The Boys in the Band (1970)
One of the movies which has left its mark on LGBT history is The Boys in the Band, released in 1970 – it is an adaptation of a Mart Crowley off-Broadway play, and it’s one of the first American movies that focus on gay characters. It beautifully depicts the unhappiness of being queer within that generation, their self image and the secrecy kept regarding sexual orientation. It also takes on the challenge of shattering gender roles, as it includes men that have a rather “feminine” behavior, such as Emory, while creating an illustration of people who don’t necessarily comply with the female or male stereotype, but are simply humans.
The Boys in the Band focuses on self-loathing – this is probably why a lot of the characters are suicidal. This deep feeling is summed up in a tragic manner at the end by the words of Michael: “I’m tired of living and I’m scared to die”. Sadly, this is the reality of many queer people’s feelings nowadays as well, so it allows the watcher to get an accurate glimpse of what it means to be a part of the LGBT community.
Another such movie is Carol, released in 2015. It is the story of two women who fall in love with each other at a time when it could have only become a forbidden affair. Carol is a painful rollercoaster of emotions depicted through subtle gestures and dialogue – an impossible love that doesn’t need words, because the women share their feelings through glances, while their bodies and faces send clear messages. In the ‘50s, nothing could be straightforward about lesbianism, so the movie illustrates this necessity of coding any “unconventional” desire.
Homosexuality in the history of filmmaking
It’s important to know that, during the 1940s, homosexuality was still considered an illness, so movies didn’t always offer flattering portrayals of gay people. The Hayes Code forbade US studios to produce films that could illustrate queerness positively. The European scene wasn’t better either – there was plenty of censorship going on there as well. For example, the French film A song of Love (1950) was banned because of its explicit content.
However, after the Stonewall riots in 1969, which constituted one of the most important acts of gay liberation in the US, this changed drastically – a proof was The Boys in the Band. It didn’t last long, though – after the AIDS pandemic in the 80s, for which homosexuals were blamed, films weren’t as supportive. After this, other waves came; people created the “New Queer Cinema”, once openly gay people became involved in filmmaking, thus beginning to portray sexual fluidity.
Nowadays, people generally show acceptance when it comes to displays of affection between gay and transgender people – yet, judging by the stereotypes that are sometimes illustrated, there’s still a long way to go.