💖 Sparkling Queer Content 🌈: Films
A delightful series of posts uplifting queer media & creators
Reading time: About 11 minutes
It’s June! The month officially adopted by the queermos and gender rebels as a time to celebrate the glorious four-dimensional-hyper-cube of gender and sexuality!
We are here! We are queer and two-spirit and trans and bisexual and pansexual and ace and genderfluid and agender and whatever label works for you if you choose any label at all! We are finally *finally* getting to tell our own stories more often and see the multiplicity of our humanity represented across all forms of media!1
To celebrate this month, I have put together a bunch of reviews of *sparkling queer content* for your enjoyment2, both old3 and new. May you find some excellent representation and enjoyable media to engage in with this month’s posts!
Sparkling Queer Films
It is nearly impossible to put words to how beautiful Moonlight is and the complexity it manages to hold with such grace and poignancy. This is the sort of story that reaches into your chest, pulls out your heart, shows it to you, and then puts it back transformed. It is simultaneously specific and universal for what it captures about queer rage, queer grief, and queer belonging. Much of how this film made me feel is ineffable. It is an intersectional masterpiece about queerness, Blackness and masculinity and an absolute gift to the Queer Film canon. If you only watch one film on this list, make it this one.
Wild Nights With Emily
I have a soft spot for low-budget lesbian films, probably because I came out and came of age in the height of the indie lesbian movie era that was the mid-nineties to the mid-oughts.4
Emily Dickinson is one of many, many, many queer women in history painted as a Sad Straight Spinster. Cishet historians look back and, lacking the imagination that queer people existed, decide a single woman of a certain age must have just been a lonely straight woman who never married, ignoring the blatantly queer language of her work and the “special relationship” she had with one or two or dozens of women.5 Of course, Dickinson’s sister-in-law did go to great lengths to erase the queerness from her letters and poetry as soon as Dickinson died.6 That being said, how anyone could read this and not realise Dickinson was *not straight* is beyond me:
Tell Her—the page I never wrote!
Tell Her, I only said—the Syntax—
And left the Verb and the Pronoun—out!
Tell Her just how the fingers—hurried—
Anyhoo, Wild Nights With Emily is a love letter reclaiming a member of our gorgeous vibrant community. It’s like a small theatre project translated to the screen. I found it utterly delightful!
Did you know there is a Korean film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith? I know. I squealed too when I learned about the film thanks to Ian Danskin’s amazing video essay about it. I promptly followed his advice to go watch it. I was NOT disappointed. Okay, I was a little disappointed because the sex scene is one of the cringiest straight dude depictions of women having sex that anyone has ever filmed but the sex scene is minor in the overall plot, performance, and screenplay.
Seriously, this is one of the best adaptations of a book to film that I have ever seen. It works so well and captures everything about what made the book amazing. The tension is phenomenal, the screenplay is brilliant, and the actors give 110%. I’d go so far as to say it’s better than the book, which has a very slow start and lags in parts. There is no lagging in this film!
I would gush about it more but it’s hard to get into why this film brought me such joy without risking spoilers. Instead I’ll just say, if you enjoyed Fingersmith or if you enjoy dark romances and stories with intrigue, you will enjoy this film.
In a media landscape saturated with stories of queer rebellions and uprisings in the U.S., it’s always excellent to find a depiction of queer rebellion elsewhere in the world. 120 BPM offers a fictionalized depiction of the ACT UP uprising in 1990s France as it follows a handful of young men involved in the movement.
I appreciate this film for how viscerally it captures the grief and rage of the queer community as governments turned their back on HIV and AIDS patients and used homophobia to justify denying healthcare and medical research during a global pandemic.7
Through this film I learned about the many AIDS patients who requested their cremated remains be used in protests and direct action.8 This movie highlights the power of queer rage and how intrinsically it’s linked to queer love.
There’s this particular genre of British film I like to call “Underdogs Unite” where a group of very different people or two very different groups come together in some unexpected way to achieve a common goal.9 These films are commonly based on true stories, which makes them all the more delightful. In the case of Pride, we have a group of queer activists come together in support of a community effected by the British Miner’s Strike. Hijinx (and a lot of heartwarming moments) ensue!
This is a film about class solidarity and uniting against the common enemy (conservative politicians and capitalists) and those who defend the status quo (cops). It’s also very British and therefore both adorable and laced with profanity. I love it so much.
Fun Fact: The movie features Jonathan Blake, played by Dominic West, who was one of the very first HIV patients in the UK. As of this writing, Blake is in his seventies and continues to be an activist and advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The first time I watched Hedwig I was in my early twenties and I really didn’t get it. I remember wanting to like it and have an opinion for the Discourse™ because it was obviously a Smart™ art film I should have some insights about.
The second time I watched this movie was shortly after my relationship of three years ended. I was watching it to soothe my aching, betrayed heart and I realised why I hadn’t got it when I’d first seen it at twenty-two; the message of self-love and self care went right over my younger self’s head. On this re-watch I understood the transformative symbolism of a naked Hedwig seeing herself as a complete person on her own.
The third time I watched this film was with my Unicorn and I saw it as a perfect encapsulation of the stages of self-awareness all queer folks go through. First there’s dismantling limited ideas of attraction, family, and belonging. Then there is the process of dismantling limited ideas that anything about gender and sex are biologically inherent. Finally, there is the queer epiphany of the absurdity of thinking any single label could be adequate to describe the nuanced, complicated ways we see ourselves and are seen by those around us. This is a movie about the realization that no single word will ever be more than an approximation of a human being.
So it looks like I ended up with something to say for the Discourse™ in the end after all!
Also, the music slaps.
Better Than Chocolate
This is a throw-back, even more than Hedwig. Better Than Chocolate remains one of my favourite ever in the genre of Lesbian Indie Film. I probably watched this movie a dozen times in my early-twenties and I’m happy to say, upon re-watching recently, it not only holds up but was ahead of its time in many regards. Given the queer content available in the 90s, this movie was a goddamn REVELATION. Let me count the ways:
NO ONE DIES. I cannot emphasize enough how damaging and shitty the ‘kill your queers’ trope is and how common it was when this movie came out.
No one dies AND THERE ARE MULTIPLE HAPPY CONCLUSIONS. Even when queer 90s films didn’t kill their queers, often the queer characters are left sad and alone as some kind of lesson about how hard it is to be queer. NOT SO IN THIS! Queer characters not only survive, they THRIVE!
Positive Trans Lesbian Representation in the Goddamn Nineties. Judy is a cinnamon bun.10 I adore her. She is bringing the mothering femme energy in this film and I can’t even.
Actual Butch Lesbian representation—I’m talking masculine-energy butches. In fact, the general authentic representation of the queer community is present throughout the whole film. There are soft butches and Stone Butch Blues butches and yes, the pretty wearing-make-up-but-with-short hair “butch” that’s just a variation of the manic-pixie-dream girl but for lesbians. The point is, this movie gets the fluidity and liminal spaces between sexuality and gender and I am here for it.
Bisexual representation! Yes, the bisexual is portrayed as slutty but not because she’s bisexual. Like, she is a proud slutty character who just happens to be bisexual.
Anne-Marie McDonald. Frances is my favourite character. She is a type of lesbian all queer folk know. She acts the Hell out of her role and remains my biggest queer celebrity crush. She’s also one of those intensely overachieving gays. As well as acting, McDonald has written screenplays and novels. Her thing is Historical Fiction that acknowledges that queer people have always been around throughout history11.
The U-Haul Lesbian young love energy of the main romantic relationship. ACCURATE. Between the ages of 19 and 24 there wasn’t a single person in my rainbow friend group who wasn’t engaged or about to be engaged or talking about getting engaged.12 We were all about declarations of love just weeks or months into knowing someone.
The second best lesbian sex scene in a film. We all know what the first best one is13 but this is a strong contender because OMG women having sex with women is baffling to straight film makers, resulting in most queer movie sex scenes being extremely cringe.14
The reality of being queer and not out to your family and having to sneak around to be with your partner when you are a goddamn ADULT because heteronormativity is a plague. No notes.
A storyline about cishet culture censoring queer content. A tale as old as…well, Christianity I’m gonna guess. See aforementioned Wild Nights With Emily.
Nazis and TERFs are the villains. As they should be.
12. The soundtrack.
And finally, nothing to do with the queerness of it all but important nevertheless:
It’s Canadian. As a Canadian I cannot tell you how excited we get to see Canadian-made media and actors in the wild.15
So tell me, what are some films with *sparkling queer content* that you enjoy?
Despite bigots really hating it and trying to censor our stories and existence with a renewed vigour of hatred these days! Have you noticed how bigots only defend free speech when it’s so they, as bigots, can say the most hateful, vile, discriminatory things? But it’s fine with them to silence queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, and neurodiverse folks trying to share how we exist and would like human rights, please. Coolcoolcool.
And your education if you are a cishet person or a newly out bb queermo.
As in, like, from the 90s! So vintage!
Defining movies for my fourteen to twenty-one-year-old self included But I’m a Cheerleader, Aimée & Jaguar, Better Than Chocolate, The Truth About Jane, Lost and Delirious and D.E.B.S.
See also the “They were roommates!” take of cishet historians who see two folks of the same gender living together and sharing a bed and are like, “What GOOD FRIENDS they were!”
You know that quote, “History is written by the victors.”? People love to say this while not reflecting on what that means about the education we receive and who we learn about and what we learn about. It’s no mystery why white supremacist want to ban books about racism, for example.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I intend to have a natural composting burial if possible, but if I die of COVID please have me cremated and throw my ashes in the face of any politician who has fuelled anti-vax and anti-mask bigotry.
Kinky Boots, for example, where a button-down uptight normie unites with a drag queen to create a fashion line of boots and save a factory! Or The Full Monty, where two blue collar workers recruit a white collar businessman type and a rag tag bunch of other out-of-work men to put together a male strip show. Or the classic, Calendar Girls, where a group of middle-aged women from various backgrounds who all belong to the same club agree to make a nude calendar to raise funds for cancer research. It’s a good genre! I love them all!
I know this is a cis man playing a trans woman but casting aside, I genuinely appreciate the care and consideration of this storyline at a time when most trans representation was played for laughs at best and played for fear mongering at worst.
Fall On Your Knees is a heartbreakingly gorgeous epic of a novel I wish I’d read many years earlier than I did. Yes, my crush on McDonald intensified after I read this book. And she has a new book out, Fayne, which had me squirming with how good it is.
Oh, to be an elder queer millennial when marriage equality was shiny and new.
It’s Bound. Go ahead, ask your local lesbian. I 100% guarantee they will tell you it’s Bound.
I wanted to love Ammonite because holy shit a lesbian sex scene with Kate Winslet, SIGN ME UP. But No. No. It is…very bad. At least it’s not The Handmaiden bad, but it’s still pretty weird and unhinged. Also, the number of men just going for anal with no lube. Yes, I am looking at YOU Brokeback Mountain.