Queer (Mis)representation in Hollywood
Cinema as a whole is a portrayal of different people. This brings with it a mix of cultures,
traditions, the good and the bad. It is not the job of cinema to judge, but to show. To tell the story of a character as accurately as is possible within the realms of fiction. So that we, the viewers, find someone to relate to and seek comfort in. But for people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, this seems impossible.
Once in a while, we come across a movie that has a character who is gay. He is a cisgender white male, flamboyant, and camp. He does not play any actual role in the movie but appears rather as a vague “friend” to the protagonist. Their main purpose in the movie is to be gay. Which does nothing in way of actually representing queer characters.
This portrayal of gay people is harmful on so many levels. Not all gay men like to be perceived the way movies choose to depict them. Rather it leads to misrepresentation and does nothing in the way of shedding light on one of the most repressed communities.
Apart from that, Hollywood rarely even acknowledges the countless other people of the
LGBTQ+ community. Trans people, on the rare occasions that they are represented, are usually shown in a harmful light. They are either made fun of or portrayed in a blatantly transphobic way. So, what is the purpose of these characters? The movie, speaks of “diversity”. But is it diverse? Where are the women of color falling in love with other women? Where are the trans men finding love? Where is the representation that brings to screen a repressed community?
Love, Simon is the first movie to have a lead gay character, highlighting the trouble the gay youth faces both while remaining in the closet and out of it. And it shows something about our society that came out in 2018, barely four years ago. It is also one of the very first movies that don’t stick to the ‘bury your gay’s trope, where one of the lovers usually end up dying.
Single all the way is the very first movie starring two gay characters and made in the form of a cheesy rom-com. While this might not raise awareness of the troubles faced by the community in society, showing a gay couple in love on screen like any straight couple romance helps in normalizing same-sex love.
Most films and TV shows also queer bait instead of representing. This is when two people of the same sex are hinted at being in a romantic relationship but are not depicted on screen. Their chemistry on screen, if it had been a straight couple, would have long since evolved into a romance. But when it’s a same-sex couple, movies leave them “up for interpretation”. One of the biggest media industries, Disney, is well known for its “gay villains”. These villains, though subtly, are depicted as having stereotypical gay traits. This only fuels the fire by reflecting harmful stereotypes that are often associated with the LGBTQIA+ community.
According to the GLAAD 2019 report, out of 118 films released by major studios in the year 2019, only 22 films contained characters who identified as LGBTQIA+. Out of these inclusive films, 15 films featured gay men, 8 featured lesbians, 3 featured bisexuals. There were zero (0) films with transgender representation.
While over the years representation of the queer community in media has slightly gotten better, it still does no justice to the community itself. Nor is it diverse enough. But progress is progress, no matter how slow. Perhaps within 10 years, we will see gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual characters, and all the other unique identities portrayed on screen.