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The media has a way of depicting different groups of people. Throughout media history, groups who have been marginalized have represented in a contrary view in the eyes of those in the majority. For example, looking at old Looney Tunes cartoon shorts where Japanese characters are shown talking gibberish with heavily squinted eyes. And Merrie Melodies cartoons where African-Americans are shown with big lips and depicted as being dumb.
Overtime stereotypes have changed, but some still stay the same. The LGBTQ community is one of many marginalized groups who has been depicted negatively in media. Film history has shown the characters who are LGBTQ or are hinted to be, are shown to be sassy, loud, and colorful characters.
Take for example Wonder Bar (1934) where Al Jolson flamboyantly swings his arms in the air and says “boys will be boys” at the sight of two men dancing together. This use of men freely expressing their sexuality with the same gender was acceptable before the Hays Code took effect within that same year.
Other times, LGBTQ people are often portrayed as the villain. In Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Sal Mineo’s character Plato is shown to be fascinated with James Dean’s character Jim. In the end, it is Plato who is wanted for murder and is wound up shot and killed.
LGBTQ stories span across all film genres tackling subjects such as coming out, AIDS, finding one’s way through the world, first love and heartbreak. But surprisingly, we haven’t seen much of these storylines as of lately.
In a study made by GLAAD based on the Vito Russo Test, LGBTQ representation was at an all-time low where on 13% of characters in films released by the seven major studios in Hollywood where LGBT. You can read about the test results here 2018 GLAAD Responsibility Index And speaking of the “T,” none of the characters in those films released were transgender.
To pass the Vito Russo test, the film must contain a character that is identifiably LGBTQ. Next, said character must not be solely or predominately by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Finally, the LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in a way that the audience can leave the movie theater knowing that said character mattered to the story and they weren’t just a punch line.
Of the 2017 films, the characters were predominantly white and gay. We just barely had lesbian and bisexual characters and, as stated earlier, no transgendered characters. We also so a lack in LGBTQ people of color in films.
Hollywood needs to realize that LGBTQ people are way past the “butt of the joke” stereotype. Trust me I like to make fun of myself and my sexuality too, but sometimes it gets a little old. We want to see average, ordinary characters much as we see in every other predominately straight movie that we see.
All we want is a character and a story to relate to!
Look at Love, Simon (2018). Here we have a teenage boy named Simon who has a crush on another teenaged boy named Blue, and while communicating through email anonymously, their messages are released to the entire school. Simon is now caught in a whirlwind trying not to have his identity blown to the whole school, while also trying to discover himself. Every LGBTQ person has struggled to identify who they are and can 100% relate to what Simon is feeling.
So to all Hollywood filmmakers who hopefully, even to the young filmmakers looking to get into the industry. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, or everything in between. If you are going to make a movie with an LGBTQ character and storyline, make it so that the audience can relate to the story at hand.
To all of the inspiring writers out there who have struggled with their sexual identity, write about your own experiences and make it into some drama or comedy. I would be down to watch it.
We need LGBTQ actors to play said characters. Trust me I love some of the actors in the past who have played LGBTQ people, but it’s better than we see someone who has been in the characters shoes to be playing the role. At this point, the whole film crew should be mixed with diversity. We need these kinds of stores in Hollywood today.
Representation is so important. It can inspire many who are struggling with themselves, who aren’t safe with coming out or they’re just finding out who they are to look up at the big screen and say “Hey, I want to be like this character.”
I hope in the years to come that we as film lover and filmmakers will be able to create a film like Love, Simon. It would do so much for inspiration for up and coming LGBTQ filmmakers and representation for the community as a whole.
Daniel Zuaro is a graduate of Buffalo State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Production with a minor in Film Studies. He has always loved studying film that he wishes to pursue a career in which he can write about film or even teach about film and its history. He is a Long Island native who loves music, spending time with family and friends, food, and his cat Harvey Milk.