Bury Your Straights

In college, my wife and I became connoisseurs of the terrible lesbian B movie. In part this was due to us being broke college kids whose main source of entertainment was her dad’s Netflix account in the burgeoning years when Netflix tried to convince everyone to go streaming before they had any decent content. It was also because we were fresh off The L Word and Glee and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, shockingly, were finding that seeing ourselves represented on our television was kinda dope. The terrible B movie part, though, was the result of something we are all extremely familiar with. If you wanted to watch movies with queer women in a central role, you just accepted that the movie wouldn’t be concerned with good writing or competent acting or realistic sets or logical plot lines. Generally, you got one. In rare cases, two or three. If it did have all the elements of a good movie, it was cursed with classic patriarchal bullshit. Looking at you The Kids Are All Right and Fried Green Tomatoes (and The L Word and Glee and Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

A beautiful thing happens when you do a bad movie deep dive. It becomes your new normal. So what if it seems like the actors are reading directly from a script written in what you can only imagine is a language they don’t speak? The plot suggests some fascinating shit about gender/bisexuality/the justice system/culture/the patriarchy. Or maybe the lighting was clearly achieved with a bedsheet and a dissembled lamp, but hoo boy that monologue. Besides, the sheet-lamp combo is frankly brilliant. Ergo, connoisseurs. We have very strong opinions about the cinematic masterpiece Butch Jamie. I just need you to know that.

It’s been a decade since we moved to LA for college. We don’t use the neighbor’s internet (only available on the front porch) anymore. We have our own Netflix account (is there any greater mark of adulthood?). We also have Hulu and Prime. While our access has increased, it’s our options that are truly mind blowing. There are so many shows and movies with explicitly queer characters that we can be picky. Like now our standard includes shit like “they gotta kiss for realsies” instead of “no way they touched hands” and “being interested in the premise” instead of “it’s gay, gotta watch.” The latter is truly liberating.

Imagine watching a television show or a movie because it looks interesting. Truly a concept.

I’m reasonably certain this is why straight people think they run the world. Everything is made for them. Or it was until recently. In my first twenty years, I saw enough tortured white men to last the entire rest of my life. Honestly, I could have called it after The Little Mermaid and been golden. It was the first movie my mom took me to see in theaters. I was three. And it’s about a girl who gives up her voice to a villain (whose coded queerness came from an uncredited drag queen) in order to get a guy? What. The. Fuck.

Most of my colleagues and straight friends know at this point that I won’t watch or read something that doesn’t center queer women. I don’t have to. I don’t give a good goddamn how brilliant it is. There’s a fuckload of entertainment for me. For my people. By my people. There better be a compelling reason for me to engage with media that isn’t going to reflect my people. And straight, cis, gender conforming leads are never going to be compelling enough. Before anyone gets lathered up over the fact that I’m missing narratives unlike my own and as such have a narrow worldview, let me just tell you, no.

4 comments

  1. I pretty much read only women authors. I’m excited to find that Butch Jamie is available on Amazon Prime, with Closed Captioning for my hard of hearing self! Thank you so much.

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  2. As a woman who turned forty 13 days before you were born I’ve often wondered why you chose to friend me on Facebook. Yet, being someone who tries to keep up with those younger than myself, I was glad when you did — even though we seldom seem to agree on much. This essay by you proved a welcomed exception. I think I understand (or at very least feel empathetically towards) what you’re expressing, and will check out Butch Jamie as a result. Thank you for the suggestion. Meanwhile, I certainly agree with you on your estimation of The Kids Are All Right. However, with all due respect, I take issue with your opinion of Fried Green Tomatoes. The book (movie) was about a woman born in the 1940’s, making friends in the 1980’s with an old woman sharing memories of coming of age in the 1920’s. It’s amazingly accurate in terms of portraying people during those times and presents a vivid picture of how much has changed between then and now, making it more fodder than fertilizer.

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