Though there has been an increase in the amount of quality lesbian storylines being presented in the film industry, there are still significant changes that need to be made. Two relatively easy starts: more screen time and more queer actresses playing lesbian roles.
I am stuck watching the same movies over and over again. The problem is simple: there aren’t enough out there with proper queer representation that actually portray a great storyline. When I told my straight friend about said problem, she replied, “I’m sure there are more on streaming services if you look.” Oh, I’ve looked. Endlessly. Just to find more movies with insufficient and/or improper representation of lesbians.
Let’s face it: I have seen every movie that features a great lesbian storyline. This is because when the community is finally blessed with one, we can’t stop talking about it. I would see post after post on Tumblr, Twitter would be raving, and YouTube would be filled with reviews and couple edits within minutes. Even when the industry blesses us with a quality storyline, two frequent problems occur: lack of screen time and improper casting.
Insufficient Screen Time
Noteworthy lesbian storylines are never the main storyline in non-niche films. Obviously, us lesbians have some (not many) successful niche films like Carol that focus heavily on lesbian relationships. However, in a world filled with Nicholas Sparks movies and endless straight romantic comedies, we rarely see a well-executed movie involving romance with a lesbian storyline at the forefront. Instead, on the rare occasion that we even see lesbian representation in a film, the lesbian storyline does not get as much screen time as the straight counterpart.
One example is the Netflix original film Someone Great (2019). Though I love the character development and storyline for the lesbian character, we do not see enough of her love life. Instead, she is 1 of 2 supporting characters for the main plot of a straight protagonist. Out of the 3 characters, the lesbian and her love interest get the least amount of overall screen time, the least number of on-screen kisses, and are the only couple who does not have a sex scene (or close-to sex scene). Over the course of the 1.5- hour movie, the lesbian couple only shares 3 scenes together, one of which does not even last a whole minute. Their longest scene is relatable and well-executed, but only lasts a little over 3 minutes. Overall, I enjoy the character development and the lesbian relationship that builds in Someone Great (2019), but am disappointed by the little time there is to truly enjoy it.
I understand that not every lesbian storyline can be the main storyline (though I wish they were). I just have one simple request: give the lesbian storyline more frequent, consistent, and quality screen time. In terms of screen time, both quantity and quality matter; and, right now, lesbians are only getting the latter.
Misrepresentation in Casting
Even when a lesbian storyline is at the forefront, the gay role is more often than not played by a straight-identifying actress. I am most definitely not discrediting the performances given by straight-identifying women who have properly portrayed a lesbian storyline. In film, Cate Blanchett brought us Carol, Chloe Grace Moretz brought us the Miseducation of Cameron Post, Piper Perabo and Lena Headey brought us Imagine Me & You — so yes, I can appreciate my straights.
Though I appreciate the proper lesbian portrayals by straight actresses, I wish I could see more characters who are like me played by women who are like me — gay as hell. Not only do I want to start seeing them, but we need to start seeing them. Enough with the marginalization of lgbtq+ actors, actresses, filmmakers, directors, etc. We need to see more lesbians at the forefront of great films, both on screen and behind the scenes.
Though we can be grateful that there are more lesbian films being brought to the forefront, the film industry has a long way to go before we should feel satisfied. At the bare minimum, when films present a romantic lesbian sub-plot, the lesbian characters deserve equal screen time in terms of quality and quantity when compared to their straight counterparts. To make it even better, bring us mainstream films with more lesbian protagonists, as opposed to the more consistent minor characters we see presented today. Lastly, when a film presents a lesbian character, cast a queer woman to play the role. We should be able to see characters who are like us played by women like us. It may seem like the requests I’m making are a lot to ask for, but they shouldn’t be. There are plenty of deserving queer filmmakers and actresses who want to tell these stories, but don’t have the platform to do it. The film industry– most notably production companies– have the power to fix this. We, including the lesbian community and others, just need to keep demanding these stories be told and supporting the queer women who deserve to tell them.
Someone Great. Directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Feigco Entertainment, Likely Story, I Can & I Will Productions, 19 Apr. 2019. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/watch/80202920?trackId=14170056&tctx=5%2C0%2Ca5e3dc3b-b7ee-4ce2-8dea-9f04a5da3837-19647986%2C5af5389c-9cde-409c-86b0-b7f28293db18_5526426X10XX1580784094906%2C5af5389c-9cde-409c-86b0-b7f28293db18_ROOT
MORE TO COME:
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming articles showcasing queer women in the film industry (who deserve to tell these stories) and lists of worthy queer films you should see asap.