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Forum namePass The Popcorn Archives
Topic subjectHomosexuality in Films.
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=23&topic_id=7329
7329, Homosexuality in Films.
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sat Sep-20-03 07:29 PM
Approve of it or not, homosexuality is a reality. Movies at their best should mirror reality.

Homosexuality in films has always been an interesting subject. Some would rather not remember the terrible ways which gays have been cast upon the silver screen, and even more so it seems some will not change such representation. Granted there seems to a slight change in the openness and honesty attributed to these roles, but still for every sensitively-drawn and accurate gay character there is an ice-pick wielding psychopath waiting in the next Hollywood lot.

I got curious about how it was, why, when, and by whom, watched "The Celluloid Closet," and learned a couple things. After reading a bit, I now have complied some information, humbly presented to okayplayer.com, ready for interpretation, dissection, and discussion.

Homosexuality in Films


"In a hundred years of movies, homosexuality has only rarely been depicted on the screen. When it did appear, it was there as something to laugh at or something to pity or even something to fear. These were fleeting images, but they were unforgettable, and they left a lasting legacy. Hollywood, that great maker of myths, taught straight people what to think about gay people and gay people what to think about themselves."-Vito Russo

In the Beginning:

-In The Florida Enchantment (1914): Two women dance off together, leaving their bewildered men folk to shrug, and dance off together themselves.

-A popular gag in parodies of the western was to insert a flamboyantly effeminate pansy into the world of the macho cowboy, i.e. Wanderer of the West (1927) The Soilers (1923.)

Film historian Richard Dyer: The equation of male homosexuality with effeminacy was already so firmly in place that a popular mainstream film could assume that the audience would know what that swishy behavior was all about.

Enter the Sissy:

Hollywood's first gay stock character.
The Sissy made everyone feel more manly or more womanly by occupying the space in between. He didn't seemed to have a sexuality, so Hollywood allowed him to thrive.

-Ours Better (1933): The character of Mr. Ernetst, an astonishingly swishy fop.

-The Broadway Melody (1929) & Myrt and Marge (1934): Comic characters whose humor was based on male effeminacy.

Screenwriter Jay Presson Allen (Cabaret, Prince of the City): There were sissies, and they were never addressed as homosexuals. It was a convention that was totally accepted. They were perceived as homosexuals just subliminally."

Many looking back on that time saw them as ignorant clichés, "like Steppin Fetchit for the blacks."

The Vision is Seen:

Policies and censorship were not to be so strict for another couple years. This relative freedom (compared to the coming times) lead way for some big screen homosexual representations.

-Morocco (1930): Dietrich's first nightclub performance exudes an androgynous eroticism (as she) tuxedo-clad accepts a flower from a female admirer and nonchalantly kisses her on the lips.

-Call Her Savage (1932): Hollywood's first glimpse at a gay bar (and to be the last for another three decades.)

-Queen Christina (1933): Based on the life of a sixteenth century lesbian ruler of Sweden. While the movie invented a heterosexual romance, hints of her lesbianism remain.

The Shackles That Were:

The Hays Code
From March 1934 (excerpts)

-Motion picture producers recognize the high trust and confidence which have been placed in them by the people of the world and which have made motion pictures a universal form of entertainment.

-The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.

-A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work.

-All out of a regard for the sanctity of marriage and the home . . .

-In the case of impure love, the love which society has always regarded as wrong and which has been banned by divine law, the following are important:

-It must not be presented in such a way to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience.

-It must not be made to seem right and permissible.

-In general, it must not be detailed in method and manner.

So there already was a national taboo and disease attached to homosexuality and now the Hays Code aimed to make sure this "impure love" if represented, was done so minimally and in a way not contradicting from the manner in "which society has always regarded as wrong . . ."

The Hays Code, which came from the Production Code Administration, picked up steam during the great depression years and especially when conservative Joseph Breen was made head. The first major example of censorship coming to play involved nude scenes from 1934's "Tarzan and his Mate," where several sections of the film's intended print were edited out. At this time the hays code began explicitly expressing their distaste and discomfort for what they saw as "sexual perversion" by "prohibiting films from using the words lesbian or gay."


Notable movies that lost their story on the cutting room floor.

-Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): Brick Pollitt's sexual identity and curiosity

-Spartacus (1960): A suggestive scene in which Spartacus bathes his master.

Competition Spurs (Some) Changes & Much Distress:

Hollywood was hurting. Faced with competition from more sexually explicit foreign films, as well as from the newly popular invention, television, filmmakers searched for new ways to attract audiences.

Producers were convinced that audiences would pay to see films with more adult themes. By the early sixties, the Code had gradually been whittled away. The only remaining restriction was "sex perversion."

-The Children's Hour (1961): Hepburn & MacLaine lesbian relationship took shape, which had been censored in a previous version of the story, These Three (1936.) Still in the end the final reels of the movie casts the characters as mentally disturbed and abnormal.

-Walk on the Wild Side (1962): A lesbian role was actually written (adapted from the novel by Nelson Algren), but in lecherous Madame hell-bent and fatally vengeful.

-The Detective (1968): This presented a view of homosexuals as desperate, unhappy, self-loathing -- and ultimately murderous.

In film after film ("The Detective," "Caged," "Dracula's Daughter," "The Fox," "Rebel Without a Cause," "Johnny Guitar," "Rebecca," "Suddenly Last Summer," "The Children's Hour") characters of questionable sexuality meet their end in the last reel.

And Then . . .

-The Boys in the Band (1970): The first major-studio production to deal frankly with homosexuality.

"If we could just not hate ourselves so much. That's it, you know. If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much."

But Still . . .

Still the gays portrayed on screen were done so in not the most glorious of lights. They were called "faggots" and now not shown as victims, but rather victimizers.

Ellen Carton, director of the New York GLADD: "We had moved from suicide to homicide."

-Cruising (1980): Psychopaths and gritty gay S&M fetish.

-Windows (1980): Gay groups were indignant that the stalker-whose identity is revealed in the opening scenes-is a very rich, very unbalanced lesbian.

-The Fan (1981): A slasher film, with one killing whose homoerotic subtext got the film in a lot of trouble with the gay community.

Somebody Has a Problem:

"I think Americans are perhaps more scared of their sexuality," suggests gay British director John Schlesinger. "They're prepared to show violence of all kinds, but when it comes to sexuality I think America is both self-righteous and tries to bury it as if it didn't exist."

Screenwriter Susie Bright: "There's a comfort with female nudity and female girlishness and girlie bonding that can be sexy, and it can be completely palatable, even erotic. There's just a world of difference between how an audience looks at two men getting it on, and two women getting it on."

Whoopi Goldberg: "Straight men are more uncomfortable with two men making love because somehow that means you're weak."

Susan Sarandon: "I don't think, for better or worse, that women are taken very seriously in this area. It's actually something that straight men can watch and not be threatened by, and straight men are the ones that are propelling the industry forward."
7330, wow
Posted by DrNO, Sat Sep-20-03 08:35 PM
dont you have assignments to work on?
7331, today i didn't even have to use my AK (c) o'shea
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 06:38 AM
i got to say it was a good day . . .

>dont you have assignments to work on?

frid. & sat. afternoons were very productive school-wise. since i was looking all this stuff up myself, i thought might as well take a couple notes.
7332, glad you did
Posted by DrNO, Sun Sep-21-03 06:07 PM
thats some good stuff. I need to get productive school wise tommorow, fucking stats.
And as for Queen Christina the lesbian stuff was included on Garbos insistance. And the made up guy she falls in love with meets her when shes dressed as a man. Lots of suggestive stuff in it.
7333, Good job.
Posted by Illgamesh, Sun Sep-21-03 03:09 AM
Are you studying film in school?
7334, thanks
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 06:40 AM
>Are you studying film in school?

not officially, but one might not be able to tell otherwise. i know all the people in the multimedia section of the library by name. lol

btw, sociologoy is the major.
7335, you missed the crying game
Posted by Ason, Sun Sep-21-03 03:21 AM
black people stil got our Steppin Fetchit's
new millenium minstral show bytches like bringing down the house star latifah.

Who played a lesbian in set if off (which has to be some sort of first).
7336, i stopped listing moives at '81
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 06:45 AM
and gigli.

>black people stil got our Steppin Fetchit's
>new millenium minstral show bytches like bringing down the
>house star latifah.

well, i didn't say that racist and stereotypical depictions of african-americans had stopped and didn't mean to imply otherwise. and the (mis)representation of gays in hollywood is still not where it could be.

in both cases i think susan sarandon's last quote is priceless: "straight (white) men are the ones that are propelling the industry forward."

7337, Deliverance.
Posted by tha8thjewel, Sun Sep-21-03 08:18 AM
What about "Deliverance"? How does that fit into the chronology?

7338, squeal like a pig?
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 08:59 AM
>What about "Deliverance"? How does that fit into the

very awkwardly.


it's homosexuality as an act of perversion, male rape to be exact.

you might then ask "what about pulp fiction?"

these two examples, among countless, depict homosexuals as victimizers again, but it is the very root of their sexual desire that propels them into violence.

not good. . .
7339, What's going to be interesting is...
Posted by MrSpock, Sun Sep-21-03 08:41 AM
...a study of homosexuality on television. Some folks seem to think that this "new" wave of "gaysploitation" television programming is a good thing, but when you really scrutinize shows like "Boy Meets Boy" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," this wave of programming represents and at the same time fails to challenge long-held stereotypes about gay men. Note how lesbians just fall out of the equation altogether.
7340, HBO..
Posted by Mynoriti, Sun Sep-21-03 09:09 AM
is doing well I think. Great shows like Six Feet Under and The Wire have really interesting openly gay characters/couples. These are well developed realistic characters who just happen to be gay as opposed to other shows that seem focus on the sexuality of the character more than the actual person.

Of course HBO shows are better in just about every respect

I don't watch much regular TV but I've seen Everybody Loves Raymond once or twice and I could be wrong about this but the impression I got was that the show felt the need to remind the audience every 5 minutes that its characters are gay.
7341, RE: HBO..
Posted by Mynoriti, Sun Sep-21-03 05:48 PM
Meant to say Will & Grace not Everybody Loves Raymond. Like I said I don't watch regular TV much
7342, Funny you should say that...
Posted by kurlyswirl, Sun Sep-21-03 06:16 PM
>Meant to say Will & Grace not Everybody Loves Raymond. Like
>I said I don't watch regular TV much

When I read your original reply I thought, "Hmm, I didn't know there were gay characters on 'Everybody Loves Raymond' ('cause I don't watch it). The 'every 5 minutes' thing sounds a lot like 'Will & Grace' (which I do watch quite often)." I was just taking your word for it! :-P ks
7343, Boy Meets Boy
Posted by Mau777, Sun Sep-21-03 08:33 PM
...I thought it did a good job of showing homosexuality, minus the stereotypes. I honestly couldn't tell who was gay and who was straight. I found it better than any other "gay programming" on television and way ahead of any of those other "hook up reality shows".

Truth 2 U
7344, RE: Homosexuality in Films.
Posted by kysersozey, Sun Sep-21-03 12:46 PM
>Approve of it or not, homosexuality is a reality. Movies at
>their best should mirror reality.

...well so is child pornography, but I don't want to see that shit either. But if I must make a decision, I would watch two women, and not that Queen Latifah Set it Off shit(I'm still disgusted by that), but that Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon on Bound.

7345, i've very convinced this is an alias
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 02:04 PM
>>Approve of it or not, homosexuality is a reality. Movies at
>>their best should mirror reality.
>...well so is child pornography, but I don't want to see
>that shit either.

and i am very convinced not to care.

i hope that these are not your real feelings and if they may be, then i hope your hate doesn't manifest itself in any hurtful manner.

i don't wanna get in an immature yelling match, so feel no need to respond to this.
7346, Never. Post. Again.
Posted by kurlyswirl, Sun Sep-21-03 04:08 PM
You've got issues, man. Seek professional help. ks
7347, He should seek professional help??
Posted by Mattapan, Sun Sep-21-03 04:37 PM
Is he the one with something wrong with his brain and wants to stick another man in his...? We're in the last days... its evident more and more. Can we even tell wrong from right now?
7348, c'mon on now people
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Sun Sep-21-03 04:53 PM
the point of the post was to look at the subject of homosexuality in films.

i don't have to dis/approve one way or another to be able to objectively look at their representation.

please now . . .focus

to repeat . . .

i don't wanna get in an immature yelling match, so feel no need to respond to this
7349, *rolls eyes and sighs*
Posted by kurlyswirl, Sun Sep-21-03 05:09 PM
>Is he the one with something wrong with his brain and wants
>to stick another man in his...?

Gee, I know this may come as a shock to you, but people (obviously not you and KKKyserSozey, but...) can be tolerant and even supportive of homosexuality without themselves being homosexual.

I could go on, but I'm going to respect Ricky's post and leave it at that. ks
7350, You Should Read This
Posted by Mau777, Sun Sep-21-03 08:56 PM
From the OkayActivist Archives:

7351, Very interesting (in a good way) read
Posted by MANHOODLUM, Sun Sep-21-03 01:00 PM
I was still irked that Jack Black turned-out to be gay in "Saving Silverman".
7352, Let's discuss "High Art".
Posted by AnaStezia, Sun Sep-21-03 06:41 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but i think this film got decent reviews from the indie crowd, and I don't recall any gays objecting to the portrayal of the lesbian/bi characters. But wasn't the subtext that this wide-eyed innocent was being drawn into the dirty world of junkie lesbians?
7353, in case anyone has something to add
Posted by ricky_BUTLER, Mon Sep-22-03 08:09 PM
without being ignorant, UP