The study of gay and lesbian cinema became a growing concern in the wake of s feminist film theory and the discipline's increasing attention to issues of representation—of women, of racial and ethnic minorities, and eventually of gay and lesbian people. While there had been a few attempts to discuss onscreen homosexuality prior to that period such as Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies  , the seminal text on the subject was Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies first published in , revised and updated in In it, Russo examined over eighty years of film history, exploring the ways and means in which gay and lesbian people had been portrayed at the movies. Those images carried considerable cultural weight; for many people, these images were all they ever "saw" or "knew" about homosexuality before the sexual revolution of the s. The so-called Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City in June are sometimes said to be the start of the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement—the fight for civil rights and an end to discrimination.
As such, New Queer Encylopedia of lesbian movies can be rigorous and difficult both thematically and formally, and many queer spectators, like straight spectators, prefer "feel good" Hollywood-style movies with happy endings. Perhaps most importantly, no one died at the end of them. The sourcebook which Blue bollywood film his ambition encyclopedia of lesbian movies scenes sways the editors. Most Subscribed. Hungary 50 images. Australia 50 images. But in an era of nostalgic Hollywood blockbusters based on fantasy novels and comic books, Hollywood films that deal with actual gay and lesbian lives and issues are relatively rare.
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The study of gay and lesbian cinema became a growing concern in the wake of s feminist film theory and the discipline's increasing attention to issues of representation—of women, of racial and ethnic minorities, and eventually of gay and lesbian people.
While there had been a few attempts to discuss onscreen homosexuality prior to that period such as Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies  , the seminal text on the subject was Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies first published in , revised and updated in In it, Russo examined over eighty years of film history, exploring the ways and means in which gay and lesbian people had been portrayed at the movies. Those images carried considerable cultural weight; for many people, these images were all they ever "saw" or "knew" about homosexuality before the sexual revolution of the s.
The so-called Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City in June are sometimes said to be the start of the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement—the fight for civil rights and an end to discrimination. Before that time, gay and lesbian people were routinely fired from their jobs, denied housing, harassed, or arrested simply for being homosexual. They were classified as mentally ill by the psychiatric and military communities, and during the Red Scare of the s they were considered national security risks.
Like the struggle for racial or gender equality, the fight for gay and lesbian equality continues to this day, and the images that popular film and television create of homosexual people continue to influence both public perception and governmental policy. In the last twenty years, the study of gay and lesbian cinema has expanded greatly beyond simplistic image analysis.
Within academia, the development of third wave feminism and queer theory across many disciplines in the humanities has sought to rethink basic concepts about human sexuality, demonstrating the complexity of a subject that encompasses not only personal orientation and behavior but also the social, cultural, and historical factors that define and create the conditions of such orientations and behaviors. The term "queer," once a pejorative epithet used to humiliate gay men and women, is now used to describe that broad expanse of sexualities.
Queer should thus be understood to describe any sexuality not defined as heterosexual procreative monogamy once the presumed goal of any Hollywood coupling ; queers are people including heterosexuals who do not organize their sexuality according to that rubric.
Recently, many of the theoretical issues raised by queer theory have found their way into gay and lesbian independent filmmaking, within a movement known as New Queer Cinema. Queer theory also helps us interrogate and complicate the category "gay and lesbian cinema. There are great cultural and historical differences between films made by queer directors in s Hollywood and those made by early twenty-first-century independent queer filmmakers.
The characteristics that mass culture has used to signify homosexuality have also changed. While present-day films can be relatively forthright about sexuality, older films could only hint at it in various ways. Thus, many classical Hollywood performances, directors, and genres might be considered queer rather than gay, in that they do not explicitly acknowledge homosexuality, but nonetheless allow for spaces in which normative heterosexuality is threatened, critiqued, camped up, or shown to be an unstable performative identity.
Classical and pre-classical Hollywood films those produced between the s and the s had little interest in dramatizing homosexual lives or homosexual issues. The very structure of Hollywood narrative form was and is heterosexist: it almost always contains a male—female romance, regardless of story line or genre. If and when homosexual characters appeared in Hollywood films prior to the sexual revolution, they were almost always relegated to walk-on parts or small supporting roles.
One notable early exception was A Florida Enchantment , a comedy wherein female characters eat magical sex-changing seeds that turn them into women-chasing lotharios.
Much more common was the stereotype of the "pansy," an effeminate male supporting character—often a butler, designer, or choreographer. When the Hollywood Production Code which specifically forbade the depiction of what it called "sex perversion" was put into effect in , these characterizations were forced further into the realm of connotation. Hollywood cinema under the Code continued to suggest queerness via the presence of effeminate men and mannish women, but these characters were never explicitly acknowledged as homosexual.
Actors such as Edward Everett Horton — , Eric Blore — , and Franklin Pangborn — made careers for themselves by playing such roles. Female characters in pre-Code cinema were stronger and more sexually forthright than in post-Code cinema, and occasionally they too gave off a queer aura.
For example, Greta Garbo 's — Queen Christina wears pants, runs a country, and kisses her chambermaid rather passionately on the lips—before she falls in love with a man.
Similarly, in Morocco , Marlene Dietrich 's — character wears a tuxedo and vamps both men and women. Both actresses—Garbo and Dietrich—had large queer fan bases and many rumors surrounded their "real life" sexualities.
Obviously, many queer actors and actresses worked and continue to work in Hollywood. Leading silent film stars Ramon Novarro — and Billy Haines — were gay, but as the Production Code was enforced and Hollywood grew more homophobic, their careers faded.
Haines was fired from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer because he refused to go along with studio publicity designed to hide his homosexuality. Such arranged publicity stunts included dates and even weddings—the so-called "marriage of convenience. Queer people also worked behind the camera in Hollywood, many in costume design Orry-Kelly [—], Adrian [—] , set decoration Jack Moore [—], Henry Grace [—] , and choreography Charles Walters [—], Jack Cole [—].
There were also successful producers and directors who led quiet homosexual lives, including David Lewis — , Ross Hunter — , Mitchell Leisen — , Edmund Goulding — , Irving Rapper — , Arthur Lubin — , James Whale — , George Cukor — , and Dorothy Arzner — The last three of these are the best known, perhaps because their film work does show more obvious touches of a homosexual sensibility.
Arzner, one of the few women to direct in Hollywood during the classical era, made films such as Christopher Strong and Dance, Girl, Dance that showcased strong women and celebrated the bonds between them. Cukor, one of the classical era's most prolific directors, became known chiefly for his women's films and musicals, including Camille , A Star Is Born , and My Fair Lady Cukor's Sylvia Scarlett managed to skirt the Code's injunctions against "sex perversion" even as it featured a cross-dressing heroine Katherine Hepburn as a young woman impersonating a boy and all sorts of same-sex infatuations.
Queer filmmakers and fans were often drawn to the musical and the horror film, two genres that often acknowledged queer characters and seem to be steeped in queer sensibilities.
The musical, although almost always containing a highly contrived heterosexual romance, creates a bright carnivalesque world in which fantasy and reality shift and blur. Real-life hatreds and biases are banished, and people are free to be expressively emotional and physical in nonviolent ways.
The Wizard of Oz , starring gay favorite Judy Garland — and a cast of misfit effeminate men, has become an iconic film in gay culture. The horror film often uses queer traits to characterize its monsters and mad scientists. For example, in Mad Love Peter Lorre's effeminate madman quotes Oscar Wilde , and vampires like Dracula's Daughter , are almost always queerly sexual, seducing both men and women with their unnatural kisses.
In fact, the lesbian vampire was the most common image of lesbians on American film screens before the s. The need for queer spectators to rewrite such distorted images and reappropriate others. Barbara Hammer is by far the most prolific lesbian filmmaker, having made over sixty films and videos since the late s. Hammer's films are excellent examples of New Queer Cinema practice. They cross borders between documentary, fiction, and experimental filmmaking , and focus on the complexities of human sexuality—especially the ways in which those sexualities have been socially constructed across time and place.
Hammer's films explore love, sex, identity, humor, community, relationships, nature, and spirituality. Almost all are deeply personal, drawing on autobiographical elements and centering on the filmmaker as well as her friends and lovers. Hammer's earliest films are set in and around San Francisco and reflect the mythic femininity that many lesbian-feminists of the s were trying to reclaim.
For example, Menses makes use of bold symbolism blood, eggs , optical printing, and sound loops in order to exalt the essentially feminine process of menstruation. Superdyke , in which a group of self-identified "Amazon" women wearing "Superdyke" T-shirts joyously overrun San Francisco , is even more playful in tone and form. In Women I Love , Hammer experiments with pixilation the animation of objects as dancing fruits and vegetables unveil their inner selves to the camera, just as do the women in her life.
By the s, Hammer was exploring and experimenting with digital technology. In No No Nooky TV , she used computer-generated sounds and images to investigate technology's male biases, as well as to suggest how those forms might be reclaimed for lesbian feminist goals. She tackled the AIDS crisis directly in Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of AIDS and more indirectly in Endangered , an abstract aural and visual collage that draws a connection between endangered species and the precarious nature of her own experimental film work wherein media technologies threaten to eradicate their living subjects altogether.
In the s, Hammer made a series of longer, more theoretically informed films that investigate lesbian representability. The first of these, Nitrate Kisses , begins with a consideration of how the American novelist Willa Cather's sexuality has been erased from history. The film explores queer sexualities hitherto hidden, including lesbian relationships during the Holocaust and gay male iconography of the s.
Hammer counters those historical musings with contemporary treatment of sexualities still considered taboo even by many queers , including footage of two older women lovers and a sadomasochistic duo. As an interracial male couple has sex, Hammer overlays the written text of the Hollywood Production Code, in effect forcing that document to confront what it had censored for so long.
Funny, complex, thoughtful, and challenging, the work of Barbara Hammer expands our notions of both film form and human sexuality. Dyer, Richard. London and New York : Routledge, Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. London and New York: Routledge, Haug, Kate. Also includes a critical essay, filmography, and bibliography.
Weiss, Andrea. New York: Penguin, As such, many gay men of the pre-Stonewall generation simultaneously mocked and venerated Hollywood stars such as Maria Montez — , Bette Davis — , Joan Crawford — , and Lana Turner — , actresses who always seemed to be performing—even in their real lives.
Hollywood responded to the nation's changing sexual mores throughout the s and s by slowly amending and then eventually replacing the Hollywood Production Code with the Motion Picture Association of America MPAA Ratings System. In the Code Administration agreed to allow onscreen homosexuality, as long as it was treated with "care, discretion, and restraint.
For example, the British import Victim , which centered on a gay blackmail case and argued that social prejudice against homosexuals was wrong, was denied a Seal of Approval. The first few American films dealing with homosexuality that were approved by the Code suggested that homosexuality would only lead to tragedy.
For example, in Advise and Consent , a past gay relationship is shown to be cause for suicide, and in The Children's Hour , a young woman hangs herself after admitting that she is a lesbian. Throughout the s, homosexual innuendo became a staple of smarmy sex comedies That Touch of Mink , ; Staircase , ; The Gay Deceivers , , and functioned as a signifier of ultimate villainy in action and adventure films Lawrence of Arabia , ; From Russia with Love , ; Caprice , A few films attempted to deal with sexuality in more complex ways: Reflections in a Golden Eye and The Sergeant centered on repressed homosexuality in the military, even as their queer characters still met death and destruction.
Two of the most famous and least offensive Hollywood films dealing with homosexuality during this era were The Killing of Sister George , about lesbians in the British television industry and The Boys in the Band , about a group of gay friends in New York City. Both of these films had been based on successful stage plays and explored issues of romance, the closet, the possibility of blackmail and job loss, internalized homophobia, and the burgeoning but still mostly underground gay and lesbian culture of many cities.
While these films may seem overly melodramatic or stereotypical by today's standards, they did capture a certain slice of reality for many urban homosexuals of their era. Perhaps most importantly, no one died at the end of them. Throughout the s, as homosexuals were becoming more visible in the real world, they once again retreated from American movie screens. Queers were occasionally seen as minor supporting figures, when they were seen at all.
Then, in the early s, another small cycle of gay-themed films appeared. Several of these reworked the old queer psycho-killer stereotype: in Dressed to Kill , Cruising , and The Fan , queers slashed their way onto multiplex movie screens. Perhaps to atone for such images, Hollywood also released a handful of films that featured sympathetic queer characters. The World According to Garp featured a male-to-female transsexual, while Personal Best dramatized a lesbian relationship and issues of bisexuality.
Twentieth Century Fox released Making Love , a melodrama about a married couple coming to terms with the husband's latent homosexuality. Gay and lesbian concerns and characters often found more varied and less pejorative representations outside the Hollywood industry, in foreign, experimental, and documentary filmmaking. One of the first films ever to feature homosexual love as its theme was the Swedish film Vingarne Wings , , directed by Mauritz Stiller —; who was himself homosexual.
In fact, Weimar Germany was home to gay directors like F. Murnau — Nosferatu , and produced the first film to make a plea for homosexual rights and freedoms. Anders als die Anderen Different from the Others , was made in conjunction with early sexologist and gay rights pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld — A few years later G.
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