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Brokeback Mountain and Other Terrible Films

Thorn Wilde

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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 NameMilk, 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.

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Uhm, I thought Brokeback Mountain was one of the movies which made it abundantly clear to straight people how badly gay people have been treated for years and years. For this to happen it had to be a tragedy. 

But now that you mention it, most of the queer movies I know of (which to be honest isn't that many) have sad plots and endings.

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8 minutes ago, Timothy M. said:

Uhm, I thought Brokeback Mountain was one of the movies which made it abundantly clear to straight people how badly gay people have been treated for years and years. For this to happen it had to be a tragedy. 

But now that you mention it, most of the queer movies I know of (which to be honest isn't that many) have sad plots and endings.

 

Right? And, that's kind of my point. Brokeback Mountain was made by and for straight people. It's not an LGBTQ movie, and it doesn't belong on such a list. Have a lot of movies like it brought attention to how poorly the LGBTQ community has been treated? Absolutely. But that doesn't in and of itself make them good queer films. A whole bunch of good queer films made by queer people feature homophobia, and in a lot more relevant contexts, too. That doesn't make them tragedies. You can have realism without super sad endings. To some, Brokeback Mountain will give them the impression that this is how things used to be. But the fact is it's still like that for so many, and people don't realise that.

Edited by Thorn Wilde
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8 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

Haven't seen Brokeback Mountain.  I have read the story, which is a tragedy. It was written by someone who saw the wrongness and tragedy of homophobia. Yes, she is straight ... like many authors on GA.   She didn't write the screenplay and she didn't like it. The short story ends with the murder of Jack in a homophobic assault.  That's what the story is about; the mindset and morality at a certain time, it is not really about Jack and Ennis.

 

 

 

You're right, of course. I have read the story, and it is much better than the film. 

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1 minute ago, Thorn Wilde said:

 

You're right, of course. I have read the story, and it is much better than the film. 

The screenplay by  Diana Ossana (who i don't know) and the very respected Larry McMurtry.  Like a lot of films.. they pick out what they want.. I laugh because Jack and Ennis were not beautiful people but look who played them.  The same with Freddie's story ... lets pretend he's not gay. 

 

AC Benus has been saying on GA for years that our history is being erased ... and well, we need to stop them.

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33 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

AC Benus has been saying on GA for years that our history is being erased ... and well, we need to stop them.

 

Truth. It really is. And some of it by members of the community itself. A transgender sex worker of colour threw the first brick at Stonewall. Way too many people don't know that. Stonewall's been pink washed to fit in with a narrative that cis-het people will feel comfortable with.

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Just now, Thorn Wilde said:

 

Truth. It really is. And some of it by members of the community itself. A transgender sex worker of colour threw the first brick at Stonewall. Way too many people don't know that. Stonewall's been pink washed to fit in with a narrative that cis-het people will feel comfortable with.

They erase things from books, change poetry, won't publish unless things are removed or rewritten.  i am mostly self-taught because i didn't go to school for a number of years.  i don't know a lot about music, or art, or being gay ... but i am learning now.  i am glad for everything that AC shares with me and writes about us.  i do know that trying to erase us is wrong ... picking out the bits of our stories, poetry and music that they like is wrong.   Some beautiful translations about love between men by a poet named Else can be found here: https://gayauthors.org/story/ac-benus/translation-trashbin/15  

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1 minute ago, Mikiesboy said:

They erase things from books, change poetry, won't publish unless things are removed or rewritten.  i am mostly self-taught because i didn't go to school for a number of years.  i don't know a lot about music, or art, or being gay ... but i am learning now.  i am glad for everything that AC shares with me and writes about us.  i do know that trying to erase us is wrong ... picking out the bits of our stories, poetry and music that they like is wrong.   Some beautiful translations about love between men by a poet named Else can be found here: https://gayauthors.org/story/ac-benus/translation-trashbin/15  

 

Thanks. Will read.

 

A lot of long dead artists get their sexuality erased. Most people don't realise that William Shakespeare was bi, for instance. The first 126 (I think) of his sonnets were written for a man. Scholars are all, nooo, it's just platonic admiration! Right.

 

Sonnet #20:

 

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion ;

A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted

With shifting change, as is false women's fashion ;

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,

Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth ;

A man in hue, all 'hues' in his controlling

Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.

And for a woman wert thou first created ;

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,

And by addition me of thee defeated,

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,

Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.

 

Number 26 is also fairly obvious. Lord of my love, etc. And there's so much homoeroticism in many of his plays.

 

And there are so many others. As for the historical figures whose sexualities can't simply be erased, they're instead made out to be these amoral, debauched lunatics, basically. It's so sad.

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Yes, so many.  I know about Shakespeare .. but you have to wonder about what his audiences thought.  They didn't take him out and stone him or have him drawn and quartered.  So, it makes me think, was who he was and who he loved okay then?   And if it was, when did that change?

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45 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

Yes, so many.  I know about Shakespeare .. but you have to wonder about what his audiences thought.  They didn't take him out and stone him or have him drawn and quartered.  So, it makes me think, was who he was and who he loved okay then?   And if it was, when did that change?

 

Well, the Sonnets were only published a few years before he died, for one. Though Britain had sodomy laws, simply expressing love for another man would not necessarily have raised any suspicion, because love and sexuality were not necessarily seen as connected at the time. That doesn't mean Shakespeare wasn't queer, it just means that the world didn't 'get it'. Sodomy was punishable by death, and attempted sodomy (what does that even mean, just the tip?) gave you two years in jail. Sodomy was defined as anal sex and zoophilia. It's possible at the time that if neither of these were proven to have taken place, it didn't 'count'. As for homoeroticism in his plays, it may seem obvious today, but back then it might not have. And his plays are full of lewd jokes; plays were for the common man. Elizabethan England was generally not as uptight about sex as we imagine. Within the theatre, where they were all men (women weren't allowed to be actors, after all), homosexual relations would have been an open secret. Up until the abolishment of sodomy laws, the theatre remained a freer place. Things went on, and one simply didn't talk about it.

Edited by Thorn Wilde
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7 minutes ago, Headstall said:

I have a somewhat different perspective, though I certainly appreciate yours, Thorn. As a man who's had a tortuous, at times, journey towards the light of self-acceptance, I welcomed Brokeback Mountain. The fact that Hollywood, an entity unto itself, fought the battle to make a movie about a gay romance that spanned a lifetime, however tragic, is monumental for me.  It took guts and determination, and being mainstream, and nominated for a slew of awards (I believe it won three Oscars and a Golden Globe for best picture... and cleaned up at so many different award shows throughout that year), it reached millions... maybe billions... of people across the globe. 

 

Yes, it was a tragedy, but it was beautiful and real. I identified with these guys in oh so many ways. Especially the heartbreak that can come with being gay in those times. Anyway, my point is, whether it meets certain personal standards or not, we cannot deny it opened eyes and paved the way for movies like Moonlight, a best picture winner, and Love, Simon, a box office success. For that reason alone, it belongs on my list of great queer movies. I got to see 'me,' and the legitimacy of 'our love' up on the big screen, not some distorted caricature or comic foil.

 

Call Me By Your Name, an incredible movie, might not have been made if there's been no BBM. And now there is Boy Erased, another mainstream movie that appears to hit at the core of our pain and acceptance. I haven't seen it yet, but the fact I can sit in a theater and watch such a movie... well... I never thought I would see the day.... :hug: 

 

Obviously, my opinion is just that, an opinion. I appreciate you sharing yours, and your experiences. Thank you! :hug: 

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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...)

 

I'm not sure if this is 100% true or not, but I've heard that the story of the making of Bohemian Rhapsody boils down to that it started out by focusing on Freddie without any kind of reservation.

The inherent problem, however, is how you pull that off without involving the rest of Queen whatsoever.

Three guesses as to whose viewpoint that film really takes... :P:/

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23 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

I read the short story Brokeback Mountain. The story’s portrayal of the tragedy and pain of homophobia and of the expectation of heteronormality was good, hard reading.  I don’t doubt that the film had difficulty capturing that. 

 

I agree with Gary's and Ronyx' points about seeing the movie in context of the time it was released. 

I read the short story after having seen the movie. I think 'the tragedy and pain of homophobia and of the expectation of heteronormality' was actually what the movie captured best. It is 100% on the side of Ennis and Jack, so the audience ends up there too.

And let's not forget that the wife of Ennis was another victim. The first 'intimate' scene shot was

Spoiler

was Ennis and Jack kissing after not being in touch for ages, and being seen by Ennis' wife.

That scene may have brought home to the audience the fact that nobody wins when people cannot be open about who they are and who they love.

Of course, that doesn't mean other movies haven't done the same thing even better.

Edited by Timothy M.
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13 hours ago, Ronyx said:

I agree with @Headstall on Brokeback Mountain paving the way for other movies. We can't judge an older movie by today's standards. We have to look at his in its historical context. Brokeback Mountain was released in 2005. Today, it is easy to say it was too tame, and it didn't accurately portray gay people.

Amen, and quote for truth. It's not just movies that need to be observed through the lens of their era. @Superpride started a discussion over in the Writer's Circle about GLBT books and how they have changed over the years. Almost all mediums need to be seen in that light, as for how the writer/actor/artist/poet/director/screenplay writer intended in the era they were conceived.

 

As for BBM, I have no horse in that Derbe. I've neither seen the movie nor read the short story. I will say, 90% of GLBT movies are pure crap. Take the whole Eating Out series as an example.

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4 hours ago, MJ85 said:

 

I'm not sure if this is 100% true or not, but I've heard that the story of the making of Bohemian Rhapsody boils down to that it started out by focusing on Freddie without any kind of reservation.

The inherent problem, however, is how you pull that off without involving the rest of Queen whatsoever.

Three guesses as to whose viewpoint that film really takes... :P:/

 

Yeah, I read about that in an article that discussed just what I wrote in my post. They were kind of dependent on Queen's support in order to even make the movie, what with all the music they needed to use, so a good portion of the blame sits of the shoulders of the band.

 

14 minutes ago, BHopper2 said:

As for BBM, I have no horse in that Derbe. I've neither seen the movie nor read the short story. I will say, 90% of GLBT movies are pure crap. Take the whole Eating Out series as an example.

 

Ugh, those films are so bad. That said, I've really seen far more good queer films than bad ones. Eating Out are the only objectively terrible ones I can name (aside from Blue is the Warmest Colour, which I already mentioned). Every film has its flaws, but many can be overlooked if the rest of it has merit, imo.

 

 

A film that is inexplicably absent from this conversation (and many others) is Philadelphia from 1993. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two of them, as well as two Golden Globes and a bunch of other awards. This film was written by a gay man and dealt extensively with homophobia during the HIV epidemic. It's credited as being the first mainstream film to properly portray homosexuality and homophobia, and I think it tackled these things in a far more down to earth manner than Brokeback Mountain did, and I think it's a far more important part of queer cinema history.came before.

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3 hours ago, Thorn Wilde said:

A film that is inexplicably absent from this conversation (and many others) is Philadelphia from 1993. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two of them, as well as two Golden Globes and a bunch of other awards. This film was written by a gay man and dealt extensively with homophobia during the HIV epidemic. It's credited as being the first mainstream film to properly portray homosexuality and homophobia, and I think it tackled these things in a far more down to earth manner than Brokeback Mountain did, and I think it's a far more important part of queer cinema history.came before.

I agree. However, As revolutionary as it was, I would point out it wasn't about romance between men. It was an incredibly powerful movie about AIDS, and while it touched on their relationship, it was far from front and center... it was about the injustice and prejudice towards a disease, one that was a stigma given to all GAY MEN at that time. Still, I agree it belongs on any top ten gay movie list. 

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4 hours ago, Thorn Wilde said:

 

A film that is inexplicably absent from this conversation (and many others) is Philadelphia from 1993. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two of them, as well as two Golden Globes and a bunch of other awards. 

 

I've always considered myself a coward for not watching this movie. I read about it when it came out, but being thirty, newly single, and facing some hard truths about myself (although not HIV), I didn't at the time. And I never found the guts to do it later. :(  But there are movies about other topics where I've made the same choice, e.g. Schindler's List.

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5 minutes ago, Timothy M. said:

 

I've always considered myself a coward for not watching this movie. I read about it when it came out, but being thirty, newly single, and facing some hard truths about myself (although not HIV), I didn't at the time. And I never found the guts to do it later. :(  But there are movies about other topics where I've made the same choice, e.g. Schindler's List.

 

Yeah, that one's painful. Philadelphia is, too, but even though it's really sad I feel like there's something hopeful about it, as well. Also, hands down Tom Hanks's greatest performance.

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I saw Brokeback Mountain twice in the theater and I own the DVD as well as a book that contains the short story it's based on and the screenplay in it.

 

I've only ever watched the DVD once so I've only watched it three times.  I recall leaving the movie theater the first time feeling emotionally dragged.  I had no idea what to expect so the ending really threw me and it bothered me for days.

 

That aside, the thing I remember most about that time when the movie was out was the website they had.  On there, thousands of men and women all shared their stories that were similar to Jack and Ennis.  They were heart-wrenching stories of love, loss and grief.  I used to read them when I worked third shift by myself.  They were real people who finally found the courage to share their stories because someone decided to bring that short story into the mainstream and shine a bright light on an age where being gay in rural America wasn't just scorned, it could cost you your life.  I'm just a year older than Matthew Shepard and I remember very well what happens to LGBT people outside of the comfy confines of The Castro, West Hollywood, Greenwich Village or Capitol Hill.  I myself live in a relatively small town (100,000 and falling) in a very conservative part of a "blue state."  It's not easy out here because there's still many people who just go with the typical stereotypes they've been accustomed to over the years about who gay people are.  But it is easier than it used to be.  I'll never forget being in a restaurant late at night with a couple young friends and the people in the booth directly behind me started loudly talking about how they think all gay people should just be killed.

 

I feel the movie, while imperfect, showed straight America what's been a mostly positive thing for those in the rural parts of the country.  But that's just my opinion, looking at things from my own angle. 

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6 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

I saw Brokeback Mountain twice in the theater and I own the DVD as well as a book that contains the short story it's based on and the screenplay in it.

 

I've only ever watched the DVD once so I've only watched it three times.  I recall leaving the movie theater the first time feeling emotionally dragged.  I had no idea what to expect so the ending really threw me and it bothered me for days.

 

That aside, the thing I remember most about that time when the movie was out was the website they had.  On there, thousands of men and women all shared their stories that were similar to Jack and Ennis.  They were heart-wrenching stories of love, loss and grief.  I used to read them when I worked third shift by myself.  They were real people who finally found the courage to share their stories because someone decided to bring that short story into the mainstream and shine a bright light on an age where being gay in rural America wasn't just scorned, it could cost you your life.  I'm just a year older than Matthew Shepard and I remember very well what happens to LGBT people outside of the comfy confines of The Castro, West Hollywood, Greenwich Village or Capitol Hill.  I myself live in a relatively small town (100,000 and falling) in a very conservative part of a "blue state."  It's not easy out here because there's still many people who just go with the typical stereotypes they've been accustomed to over the years about who gay people are.  But it is easier than it used to be.  I'll never forget being in a restaurant late at night with a couple young friends and the people in the booth directly behind me started loudly talking about how they think all gay people should just be killed.

 

I feel the movie, while imperfect, showed straight America what's been a mostly positive thing for those in the rural parts of the country.  But that's just my opinion, looking at things from my own angle. 

 

All opinions are welcome, and I see I'm woefully outnumbered in my own. I was unaware of that website, that must have been a pretty fantastic thing.

 

Perhaps it's a cultural difference that makes my opinion and that of my queer friends over here in Norway so different from everyone else's.

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3 minutes ago, Thorn Wilde said:

 

All opinions are welcome, and I see I'm woefully outnumbered in my own. I was unaware of that website, that must have been a pretty fantastic thing.

 

Perhaps it's a cultural difference that makes my opinion and that of my queer friends over here in Norway so different from everyone else's.

No worries. :)

 

One of the wonders of sharing thoughts and ideas on an international website is that no two people are ever going to see a subject from the same viewpoint.  It's important to give yourself over to the concept of looking at the world in other peoples' eyes and see things from their perspective.  Not unlike how while writing a story can make us look at a subject with an entirely different perspective outside of our own for the sake of one of our characters.  I feel it's the only way we can truly grow as people and learn to appreciate those who are different from ourselves.

 

I don't think you're entirely wrong about the movie.  I agree there should have been more... oh, I dunno... gay people in some of the roles.  Gee, what an amazing concept, huh??  I also think Hollywood doesn't help us that much from time to time.  Actually, most of the time.  They're fine with making money off of LGBT consumers and their lives as turned into art.  However, employing them in front of the camera seems to be as much of a problem now as it was in the 50's and 60's.  

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2 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

No worries. :)

 

One of the wonders of sharing thoughts and ideas on an international website is that no two people are ever going to see a subject from the same viewpoint.  It's important to give yourself over to the concept of looking at the world in other peoples' eyes and see things from their perspective.  Not unlike how while writing a story can make us look at a subject with an entirely different perspective outside of our own for the sake of one of our characters.  I feel it's the only way we can truly grow as people and learn to appreciate those who are different from ourselves.

 

I don't think you're entirely wrong about the movie.  I agree there should have been more... oh, I dunno... gay people in some of the roles.  Gee, what an amazing concept, huh??  I also think Hollywood doesn't help us that much from time to time.  Actually, most of the time.  They're fine with making money off of LGBT consumers and their lives as turned into art.  However, employing them in front of the camera seems to be as much of a problem now as it was in the 50's and 60's.  

 

Unfortunately. When straight actors play gay characters, they get Oscars. When gay actors play gay characters, they're lucky if they're nominated. And don't get me started on trans actors. No trans actor has ever been nominated for an Academy Award, and the trans community has objected loudly to some of the lauded performances by cisgender actors for being inaccurate, unrealistic, and frequently offensive. It's really sad...

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