From 1934 until 1967, Hollywood movies were shaped by the Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code. Written in 1930, but not implemented until four years later, this set of rules was generally intended to keep movies from “corrupting” the people who watched them. Given that homosexuality was considered either a physical or psychological malady in the early 20th century, the code effectively legislated any limited queer presence out of existence.
While homosexuality was not explicitly banned in the Hays’ text, it was mandated that “no picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.” It was also codified that only “correct standards of life” should be presented,” and that “sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.”
In other words, for a long time, cinematic queers were pushed underground, relegated to existing only in subtext — and most often as villains. In order to get queer stories onscreen, filmmakers had to find creative ways to subvert the system.
Horror films in particular have made for a fascinating case study in the evolving perceptions of queer presence; queer-horror filmmakers and actors were often forced to lean into the trope of the “predatory queer” or the “monstrous queer” to claim some sense of power through visibility and blatant expressions of sexuality.