Imagine there were hardly any movies that show a love story you can relate to. Regardless of the genre. Whether it is a drama about a great love, like The English Patient and Breathe, or a classic like Gone with the Wind, and Pride and Prejudice. A romantic comedy, a coming of age story – actually, any movie about love or romance. Imagine no movie about love was about how love is for you. Or every role in a love story was played by an unknown actor – some good and some not – but never one of your favourite well-known actors.
Let me take it even further. Imagine all love stories were about gay people and their stories. Never a single love story or date movie or romcom, about straight people in love. And if there is one, the church tries to get it banned and fundamental activists picket against it or start Facebook groups about how evil this film is. Or everyone is talking about the straight love scene but never the brilliant acting, or the script writing or whatever else. While for you, it is simply a story about two people in love.
Can you imagine it? That is how it is for gay people. I started by talking about movies, but it goes so much deeper. We are taught and conditioned from the moment we are born, that love is for heterosexual people. We (lgbtqi people) grow up with no role models for relationships, only the forced role fulfillment we see under straight people. Almost no beautiful love stories to dream about like any normal teenager. No media that states that the way you love is something normal. There are plenty to tell you you are wrong though. Abnormal, sinful, wrong, you name it. If you don’t fit into the “normal” box, you have to find your own way, and don’t you dare make a mistake!
Now I can almost hear a bunch of straight people mumbling that they don’t even like love stories. Chick-flicks. Great. Then don’t watch them. Just recognise that you are privileged to have the option that you could if you wanted to, and you would have thousands of titles to choose from, with all your favourite actors in them. Be aware that if you wanted to take your date to a romantic movie, there would most probably be one showing at a cinema near you.
Speaking of it, let’s think of the word chick-flick! That word belongs in a museum for patriarchy. You know, something from the time when everything to do with how women saw the world, reacted to it and responded with so-called soft emotion, was wrong. In other words, the last few thousand years. Because women are over-emotional, and we can’t have that! All that love and romance and softness and nurturing are really sick things – so bad for society! Yes, I am sarcastic.
Only hyper-masculine emotion, in any quantity, is acceptable. The emotions men have when they declare wars, create gods to control people, kill for sports or honour, oppress women and treat them like lesser human beings. Still sarcastic. Even the movies about those things are categorised in positive-sounding genres like action, historical period pieces, drama, and war. Yup, patriarchal society can make war sound more positive and honourable than love. When it is something that speaks to women, and all the gods forbid – teenage girls – it has to be demeaned and belittled.
Yes, it is all changing. Slowly, and by that I mean, much too slowly. It all started with Brokeback Mountain, and there are gay films and books these days. One of those, the one that prompted me to start writing about it, is Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. What a love story! Maybe it got to me because it is very close to home for me, but it is not just that. It is Rachel Weisz, to begin with. One of my favourite actors. It was wonderfully acted, and the script was written with respect and sensitivity regarding more than just the gay thing.
And there is this love scene that is simply beautiful. Yes, i am going to talk about it, for a reason. First there is a kiss, and then later a realistic love scene between two women, the way women would do it, instead of the way men want women to do it in movies. The most amazing thing though, was that neither of the women turn straight in the end, the way it normally happens in American movies.
So yes, finally there are two or three gay themed movies per year, but just when I started feeling more hopeful about seeing more of it in future, my bubble burst. I was chatting to a friend who is an award-winning author in SA, and she mentioned that her last book didn’t sell well.
“Everybody wants to hear a lesbian story, but not a fuck would they actually buy it.” It is true for books, and maybe a little less true for movies, but still true. What we can’t get away from though – at the risk of stating the obvious – is the fact that artistic media still mirrors society. A society where women and the LGBTQI community (among others) figuratively walk a few steps behind the big, strong, sword-wielding straight men. Phallic symbolism a hundred percent intended… Killing is taken more seriously than loving. Killing is drama and action, love is just fluff that women like, so it has to be something less worthy.
Just look at the list of the top 100 movies of the last 20 years. Not that many love stories there – and I am by no means suggesting that the movies there are not good; they are! I am just saying there are many love stories that are also good. Love stories, straight gay and everything in-between, that also belong on lists like that. I want to see them there! We still have a long way to go…