– AP: Homowood

Since its inception during the late 19th and early 20th century, film has showcased homosexuality and other forms of orientation, whether through subtle or obvious tactics. W.K.L. Dickinson, who worked with Thomas Edison during the first years of cinema, directed a short subject which featured two men slow dancing to a violinist. While we may not know what Dickinson meant to imply with these gentlemen, the movie, titled The Gay Brothers, nevertheless presents a same-sex relationship.

Over a hundred years later, the gay and lesbian community is still being portrayed in the works of Hollywood. During these decades its members have been ridiculed, demonized as moral deviants, and pitied as poor souls lost in a world they didn’t understand. In any case, the cinematic machine has always been a vehicle for expressing societal values. How have these recorded values changed throughout history?

By examining thirteen films from the past twenty years, I hope to determine whether or not Hollywood films have grown in their perception of the non-heterosexual populace. From comedies to dramas and everything in between, I have noted the stereotypes and attempts at open-mindedness. These movies have been grouped into four main categories and will be discussed in detail on how they represent gays and lesbians on the silver screen. Before we examine the modern era, however, let’s take a quick look back at what led up to the 1980’s.

The Path Hollywood Blazed

During the 1920s the very idea of homosexuality was rarely discussed in the real world, much less in the movie house. So while never officially presented as homosexuals, there were many characters whose effeminacy was highlighted for comic effect. Some men essentially acted like women, prancing about and batting eyelashes with ease. Audiences thus came to believe homosexuals were merely simpering pansies. Meanwhile the characters in war films, with their traditionally masculine looks and manner, were allowed to show affection for one another without question. In this age, it was not believed men such as these could possibly be gay.

Homophobia, an idea older than America itself, was the driving force behind the misconceptions and biases directed toward gays and lesbians. In his book, Homophobia: A History, Byrne Fone gives a cultural reason as to why this prejudice exists:

“Another source of homophobia is the fear that the social conduct of homosexuals…disrupts the social, legal, political, ethical, and moral order of society, a contention supported by history and affirmed by religious doctrine.”

The advent of the Hollywood Production Code and Seal of Approval in the ‘30s led to a new form of homophobia in the land of movie magic. Any hints of sexuality in film were removed, including all allusions to “sexual perversity,” i.e. homo-sexuality. This was due to the number of scandals to hit Hollywood in this decade, when the tabloid antics of its actors came to light. In order to create an illusion of morality for itself, Hollywood put these censor standards were put into practice. A couple slept in separate beds, kissing was closed mouthed, and embraces ended with a fade to black.

With creative suppression on the rise, images of alternative orientations became even more subtle (though oddly no less apparent) than ever before. The creation of new stereotypes, such as fussy male fashion designers as well as brutish prison women, allowed filmmakers to slip past the censors by never explicitly stating these people were gay or lesbian. Meanwhile other directors like Alfred Hitchcock instilled fey tendencies in their villains, an unchecked tactic because it upheld the belief that anyone who wasn’t heterosexual was inherently abnormal. Some examples include Leonard from North by Northwest and the chilling Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca, the latter of which dies a grisly death.

As time passed, the naïve idea of homosexuals being mere imitations of women dissolved, until finally the American public had to come to terms with the fact that anyone could potentially be gay, lesbian, or otherwise. This realization came during the ‘50s, when the threat of Communism was already putting the public on edge. To know gays and lesbians, like Communists, couldn’t be easily detected only added to this growing fear of the unknown.

As a result of this paranoia, homosexual actors such as Rock Hudson were forced to lead double lives so as not to be ostracized from the film community. Movies adapted from original works tailored certain plot points to remove references to unsavory lifestyles, while others simply had gay characters become straight after meeting “the right woman.” Matters did not improve when the industry moved into the 1960s. Now gay and lesbian characters were committing suicide, prompted by the impending doom they felt if anyone were to know about their dark, nasty secret.

So what were gay and lesbian moviegoers of the ‘60s to do when confronted with such a wave of laughable caricatures, snarling antagonists, and pitiful outcasts? They turned to the stars of the past, women like Judy Garland and Mae West who performed despite their sordid histories. Garland is an especially important gay icon, as her role in The Wizard of Oz led to the creation of such gay culture terms as “friend of Dorothy” and the gay anthem “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” Also, with a gay father and two gay husbands in tow, Garland served as an example as a woman who was a firsthand witness to the early world of homosexuality. According to Tina Gianoulis of the GLBTQ Encyclopedia Web site, Garland remains an immovable icon to this day:

“To call Judy Garland an icon of the gay community is a massive understatement. Garland’s fragile but indomitable persona and emotion-packed singing voice are undeniably linked to gay culture and identity. This is especially true for gay men, but lesbians also are drawn to identify with Garland’s plucky toughness and vulnerability.” While the ‘70s featured some of the first films to directly deal with the issue of homosexuality, those in power amongst Hollywood as well as the average public were still incredibly wary of such matters being brought to light. As protests being led for gay civil rights were heatedly contested, the need for serious, gay-themed films was consistently brought into question. After so many decades, the simple presentation of a gay or lesbian couple was too controversial for the cinema (Benshoff, 300-314).

This brings us to the 1980s, where my examination of Hollywood’s portrayal of gays and other orientations officially begins. Whether as friends or family, minstrels or deviants, patients or potentials, the gay and lesbian society has been shown in almost every kind of light. It is my goal to discover how far we’ve come and where we need to go before these men and women can call themselves the equals of heterosexuals in film. Only through open discussion can true progress be made, and the films I have viewed certainly bring up a lot of interesting issues.

A quick note: Please keep in mind the four categories in which these films have been sorted relate to time differently. Some categories, such as Minstrels and Deviants, transcend time, as stereotypes of these men and women have been prevalent since the beginning of film. Others, such as Friends and Family, are relatively new categories that only came about with changing attitudes towards alternative orientations. Thusly, each category works on its own timeline regarding its representations of gays and lesbians.

Gays as Friends and Family

The first group I created for my collection of films all deal with those characters whose family and friends must confront their orientation. For the most part this section was filled with mature, open-minded material, exploring the possible obstacles and conflicts with a steady hand. In essence, these were easily the best films at representing what the gay and lesbian experience is like in our modern world.

Though mainly centered on gay film director James Whale, Gods & Monsters also addresses a friendship that was certainly taboo for its setting, the 1950s. In the movie, Brendan Fraser plays Clayton, Whale’s heterosexual gardener. Clayton seems to represent the uneasiness many people feel toward homosexuality. When Clayton first realizes his employer is gay, he makes a point to say he is not but is otherwise fine with the situation. However, when Whale delves into the details of his love for men, Clayton explodes. It was one thing for Clayton to know a gay person, but knowing anything intimate evaporates his tolerance.

As the movie progresses, Clayton learns more about Whale, coming to grips with how difficult it is for him to live peaceably in America. Though he is openly gay, Whale is criticized by his closeted friends for being so frank on the subject. The man also must deal with painful flashes of the war, when his lover was killed in battle. Clayton comes to care for Whale in the end, but it is still an uncomfortable friendship that is formed.

Gods & Monsters is an excellent study of a time ruled by intolerance, and it brings up a lot of interesting questions. Is it better to disguise your identity for the sake of your minority? Can a straight man truly be comfortable around a homosexual friend? How is it possible for gay men, who grew up in eras of extreme homophobia, to be truly happy? The audience is left to answer these queries, making this film a fantastic conversation piece.

The Hours covers a wide timeline involving three lesbian characters. The first is author Virginia Woolf, who copes with mental demons and conflicting sexual emotions. Another is Laura Brown, a 1950s housewife who reads Woolf’s works. She struggles to be a dutiful mother and wife, but in her heart she realizes the lifestyle is nothing but a sham. The third character is Clarissa, a modern woman with a large workload, taking care of an ailing gay friend while frantically trying to plan a party in his honor.

All of these characters, spurred by their friends and family, find cause to wonder where their lives are headed. Woolf is consistently doted on by her well meaning but stern husband, so she holes herself up to write for hours on end. Laura kisses her next door neighbor only to find the action can never mean anything in a time of social conformity. Finally Clarissa breaks down, despondent over her inability to truly help her sick friend or control the other elements in her life.

All of these stories, intertwined expertly by the director, make The Hours a poignant lesson on the history of lesbianism. It shows the universal problems lesbians, as well as gays, encounter with their friends and family, as well as how changes in society have shaped these problems. Woolf and Laura, for example, were forced to keep their lesbianism a secret, but openly gay Clarissa is just as tormented by other issues. The world has been complex and will remain complex, the movie seems to say.

Up until now the movies in this category have focused on friendships, but The Perfect Son chronicles the ups and downs two estranged brothers share when they are brought back together by their father’s funeral. Theo is a drug addict and alcoholic trying to maintain sobriety while the other, Ryan, is a successful lawyer who is also gay and slowly dying of AIDS. At the beginning of the film Theo does not know his brother is gay, and only figures it out when he accidentally walks in on Ryan having sex with another man. It’s an awkward way to come out of the closet, but when compared to the real world I think this plot point makes sense.

Theo is not comfortable with homosexuality, glaring at Ryan’s lover with a sense of suspicion as the man quickly makes his exit. He demands to know what has been going on in Ryan’s life, and upon watching his brother treat himself for AIDS he leaves in shock. In a later scene Theo awkwardly enters a spa for gay men after learning Ryan has passed out in one of the rooms. Over time, however, Theo comes to accept Ryan’s homosexuality as just another part of his life, and the two learn to respect and even love one another again.

The Perfect Son is a fair representation of how familial relationships can work when a member is gay. Theo’s reactions are never melodramatic or exaggerated, but rather muted and subtle. He is never angry but rather confused and upset by his lack of knowledge about his brother. Every plot point is handled with an air of fact, presented to the audience for them to do with what they will. The characters are not heroes, with both men having ample flaws. Theo slips back into drug use and Ryan often becomes irritable or bitter, but at the same time they are sympathetic. A sense of truth is what makes this movie memorable, and it represents the gay community well.

Countering the realism of The Perfect Son is a movie whose approach to its story could be called naïve but is instead wonderfully optimistic. Big Eden tells the story of a big city artist named Henry who makes a trip to his hometown after his grandfather falls ill. The town, aptly called Big Eden, is made up of friendly people who amazingly are not upset over Henry’s homosexuality. One woman even arranges a party where Henry can meet all of the available men, a group which is oddly large for such a small town.

It may be overly idyllic for some viewers to see such a pro-gay town, but for me it was refreshing for film characters to not automatically resent their gay friend or family member. The movie does have its fair share of conflict, mind you. Henry must figure out his feelings for a man he loved twenty years ago, as well as how he will tell his grandfather he is gay. Meanwhile a Native American named Pike is slowly learning he loves Henry, but these desires scare him deeply. The relationships are decidedly complicated in Big Eden, and are handled with a careful but objective hand.

One of the best scenes in the film sees Henry’s grandfather bringing up his grandson’s orientation. It is a scene rarely shown by the film industry, one where a gay man is told not to be ashamed of himself by a man we think might look down on homosexuality. Henry cries with fear and relief, happy to know he is cared for but upset over not revealing his secret sooner. The burden which gay men carry with them is a theme conveyed in this scene; but as a whole the film is a celebration of love as a pure, general idea rather than dividing it up into sections and types. As such, it is a nice complement to the more somber tones of The Hours and Gods & Monsters.

Gays as Minstrels and Deviants

Not all movies can achieve the same level of cultural relevancy as the ones in the Friends and Family category, but this next batch doesn’t even try. These are the films in which stereotypes, whether formed from good or bad intentions, are propagated and therefore harm the progress of the gay and lesbian image.

Easily the most controversial film of the lot is William Friedkin’s Cruising, which stars Al Pacino as a cop who goes undercover to find a serial killer. The killer is preying on homosexuals who visit leather bars and S&M clubs, so Pacino’s character must pretend to be gay himself in order to weed out the culprit. What follows is a series of overly long montages where Pacino stares blankly at the debauchery of these clubs, where gay men fist one another and growl like testosterone-crazed bears. It’s not a pretty image of gay men, and so the film was soundly bashed by the gay community.

Though a disclaimer shown before the film states it is not meant to indict the homosexual community, I have to question Friedkin’s direction. Since the movie is populated by mostly gay characters, I wish he would have developed them past the point of simply being sexual beings. When one of them is slain by the killer, I should care about his death, but I’m unable to because the victim has not been given any depth.

Since the gay men in Cruising are simply bodies to be stabbed and nothing more, the audience only sees caricatures who want nothing more than a quick fling. Is this not indicting homosexuals? Even when Friedkin shows us an example of a mainstream gay man, he is senselessly killed before the credits roll. This character’s death is poorly explained through rushed exposition and confusing imagery, so I have absolutely no idea what Friedkin is trying to say by killing the only developed gay character. Author Vito Russo has this to say about the film’s conclusion:

“…Friedkin said that he was not sure who the real murderer was and that, furthermore, he did not consider the murderer to be homosexual. A more likely conclusion is that Friedkin deliberately obscured the identity of Scardino’s (the mainstream gay character) death in…response to the wave of protest that arose in the summer of 1979, when he began shooting.”

Cruising is a horribly outdated, homophobic movie whose only seeming purpose is to stereotype gay men as being sexual predators or everyday Joes who, in the end, are just as much targets as the next. Not only that, it’s a badly made film, so it has no real worth outside of being a study case in ignorant filmmaking.

Kevin Kline’s comedic vehicle In & Out, while not horrific in its ignorance, still takes gay stereotypes for granted. Kline plays a well-liked teacher who has been engaged to his small town girlfriend for six months. The town is buzzing because one of its former residents is now an actor nominated for an Oscar. When he wins, the actor states Kline’s character is gay during his acceptance speech, which leads to obvious wacky antics.

The rest of the film is spent having Kline avoid the media while trying to prove he’s straight. This involves such activities as listening to a tape on how to be manly, the narrator of which lures him into dancing to a Motown tune. Other clichés played for laughs include references to Bette Midler’s film Beaches, Barbara Streisand, and, of course, the Village People.

It would be one thing if In & Out used these stereotypes to show how tired and often false they are, but astonishingly they’re actually used as fact. This is satire, to be certain, but I resent it when a reporter played by Tom Selleck “proved” Kline was gay by asking him a Streisand trivia question. Why couldn’t the writers have instilled a message bucking expectations instead of relying on them for cheap jokes? Even Roger Ebert, film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times admits the film’s complete lack of depth:

In & Out is a light-hearted, PG-13 rated comedy about homosexuality, so innocuous you can easily imagine it spinning off into a sitcom. The result is one of the jollier comedies of the year, a movie so mainstream that you can almost watch it backing away from confrontation…” (Ebert, Sun-Times)

In & Out doesn’t play fair because it wants to be goofy and satirical but also touching at the same time. There are a few scenes where Kline’s character discusses his situation with family members, all of which are set to soft, sweet music. These moments ring false because everything we’ve seen before has been extremely broad and wacky in tone. Either we have a mature comedy about real people with real problems or a slap happy romp, but we can’t have both.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Horatio Sans don’t fare much better in the politically correct department in their comedy, Boat Trip, which seems to pander to the lowest common denominator of the movie going public. The film barely has a plot, but what there is has Gooding and Sans accidentally boarding a gay cruise ship. Predictably the passengers wear colorful speedos, dress in garish women’s clothing, and sashay about the deck with ease. There’s even an elderly character whose only goal is to prey on Sans like a perverted leper.

I will give points to Boat Trip for having a positive message, but the message is so oddly presented I have to take them away at the same time. “Gays are people, too!” the director seems to be shouting. When one character is revealed to be a fireman, Gooding actually says with astonishment, “Wow, you’re a fire fighter!” See, gays are just like us, and they’re funny as heck to boot! It’s just a little condescending to see homosexuality given such an Aw Shucks treatment, as if it’s pinching the cheeks of every gay man and saying they can co-exist with the straight men.

A film like Cruising may come under more fire for representing the gay world as nothing more than sex peddlers, but comedies should be held up to the same level of responsibility. As long as Hollywood continues to uphold any of these stereotypes, our society will still be held back in terms of education and tolerance.

Gays as Patients With the AIDS explosion of the 1980s came a new wave of gay cinema, one which tried to bring attention to this new disease by telling the stories of its victims. Gay men had a new role in Hollywood, the patient in every TV movie of the week who was brave or scared of his illness. In the past women had dominated this area of film, taking on each new sickness in the latest dramas, but now the tables had turned.

One of the earlier movies to address the issue of AIDS was Longtime Companion, which was released in 1990 but chronicles the ‘80s during the disease’s peak attention. Over the course of a decade we follow a group of gay men who at first scoff at the idea of a “gay plague,” but later come to terms with its far reaching effects as some of them die. The movie has some problems, though, giving it less punch than some of the other films in this category.

My main criticism of Longtime Companion is that it has too large a cast. The audience is expected to remember and keep up with a variety of characters, but the film uses a framing device of time that never lets them sit still. One minute we’re in 1980, trying to figure out who these men are and why we should care about them, only to be jettisoned to sometime during 1981, ’82, and so forth. Soon the characters lose all semblance of personality, and it becomes hard to invest feeling in their plight.

Companion may also seem outdated to modern audiences, because it came out in a time when a lot of people were still unaware of AIDS and what it involved. So there are moments when the movie seems like a public service announcement, with characters looking off at the horizon and spouting wordy monologues about the future of gay men in society. It’s effective in retrospect, but from the perspective of 2005 it seems just a tad melodramatic.

Other than those complaints, I think Companion does a good job of representing the gay community in respect to dealing with AIDS. Its characters are strong but not saints, bringing all of their experiences together to make a good collection of stories. As an early example of AIDS in cinema, it’s worth watching.

In the Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington film Philadelphia, AIDS is used to address gay rights. Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a man who is fired from his law firm after it is discovered he has the disease, which is regarded with suspicion by his employers. When Beckett tries to sue the firm, the only lawyer who takes his case is a narrow-minded lawyer named Joe, who is played by Washington.

Though the two men are wary of each other at first, their shared goal of fighting for gays in the workplace slowly brings them together. Joe essentially embodies the average public at the time of the AIDS scare, as he is not familiar with homosexuality or how it relates to his life. I think a lot of audience members would be able to relate to Joe more than Beckett, so by seeing his evolution from being homophobic to accepting, they could see how gay people don’t have to be foreign or ostracized.

Another theme that is slightly touched upon in this film is how some gay men inevitably have to mask their personalities around their co-workers. In one scene Beckett is horrified to hear his boss tell insulting gay jokes, but he can do nothing for fear of losing his job. Of course, this happens anyway when his secret is let out, since the older members of the firm are dedicated to maintaining a supposedly moral code.

Philadelphia is a more effective film than Longtime Companion because it focuses on a small group of characters who are combating AIDS and its effects. The audience has time to get to know each one without having to jump around in time or keep track of five or six other roles. Plus it is a very challenging film, asking hard questions about the future of gay men without seeming exaggerated or overly dramatic.

The last film in this section is Angels in America, a six hour mini-series that originally aired on HBO. Like Longtime Companion it tells a variety of stories, all involving gay men who have different issues with their orientation. One of these stories involves Louis and Prior, a couple in which the latter is diagnosed with AIDS. As the disease spreads, Prior begins to see heavenly visions of angels, dead ancestors, and fiery tablets, leading him to think he’s a prophet.

There are definitely elements of the fantastic in America, much more so than any other movie I had seen, but what I enjoyed was the stark reality of Prior and Louis’ relationship. Lois is an extremely troubled character, a man who loves his partner but is disturbed by the idea of taking care of him while he’s sick. The sight of blood and vomit makes Lois squirm, so much so that he makes the decision to run away from his situation and abandon Prior when he needs him the most.

This is a harsh development, to be sure, but it also seems brutally honest. I would think a lot of people would at first flee from a sick friend, because they may not be able to handle their mortality or the unseemly details of the disease. Prior’s reaction also bucks the cliché of a couple coming together against all odds, since he completely turns away from Lois when he tries to ask for forgiveness. He finds that he can be happy even without Lois by his side, a message you don’t see expressed in many films. Most viewers probably expected a rosy ending where everyone was predictably happy, but while the film does end on a positive note it is a complicated one.

In the film’s final moments, Prior delivers a powerful monologue right to the camera, affirming the cause for all homosexuals in America and demanding something be done about the spread of AIDS. This reminded me somewhat of the more cheesy moments in Companion, but because Angels in America had better performances and sympathetic characters I accepted this speech as not being preachy. After six hours spent with this cast I found it appropriate to conclude with such a definitive message.

Gays as Potentials

The last category is made up of three films where gay characters are seen as potential heterosexuals. Such a premise is not unfamiliar to Hollywood, which has been making such movies since the early 20th century. Effeminate men were cured by the “right woman,” while independent women succumbed to the charms of handsome men. The three movies featured here continue to address this issue of wavering orientation, each one experimenting with drastically different results.

Kevin Smith’s comedy Chasing Amy, while populated by characters who are often ignorant of sexual matters, actively tries to discuss what makes a person gay and if that trait can ever truly be changed. Ben Affleck plays Holden, a comic book artist who falls in love with his best friend, a lesbian named Alyssa. After confessing his love to her a violent argument breaks out where Alyssa curses Holden for daring to try to change her sexuality. Ultimately, though, she returns Holden’s love.

Matters get even more complicated when Alyssa’s lesbian friends begin to resent her having a boyfriend. Holden also runs into trouble when he hears of Alyssa’s past experiences with men, making him jealous that he wasn’t the first man to be with her intimately. As the film ends, Alyssa realizes the situation is far too unstable even if she does love Holden, and so she decides to leave him for the sake of her well-being.

Chasing Amy is a good movie because it raises tough questions and refuses to fall into a black or white area. Orientation is admitted to be a complex set of emotions for Alyssa, and we see her torn between two worlds and cultures. No one character is ever right or wrong, and Holden learns his lessons the hard way. It’s not a rosy finale, but it is positive because the characters end up growing as people and becoming more mature in the way they look at love.

Oddly enough, Ben Affleck later went on to make another movie where he falls in love with a lesbian. This is of course the famous disaster known as Gigli, which is pretty insulting in its interpretation of how orientation works. Jennifer Lopez plays a lesbian assassin who is partnered with a tough talking Affleck, and for the first half of the movie they bicker and trade banter as they have trouble getting along. Of course, the movie cliché gods demand any man and woman who fight must eventually fall in love, and this is exactly what happens.

It would be one thing if the movie attempted to explain just why Lopez falls in love with Affleck, but it doesn’t seem to care. One minute she has absolutely no interest in the guy, who is crude and disgusting to name a few traits, and the next she’s offering her body to him. This is after Affleck delivers a painfully bad monologue about how his life sucks, mind you, so I’m guessing Lopez just felt sorry for him.

In any case, lesbianism in Gigli is used merely as a gimmick, a hurdle for the hunky Affleck to jump over so he can prove he is truly a man’s man. I’m surprised there wasn’t more of an uproar over this movie, since it perceives orientation to be nothing more than window dressing that can be replaced at any time.

Thankfully the third film I watched for this category proved to be much more sensible in its message. Saved! is a comedic satire of the Christian world, involving a group of religious high school students who face many questions about their faith. Mary is the main character, a naïve girl who is horrified to learn her boyfriend is gay. Thinking her mission is to cure him of this sin, Mary has sex with the boy but to no avail.

The most important element of this story sees the boyfriend being sent off to Mercy House, a Christian establishment where troubled teens are sent so they can work out their supposed immoralities. Since such places actually exist, I was glad to see one represented in a film where it could be criticized. Mercy House is shown as being a waste of time because the boy becomes involved in a gay relationship while staying there.

The message of Saved! is one of acceptance and celebration, stating it is wrong to try and make someone into something they are not. “It’s just too much to live up to,” exclaims Mary in regard to the Bible and its standards. Of all the movies studied here, this is easily the most liberal-minded. I can see the young gay community getting behind this movie because it reaffirms who they are and might actually inspire them to stay true to themselves.

The Path Yet Blazed

Granted, these films are only a small microcosm of the overall exposure gays and lesbians have had in cinema, but they are a good start in determining where we are and where we need to go in order to fairly represent this community. There are many different views on what will happen with the next generation of film. Both the film and book versions of The Celluloid Closet claim new insights and opportunities for gay filmmakers and stories will improve on an already changing world.

America on Film’s authors, however, have a different perspective. They criticize The Celluloid Closet for having such an optimistic stance, as evidenced in this quote:

“The film…attempts to provide a happy ending by suggesting Hollywood’s representations of gay and lesbian people are now somehow ‘accurate,’ when indeed there is still a long way to go before homosexuals are allowed equal time and equal treatment on Hollywood screens.”

According to Byrne Fore and his book on homophobia, the outlook of treatment toward gays and lesbians is uncertain:

“The increased visibility of lesbians and gay men is said to have made inroads against homophobia. But visibility can also erode tolerance. Some hope that homophobia will disappear from the nation’s living rooms when the family that watches together laughs at the amusing lesbian, the kooky queer, or the giddy gay on the TV sitcom. But the laughter is not always friendly, and there many—very many—who don’t laugh at all.

I may not be an expert on the history of homosexuality like Fone, or someone who has fully documented gays in film like Closet’s Russo, but the batch of movies I watched have allowed me to come to a conclusion. For my money, gays and lesbians are making substantial progress. With orientation becoming a more open topic amongst the mainstream public and media, there will be more chances and interest in seeing gay characters on the silver screen.

Sure, there might be more misconceptions, naïve assumptions, gross stereotypes, and inflammatory messages, but for every comedy like Boat Trip I’m sure we’ll see just as many if not more thoughtful, mature films like The Hours. There will never truly be a time when we can honestly say everyone is being treated well 100% of the time, but the scales will tip. The time for the gay and lesbian public to be noticed and respected is upon the world now, and their stories will most certainly be told.

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