The trope Bury Your Gays is rampant in mainstream cinema and TV, and objectifying movies such as Girl House, and miserable films like A Single Man, are just the tip of the iceberg. These movies are usually written and directed by cisgender, heterosexual men, so it’s no wonder they turn out to be so highly sexualized.
On top of over-sexualization, these films are usually incredibly depressing. Once heterosexual men and women have gotten their jollies off to the explicit sex scenes, our LGBTQIAP+ characters no longer serve them any purpose. Heterosexual society doesn’t relate to characters like Poussey and Lexa, so society doesn’t want them on screen for too long unless a nipple is going to pop out, or a juicy death scene will wake the audience up.
There are some great (usually independent) films that don’t take advantage of shock value when telling an LGBTQIAP+ story, but they’re often difficult to find. So we’ve found a handle of them for you right here.
Some of these films have their sad moments, of course, but none of them bury their gays, or involve pointless breakups for shock factor. And some of them are damn funny, too.
So what are they?
Warning: There will be spoilers, because how else can we tell you the film ends happily? But we’ll try to leave out too many plot twists …
1. Imagine Me and You
Romantic comedies are one of the most dependable friends a girl can have. You always know going into them that you’ll get a happy ending, and that 90% of the time, the main two stars will get together at the end. This is one of the reasons why it’s so sad that the majority of romcoms are heterosexual. LGBTQIAP+ movies are usually stressful dramas that play a horrid game of “will they die? will they break up?” through every minute of the film. Imagine Me and You is not one of these films; it’s the cheesy, cute, dependable wlw romcom of your dreams. It focuses on Rachel, who meets the kindhearted Luce at her wedding. After becoming very close and discovering Luce is a lesbian … well, you can kind of guess how it progresses from there.
It’s probably unlikely that you haven’t heard of the award-winning Moonlight by now. But there’s probably a sizable portion of you who haven’t seen it yet, due to the fear that this drama ends in heartache. If there’s one thing that Hollywood loves to do more than killing lesbians, it’s killing off black men, so I can understand the fear that our black gay hero wouldn’t survive the movie. Without spoiling too much of the film, I’m here to tell you that not only do both mlm protagonists survive, but the ending is one of pure hope.
Moonlight is an incredibly artistic and moving film directed and written by Barry Jenkins, with a mainly Black cast and crew. The movie spans across three stages in the life of our main character, Chiron: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. We watch Chiron’s experiences with his sexuality, his Blackness, and his family life. Telling you anymore than that would spoil the surprise, so check it out.
3. I Can’t Think Straight
Just like Imagine Me and You, a wedding and two male partners are some huge obstacles for the wlw protagonists, but thematically, visually, and tonally, I Can’t Think Straight could not be more different. And it’s way, way less white, too. When main character Tala, a Jordanian woman of Palestinian descent, falls in love with a British Indian woman named Leyla, their whole lives turn upside down.
Since our two heroines are from very different backgrounds, their romance brings up a lot of questions on how LGBTQIAP+ couples are treated in very heteronormative nations, as well as cross-cultural relationships in general, though it’s not all heavy political commentary. The movie includes one of my favorite tropes ever: a romance steadily blooming during a trip to the countryside. Breaking away from racial tensions, homophobia, and stressful city life to really get to know your partner in a secluded area sounds like heaven.
4. Beautiful Thing
Hettie MacDonald’s ’90s classic tells the story of young love in a lesser-known area of England. The plot revolves around Jamie, who is secretly in love with his friend Ste. Both teenagers are dealing with class issues, addiction, and abuse. The film also deals with the stigma of coming out of the closet, with one of our main characters experiencing blackmail over his sexuality. Usually when we see mlm romances, they’re stylized beyond reality, or include unhealthy age gaps for the sake of drama. But Beautiful Thing is such an aptly named film because it feels so real, and innocent.
5. The Handmaiden
Steering away from romcoms and dramas for a moment, we get to The Handmaiden, the erotic psychological thriller based on the victorian book Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. The Handmaiden, set in Japanese-occupied Korea, focuses on the relationship between heiress Lady Hideko and her handmaiden, Sook-hee. Deception, inheritance, murder, forced hospitalization—this shocking thriller has it all. Conman Count Fujiwara is set to swindle Hideko out of her inheritance, so he hires Sook-Hee to help him. Luckily for Hideko, Sook-Hee is not as loyal to him as once thought, and she and Hideko embark on a passionate romance. Where the story goes from there, well … I won’t spoil that part.
6. Boy Meets Girl
It’s incredibly rare to find a trans actress portraying a trans woman in cinema, since cis actors like Jared Leto and David Duchovny keep stealing trans roles, so one of the best parts of Boy Meets Girl is how authentic the experience of the main character and actress is. Ricky, played by Michelle Hendley, is a budding fashion designer with big dreams of attending fashion college in NYC. She and her childhood friend Robby live in a small town who have mostly embraced Ricky’s gender transition, but it isn’t until newcomer Francesca arrives on scene when Ricky must come to terms with her romantic orientation. The coming-of-age movie knows how to write tender friendships well, as well as the complexity of gender, sexuality, and love.
7. Saving Face
Another cute romcom, this time co-produced by Will Smith. Saving Face is the story of two Chinese-American women who become drawn to each other during a party. One a surgeon and the other a dancer, their worlds collide after Wil (our surgeon) realises that Vivian (her dream girl) is the daughter of her new boss. Eek. If this wasn’t awkward enough, Wil discovers something surprising about her mother that leads to them having to move in with each other. Saving Face just goes to show that your LGBTQIAP+ movie doesn’t have to be dark and depressing; it can be plenty funny, and even cringe-worthy.
(featured image: Sony Pictures)
Stephanie Watson is a feminist journalist from Scotland. She is mostly found cuddled up in her room working on a new article, writing fiction, or watching beauty YouTube videos. You can find more of her work at Fembot,HelloGiggles, and YourTango, or watch her tweet via @Stephie__Watson.
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