A reader quotes me:
A confession. I have long had an aversion to gay-themed plays, TV shows, movies, etc. I wasn’t born with it. I learned it. I learned it through what can only be called a series of cringes.
I don’t think you’re the only gay person with that cringe. I know as a lesbian, that’s been my entire experience with any sort of lesbian movie, TV show, play, etc. My girlfriends and I would sit through the L-Word, repeatedly asking ourselves why we were watching such horrible dreck, absolutely embarrassed at the portrayal of lesbians and none of seeing ourselves in any of them. We were just so thirsty to see anything that had even a passing connection to our own lives on the screen. Older lesbian movies of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s are even worse in how incredibly amateur they look and feel. And yet, I’ve seen nearly every one of them at least part way through, cringing the entire time.
It’s almost a tradition in the gay and lesbian community, I think. I can’t quite remember the exact quote or where I heard it, but I think it was while watching Turner Movie Classic’s fascinating June series a few years ago, Screened Out: Gay Images In Film. An older lesbian was interviewed talking about conversations in her group of any hint of a lesbian in movies of the ’40s and ’50s. Same sort of cringe, but watch anyway answer. She would call her friends and say, “There’s a lesbian in this film. I mean, she’s a vampire again, but let’s go see it!” You had your minstrels, we got the vampires.
But I have to say, a vampire lesbian would have been better than any of those characters on the L-Word.
Update from a reader:
I believe she’s thinking of this quote from The Celluloid Closet, 1995:
“We are pathetically starved for images of ourselves. So much so that, you know, a friend will call you up and say, ‘Oh, there’s this movie you must see -‘ this happened to me – ‘this movie, you’ve gotta see. There’s this incredible lesbian relationship in it, and there’s this great love scene, and – alright, they’re vampires! But you gotta see it, it’s great!” – Jan Oxenberg, Filmmaker, The Celluloid Closet.