Photo: Pride Month
Made Perhaps with Good Intentions
As a queer person, I should be pleased with the truckloads of media representation I’ve been seeing, whether it be on TV or through social media sites, as of late. I’m writing this in June, and as you know, June (in the United States, anyway) is the designated space for Pride Month, which pays tribute to LGBTQ+ people — to their struggles, their hopes, and especially their innate beauty. You’ll see posts on Twitter from individuals commemorating Pride Month, but you’re even more likely to see posts from companies, whether they be local businesses or giants like McDonald’s. On paper, this all sounds like good news. Yet, it must be said, there is something vaguely cynical about all the coverage, if not outright nefarious; I doubly find it cynical when a certain corporation like Disney, which has ties to the super-homophobic Chinese Communist Party, postures as being in favor of queer people.
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It pains me to say it, but the actual purpose of Pride Month has been lost in the shuffle. Consider the reason why Pride Month is set in June; it’s not a coincidence, nor was it picked out of a hat. Pride Month happens in June primarily to pay tribute to the Stonewall riots, which happened in June 1969. To make a very long and messy story short, the Stonewall riots marked a turning point in the queer community’s relationship with the American public; while the 1960s saw the rise of the free love and anti-war movements among open-minded folks, it took the tail end of the decade for queerness to enter the conversation unambiguously. Someone of my generation can’t even comprehend the enormous struggles queer people faced half a century ago, that era of James Baldwin and Harvey Milk — never mind the AIDs epidemic of the ‘80s, which the Reagan administration and its allies were utterly complicit in worsening. We have it comparatively easy now; we need not worry about what may as well be an attempted genocide of queer men in this country.
What was once, though, a month of respect and celebration has now devolved at least somewhat into a corporate-friendly circle of rich people patting each other on the back. I don’t want to sound mean (although being mean is fun sometimes), but rich people, with a few exceptions, have not the slightest clue as to what it means to be queer. I have never come across an opinion piece from a studio executive about their inner turmoil with being gay, or bisexual, or transgender; as far as I can gather, executives see queer people the same way they see other demographics — which is to say, as money machines. “How do we make this product pay just enough lip service to the gay crowd so that they might give us more money?” No, I don’t think that’s how one is supposed to do representation.
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Pride Month – The Connection Between Queerness and Art
Have you ever thought about how so much of our great literature is defined by queer artists? I’m talking, of course, about English-language literature, and I’m talking about the classics: Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, the aforementioned James Baldwin, and William Shakespeare. That’s just literature — now consider how queer filmmakers and actors have shaped Cinema. Where would we even be without Anna Paquin? Where would we be without the Wachowski sisters? I myself only became aware of my own sexuality because I had watched ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ in high school, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that James Dean and director Nicholas Ray were both bisexual.
When you’re growing up, you probably live in a household with two heterosexual parents (one man, one woman), and whether you’re aware of it or not, you spend your childhood trying to mimic typical heterosexual behavior. I was attracted to both sexes when I was a boy, but I was not consciously aware of it; I had to be jolted awake by a seemingly random work of art. The queerness of ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ is implicit, rather subliminal, but it still feels closer to actual representation than something like Pixar’s ‘Luca’, which is often (sometimes jokingly, sometimes not) evaluated as a closeted gay romance between two boys.
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We get a lot of queer “representation” in media, especially children’s media; showrunners have been able to sneak some saucy stuff past the TV executives. While we now celebrate explicitly queer moments in children’s media like ‘The Owl House’ and ‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’, these are recent achievements that stand on the shoulders of giants. Does anyone remember the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’? The relationship between these characters in Harley’s own show is pretty explicitly homoerotic, but in the animated Batman series from 1992 (I feel old now), it’s pretty heavily implied in one episode that they have sex. My point is that despite how it looks, queerness in mainstream media was not invented in the 2010s; its history is much longer and much more storied, and we need to admit to ourselves that we have always had to find some way around the puritans in power to show the world what we’re all about. Make no mistake, studio executives are puritans, almost inherently; they want to alienate as few people as possible, which means they have to appeal to — the straights. The fact that these same executives release pro-LGBTQ+ posts at a time when it’s in vogue to do so is not good enough.
We Deserve Better Than This
While we’re still here, I have another confession to make: I really love Halloween. Of all the holidays, which mostly I can take or leave, Halloween is easily my favorite — not just the day itself, but the whole month of October. For the past few years, I’ve done a movie marathon where I watch a schlocky movie every day of October (usually horror, but not always), and I don’t see myself stopping this tradition any time soon. As much as I love Halloween, though, it’s not that serious; it’s a time of the year when we can get our goth on, indulge in some very non-Christian practices like witchcraft, and overall just having fun with the autumnal atmosphere. Entire groups of people will not be persecuted if (for some reason) we were to stop celebrating Halloween — and yet we do stop celebrating Pride Month, because, at some point, it ends. Once the month is over, corporations will go back to doing what they usually do, which has nothing to do with supporting queer people.
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We don’t need Pride Month for the simple reason that we deserve better. You don’t “need” a band-aid when you get bitten by somebody’s dog (teeth sinking into your arm, the skin tearing, the screams), because what you really need are stitches. We don’t need lip service — we need queer characters who are as capable of interiority as their straight counterparts, as capable of having the very capacity to think and to have thoughts. We have fears and desires; we do things we regret; we wonder if our lives will be worth the pain; we wake up and put on a stoic face for the day’s shift; we want, want, and want some more; we need. We deserve better.
By Brian Collins
Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.
I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV. media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”
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