the other gay and as out of the closet as the clothes you have on. Rumours about them destroy the life of the gay one and put in serious danger the life of the other. Eventually the gay one is kicked out of the country against his will.

What a coincide, isn’t it? So, not much difference in thirty years. Just two things have improved: Diego (the gay man) is not ashamed of being gay, and he doesn’t have to be seen dead on screen. Yep, a beginning. Can anybody tell me a 100% mainstream movie with any gay character in a dramatic role than isn’t troubled by his or her sexuality and that survives the end of the movie? Being exiled counts as death, I don’t accept “comic relief” characters, and Almodóvar doesn’t count.

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