Every single queer person is the same. Obviously!
We love to fuck peaches. We love to fall in love with straight people. We love to say “YASS”. We love to talk shit about you. Our lives are sad, depressing, and full of sex. We exist only to add a bit of flamboyant flavour to our straight peers’ lives. That’s it. That’s all we are.
Of course, that’s not true.
Okay… maybe some of that rings true for some people but not ALL queer people are the same. The community’s like a wonderful coral reef, populated with different people and identities. So, why is our media still failing to reflect this?
Don’t get me wrong, queer representation in film and television is worlds ahead of what it used to be. In 2022, there are more queer characters being represented on screen than ever before. You’ve got queer storylines in shows like Sex Education and Elite, while films like Moonlight and Carol offer an insightful look into queer peoples’ lives.
The LGBTQIA+ communities are increasingly seeing themselves reflected on screen. This representation is much more nuanced and varied than we’ve seen in the last few decades. Which is fucking awesome!
Why then, to me, does it feel like it’s all still wrong? Somehow, we continue to miss the mark.
I think it’s high time we revolutionise queer representation.
Let’s start with what we’re doing right. You only have to go back five years to see how far we’ve come. Looking at the problematic representations in Call Me by Your Name, it’s clear we’ve made some major strides (see my other article ‘To All The Straights I’ve Loved Before’, where I shit on it). Just look at Pose, The Half of It, Feel Good, or NZ’s own Rūrangi, which all present nuanced and authentic portrayals of queer characters and the journeys they go on.
I was curious what others thought too, so I asked the Craccum team to chuck up an Instagram poll asking people what their favourite queer representation on screen was. There was a variety of responses, ranging from Schitt’s Creek and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Portrait of a Lady on Fire (SO fucking good) and even Anne+ (a webseries I had no idea about, go check it out). These are all great picks that show the burgeoning queer representation on offer nowadays.
You might be thinking… what’s the problem? Everything seems fine! It’s easy to be tricked into believing that. However, I know we can achieve better representation. We need to achieve it.
That starts with addressing the key issues. Unsurprisingly, these issues are the same that we’ve had for decades. These include stereotypical portrayals of queer people (gay guys are ultra femme and lesbians are pretty confused girls or tomboys), straight actors playing queer characters, and queer characters reduced to the funny sidekick role (not front and centre).
In one of the biggest shows at the moment, Euphoria, there’s still representation that often pushes queerness, particularly for men, into something grotesque and hypersexual. Should I give it a pass though because I’m in love with Hunter Schafer?! No, snap out of it.
Even shows like Sex Education and Never Have I Ever face issues in their queer representation. While they mostly do a great job, they still fall into some of the usual problems. Never Have I Ever’s queer character Fabiola is always relagated to awkward sidekick, while Sex Education’s main gay character Eric starts a problematic relationship with his closeted former bully, Adam.
Don’t even get me started on the upcoming Paul Mescal and Josh O’Connor film, The History of Sound. Do we really need to keep seeing straight-presenting white men pretend to be gay and sad?
Not to mention the biggest issue of all is that we are seeing just a small slice of queerness on screen. Where are more queer BIPOC stories? What about queer disabled stories? Different queer body shapes seen on screen? Or how about queer people in different facets of socio-economic circumstances? These stories are still hard to find anywhere.
So, what do we do then? Well, that’s where the revolution part comes in. We need to revolutionise the film and television industry.
Okay, hear me out. If we keep just inserting queer characters into films and television, even if they are good representations of the community, we’ll never get to where we need to be. The only way we can get authentic representation is if the stories are being made by queer people. This means changing things from the ground up. The systems in the industry need to undergo holistic changes in order for queer artists to prosper and create the art that’s needed.
The ecosystem that is the film industry constantly relies on all the various parts that make it up to function. You can’t simply change one thing and not address the other aspects. This means we need to look at uplifting and training our queer writers, directors, producers, and anyone that is involved in getting the idea into production. Then of course, we need to empower our queer actors and give them all the skills they need, so it’s never, “we had to pick the best person *cough* *straight guy* *cough* for the role.” We can’t forget about the crew either… we need to encourage queer creatives behind the camera, too!
Then, we have to work on who’s at the top. It’s necessary to shift up who’s funding and getting work onto our screens. We need more fresh voices in funding, distribution and at the executive level.
This isn’t even taking into account people like the casting directors, agents and marketing teams. Each aspect needs to change. We need to gay everything up!
If we create pathways and put money into uplifting more queer creatives, then we can solve many of the issues of representation in the industry. It’s definitely possible, but it will take a while for these institutions to change. However, if we focus our energy on this and never settle for less, then we can absolutely do it. It’s vital because the issue here isn’t just about film and television. It’s about the queer community’s place in society.
The community still fights everyday just to exist. We continue to have to convince a heteronormative world why we matter and why we deserve to live safely, just like everyone else. The recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill in Florida is evidence enough on how much oppression queer people continue to face.
If we have better representation in the media, we not only give voices to queer creatives to make the community feel seen, we also move towards making the world a safer place for queer people.
This revolution is slowly happening with more queer creatives being brought to the forefront. Distributors are recognising the importance of authentic representation. Audiences are craving different stories on screen. Maybe we’ll get there sooner than expected.
I hope we see a beautiful cinematic world full of vibrant queer characters and their stories, a world that reflects the incredible queer communities that I recognise in my own life. Maybe then we’ll see in real life, a society that better serves queer people. I hope so.
Let’s keep striving for it. Let’s only move forward because, at the end of the day, not every queer person is the same.
But we all love Hunter Schafer. Obviously.