Note: I'm frustrated. I swear. Deal with it.
I was browsing YouTube yesterday when I came across a 10 Best LGBTQ Movies video. As I always do, I clicked on it, cause I'm always up for potentially finding new movies to watch. There were some good ones on the list, such as Call Me By Your Name, Milk, and Weekend for instance, and I found a couple I hadn't seen, either. But when they got down to #3, they lost me, because according to them the third best LGBTQ film in history is Brokeback Mountain.
I was 17 when Brokeback Mountain came out. I saw it in the cinema, and I cried, and I thought it was wonderful. Because I was a 17-year-old at the time girl who hadn't really been exposed to a lot of queer cinema. I bought it on DVD when it came out, and watched it again. Then a few years passed, I became more experienced, watched other LGBTQ movies, and realised that Brokeback Mountain is, quite frankly, shit.
All of my IRL queer friends agree with me. Not most, all. The film tends to be conspicuously absent when queer people make lists of greatest LGBTQ films. I feel like Brokeback Mountain caters to a straight audience that wants to feel liberal and accepting by watching gay characters on screen, but who ultimately feel more comfortable if it ends in tragedy. The story it's based on was written by a straight woman (not that there's anything wrong with straight people writing LGBTQ stories, and we have many, many straight authors on the site here who write absolutely wonderful gay fiction).
Brokeback Mountain has served a purpose, of course. It has made gay stories more palatable to straight audiences, which is a good thing. The acting performances are marvellous, too. But it also demonstrated that the only way for an LGBTQ movie to win an Academy Award is if literally no one involved in its making is visibly queer. I'm not of the opinion that straight people can't play gay characters (they definitely can) or even that cis people can't play trans characters (they can, though they have a responsibility to to do well that few manage to fulfil). But nobody even remotely queer has their name on that movie. Author of original short story, straight. Writers, straight. Producers, straight. Ang Lee, totally straight. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal? Ding ding ding! Straight!
As of last year, the only gay man to win an Academy Award playing a gay character, is Ian McKellen. And that was twenty fucking years ago. Meanwhile, if a cis-het actor plays a queer character in an even remotely successful film, they're guaranteed a nomination, if not a win. No trans actor has ever won an Oscar. No lesbian playing a lesbian has ever won an Oscar.
Another movie that straight people keep harping on about is Blue is the Warmest Colour, which is objectively shit. After the third lengthy porn inspired male gaze centred sex scene, I switched that motherfucker off.
Bohemian Rhapsody is being lauded by straight critics, while LGBTQ audiences are disappointed at the misrepresentation of Freddie Mercury's sexuality and the way everything goes to shit when he tries to live out his queer identity (which is a factually incorrect assessment of Freddie's queerness), while embracing his straight friends and staying out of 'that world' makes everything better (also factually incorrect). While not in and of itself a bad film, as a queer film it falls short, and a movie about Freddy Mercury ought to be a queer film. He's one of the most famous queer people in history. We've got Elton John, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Alexander the Great, and Freddie Mercury. (Notice how there are no queer women on that list? Sigh...)
There is a lot of great queer cinema. We've had long, extensive threads on the subject in The Lounge, where people have shared their top picks of literally hundreds of wonderful films, many of which actually have happy endings for once. Straight audiences can't handle a queer movie with a happy ending. It has to be sad, or it has to be heteronormative, and that's what we get. Things are improving a little, sure. Love, Simon is a notable exception in being a well loved queer teen movie with a sweet and happy ending where no one kills themselves. How lovely! Of course, Love, Simon didn't even earn an honourable mention in the video I watched.
Weekend took second place, which redeemed the list somewhat. Carol came in first. Which is fine, it's a great movie, and doesn't end in tragedy. But fucking Brokeback Mountain ought to die a fiery death and be buried in an avalanche of awesome queer cinema.
EDIT: Just to clarify: I'm not saying that Brokeback Mountain is objectively a bad movie, nor am I saying that the short story it's based on isn't good. What I am saying is that it's not an LGBTQ movie, it's made by straight people for straight people, and as such I don't think it belongs on lists of good queer movies. It's a bad queer film, that doesn't necessarily make it a bad film, period.