Language of the Soul Podcast

LGBTQ Representation Part 1

March 22, 2024 Dominick Domingo Season 2024 Episode 6
LGBTQ Representation Part 1
Language of the Soul Podcast
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Language of the Soul Podcast
LGBTQ Representation Part 1
Mar 22, 2024 Season 2024 Episode 6
Dominick Domingo

Dominick and Virginia both have a ‘horse in the race’ when it comes to LGBTQ Representation: Dominick as a Queer author and filmmaker and Virginia having raised a trans child. Their passion for the topics of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Representation of underrepresented communities, means they have long awaited this episode. It was finally time to fit it in, in order to lay the groundwork for future guests who are equally invested in not just positive but accurate representation.

This episode (part one of a two-part series) traces the history of Queer Representation in Cinema. Dominick reads excerpts from ‘Language of the Soul,’ the book on which this podcast is based, in which he lays out the long but steady arc toward where we stand today when it comes to queer stories, characters, tropes, cliches and stereotypes. In light of the immense progress as well as the pendulum swings and regressions, there is plenty of room for speculation about what the future holds. This episode promises to be relatable to some and eye-opening for others. Please join us as we set the stage for future conversations by telescoping our history; things are never what they seem!

Host Bio: Dominick is a former Disney artist who Visually Developed Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Tarzan  and Fantasia. His live-action films won awards in festivals and Original Screenplay credits led to a career in the literary realm. His literary fiction and Narrative Nonfiction have been included in anthologies, winning  awards like Craft Literary and Writer’s Digest. Dominick’s YA trilogy, The Nameless Prince, maintains five stars on B&N and Amazon since launching in 2012. Dominick’s experience in a broad range of formats and genres—all storytelling—has gifted him perspective on the ‘rules’ of each—the various ways storytelling touches hearts and minds. Dominick founded the Entertainment Track at his alma mater, Art Center. Twenty years of classroom experience have deepened his understanding of both the Creative Process and the Artistic Journey. All he's learned in the trenches informs his  latest book,  Language of the Soul.
www.dominickdomingo.com

We would love to hear from you! Sent US a text message.

Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Dominick and Virginia both have a ‘horse in the race’ when it comes to LGBTQ Representation: Dominick as a Queer author and filmmaker and Virginia having raised a trans child. Their passion for the topics of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Representation of underrepresented communities, means they have long awaited this episode. It was finally time to fit it in, in order to lay the groundwork for future guests who are equally invested in not just positive but accurate representation.

This episode (part one of a two-part series) traces the history of Queer Representation in Cinema. Dominick reads excerpts from ‘Language of the Soul,’ the book on which this podcast is based, in which he lays out the long but steady arc toward where we stand today when it comes to queer stories, characters, tropes, cliches and stereotypes. In light of the immense progress as well as the pendulum swings and regressions, there is plenty of room for speculation about what the future holds. This episode promises to be relatable to some and eye-opening for others. Please join us as we set the stage for future conversations by telescoping our history; things are never what they seem!

Host Bio: Dominick is a former Disney artist who Visually Developed Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Tarzan  and Fantasia. His live-action films won awards in festivals and Original Screenplay credits led to a career in the literary realm. His literary fiction and Narrative Nonfiction have been included in anthologies, winning  awards like Craft Literary and Writer’s Digest. Dominick’s YA trilogy, The Nameless Prince, maintains five stars on B&N and Amazon since launching in 2012. Dominick’s experience in a broad range of formats and genres—all storytelling—has gifted him perspective on the ‘rules’ of each—the various ways storytelling touches hearts and minds. Dominick founded the Entertainment Track at his alma mater, Art Center. Twenty years of classroom experience have deepened his understanding of both the Creative Process and the Artistic Journey. All he's learned in the trenches informs his  latest book,  Language of the Soul.
www.dominickdomingo.com

We would love to hear from you! Sent US a text message.

Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

Speaker 1:

Hi guys and welcome to Language of the Soul podcast, where life is story. So I want to do a little mini episode today. As some of you probably know, we're sort of building our database of supplemental content. I call it. Sometimes, you know, there's something on my mind that doesn't merit an essay or even a chapter of a book, but I really want to share it and I hope that it has interest and it resonates with listeners. This is something I'm very passionate about and, in fact, virginia and I have talked forever about doing an episode on it.

Speaker 1:

I'm just taking this opportunity because a few things have been on my radar lately that are inspiring me to share this particular topic today. It is something we're going to explore further. It's something that, amazingly, has not been addressed yet. Here and there I've made references, but we have had a lot of indie authors on publishers, editors, and we've explored the literary realm probably more than cinema or even just mainstream pop culture. So we do have a few guest books who are queer filmmakers or what's called own voices in literature. So we do have LGBTQ authors booked to come on. But we're about 22 episodes in and it's amazing that I have not gotten the satisfaction of really addressing representation. So again, here and there I've made reference to the fact that I've done the queer film festival circuit or that I've written gay themed pieces in the publishing realm, but I have a lot more to say about it. Needless to say, after 56 years on the planet as a gay man, I have a lot more to say and I'm very invested, obviously, in representation. Not only that, I've had my eye on it. My entire adult life has been spent in live action film or animated film in some capacity and I've just had my eye on it, very invested in it, very passionate about it. Virginia is too. She has a trans child, so she's got a horse. She loves when I say horse in the race, she's got a horse in the race as well. So we will be following up. I mean, obviously, this could be an entire podcast in itself. So some of our guests will surely have a lot to say about it, and I will chime in, because everything's meant to be a conversation, as will Virginia, but I'm going to take the opportunity to maybe lay some groundwork today, put it that way and then we'll have many more episodes during which we can follow up. Sorry for the fast talking, by the way. I just want to fit everything in and I'm sorry we'll get the conversational flavor of most of our episodes. I'm not trying to evolve the brand here, but hopefully I won't bore you too much with my singular diatribe, but I do, I guess, want to share some of the content from my book, language of the Soul.

Speaker 1:

The book on which the podcast is based, as some of you listeners will know, is just about the immense role of storytelling and culture and story takes so many forms, right, that it's an endless conversation. But with regard to normalization and evolving our noisemaker, that invisible realm of our ideas, morals, principles, ethics, even the codes we live by, all those invisibles, story probably is well, in the words of Don Han, one of our earlier guests, the producer, lion King, aladdin, a lot of the big animated films. It's the most important job out there, and I feel similarly as many sections of the book also expound upon. We learn more in the narrative realm than the didactic. Persuasion only goes so far, whereas when you get that oxytocin flowing in your patron, you open their hearts and therefore you can change minds. It has a much broader impact that extends all the way to literally policy. In the book and I'm going to read a portion actually that will say it better than anything that could possibly come out of my mouth right now. It kind of talks about how ideas become movements actually, that then become policy by extension. So social reform is largely a product of storytelling. That includes what we might immediately recognize as storytelling myths and fables, the literary realm, even cinema but it extends to that which we internalize by default, unexamined, not even recognizing it as story.

Speaker 1:

Political campaigning and propaganda utilize storytelling. All frankly, fascist dictators and demagogues and autocrats have an origin story. Kim Jong-il, as recently as mid-century, convinced the people that he was born on, I believe, a lotus blossom on a mountaintop, and some believe it to this day. So these world leaders really understand the persuasive power of story. For that matter, it's said that history is written by the winners From I'll just give you one example the Romans, kind of portraying Cleopatra in the way that best served them, as just one example. And then this idea of renaissance, refashioning of sort of colonized peoples to find their identity within their oppressors' imposed culture. All of these examples speak to the power of storytelling in our dialectic. So everybody seems to understand innately the power of storytelling to transform individuals and therefore evolve society and of course that includes not just changing hearts and minds to best contribute to our march toward human potential, but of course that includes to open pocketbooks. Advertisers rely on the chemical basis of storytelling to open not your heart or your mind but really your pocketbook.

Speaker 1:

Storytelling again is so vast, but for the moment I'm going to focus on the section of the chapter in my book devoted to exactly how ideas spread and, you know, impact our march toward human potential or, conversely, when the pendulum swings, lead to regression. Okay, jumping in here in the middle and I'm going to just jump around to different excerpts, imagine the spreading of pollen by bees from one flower to another. On a grassroots level, we spread ideas passively in casual, water cooler conversations. In the workplace, we spread them gossiping in the fellowship hall, at church, the line at the supermarket, even in bed at night as we relay daily events to our spouses. In a broader sense, beliefs are spread through parental guidance, education, religious doctrine, work practices, media and advertising. Our leaders proffer ideologies through political propaganda, news organizations, in turn perpetuated via talking heads and political pundits. Beliefs spread effortlessly in pop culture through song lyrics and cinematic dialogue and even still images in all genres and formats of media. One of the more recent platforms, but perhaps the one with the strongest influence, is social media. Viral videos from Instagram quote unquote. Influencers have unprecedented reach, traveling at lightning speed. Now imagine that the bees in our metaphor are mosquitoes and what's being spread is not life-giving pollen but the plague. Such is the potential danger of the propagation of belief and such is the cautionary tale of this chapter.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so at another point I really talk about how we're really going back to square one here. But you know, we are the sole species that can adopt ideas vicariously. So assuming all organisms have a database in their DNA, right of sort of automated responses to threats or opportunities, then we as humans, with our really sophisticated limbic systems, we can introduce novel responses to new stimuli that then, through epigenetics, get encoded and passed on. We are the only ones that can adopt ideas vicariously because we have a really hyper-active conceptualization and cognition process and they actually get encoded as well. So hopefully that all kind of makes sense and it's a no-brainer. I know I'm so far not really telling you anything. You don't know, but I don't know.

Speaker 1:

I don't know how many people without a horse in the race really put too much thought into the history of queer representation and I'm really just focusing on modernism here. But I'm going to now read a chapter about queer representation in cinema specifically. But a very formative time In my 20s I was already out as a gay man, but I think it was a good time for me to really see this particular documentary, which I'm going to recommend to everybody, is called the Selyloid Closet. So again, this is me sort of laying out the groundwork for what I want to get to the point of talking about where are we today in representation? Not just diversity and inclusion, but accurate representation, not good representation, right, it's not just positive representation, but what is accurate representation. And frankly, I am excited about where we're at and what the future seems to hold. Some of our guests that are going to come on will have other opinions and anyway, I'm laying the groundwork for that. And the best way to do that, to lay the groundwork for that conversation, is to lay out the history, just in case you've never seen that documentary or put much thought into it, and in the book I basically lay it out by referring to the Selyloid Closet. Okay, now, then the section begins.

Speaker 1:

Repeated exposure to images and ideas, both narrative and conceptual, has the power to familiarize or normalize, to demonize or ostracize. Let's take the phenomenon of diversity and inclusion of marginalized communities In the media. Representation and visibility play an undeniable role in normalizing the other and defusing tribal, fear-based marginalization or ostracization. So this is me staying general about how this works. So I'm using now the example I'm most passionate about having been on the planet again for 56 years as a gay man.

Speaker 1:

The stellar documentary the Selyloid Closet traces the history of LGBTQ representation in cinema, from the first quote-unquote motion picture captured by Edison on Selyloid, in which two men dance to a phonograph. Art has reflected life. The documentary follows the course of representation from that first grainy clip through the first same-sex kiss depicted in a silent film in 1927's Oscar-winning Wings, through the silencing and erasure of All Things Gay when the FCC introduced censorship during the prohibition era. Only then were LGBTQ characters and images rendered conspicuously absent or, better put, subverted. For several decades art continued to reflect life. Only now gay characters were required to be sinister or creepy in some way. Think Norman Bates and Psycho, or well, anything from Vincent Price's filmography. Gay men were palatable as eccentric bachelors, novelties or serial killers, so long as their orientation remained unspoken.

Speaker 1:

I'm interjecting here, this is not from the book but lately my mind has been on this idea of the court jester. It's getting better, but for a long time the gay character had to fulfill that societal expectation of a court jester. Another way of putting it that might click a little more is just you know, society is much more comfortable when there's a category or a box to put the other in right. So if the gay character is eccentric or a novelty in some way or affected or mannered, then it's entertainment and it's much more comfortable. And I see actually a large subsection of the gay community gladly fulfilling that unexamined and making people more comfortable. For sure, if any of our listeners have recently seen Capote and the Swans, it's said really beautifully in that as well.

Speaker 1:

The socialites in particular always wanted the court gesture around for entertainment and anyone who did live through the 90s and there is again this is going to come up later but there was a whole string of characters in primetime television actually was progress that every single primetime show did have a gay character. That was progress. And we take what we can get. Gay audiences are known for taking what we can get or just really longing to see themselves represented on the screen but ironically, every gay character was the florist or the female characters non-threatening best friend, that sort of thing, always eccentric, always a novelty. For that matter, the news media has always focused, in terms of coverage, on the novelties. When the gay pride parade was covered, it was always, you know, the eccentric characters because it was better entertainment. You get the idea.

Speaker 1:

I want to get back to the history because there's so much I could say and some of this is going to come up later in terms of the immense progress. I will just leave it at saying I don't always have the most popular opinion within the gay community, but I frankly have been waiting for the moment that there's a matter of factly gay character where the person's sexual orientation is not a plot point or a bone of contention or even a novelty, it just is. And we're getting there. I have some great examples of recent films in which that is very much the case. I will get back to the more linear chronological breakdown in the book, but I just thought it was a good moment to give some examples and when I said earlier that representation has really been on my radar, sort of lighting a fire under me to finally do this episode, it's precisely due to those really wonderful examples that get me up in the morning. Frankly, there's been a lot of really wonderful representation going on in some of the content that seems to be trending right now.

Speaker 1:

Before I get back to our more linear chronological breakdown, though, I want to give one more example of what we were talking about a moment ago, which is sort of fulfilling societal expectations or tropes or stereotypes, however negative, that seem to be serving the mainstream or serving a purpose. I call this one the rescue fantasy. We've all seen the film in which the poor, downtrodden African-American inner city kid needs the white woman to come in and teach in the inner city and adopt him and pull him up by the bootstraps and give him opportunities right and so in the gay community there was a string of dramas and comedies, actually in the 90s, in which the poor not just downtrodden but self-loathing gay character simply didn't have the courage to come out. But of course, all this wonderful straight people bound around them and make them feel secure enough to have the courage to come out. It's actually the precise opposite. There's a lot of patience applied in observing other people's boundaries and comfort zones and slowly educating people in the coming out process it's exactly the opposite. The courage more often than not is on the part of the person that has to come out and combat the ignorance. In a lot of cases there's a lot of strength, courage and character that's built from the introspection required by navigating all those challenges.

Speaker 1:

I do think it's a good moment to point out that, of course, there are as many stories within the gay community as there are individuals, whereas diverse is the general population, other than the thing that sets us apart, right, so that's the irony. We all have a different story, but again, I think the shared marginalization and ostracization leads to an identification. Of course, when gay men meet, they often tell their coming out story almost straight out the gate. So a lot of shared territory and a lot of universals and that's where I'm coming from with some of these offerings but also the idea that some of these stories just aren't being told. So I want to combat the more cliche ones in light of, yes, all the colors in this tapestry. And, frankly, another one that's problematic to me, or irksome I guess, is the sickly idea.

Speaker 1:

Often, again, it's like Madeline Miller's the Song of Achilles is a great example, even Jane Campion's Recent the Power of the Dog. There's always this undercurrent of same-sex attraction being twisted somehow and a sickness in some way, or at the very least rooted in dysfunction. More to the point, there is a holdover, I think, maybe from the Victorian era or even way back, that again there's something inherently less than masculine about being gay. So that manifests in so many ways In Song of Achilles. Petri Klee's is very much enamored of Achilles because of his prowess, whereas he's a little bit less able-bodied. And yeah, it's like the runt archetype. That's pretty outdated folks. Saltburn, as progressive as it was, in some ways perpetuated this archetype. The talented Mr Ripley relied on it as well, and in that case not only was the attraction rooted in sickness and inferiority, he turned out to be a murderer. So that goes back to that creepy archetype.

Speaker 1:

Gay characters are acceptable on screen as long as they are villains in some way. Power of the Dog was, yes, the runt, otherwise known as the sissy, and as much as I adored it, I saw it in fellow travelers as well. One of them just had to be a passer. You know right, they can pass in mainstream society. They're not overtly gay, whereas the other one was the Hera in the relationship to Jesus had to be the woman in the relationship, and I don't know that dominant or aggressive versus passive or submissive has anything at all to do with one's self-identified masculinity. As much as I loved fellow travelers, I just could have done without that idea that the attraction was based in an inferiority complex or that the alpha male somehow elicits the attraction because of some kind of inferiority or ineptiness. That sickly archetype is alive and well, and I'll get into that more later. I read a book in the 70s when I was just coming out that had some pretty backwards Freudian views about what it was to be gay. In fact the title of it was Overcoming Homosexuality. So that kind of says it all.

Speaker 1:

The final example, before we get back to our chronology, is again one of the ones that sort of really inspired me to want to do this episode, and I can't remember exactly where I saw it, but it was yet another iteration of something that does not resonate with me. It was said that, yes, gay men have lived their entire lives having to camouflage or survive by being all things to all people, so they really don't know themselves. I would posit the exact opposite. That, as I hinted at earlier, the introspection required by early challenges during puberty and adolescence actually can build character. It can build major integrity. So I don't I mean, there are definitely friends of mine who are gay, but they also happen to be actors who tend to be chameleons and all things to all people because that's what their craft demands, but they identify as actually not having ever been true to themselves and really not knowing who they are. As a result, I would posit that maybe in the minority that there's a hell of a lot of character and therefore integrity and ethics that can result from the challenges of navigating, being a minority, being ostracized, being marginalized. Okay, to go back to our breakdown of queer representation in film history, citing the celluloid closet. Okay, so the last where I left off.

Speaker 1:

Gay men were palatable as quote-unquote eccentric bachelors, novelties or serial killers, so long as their orientation remained unspoken. These characters were the first to get their throat slit or be thrown out the window, as in Mel Gibson's Braveheart. The film's portrayal of Edward II was a typically homophobic caricature. The scene in which young Edward's father throws his limpristed lover from a high window to his death invited her eyes from the audience. Throughout the film noir era, even overtly gay content. Like Tennessee Williams critically acclaimed masterpieces had to be sanitized for the silver screen. His clearly gay characters became loners who frequented movie houses doing God knew what. In the case of, suddenly, last summer, the omission of Sebastian's sexual orientation rendered the off-mentioned procuring his mother did on his behalf confusing at best, same with his ultimate demise at the hands of local street urchins in the town of Cabaza de Lobo.

Speaker 1:

Though the scene did succeed to symbolize Sebastian being devoured by his own demons, art continued to reflect life, but only for those with a keen eye for reading between the lines. Unfortunately, the policy of keeping the love that dare not speak its name under the radar did more harm than good when it comes to acceptance. Silence speaks louder than words when gaps are filled in with innuendo and negative stereotypes. In the ultimate irony, hollywood, or Tinseltown, as it were, has been called the most homophobic place on earth. Film history bears this out, and not just in the decades of actors closeted for fear of missing out on roles, but in the skewed representations allowed to make it to the screen. One of the more comical examples of the persistence of life and art is that of Ben Hur. The celluloid closet chronicles the production of the film as well as the tactics of screen writer Gore Vidal and director William Weiler. Apparently, vidal envisioned a backstory between the character Ben Hur and his nemesis Missala, one that explained their rivalry Without telling Charlton Heston, the actor portraying Ben Hur. Vidal and Weiler clued, in actor Stephen Boyd playing Missala, to a postulated love affair between the two rivals in youth. Stephen Boyd proceeded to play the scene with this backstory in mind, while the more conservative Charlton Heston remained clueless. It's comical to watch these scenes in retrospect with subtext in mind.

Speaker 1:

I was born in 1968, during the height of the sexual revolution. Despite that fact and the fact I grew up in a strangely provincial town next door to Hollywood, gay images were few and far between during my upbringing. Oh, I knew that San Francisco was the gay mecca, the place populated by men with bushy beards who wore sandals, which my dad referred to intermittently as hippie shoes or fag shoes. But San Francisco seemed theoretical, a world away. I may have overheard the name Harvey Milk on occasion from the lips of an uncomfortable news anchor, but as far as I knew, he was just the equivalent of the Tooth Fairy, and Anita Bryant was just the orange juice lady on TV. Once I put two and two together and figured out I was gay. Looking for role models was akin to searching for intelligent life on Mars.

Speaker 1:

In the 90s, mtv would introduce America to a living, breathing gay man in his native habitat. The rare glimpse has arrived in living rooms via Pedro Zamora, a participant in the third season of the reality show the Real World. His existence would validate adolescence in cornfields in Iowa, starved to see themselves represented in the media and desperate for permission to be who they were. Their countless letters were testament to the power of visibility. Pedro was not only a gay man, but a Cuban American minority living with HIV. But that impasse was decades off on some distant horizon. For the moment, all I had to cling to in the late 70s was three's company's Jack Tripper, and he wasn't even gay. He was just pretending to be in order to take advantage of Santa Monica's rent control. For the moment, liberace, paul In and Captain Kangaroo were eccentric, quote unquote bachelors, and Burton Ernie were, of course, roommates.

Speaker 1:

When AIDS came along in the 80s, the mainstream would be forced to acknowledge the community most impacted by it, though it would take Reagan five years, into both his presidency and the epidemic itself, to publicly utter the term AIDS, the crisis would ultimately elevate the profile of the LGBTQ community. This would lead to more controversy and backlash but eventually, through visibility, a modicum of normalization. Flash forward to Prop 8 and the years-long court battle for marriage equality In between, here's what normalization looked like. A bevy of florists, caterers or otherwise effeminate eccentric neighbors flooded every last primetime television series. Carefully selected news clips highlighted leatherclad men grinding away on floats at gay pride parades. These images were rarely chosen for the merit of celebrating sexual liberation, in defiance of the shame that has historically silenced the gay community. They were chosen for their shock value and novelty, further serving to alienate rather than normalize. At the risk of having my card revoked, I admit I found myself cringing throughout the 90s at these stereotypic representations. The very editorial choice of which images to include or exclude shouted volumes. To me, at least the leather daddies in these news clips were not serial killers or ice cream truck drivers with twisty mustaches. I opted to count any visibility progress. When it comes to representation. The gay community as I said before, by the way, is known to take what it can get.

Speaker 1:

As a filmmaker and a member of the LGBTQ community, I've long been hyper aware of its representation in cinema, hence my intimate acquaintance with the celluloid closet For that matter. I have kept an eye on queer representation in every aspect of popular culture, from media and advertising to pop music and literature. The characters I saw in mainstream entertainment, even at the height of the aforementioned trend of representation in the 90s, were inevitably stereotypic novelties. I longed for the day when the media would proffer not even positive representations, but accurate ones. I chanted the bit for the day when the sexual orientation of gay characters would be presented as a matter of fact, not a part of, not a plot point, as I said earlier. Okay, I think that's enough from the book for the moment. I'd like instead to flash forward yet again to the past couple years. Now this is going to seem like a silly example, but the Netflix rom-com single all the way may have been the first film in which and yes, it was a very hallmark style rom-com, very non-threatening, very mainstream, a feel-good film for sure I really enjoyed it. But it may have been the first film I've seen in which not only was the sexual orientation of the protagonist a non-issue, meaning it wasn't a bone of contention.

Speaker 1:

First of all, I want to say too that in the queer film festival circuit, those films that are meant to be niche or ghetto, that are not meant to be mainstream crossover films. You initially had a very limited list of what constituted gay content. So when I was doing that queer film festival circuit with my very first gay-themed by definition screenplay and film, at that time the identifiers of gay content were very limited. It was AIDS coming out, ostracization or outright discrimination or marginalization, or, on the other side, it was the skin factor. Right the fluff. If it didn't revolve around circuit parties or otherwise gratuitous skin quotient, programmers thought it just didn't have a place in the lineup. And I'm not exaggerating. Now, of course, that's opened up, right. Gay stories thanks to some people I'm going to mention in a moment that are really groundbreakers, gay-themed content and crossover content is fulfilling every possible genre and format, every niche. We want to now tell our right our hard-boiled detective stories. We want our gay superheroes, we want all of it and we're getting there. But, yes, very limited list of what constituted gay content. And that goes for what the mainstream expected us to fulfill. But even within, you know, the gay community and in other words, what the programmers thought people wanted to see at the queer film festivals very limited.

Speaker 1:

It's definitely broadened, but to go back, I do remember that moment when I thought, hey, not only are the characters in single all the way matter-of-factly gay the thing I had been waiting for my entire life but all the supporting characters, all the friends and family of these two characters the love interest as well wanted nothing more than happiness for the two characters. I had never seen that More often you're seeing them depicted as tragic figures that you know live a sad life and have limited expectations for their lives. Soon thereafter, of course you have bros. Now this is a good moment to, and of course they both have Luke McFarland. How can you go wrong there? But I do think some of these people that we're going to get to later are really breaking ground, and in a wonderful way, and it's no mistake, it's absolutely by design.

Speaker 1:

I think I've watched every bit of coverage around bros, the release of it, its reception, et cetera. I think I've watched every interview with Billy Eichner and Luke McFarland, and even Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller, the producer and director. Now, in the case of bros, same thing Nobody badded an eye about the fact that these two characters were gay. Everybody wanted the best for them and again, this was groundbreaking, for good or bad in their love lives. Normally it's tolerated or overlooked, right or swept under the carpet. Everybody, including the Macho brother, wanted the best for these two characters and rooted for them and championed their love and supported their relationship. By the way, I will say my own breakups have been painful, not because I'm disappointed in the person whom I'm parting ways with, but in the incredible lack of support for gay relationships. They just traditionally are not taken seriously because they don't involve the pitter-patter of tiny feet or overpopulating the planet. So that was really refreshing to see.

Speaker 1:

Now, to draw a comparison between those two films because they came out in a similar window of time and both happened to have Luke McFarland, which never hurts One could say that the former, single all the way, sort of, was non-threatening and worked with the system and didn't rub anything on anyone's face, if that makes sense, whereas Bros was a little more militant. It was you know what. Unapologetically, I'm going to show the good, the bad and the ugly of the gay experience. Not that there is one gay experience. I also would never use the term the gay lifestyle, because we all know the connotation is that outdated idea that it's a choice to live that lifestyle, the better way of putting it is the gay subculture. In other words, brose very much showed every facet of the gay subculture, including the diversity that exists within it. There was a conscious effort to represent and include every sexual orientation and every non-binary gender identity in the LGBTQ2 plus community. However, what I'm hinting at is that the approach was different.

Speaker 1:

I kind of joke like you're ripping off a band-aid with Brose, and he's said as much in the interviews that it was kind of like ready or not. Here we go and it's, I don't know, initiation by fire or throwing them in the deep end, I don't know which colloquialism best fits, but I know I found myself cringing when I saw it with a mixed audience in Glendale, which happens to be very mixed and Armenian, and that community can be very conservative. I cringed. I thought, ooh, are we ready for this? Is the mainstream ready for this? I ended up loving it. It won me over. I just am addicted to it. It's my comfort food.

Speaker 1:

I love that film, but I will say I've been accused of, you know, working with the system and being, I guess, martin Luther King rather than a Malcolm X, right? So there's a really long conversation here about what best contributes to social reform. I'm here to say I say amen to all of it, to the militant activists and the pacifists and those who may seem to be complacent but are actually making their difference through their example and through their art. Everybody's got a different gift and it takes a village. That goes for every type of social reform and not just tolerance for diversity.

Speaker 1:

In my own life I've often said you know what? I am not a militant activist, I am not political by nature. However, I have other gifts. So through my example I have 22 nieces and nephews. I've always had faith that being a respectable uncle and a good son, right and a good brother would be enough to make a difference, to counteract any negative stereotypes to the contrary, at least within my grassroots circles, and then trust in the ripple effect. And then through my work, I've always said I make my difference through my work.

Speaker 1:

In my work I for a long time said you know, I don't think you can separate the artist from the work in terms of worldview and sensibility, and I still believe that. But I also strive for the universal in my work for the most part. It's very clear to me when I choose to do a gay-themed by definition, short story or film. In all cases I strive for the universal. The feedback I received from my first overtly gay-themed film Outpost so validated my intentions. I set out by saying, yes, it should be identifiable for gay audiences but also maybe eye-opening for straight ones. The feedback I got we put out a little guest book, and friends that I've known for my entire lifetime, that I viewed as progressive, wrote oh my god, it's the first time I really saw, and it clicked, that the heart is the same, straight or gay.

Speaker 1:

Now you listen to Billy Eichner when promoting Bros and he'll say his whole point. One of the main themes is eh, love is not love. There are very different rules within the gay community. So there goes my theory. I'm actually being a little facetious. I think both can coexist. I think his point, or the thematic content, pointed to the idea that relationship models differ vastly, and I even said as much a moment ago when I mentioned the Zeus and the Hera archetypes. You know it's that old cliche of like who's the girl in the relationship? A lot of times people expect the dynamic to reflect that of the mainstream, when in fact a large subsection of the gay community is very invested in the idea that we are free from social conditioning or limiting norms and mores and institutions and we actually have the freedom to create new paradigms, and to me that's a beautiful thing. The point is, I say amen to all the approaches to social reform in general, but specifically in this context, to tolerance through normalization.

Speaker 1:

Back to the conversation about whether there is a right or wrong way to forge change by normalizing images of gay life, whether the sort of in your face, take it or leave it, good, bad and ugly approach actually serves to alienate rather than normalize. I'd like to offer a few clear cut examples. Anyone who's seen the reboot of Sex and the City called and just like that, and also the reboot of Tales of the City, which I love, both the original and, to a lesser degree, the reboot. In both cases you have this juxtaposition of the old farts and the new generation, and the trope is the new generation are progressive. For them, obviously, sexual orientation and gender identity are a complete non-issue, and that's true. But I think the trope I'm tired of seeing is that millennials and Gen Zers did invent, or at least have a monopoly on, diversity and inclusion, or let's just say, enlightenment, when actually there were pioneers who were out there fighting for this luxury we now have. So it's the same in any area of social reform that the world the younger generation are born into provides the luxuries and then, unless you learn your history, you don't realize how hard it was fought for. To be a little clearer, I think there's this defeatist attitude or sort of a complacency that's projected on older folks, whereas the younger ones are really again portrayed as not just woke but not willing to take any shit, when in reality they inherited that luxury which was sort of grandfathered in.

Speaker 1:

If anyone out there has ever seen the film Seraphina, which I highly recommend, it's a really beautiful film happens to star Whoopi Goldberg, but that's not the best thing about it. That was the box office draw. Most of the talent were locals from a township in Soweto, south Africa, who had actually lived through apartheid, and you could see the sort of pain in their eyes and in their performances. They were not actor, but there's a really beautiful scene in which the daughter is judging her mother for being complacent. I think the mother is a housekeeper in I'd spent a while since I've seen it, but you know a white estate and she seems pretty defeated to her daughter and complacent and just takes the abuse without really seeming to fight, push back against it and then the daughter comes home, you know, after, I think, a demonstration during which she is beaten and imprisoned for a while, and now she really just has a new view of her mother and it's a really beautiful scene about. Things are not always what they seem and you've got to give the older generation a little bit of credit. Anyway, see that if you haven't had a chance. But back to Brose.

Speaker 1:

One could say the big difference between single all the way and Brose would be the approach. Brose absolutely unapologetically showed the good, the bad and the ugly within the gay community, the stereotypes that were owned right. A lot of gay culture is taking the misapprehensions of the mainstream and reappropriating them and owning them, if that makes sense. So even the word gay it's a derogatory, rather derogatory Victorian term that was then reappropriated and owned by the gay community. The tradition of drag, as much as it, celebrates genderbending as a way of sort of saying hey, loosen up, lighten up, rethink all these institutions and norms and mores and rethink your social conditioning, your paradigms and limiting thought forms. It is based on a misapprehension. True, cross-dressing is a heterosexual phenomenon. Look into it. There's a sexual thrill to identifying with the opposite sex. The object of one's attraction is so true cross-dressing Transvestism is a heterosexual phenomenon. That's what's meant by a misapprehension. Mainstream society has confounded not just homosexuality with being a sissy or being feminine in some way, but with what we now call gender dysphoria or gender identity crisis, which is even an outdated term. That misunderstanding is very similar to people for many decades equating homosexuality with pedophilia. For God's sake, the term in France and I've lived there is la communauté pédée, which conjures pédée. So it's still associated with pédée and yet, in that same way, it was embraced and owned by the gay community. So drag is a celebration of genderbending. Yes, okay.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think we've laid the groundwork for, hopefully, some very stimulating conversations with our upcoming guests. I feel pretty good about laying out the history. Some of it was structured and planned and some of it was just off the cuff, but I hope it was linear enough to sort of get an overview and I don't know and just be passionate about the topic or invested in it. There will be a part two to this intro to LGBTQ representation in cinema and I would add to that, by the way, in pop culture in general and the media in general, but we only got up to a certain point. I really want to spend the next episode talking about the present and the future of representation. I'm so excited about a few things that are overtly gay-themed some problematic, some encouraging and others that were meant to be mainstream.

Speaker 1:

There's a conversation around whether there is right, a separation anymore between gay-themed content and mainstream content. The sort of niche, ghetto films might be a thing of the past, at least when it comes to, like, streaming content. So in our next episode I'd love to pick up where we left off and sort of talk about some of those late 90s, early millennium films like Philadelphia and in now, priscilla Threesome, even Dallas Buyer's Club, and get up to the pivotal milestone, in my opinion, in pop culture that is, broke back and then more current trends. Like I said, I'm actually really excited. We've talked about bros and single all the way, but more recently, like actually in this moment we have, I think there's a conversation about Saltburn, fellow travelers, all of us strangers, the last of us, and even those reboots like Tales of the City and just like that that I mentioned.

Speaker 1:

I want to talk about Ryan Murphy's content in general, any of it, all of it, and all Mike White content. Like the White Lotus, this is very mainstream stuff, especially again in streaming. Todd Haynes, jane Campion, jamie Babbitt. There's a lot of good stuff going on and I really want to pay tribute to those who are forging major change. I see them as nothing less than pioneers and trailblazers. Okay, so please tune in next time for all that and more. Remember life is story and we can get our hands in the clay, individually and collectively. We can write our own story. See you next time.

The Power of Storytelling
Queer Representation in Modern Cinema
Evolution of LGBTQ Representation in Media
Evolution of Gay Representation in Film