Heads-Up, Hollywood: Not Every Gay Character Needs to Be Defined by Their Sexuality


Last Friday, Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal was honored at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala. In her speech, she took more than a moment to reflect on LGBTQ representation in movies — the problems and the solutions.

She astutely points out that while Hollywood has no control over an individuals daily interactions with other people, they can greatly influence the cultural conversation. She takes aim at where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re (hopefully) going.

And now, I’m talking about kids who are gay and I’m talking about kids who aren’t gay. One group needs affirmation and the other group needs education. And, if I’m being honest, neither of those issues are high on any movie studio or TV network’s agenda…
The Celluloid Closet was made almost 20 years ago and certainly attitudes have changed, but maybe not quite so much as you or I would want or hope. Television has been much more progressive and credit has to be given to producers like Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and Ryan Murphy for really changing things.
Now movies need to catch up. There are magnificent movies being made about gay subjects with gay characters, like Brokeback Mountain and Milk. Anyone would have been proud to have made those movies. I know I would be. But when you think about some of these films, even our favorite ones, there is a theme that runs through them.
Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.

Powerful words from a powerful person are, uh, powerful — but it’s true. Pascal’s honest and direct talk is the type of thing that will bring about change on the silver screen — and, in turn, the everyday lives of millions of Americans.

She goes on to take it next level when she explores some very basic solutions:

Now it’s time for all of us to take that step. Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay just be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right.
How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.

Or burn it, maybe? Well, actually, that’s complicated because if it’s about for historical accuracy and/or documenting oppression, those words hold weight like no others. However, it’s probably true that in the majority of scripts that feature hateful language, that isn’t the case, and that’s why it’s so important that she’s fed up and speaking up.


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