Jennifer Gibbons mentioned my recent Facebook thread about the lack of happy endings in LGBT film aimed at a general audience. This whole discussion came about when a Facebook friend - a somewhat well-known gay man - posted a piece of art inspired by the film version of Brokeback Mountain and described it as a "romantic love story" and "what every gay man dreams about." I found this description both naive and disturbing. I hope gay men aren't dreaming such sad, tragic, hopeless, dead-end lives for themselves as those led by the men in Annie Proulx's short story or Ang Lee's film. The reality of that story both on paper and on the screen (and if you haven't read Proulx's original story, you really should - it's a powerful piece) is that it's heartbreaking. This isn't a story about love, joy and happiness. It's about homophobia, self-loathing, abuse, duplicty, shame, alcohol abuse, loneliness and despair. It's about NEVER getting to be with the person you love, and about hating yourself BECAUSE of who you love. It's about being so busy hiding from who you are and what you want that you miss out, entirely, on life. It's a great short story and a very good movie, but it's not a happy one. It certainly isn't a romance.
Authentic romances are few and far between, when it comes to quality LGBT film and literature. Sure, people will name Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The film plays down the women's love affair and, in both book and film: RUTH DIES. Oh, I know - Kissing Jessica Stein! That's a great movie. Funny. Tender. Great performances. The wonderful Tovah Feldshue. Oh, wait....it turns out Jessica's not really a lesbian AFTER ALL, it was just a phase, and she ends up with her old boyfriend at the end. Not much of a gay romance, is it? Torch Song Trilogy? Wonderful play. Decent movie. The love of his life ends up dead - the victim of a GAY BASHING. Mysterious Skin? Great movie...great movie about a self-loathing victim of sexual abuse who ends up having unsafe gay sex with strangers for a living..so..um...no, not a romance. My Summer of Love. Wow. I love that movie. Oh, right. There's nothing but heartbreak and abandonment for the main character. Aimee and Jaguar, now THAT is a good book and a beautiful film. Well written, beautifully acted, and a true story, to boot. Of course one of the women IS murdered by the Nazis, but hey...
To those who say, "but struggle and pain are a big part of romance" I say, "that's easy for a straight person to be so flip about, when 9 out of 10 hetero romances ends up with He and She living happily ever after." This just isn't the case when it comes to stories about same-sex love...especially not in films. Hollywood, especially, seems bent (no pun intended) on portraying the tragic side of same-sex love. Is it any surprise so many young homosexuals don't feel all that great about who they are and what their futures hold for them? You can talk about "it gets better" all you want, but think on this: Straight teens get The Twilight Saga where even a vampire can find happiness, as long as he's not queer. LGBT teens get Boys Don't Cry. Straight young men get Risky Business and The Hangover, where everything always turns out ok in the end...so long as you like girls. Gay guys get The Boys in the Band and Longtime Companion, where life means being alone and lonely, hiding yourself from the world, and probably dying of AIDS. You get my drift.
All is not lost, though. There are a few good films out there that - clutch the pearls - dare to portray same-sex love as something other than tragic, hopeless, and/or a recipe for rejection fromloved ones.
Big Eden - Imagine if your neighbors just wanted you to be as happy as they were? So sweet.
But, I'm A Cheerleader - Doesn't it make sense that a camp where kids are sent to be "cured" of their homosexuality would be the best place to meet other queers? Hilarious and campy.
Imagine Me & You - Life not going as you'd planned it can sometimes be a very good thing.
Bound - This one has lots of violence, because it's primarily a gangster/heist movie. But it's an excellent one, and the big twist is, it's a lesbian couple who double-crosses the mob. Slick, clever, fast-paced - everything a good heist movie should be. Only with lesbians at the helm.
Save Me - Written by Robert Desiderio and starring his wife, Judith Light, this is a film worth searching for. Desiderio and Light have long been vocal supporters of gay rights and good friends to the LGBT community. Light, especially, has acheived gay icon status, and with good reason. She is a treasure. Her performance as a woman whose life is so devoid of love that she devotes it to "curing" gay young men is really something. But it isn't a movie about curing anything - it's about the futility of trying to supress human nature.