Let’s talk about Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast, the AIDS epidemic, and the Disney Renaissance…
A video essay looking at the history of LGBT representation in horror cinema.
Oskar, the pre-pubescent protagonist of Let the Right One In, is about as pale as the snow that blankets the frigid landscape around him in Stockholm, Sweden. His hair is technically blonde, but looks so drained of its color it might as well be just as frosted as his skin. He’s emaciated, seemingly all skin and bone with no muscle to be found. His lips look like faint, thin grey lines on his face. He is, most importantly, androgynous looking.
All of these elements that make of Oskar’s character, not to mention his slight personality, so timid and naïve, are enough to give the bullies at his school reason enough to violently harass him. Even at the tender age of 12, the roles in this society are set: if one does not demonstrate the perceived standard for masculinity (or, conversely, femininity, such as in Carrie), one is immediately ostracized. It’s nothing new. Oh, and Oskar just might be a young person in search of his queer identity.
Then, it seems almost too perfect a framework to use the vampire story (film or otherwise) as a way to examine adolescence. What’s interesting about vampirism and vampires are they are the monster that can best represent a multitude of ideas: The pain of immortality (and mortality), the cruelty of adolescence, the seductive quality of lust and sexuality, and loneliness. Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In), based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, wraps the many themes into one, but keys into the romanticism of the vampire with an adolescent and queer edge.
The vampire has an extended history as a symbol or representation or image of queerness. There was the countess Elizabeth Bathory, infamous for allegedly bathing in the blood of her young mistresses as a way to preserve her youth. There was the story “Carmilla” by J. Sheridan LeFanu published in 1871 about a lesbian vampire.
And, while the queer content isn’t necessarily explicit, Bram Stoker’s seminal Dracula nonetheless flows with queer subtext, notably Count Dracula’s mistresses. (This subtext was basically made text in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which the vampire mistresses appear to be lascivious and bisexual.) In film, there was 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter and, certainly, The Hunger in 1983 (starring queer icon David Bowie).
But all of these examples involve adults. Vampires, by nature, are heavy in exploring sexuality, but it appears to be difficult to do that with younger characters. It’s difficult to explore the sexuality of younger characters in general, because there ends up being a fine line between examination of such and exploitation or sexualization. Which brings us to Let the Right One In.
Star Trek: Discovery is boldly going where no other Star Trek series has gone before. Last month the space drama introduced Anthony Rapp’s character, Lt. Stamets, as the first openly gay character in the television history of the franchise. But the show took things a step further this week by featuring a same-sex kiss between Stamets and his partner, Dr Hugh Culber, played by fellow out actor Wilson Cruz.
— Lewis Peters (@lew_and_i) November 14, 2017
The franchise has been known for pushing boundaries since it first aired in 1966, and came under fire in the late ’60s for featuring an interracial kiss between the characters Kirk and Uhura.
Despite being known as groundbreaking, the episode still faced homophobic criticism from fans who don’t like seeing a happy gay couple on their TVs. But Cruz had a response for anyone who had a problem with Discovery’s queer representation.
“I’m not here for your comfort,” he wrote in a poignant Facebook post. “That’s not why we are here. We’re here to grow.”
Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu was portrayed as a married gay man by actor John Cho in the film Star Trek: Beyond, but a scene rumored to show a kiss between Sulu and his husband was ultimately cut from the film.
Call me by your Name is a sensual tale of first love, based on the novel by André Aciman. It’s the summer of 1983 in Italy, and Elio, a precocious 17-year-old American-Italian boy, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia. Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father, an eminent professor specialising in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella, a translator, who favour him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights.
While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart. One day, Oliver, a charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendour of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
Guadagnino’s telling of the development of this romance, which changes both parties, is like the feeling of getting gently drunk. It’s smooth but a little dizzying. He fills every scene with life. Trees are heavy with fruit; people are always eating; the chirping of crickets a constant soundtrack. He thrusts life at you and wills his characters to live theirs. Long summer days drift away in a gentle routine of swimming, cycling and nothing, but each day that passes with feelings unvoiced is a day lost — they will never have it back.
The screenplay, written by James Ivory, is elegant and full of small surprises. The level of attention given to even the smallest of characters means so many of them have an impact even with minimal screen time — Elio’s brief girlfriend breaks your heart with a handful of lines. What few vocal emotional outpourings are present are earned — a paternal monologue by Stuhlbarg in the final minutes is as verbose as the film gets and, good lord, it makes it count (bring tissues). But much is conveyed in the many silences which are entrusted to an excellent cast.
Chalamet is the centre and he gives the kind of performance that immediately sends you to Google to find out where the hell this kid came from (he may be familiar from Interstellar or Homeland). All Elio’s teenage emotions are raw on Chalamet’s skin. He plays him as a person still forming, not scared by his feelings but surprised. In a film in which every performance is terrific, Chalamet makes the rest look like they’re acting. He alone would make the film worth watching, but he’s just one of countless reasons.
The story of Yuri!!! on ICE revolves around Yuri Katsuki, who carried all of Japan’s hopes on his shoulders to win at the Gran Prix Finale figure skating competition, but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating.
With those mixed feelings swirling inside him, he confines himself inside his parents house. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Viktor Nikiforov appears before him, and along with him is Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Viktor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Gran Prix series.
Yuri is a young figure skater considering retirement after he plummeted from world championship level to failing to qualify at nationals over the course of a single season. He goes home for the first time in five years in poor physical and emotional condition, reconnecting with his family and trying to reconnect with his love of skating – not realising everything is about to change.
We often get sports anime at the start of an athlete’s career. Picking up with elementary school Yuri as he first discovers skates then comes to surpass his friends, or middle school Yuri struggling to balance training for regional competitions with studying for high school entrance exams, or high school Yuri working his way up to his first national championship – any of these would have made for a solid anime. Instead, we meet Yuri when he is 23, at a crossroads and in a state of doubt. To the people of his no-name hometown he is a proud success, but to other skating professionals he is a failure; he is aware of both opinions, and they are equally painful to him. To start an anime with this kind of everyday, relatable complexity is pretty rare, and it is handled expertly.
The storytelling works by gently layering multiple elements, characters and settings to build up a world in which a story happens rather than spoon-feeding information to the audience. Throwaway comments in normal conversations hint at reasons why Yuri might have stayed away for five years, or what he sacrificed by leaving. There is occasional exposition given in voiceover or through SD imagery, but it is quick and lightly handled. As a general rule, the animation is used to convey both character details and set an atmosphere, supporting and elevating the storytelling, which is strong and sophisticated to begin with. The script sets up and subverts expectations, making a fairly slow-paced drama less predictable and even more satisfying to watch.
Despite frequent use of cartoony facial expressions and visual gags, Yuri’s world is one of the most grounded of the season. His world is full of people who feel like people, not archetypes, with full lives which continue outside Yuri’s view. There are female characters of different ages, all with individual personalities, styles and mannerisms, none of whom are sexualised.
This episode gives a lot of information on story, backstory and characters in this episode, but its focus is tight: Yuri is in a slump and needs to find a way out of it. To add stakes and complications, his idol, exceptional Russian skater Victor, has no idea who he is. His idol’s younger teammate told Yuri in no uncertain terms that he should retire, but Yuri knows that if he retires he will never get another chance to skate on the same ice as Victor. However, his performance has dropped so dramatically he may be forced into retirement anyway simply by failing to qualify for anything. Also, didn’t he love this once? What happened?
Review by Anime Feminist
A compelling short film by Dustin Lance Black takes a look at young, queer romance and the choices teens have today in responding to those who may be different from them.
Andrew, who’s playing the main character, submitted this and wrote:
“Here’s a short film I acted in called Teenage Dance about one teen’s decision whether to attend their school’s dance as they appear or want to appear in their dreams.
The short film was featured on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) this past July , and at LGBTQ film fests in Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Kingston, and Albuquerque (where it screened in a shorts series with your recently-posted film Hey Kowalski!). It’s also on a youth issues compilation DVD curated by the International Film Festival Rotterdam and used for sensitivity training by a consulting firm in Scotland.
I was cast because as a genderqueer person, the director felt I understood this character’s emotional background and journey. Hope your fans enjoy it! “
In the Feb. 9 episode of ABC Family’s The Fosters, 13-year-old Jude goes to the movies on a double date with Connor, his best friend, and Daria and Taylor, two girls from school. It seems Connor and Daria are there to make out, and they have brought Jude and Taylor along as cover.
When Jude takes his seat, Connor pointedly lowers the armrest between them. But after the lights go down, their pinkies touch and then cross. The camera cuts back and forth between their flushed faces, their eyes wide with nervous excitement and surprise at the intensity, while Daria and Taylor absently watch the “chick flick” they’ve supposedly come to see.
The scene is unexpectedly and palpably erotic—a feat that speaks to the richness and complexity with which the show has developed Jude’s storyline over its first two seasons. And yet it is clear that this touch will not provide a neat resolution to the questions about Jude and Connor’s relationship or sexuality, but, rather, will only deepen the exploration.
Jude is not the first queer teenager on television, but he is among the youngest—and he is the first to be raised by queer parents. The Fosters follows a modern family of a kind rarely seen on television—an interracial lesbian couple, Lena and Stef Adams-Foster, and their five racially diverse children: one biological; three adopted, including Jude; and one whose adoption has been repeatedly stalled—Jude’s sister Callie.
It’s a sentimental teen drama that manages at moments to show foster care and LGBTQ parenting with sensitivity and texture. But its most radical move may be in its depiction of Jude, played with thoughtful nuance by Hayden Byerly.