Presently there has been a greater emphasis on the representation of the LGBTQIA+ community across the entertainment industry. The increasing visibility has led to an increased acceptance and tolerance in society and it has helped those in the community seek comfort as they see themselves represented on screen.
*Disclaimer: this article is spoiler-free and I do share my subjective opinion*
On the other hand, despite the overarching positive response, this has unsurprisingly led to a hostile reaction from those who hold conservative views. There has also been an unanticipated, but justified backlash from the left-wing and the queer community attributed to tokenism and the unrealistic fantastical story-lines which the entertainment industry often approach.
To combat this, I have compiled a list of 8 queer films that feature diverse casts, sexualities, identities and tackle a wide range of other issues such as poverty, urbanisation, immigration, gentrification, disability and racism.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
In 1993, after teenager Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught in the backseat of a car with the prom queen, she is sent away to a treatment centre in a remote area called God’s Promise. While she is being subjected to gay conversion therapies, she bonds with fellow residents as they pretend to go along with the process while waiting to be released. The fellow residents she meets also struggle with other issues such as substance abuse, the erosion of indigenous culture and familial separation.
This movie inspired me to research further into queerness in native communities and cultures before colonial influence and installation of Christianity. In indigenous North American culture, there is a belief in people who are ‘two-spirited’, now classified as gay, lesbian, or transgender, who fulfil a traditional ‘third-gender’ ceremonial and social role in their cultures.
God’s Own Country (2017)
We see the story of Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), a young farmer who numbs his frustration with drinking and casual sex to cope with the struggle of the farm, his envy towards the people around him, and his inability to maintain deeper platonic and romantic relationships. This cycle of self-destruction is broken when a a Romanian migrant worker, Gheorghe Ionescu (Alec Secareanu), sets him on a new path.
An issue the film tackles is the prejudice Eastern European immigrants face. Gheorghe is initially subject to Johnny’s xenophobia as he subjects him to a slew of pejorative language and treats him as inferior. A study conducted by the University of Strathclyde in 2019, 77% of Eastern European pupils in schools in England and Scotland said they had suffered racism, xenophobia or bullying. Sally Weale, Education correspondent, believes there has been an increase in levels of racism and xenophobia since the Brexit vote.
The Way He Looks (2014)
Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a blind teenager searching for independence from his overbearing protective parents and he is tired of being bullied by his classmates. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel (Fábio Audi), a new boy in town.
The film also highlights the issues surrounding ableism. Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterises persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the able-bodied or neurotypical. Ableism can be unconscious and unintentional such as the lack of accessibility to facilities when architects design entrances to parking in disabled-only parking.
Boy Erased (2018)
Jared (Lucas Hedges) discovers that he is homosexual and tells his religious family. His father, leader of the local church, responds by sending him to a conversion therapy camp where he is introduced to some questionable philosophy and methods. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.
The film is based on ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir; the 2016 memoir’ where Garrard Conley recounts his childhood in a fundamentalist Arkansas family that enrolled him in conversion therapy. At the end of the film, we get a follow up of how the lives of the real-life characters continued which makes the issue of conversion therapy seem more urgent and real. There are many cases in which even years after conversion therapy many experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and sometimes develop other mental illnesses due to the trauma they face in these institutions.
The Danish Girl (2015)
Artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) asks her husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne) to pose as a female model for a painting. Things take an unexpected turn when this act triggers Einar to reignite their suppressed identification. With support from their loving wife Gerda, artist Einar Wegener prepares to undergo one of the first sex-change operations.
The film was adapted from the 2000 novel of the same name by American writer David Ebershoff, and was inspired by the story of Lili Ilse Elvenes. Elvenes (1882 – 1931), was a Danish transgender woman and among the earliest recipients of sex reassignment surgery (also referred to as gender affirmation surgery). I first read the novel a year before the film was released and there were some changes made, but the film still managed to portray the inner dynamics of a person who goes through the challenging process of self-realisation.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendour of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
I first watched this film when I was fifteen, and I didn’t like it. However, when I revisited the film at eighteen during the first few weeks of lock-down, I fell in love. The flawless cinematography accompanied by the celestial soft voice of Sufjan Stevens on the soundtrack beautifully complimented the story. Watching it years later as an adult made me truly understand the raw emotions of love and loss portrayed on screen and appreciate the film as a work of art.
Chiron (Ashton Sanders), a young African-American boy, finds guidance in Juan (Mahershala Ali), a drug dealer, who teaches him to carve his own path. As he grows up being bullied in a poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood in Miami with a drug addict as a mother, Chiron grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.
Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2017 after the now-viral infamous live mix up when the wrong film, La La Land, was first announced as the winner, only to be ushered offstage by the cast of Moonlight when they were announced as the real winners minutes later.
Sally Weale (2019) The Guardian, Xenophobic bullying souring lives of eastern European pupils in UK:
Access Living, Ableism 101 – What is Ableism? What Does it Look Like?
Written by Obed Bhiziki