So after watching Scream, Queen! about the really heartfelt queer fandom around the totally ridiculous Nightmare on Elm Street 2, I decided to watch another film showing as part of SQIFF, Queering The Script, all about queer fandom. This focuses on representation of gay and bisexual women and their relationships in tv.
For me, this is kinda a reminder, it really brought me back to what it was like to grow up in the 90s, knowing you were gay, and not knowing another out gay person, and not seeing yourself or any role models for future relationships anywhere. Back then, there was no internet, no social media. You couldn’t jump on the computer and see loads of women out there telling their story and living their truth. So if anyone showed up on tv that was even slightly gay, it was the only pinhole through which you could see yourself represented. I had kinda forgotten what that was like, because now I have queer friends, queer community, both online and offline. I’m also older and more settled in myself, so I don’t look for role models as much. Watching this really brought that back.
Love that a chunk of this is devoted to Xena: Warrior Princess because YES, and Willow gets a look-in on Buffy, but there were so many fandoms and shows I wasn’t aware of because I clearly stopped watching stuff around the time I went to uni, and was like, “I don’t have time for tv, I’m having a 4-year-long nervous breakdown!” I changed and drifted off into music, and comic books, and eventually films. But there were whole generations of queer women coming up who were looking to tv for those role models, and it was quite varied in terms of the quality of representation they got.
Kind of a central point of the documentary is the killing of Lexa in The 100, which sparked a massive fan-led backlash, which was not confined to The 100 but began a real movement to hold the industry as a whole to account for the way they represented queer women. The shocking statistic they quote is that between 2015 and 2017, queer women made up 2.5% of character on tv, but made up a third of character deaths. The ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope seemed to be a regressive echo of the Hays Code, where you could only represent queers if they were tragic or punished. Fans organised to see that this harmful message was not the standard going forward, and that shows respect queer stories and queer fans.
Today we see a push for more representation, but also diverse and responsible representation. Shows like Orange Is The New Black have a real range in body type, butchness, and race. A push for more representation can’t only be for thin, femme, white women.
Trans women get name checked in the last 5 minutes of the movie with Pose, but are largely absent from the story, as though there aren’t trans lesbians and bisexual women too? But to be fair to the documentary makers, there really hasn’t been almost any representation of gay and bisexual trans women on tv, so it’s hard to talk about something that isn’t there, except to say “Hey, Pose! Maybe this is the beginning of something, huh?”
All in all, a really interesting documentary. Shows how, no matter how silly your art may be to other people, to someone it might be a lifeline.