Several years ago, I attended the screening of a short film called Making Arrangements. It’s a funny movie that I enjoyed watching at one of the film festivals in town. The plot of this film also involves lesbian movie characters – something I’d rarely seen on the big screen.
Actually, Johnathan Demme’s drama film Philadelphia -- about a lawyer dying from AIDS who sues his employer for wrongful termination – is among my earliest recollections of seeing a same-sex couple in a movie. Although Dee Rees' teenage drama Pariah is currently the last film I watched that has a diverse portrayal of modern-day relationship dynamics, I find it troubling that this isn’t as common an occurrence at the multiplex as there are films solely featuring straight characters.
If given $1 to name as many movie couples as you could in 15 minutes, do you think you’d be able to clear $100 with no sweat? Chances are the average person who owns a television, or has been to a motion picture theater, has a Netflix subscription and/or possesses a sizeable DVD collection, could complete this task easily. The same, however, cannot be said if we narrowed it down to films with same-sex couples. Just out of curiosity, I tried to recall any movies I’ve seen that have a clear queer presence.
The exercise brought forth an unfortunate realization that of all the films I’ve ever watched, to date, those that I remember featuring same-sex couples clock in only somewhere around no more than ten or so; including the aforementioned Making Arrangements, Philadelphia and Pariah.
- F. Gary Gray’s action drama Set It Off starring Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Kimberly Elise, about a group of friends who start moonlighting as bank robbers.
- Dennis Dugan’s comedy Big Daddy starring Adam Sandler, the Sprouse brothers, and Joey Lauren Adams, about a law school grad who adopts a child to impress his girlfriend.
- John Cameron Mitchell’s romantic comedy drama Shortbus starring Sook-Yin Lee and Justin Bond about a therapist whose clients introduce her to an underground mixer where attendees partake in swinging, erotic fetishism and other activities. (*Sidebar: My review on this movie can be read at Writercize)
- Neil Drumming’s hip-hop music drama Big Words starring Dorian Missick, Gbenga Akinnagbe and Zachary Booth, about a disillusioned IT worker who reunites with his friends on the night of the 2008 Presidential election.
Other movies with a queer element to them such as Boys Don’t Cry are worth a mention but I’m not exactly sure if this particular film would count, given that it appears the main character was in a transitional period. Same goes for The Crying Game. Although the dark ballerina flick Black Swan starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis has some lesbian action in it, I doubt that this movie qualifies either in terms of adequate representation for same-sex couples; because its main female characters do not appear to consider themselves to be romantically attracted to women.
Seems like films in the mainstream culture and even indie films that get buzz on the festival circuit are deliberately gay, and understandably so, in cases where it lends to the overall story. However, it would be nice if more movie characters were normalized like in Big Daddy, Set It Off and Big Words. The characters in these movies just happen to have a significant other who is of the same gender.
Who they are dating or married to has no significant bearing on the turn of events in these particular flicks. To include these character types seems like no big deal, which is an important factor to recognize because that’s a better -- and ideal -- representation of how things should be, rather than portraying the LGBT community as some kind of anomaly from outer space or a type of thing that must be the central focus of the entire narrative.
A) Queen Latifah
B) Sook-Yin Lee
C) Gbenga Akinnagbe
D) Hilary Swank
Also, how many movies have YOU seen featuring same-sex couples?