Film & TV Editor
Are you an avid watcher of RuPaul’s Drag Race or were you recently blown away by Olivia Colman in The Favourite? I will take nothing but yes as a suitable answer for these two questions. Then again, with LGBT History Month coming to a close, it is high time we not only praise commercially successful representations of the LGBTQ+ community in film and television, but go further in exploring the exciting offerings available to us. While you could spend a lifetime unearthing queerness on screen (and we highly suggest you do), here are a few you can start with…
Queering History with Emily Dickinson
While The Favourite is undeniably a move away from stuffy British costume dramas, equally quirky Wild Nights With Emily takes the crown with its queer retelling (or at long last truthful telling) of Emily Dickinson’s love life. Shown at EIFF and SQIFF 2018, the film initially premiered at trendy US festival SXSW. Despite positive reviews, like so many indie LGBTQ+ films, it is yet to find a distributor for a wider release. It challenges the myth of Dickinson as a reclusive spinster, replacing it with the romantic and hilarious tale of hidden passion between Emily (Molly Shannon) and her sister-in-law Susan (Susan Ziegler).
RuPaul’s a queen but not THE queen
You might be aware that RuPaul is not universally adored in the drag community. His comments about performers having completed gender reassignment surgery not being allowed on the show, for one, undermine its reputation as a champion of acceptance and inclusion. Don’t get me wrong, we all love a bit of sass from Mama Ru, but go beyond. Amazon Prime is offering an incredibly loving and positive portrait of season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon, and it’s well worth a watch. Drag Becomes Him follows Jinkx from childhood through TV-achieved fame, showcasing the star’s talent with simplicity and refreshing sobriety. It is particularly interesting to witness the backstage of Monsoon’s appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race and the impact of sudden fame on her career and family. If you’ve got an Amazon Prime membership, you might also want to check out The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula. This talent show is everything RuPaul’s classy stint isn’t, featuring monsters and gorey challenges. It must be said that where the Boulet Brothers lose to RuPaul in production value, they definitely hold their own in their documentary-style backstage footage.
Sea, sex and… no Timothée Chalamet
Beach Rats (available on Netflix) proves that there is more to a good film about sexual coming-of-age than golden boy Chalamet’s good looks.While I will admit that proposing Beach Rats as an alternative to the 2018 box office surprise success Call Me By Your Name is a bit of a stretch, there is something of the faked confidence of youth and the dilemma of sexual identity which creates echoes between the two, alongside visually stunning neon lights and sunny backdrops. Yet, Beach Rats is much grittier and more crude than Guadagnino’s much criticised adaptation of Aciman’s novel. The film opens with graphic online cruising and delves into issues of family tragedy and drug use. So trade the dreamy Italian countryside for the harsher, but arguably more impactful, portrayal of sexual awakening in the New York suburbs.
Love in an Irish boarding school
Handsome Devil (available on Netflix) doesn’t boast the glamorous cast of Love, Simon but it is well worth a watch for all of you romcoms lovers out there. Despite thriving on worn out clichés such as the opposition between sports and homosexuality and the testosterone overload of all boys boarding schools, Handsome Devil is a funny heartwarming tale of friendship and courage going through a difficult forced coming-out. Although it is not the most ambitious film in this list, it is certainly the most relaxing watch and most positive depiction of LGBTQ+ issues, which until recently was cruelly needed. For many years, LGBTQ+ cinema has made of tragic love stories and hardships, which although crucial to express, made little room for the celebration of same sex love and its pleasures.
Cult LGBT gold
Paris is Burning, My Beautiful Launderette, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are all worthy contenders for a mention as LGBT cinema cults. However, if I have to choose just one, I would go with Funeral Parade of Roses. You may or may not be aware of this 1969 Japanese New Wave loose retelling of Oedipus Rex. I am not going to lie, it can be a demanding watch, mixing experimental, documentary and arthouse black and white filmmaking. Yet, that is also why I chose it among all the choices available. Funeral Parade of Roses is an incredibly subtle work which sublimates the gay experience in Tokyo in its fictional segments while questioning the very process of this aestheticization by conducting interviews with the performers talking about their personal involvement in the project facing the camera. The plot is constantly interrupted by thought-provoking testimonies or experimental segments. The result is an incredibly complex account of LGBTQ+ issues in trendy 1960s Japan, and food for thoughts to question how film should represent LGBTQ+ issues.
We might agree that Glee was barely worth the hype…
…But its creator Ryan Murphy is coming back with a second season of Pose. If you haven’t heard of it, get ready for some serious binge-watching. Pose sometimes suffers the same shortcomings as its predecessor with its naive and cliché-ridden interpersonal dramas. Yet, there is something delightfully ironic in this portrayal of the NYC ball scene in the age of Reaganomics. Praises of successful Donald Trump’s 1980s hyper neoliberal dream will make you either grin or shiver with what we know in retrospect and its recent jibes at the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also worth mentioning that Pose star Indya Moore has produced Magic Hour, a half-hour fantasy/horror anthology TV Series created by Che Grayson. We are still awaiting release dates but you can check out the project’s sleek visuals and prey on more information on its official website (http://magichourtv.com/).
These five suggestions only begin to suggest the plethora of different films and TV programmes that deserves our attention. Some are easily accessible and others hard to find; some will take you to the confines of eccentric filmmaking, others firmly anchor LGBTQ+ representation in the mainstream. Yet, it fails to represent all included within the LGBTQ+ label and voices still to be heard. Film and TV can be incredibly helpful for all of us to reflect on intimacy and sexuality. Ultimately, “LGBTQ+ film” – like any other label – only serves to empower works, their creators and their audiences yet we would be remiss to pigeonhole these films and series which dissect some of the most important issues of our contemporary societies.