September 12, 2011

Queer Issue: Hey Hollywood! Where are the Queer Youth?

I recently came across this excellent article I am Not a Secondary Character: Queer Kids in YA, and Why We Need to Do Better at Muse Rising, and found myself thinking, what about films? Where are the stories of queer youth in cinema? I found myself looking back over the 90+ films I had reviewed here in order to figure out how many of them featured queer youth. Let me warn my readers ahead of time, the results are not going to be pretty.

Basically, I found 6 films I had reviewed that had queer youth characters. They are: Another Gay Movie, But I'm a Cheerleader, Die, Mommie, Die!, Easy A, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and lastly, 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous, which I saw but never wrote a review of.

Really? Out of those, Another Gay Movie is just awful, But I'm a Cheerleader and 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous could hold competitions for "Most Mediocre Film Of All", and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is borderline homophobic. Only Die, Mommie, Die! and Easy A are any good. Of those last two though, the gay youth character is secondary.

But, I told myself, can that be all? Seriously? Is that it? After all the screaming by Right Wing Evangelicals about the Evils of Hollywood and their Homosexual Agenda to use radical films to recruit our youth into making America A Gay Commie Hell, I can only find 6 films that feature queer youth characters? Hollywood, really, you're not keeping up with your yearly quota! Remember the plan!

In any case, I did some searching through Netflix and the index page for Gay Celluloid and came up with the following titles as being described or appearing to have queer youth characters:
Wild Reeds
Summer Storm
Another Gay Sequel
Bowser Makes a Movie
Boy Crush
The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love
Ma Vie En Rose
Beautiful Thing
Europa Europa
You Are Not Alone
Whole New Thing
My Summer of Love
Billy Elliot
Wild Tigers I Have Known
The Curiosity of Chance
You'll Get Over It
Ma Vraie Vie à Rouen

So that makes 21 titles. Now together with the previous 6 that's a grand total of 27, which is still pathetic. Several of these are notable or I've at least heard good things about them, such as Europa Europa, My Summer of Love, Billy Elliot, and Ma Vie En Rose. But in any case, how many queer youth will have even heard of these movies or have access to them?

I mean seriously, Hollywood, you are way behind schedule.

Apparently, if you are a Hollywood, you are a well adjusted adult or never bother figuring out your sexual orientation until you are in college or middle aged. Which is sad, as we owe our queer youth better than that.

I am somewhat at a loss to explain this phenomenon. I can point fingers at the now defunct Hays Code and the hypocritical ways that the MPAA rates queer movies with much harsher standards but I think goes a little bit deeper than that. For all those who claim that that Hollywood is some sort of pusher of liberal propaganda, I think the evidence often goes the other way. In this instance, it is the almost complete lack of queer youth characters on film.

Let's be frank, all companies that make movies exist to make money. It does not matter if it is an independent company or one of the big mainstream conglomerates, they only exist for the purpose of making a profit. However, I do not see ticket sales being an issue here. Why? Because Hollywood markets and makes most of it's movies off of teens, who all things considered, are probably much less likely to shun a movie with queer content. Furthermore, if studios are worried about offending homophobic groups so much, I would like to point out that the resulting controversy and protests are probably more likely to boost ticket sales, than to drive people away. In fact, I would bet that the more authority figures that will tell a teenager not to see a movie or film, the more likely that teen will go the extra mile to seek them out. It's also worth noting the success of crap like the The Da Vinci Code, which was was widely protested by the Catholic League when it was released? (Although to be fair, I never saw it after having read the god awful Dan Brown novel it was based upon).

Nope, what I think are the driving force behind this glaring absence is simply cowardice. There is no reason, financial or otherwise, that should cause producers to shy away from

There is another matter that makes this even more distressing. In the past year, the issue of suicide among queer youth has been brought to the national spotlight. While I would not argue that the lack of queer youth characters on film or in books is the driving force behind the disproportionaly high suicide rate among LGBTQIA youth, I cannot imagine that it helps. In fact, a lack of general media portrayals will only help to further the impression that being GLBTQIA is abnormal and therefore heighten feelings of isolation amongst queer youth. This in turn, can only worsen an already serious problem. What makes this situation further depressing is that is only likely to get worse. The tepid trickle that exists now will probably come to a complete stop as the last gasps of independent cinema, which has been slowly strangled over the past decade, are breathed.

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