Strictly Speaking: A Column


Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief

   Maybe it’s just because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but I’ve been trying harder than usual to find fun movies with LGBTQ characters. However, looking for a cutesy romance with lesbian characters nearly always leaves me with nothing but cobwebs — there just don’t seem to be that many films with LGBTQ characters that I want to watch. I’m not alone in this: I’ve had so many conversations with my friends about how annoying it is that there aren’t many films with LGBTQ characters that are accurate, well-produced, or even worth watching.

   For the record, LGBTQ representation is getting better… somewhat. While they are appearing in more films, ever so often, queer characters are built on stereotypes; they’re token characters whose primary, or only, trait is to be the gay best friend or the disenchanted lesbian. It’s a step forward, I guess, but I feel like I shouldn’t have to settle. Like, I should be allowed to have what so many other groups have: good representation.

   When there are films centered around queer people, they often fall short. Closer examination reveals that so many of the movies that do portray LGBTQ people are led by straight actors who will never have to go through the struggles that come with being queer. Actor Timothée Chalamet, of Call Me by Your Name fame, is straight. As is the lead of popular teen drama Love, Simon, Actor Nick Robinson. Actor Eddie Redmayne, a cisgender man, played a transgender woman in the film The Danish Girl, which sparked controversy but didn’t deter him from playing the part. These are simply a few instances — the list is far, far, longer.

   I’ve seen it be argued that if LGBTQ people can play straight, cisgender people in movies and shows, then why shouldn’t straight, cisgender people be able to play trans and gay roles? Ultimately, the answer is subjective — but to me, there’s no real question there. LGBTQ people should be acting in LGBTQ roles, plain and simple. When we see non-LGBTQ actors in LGBTQ roles, it’s just another slap in the face — it tells us that we aren’t even good enough to play ourselves on the screen. Worse still, there are societal consequences to having straight, cisgender people playing queer roles onscreen: for instance, if a straight actor says the f-slur in a film, it asserts, however passively, that it’s okay for the straight people in the audience to do the same, therefore perpetuating dangerous language and bigotry.

   Another huge problem I’ve noticed is how many films with prominent LGBTQ characters are centered around being gay or trans and how they have to come out and deal with society. It’s over-done and we’ve heard it all before — hell, most of us (queer people, anyways) have lived though it. I got excited last year when it was announced that Kristen Stewart was going to be in a lesbian holiday film, Happiest Season. It was marketed as a rom-com, but the movie was ultimately just depressing and tense (and yes, an accurate portrayal of the difficulty gay people face when trying to fit into a heterosexual world), which in my experience, is a recurring theme when LGBTQ characters are involved. Such is the case with so many other films about LGBTQ people — trust me, we don’t need yet another movie that capitalizes on LGBTQ suffering. Film is so often a form of escapism — why can’t we have films that don’t reflect the real world, where being LGBTQ is as normal as being cisgender and straight?

   At the end of the day, I deserve to see myself honestly and positively portrayed in the media. I should be able to search for a cute rom-com about lesbians that isn’t stereotypical beyond all reason, hypersexualized or simply about coming out, but that is vibrant and representative of the full-bodied lives that queer people live. Representation matters and having better queer movies has the potential to normalize our lives to the greater population to boundlessly positive effect. I know it would give me all the feels.