5 Ways Hollywood Totally Sucks At Depicting LGBTQ People
Hollywood thinks of itself as being at the forefront of social issues, such as the once-radical concept that gay people deserve to be treated at least sort of like people. And yet if you look at the movies themselves, you'll find they do a lot of basic stuff about the LGBTQ+ community shockingly, embarrassingly badly. For instance ...
Downplaying Historical Figures' Homosexuality
Biopics about notable queer people often seem ashamed of the whole "queer" part. It's as if the only way the industry can bring itself to portray a historical gay person is if they tone down the icky gayness while playing up their relationships with people of the opposite sex. Take The Imitation Game, whose trailer paints Alan Turing's sexuality as an enigma harder to decode than a million secret Nazi codes.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing as a brilliant but socially inept jerk who hides his true self from everyone. He's basically Sherlock Holmes, but gay(er?). Yet in real life, Turing was a funny guy who "boldly" flirted with other men, and was open about his sexuality with his co-workers, including his onetime fiancee. In the movie, they break up when he announces his "dark" secret, but in reality, she knew he liked men from the beginning, and didn't mind. The movie portrays her as the most important relationship of his adult life, but they were in fact buddies who briefly got engaged, as buddies occasionally do.
Something similar happens in Bohemian Rhapsody, which shows Freddie Mercury's relationship with his ex-girlfriend as pure and wholesome, while his trysts with other men are perverse affairs. His long-term partner Jim Hutton, the man who took care of him all through his final illness, is pretty much a footnote.
The Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely pulls the same dirty trick. Porter's marriage is shown as an epic romance that inspires all his best songs (not true), while his gay relationships are shameful debauchery. At least the movie acknowledges he was gay. In 2012's Nina, Nina Simone's real-life gay assistant is not only straight, but her love interest. Someone tell Hollywood they're allowed to make movies without heterosexual romances in them now. There was, like, a law about it or something.
Marvel Keeps "Straightwashing" Queer Characters
Marvel has taken some flak for not including any gay characters in their movies, but that's not true. They've included a whole bunch! They just don't ever bother mentioning that they're gay. There's Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok, who swings both ways in the comics. Ragnarok originally had a scene showing a (presumably very satisfied) woman leaving her bedroom, but it was cut. Korg, Thor's buddy who is a big pile of rocks with a New Zealand accent, is also gay in the source material. No mention of that in the movies.
Black Panther also has a deleted gay moment, in this case featuring badass Dora Milaje warriors Okoye and Ayo. In the finished movie, Okoye is dating a dude, while Ayo (once featured in a comic that won a GLAAD Award) is a glorified extra who mostly stands around looking angry.
Mystique from the X-Men had a long lesbian relationship in the comics, but only shows interest in dudes in the 200 or so films she's been in so far. And then, of course, there's Deadpool, who is canonically pansexual. In the movies, his riskiest sex scene consists of him assuring the audience he isn't into butt stuff at all (NSFW evidence).
To be fair, Endgame did break ground by introducing the MCU's first openly gay movie character: a random guy in a support group!
The "Bleach-Blond Gay Villain" Stereotype
In a classic case of "Be careful what you wish for," a good percentage of the gay characters that do make it into mainstream movies are creepy psychopaths. In fact, a new strand of queer-coded villain has emerged: the bleach-blond killer. There's something in the dye that makes you evil, it seems.
One example is Silva, the overly handsy Bond villain from Skyfall. He looks like he fell into a pool of bleach.Another one is Castor from Tron: Legacy, who is just Michael Sheen cosplaying as a colorblind Ziggy Stardust.
Other unnaturally golden-headed gay (or gay-coded) killers include Tom Hollander in Hanna (bonus points for the eyeliner!), Ray Stevenson in Dexter, and Sam Spruell in Snow White And The Huntsman (who somehow got bleaching products in medieval times). A special case is the maybe mass murderer / maybe world-saver Ozymandias in Watchmen, who appears to be a natural blond in the original comic. The movie gives him dark roots, shows him hanging out at Studio 54, and puts this suspicious folder in this computer:
Trying To Sell Gay Movies As Straight Love Stories
Occasionally, Hollywood stumbles upon a great LGBTQ+ movie ... and has absolutely no idea what to do with it. Call Me By Your Name, for instance, got rave reviews for its coming-of-age love story. Who doesn't immediately remember the emotions it evokes simply by looking at this promo?
Probably anyone who's seen the movie, as that image doesn't do a very good job of showing that this is a love story between two guys. As The Guardian points out, this isn't the first time a studio has tried to pull a fast one on unsuspecting viewers when promoting a movie about queer characters. Even Moonlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017, has an ambiguous official synopsis that never mentions this is a movie about sexuality, let alone homosexuality.
Another example is A Single Man, which has a poster showing Colin Firth in bed with Julianne Moore ...
... and another one showing Moore resting her head on Firth's shoulder:
The DVD cover uses the same image and calls the movie "a romantic tale of love interrupted" -- conveniently omitting that there's more than one penis involved in said romantic tale. Moore shows up for like ten minutes, and is Firth's friend, not his lover. We're gonna assume that for the Blu-ray release, they added some explosions and retitled it Kingsman: Origins.
Making Transgender People As Miserable As Possible
If trans characters aren't being tormented 24/7, are they really trans? Movies don't seem to think so. The Danish Girl, Dallas Buyers Club, and Boys Don't Cry all feature trans characters who exist to suffer until they meet agonizing deaths. Oh, and they also got all of their actors Academy Awards, which might explain this trope's persistence.
Glenn Close tried her hand at this genre with Albert Nobbs, because come on, it's ridiculous that she doesn't have an Oscar already. It didn't work out for her, though, because her DiCaprio curse is even stronger than the Oscar bait formula.
Wikipedia's list of transgender characters in film and television is full of procedural crime drama victims (Bones, Diagnosis: Murder), deranged murderers (the Sleepaway Camp series), and walking punchlines (Anna Nicole Smith in Naked Gun 33 1/3). But this isn't a Hollywood-exclusive problem. Belgium's acclaimed 2018 film Girl follows the dramatic life of a young trans woman who (spoiler alert, and also content warning) gets fed up with waiting for surgery and ends up mutilating her own penis.
It's not as if there aren't real trans people out there who warrant a movie for something other than suffering. Marsha P. Johnson was a key figure in the famous Stonewall Uprising and the subsequent early LGBT rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She hung out with Andy Warhol, took her drag troupe to perform in London, and became an AIDS activist. In 2015, Roland Emmerich released a movie called Stonewall with the tagline "Where Pride began" ... which shows the riots being sparked by some white dude who didn't even exist. Johnson only has a small role.
It's true that the trans community has to endure a lot of hardship, but that's precisely why they should be able to see themselves in popular culture without always having a miserable time. Come on, Hollywood. Give us a movie about a trans person who wins a chili cook-off or something.
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