Why the imbalance?
August 3, 2018 12:29 AM   Subscribe

 
I've thought about writing about my own queer coming of age story as a script. But to be honest, it would have to be more arthouse since there are a ridiculous amount of silences in my life. A lot of it also took place over the internet, so that'll have to be accounted for. Guess I'll add that to my bucketlist...
posted by yueliang at 12:46 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


This Movie Is Not Yet Rated pretty succinctly answered the first question - the MPAA has, historically, been much more aggressive in policing non-standard expressions of sexuality.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:33 AM on August 3 [8 favorites]


I liked Water Lilies [Naissance des Pieuvres] a lot, but I'm not sure I'd describe it as feel-good or summery.
posted by dng at 2:34 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Jesus, how telling is it that one of the listed movies is about a straight woman who at the start of the film gets a ticket to Italy from her lesbian friend. The lesbian friend is (off camera) left by her partner and turns up in Italy towards the end of the film where she and the straight friend help a local straight couple get married. Lesbian feelgood movie.
posted by Iteki at 3:33 AM on August 3 [19 favorites]


This Movie Is Not Yet Rated pretty succinctly answered the first question - the MPAA has, historically, been much more aggressive in policing non-standard expressions of sexuality.

I also have been trying to think of how many instances of queer male coming-of-age stories there are. I can only think of a couple, but that's more likely due to my just not being the market for them; the ones I've heard of are the ones that went mainstream. And that was only recently.

I think that "why are there so few queer female coming of age stories" may have more to do with "why there are so few queer coming-of-age stories period".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


The first article suggests that queer coming of age stories focused on men are disproportionately likely to get positive, mainstream (straight) attention. I honestly hadn't heard of any of the films used as examples, so I can't really offer an opinion. I've seen remarkably few queer coming of age stories period. (Arguably But I'm a Cheerleader counts. That and DEBS are basically what I remember as queer youth-focused films.)
posted by hoyland at 5:52 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


And Sommersturm, which is about guys. But arguably isn't part of this discussion as it's in German.
posted by hoyland at 5:53 AM on August 3


But I'm a Cheerleader?
posted by kevinbelt at 6:28 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


Too much les-bein' and not enough let's-doin'.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:28 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


We discussed that Guardian article here at the office a bit. I work in film distribution and when we first started an important part of the business was LGBT+ cinema (which at the time was extremely neglected or non-existent). So, to be clear, I'm speaking from experience about the phenomena I've encountered in 20+ I've been in this business. It's anecdotal and of course YMMV.

The male end of the market is quite large - there's many films in general for that market (not just coming of age/coming out stories but mysteries, horror, dramas... you name it). There's a strong short film community as well. A lot of it wouldn't necessarily be known outside of that market especially now that there are fewer community hubs like video stores & single screen cinemas to see this stuff (most mainstream streaming services I've seen do a pretty poor job, especially in Canada, of showcasing the diversity of the Gay titles available) but it does exist (check out TLAvideo.com for instance - likely NSFW for some) and it covers most tastes.

But the Lesbian identifying end of the market has always been slight at best. We always wondered about this and when we met the Lesbian identifying executives of an LGBT+ label we asked them about this (this was about 18 years ago or so & they were unique as all the senior executives were Lesbians). They told us, point blank, that the community didn't support the Lesbian films they put out. They could literally put out any Gay film (regardless of quality) and they'd have people lining up. They had released Lesbian films but consistently when they'd try to do a theatrical road show or promotions in video stores in predominantly Lesbian areas there was minimal support from the Lesbian community. It didn't matter what kind of title they put out the support simply wasn't there - not in sales, VOD, rentals or theatrical. We found this surprising at the time (because it was certainly not the case for Gay titles in our experience) but we filed this information away and continued what we were doing.

Over the years, however, we found that remark to be largely true from our perspective as distributors. We've worked with a few customers that had stores that were predominantly aimed at Lesbians. We'd pull out our lists, we'd source their requested titles, and solicit whatever new title we happened to find that would be of interest. However, when asked how the titles were doing for them the Lesbian store owners would always say the same thing - few of their Lesbian customers bought or rented these titles. I'm not sure why but it was a pretty consistent pattern we've seen working in the trenches of the Gay & Lesbian home video market with multiple stores. I suspect the why is more complex than the simple reasons I've heard used to explain it.

One thing we have seen in more recent years is that the younger end of the community seems to be more willing to support Lesbian film culture or perhaps, more accurately, wanting a broader interpretation of what that means (i.e. mainstream films with Lesbians, Art House films made by men depicting Lesbian relationships rather than strictly speaking Lesbian films made by and for Lesbians). Again I'm not entirely sure what's changed but it is something that has been noticeable in our sales figures and general interest in titles from our customers.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:07 AM on August 3 [18 favorites]


Hm, no Positively True Adventures of Two Girls in Love?
posted by praemunire at 8:22 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Positively True Adventures of Two Girls in Love?

It says something about the dearth of stuff in this genre that I haven't seen this movie in years and I'm like... I genuinely can't remember if it was actually good. I loved it, because it was the sort of thing I never found anywhere else. The main other movie I think of as relating to the adolescence queer female experience is Foxfire, which of course is basically all subtext and memories of my enormous teenage crush on Angelina Jolie.
posted by Sequence at 8:40 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


Not enough lesbian directors? These days, would such a film have "authenticity" if it was written, directed, produced and predominately starring members of the appropriate demographic?
posted by SPrintF at 9:21 AM on August 3


Few queer coming of age stories, sure, but also surprisingly few female coming of age stories, and fewer that focus on relationships among girls. When movies about teenagers coming of age do focus on girls, more often than not they seem to be focused on teenage jockeying for social position--on rivalries with girls rather than positive relationships.

It gets to the point that you get flicks that break this mold, like Bend It Like Beckham, I often periodically forget that they included a deeply boring male love interest midway through and wind up genuinely having to re-learn that it's not, in fact, a queer coming of age story.

This is a media-wide phenomenon, I should note. It's really, really not just movies. But I imagine movies' greater barrier to entry probably does not help.
posted by sciatrix at 9:30 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


I feel like one of the more normal experiences of being a queer young woman is learning to pretend that the endings of movies like Bend It Like Beckham are completely different than actually appeared onscreen, and I wonder how much of this contributes to how many young women in that position wind up in fandom communities.
posted by Sequence at 10:06 AM on August 3 [13 favorites]


There are definitely more queer boy coming of age stories. There were even in the 90s, when I watched oodles of them with my gay male friends. (LIE and Ma Vie en Rose come immediately to mind.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:29 AM on August 3


Hm, no Positively True Adventures of Two Girls in Love?
Worry not, friends, Autostraddle is on it - "I Watched Lesbian Classic 'The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love' and Confirmed that Life is Suffering"
posted by milkweed at 10:32 AM on August 3


We always wondered about this and when we met the Lesbian identifying executives of an LGBT+ label we asked them about this (this was about 18 years ago or so & they were unique as all the senior executives were Lesbians). They told us, point blank, that the community didn't support the Lesbian films they put out. They could literally put out any Gay film (regardless of quality) and they'd have people lining up. They had released Lesbian films but consistently when they'd try to do a theatrical road show or promotions in video stores in predominantly Lesbian areas there was minimal support from the Lesbian community.

I've been deliberately reading more books lately with lesbian characters and have been so sadly delighted to experience some semblance of representation - so it very much bums me out to hear that even LGBTQ+ movie executives seem to blame the dearth of lesbian films on lesbians. Speaking only for my(lesbian)self, I think at different points in my life two factors have contributed to me not going out of my way to see lesbian films: a) internalized misogyny and the knee-jerk assumption that a "lesbian" film would probably not be cool/funny/mainstream in the same way that maybe a film about gay men might be, and (even after I mostly got over that shit) b) my expectation that I'd only end up depressed because any lesbian film I might go see would end up with somebody dying or at least not being able to be with their romantic interest - as TFA says, "Unfortunately, the majority of lesbian movies end with women throwing themselves from the roofs of buildings or having their hearts obliterated."

A heavy heart is what I expect from a "lesbian" movie. I am aware that not all lesbian movies are like that but as someone who doesn't follow movies all that much I feel like I need to read the plot beforehand to make sure I'm not walking into yet another downer. Hell, the third comment in this thread makes me think I'd even need to read up on these "feel good" movies before giving any of them a try.

I'm not sure why it would be so mystifying to these LGBTQ+ movie executives that maybe we in the "lesbian community" really do want movies about ourselves, but that we'd really like movies that are not inevitably depressing, thank you anyway.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:47 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


"Unfortunately, the majority of lesbian movies end with women throwing themselves from the roofs of buildings or having their hearts obliterated."

Yes, I think there is some truth to that. We recognise healthy food is a better option but sometimes we just want a bag of potato chips. Our media diet is no different.

As I mentioned above, that conversation I had was a long time ago (18 years or so now) and was with people who were easily 15 to 20 years older than me (they'd be largely retired now) so they were coming from a specific generational point of view. So I think it deserves to be taken with a grain of salt. I have noticed that a younger generation of Lesbians seem to be less inclined towards the inevitably depressing or overtly poltical tone that a lot of Lesbian cinema seems to go in as you mention. I see no reason it can't move in the similar direction as Gay cinema has, leaning less heavily on the coming of age/coming out stories towards films that just happen to be about Lesbians and express identity through a lot of different genres & stories with a variety of tones. I'm pretty sure Lesbians are allowed to have fun too so why can't their movies be allowed to as well?
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:31 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


A heavy heart is what I expect from a "lesbian" movie.

Oh christ, this. I can't even convince my partner to watch any queer movies with me on the basis that they will inevitably be sad and depressing and "I don't want to be depressed at the end of the night, thanks!"

We've kind of been trained to associate f/f with tragedy, and even when we aren't--well, okay, I was really excited when Jenny's Wedding came out, because omg f/f movie that definitely wasn't sad! I rounded up a bunch of friends and we had a watch party!

I was right, in a way. It wasn't sad. It was hilaribad. Among other things, it got the rights to Mary Lambert's She Keeps Me Warm, and it was damn sure you were going to know it, so it took care to play the song every time something remotely heartwarming happened between the titular Jenny and her mother. One problem: that song is about a girl who's got a crush on the cute barista in her favorite coffeeshop, and includes lines like "you like kissing girls? / can I call you baby?" and "she says that people stare / cause we look so good together." We were making gleeful incest jokes before the movie was even halfway over, having given up on enjoying it straightforwardly at all.
posted by sciatrix at 11:36 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I'd always assumed it was a lot to do with the reasons that so many movies are about boys and men, boys coming of age, groups of boys, boys having adventures, men in business, relationships, space, you name it and the subject is likely to be male or a group of males, where there's probably a female character who exists to be The Mom or The Love Interest, and Hollywood keeps insisting that there's no market for movies featuring girls except for romances. Boys are seen as the default, the average person.

And it's not different in LGBT spaces - I recall several years ago The Advocate talking about not putting women on the cover because women would buy the magazine if there was a man on the cover, but men wouldn't buy if there was a woman on the cover.

I also used to be on a mailing list for lesbians, dedicated to getting lesbians out to opening nights of lesbian movies, because the lack of attendance meant fewer lesbian movies. I assumed this was complex, like lesbians not having the same spending power because of the wage gap, the issues around not wanting to see something crushingly depressing, and the ways that too often "lesbians" are treated like entertainment for straight cis men rather than allowed to be ourselves. I remember watching lesbians review Blue is the Warmest Color and talking about the ways that it was completely inaccurate to anything that had anything to do with our experiences. I didn't bother seeing it because of this.

I guess ultimately I'm not surprised by this when I'm stuck living in a world that's more inclined to be excited about Katy Perry singing about how she kissed a girl and hopes her man doesn't mind than about any out of the closet queer artist, and I think this is more of the same thing: women's voices are silenced, our sexuality is constantly framed and reframed to be about men and for men, and our experiences are not seen as universal or relatable.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:31 PM on August 3 [9 favorites]


hmm i wonder why queer womens' art would be silenced under patriarchy. i really do, i wonder if sarah schulman or dorothy allison had anything to say about it back in the 80s / 90s, or rita mae brown
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 1:51 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


This is all totally true to the point where I feel like I've not even got movies on my radar as a content form that's in any way reliably going to give me stories I'll enjoy about queer women, and have comics, books, cartoons, and increasingly television to fill that need.
posted by colorblock sock at 7:17 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Girltrash: All Night Long (trailer) is a feel-good lesbian movie, plus it's a rock musical! It's not exactly a coming-of-age story, but it is kind of about learning to be an adult. And about how Los Angeles is not as terrible as it seems.

It's by the creators of D.E.B.S., and is a prequel to the Girltrash! web series (which I haven't watched yet).
posted by mbrubeck at 11:06 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Another relevant guardian article today: How the lesbian gaze changed cinema.
posted by biffa at 8:25 AM on August 10


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