That’s So Gay… A Column Investigating LGBTQ+ Subtext in Film

I think people in the LGBTQ+ community are natural detectives. Our whole lives, we hunt for answers. When we discover our identity is not what was expected of us, we had to hunt for our own explanation. When our lives, our attitudes and our love was not reflected in any part of our life, we had to look a little harder. I think this is why we are so good at finding our representation in the subtext of art. 

LGBTQ+ themes had to remain in the closet for much of film history, meaning actual representation is severely lacking. But that doesn’t mean we – the great gay detectives – can’t find it. Subtext is a wonderful concept that allows viewers to extract hidden or even accidental meaning from art. For the LGBTQ+ society, subtext were the only morsels we got from fiction.

In a Flip Screen piece published earlier this month by RaeAnn Quick, she talks about the concept of lesbian love as invention depicted in A Portrait of a Woman on Fire. In the film, our leads, Marianne and Héloïse draw on the subtext within the mythology of Orpheus and Eurydice as a method of expression, morphing the story to fit their own lesbian experience. As Quick says, “Operation of lesbian identity revolves around this redefining of the past, allowing them to find themselves within art.” Looking beyond text and instead delving into the subtext allows LGBTQ+ people the freedom of reinterpretation and was, until very recently, the only form of representation we were allowed. 

Often, the conception of queer themes in art is not entirely fabricated through audience interpretation; with so many in the community working within the arts, queer subtext can be intentional. Unable to fully reveal LGBTQ+ themes, creatives in the community have been using subtext as a subtle foundation of their work for years. Whether they are using the guise of heterosexual stories to represent queer themes, or slying slipping in a joking nod for their community, there are hundreds of examples through film history that just seem so…gay!

In this column, we’re going to be celebrating LGBTQ+ stories. Each month I’ll deep dive into a new film, show, character or concept and investigate just how gay everything really is. When I’m not emulating queer conspiracy theorist vibes, I’ll be trying to find other experts in the LGBTQ+ film world and sharing their interpretations as well as my own. I promise this column will not just devolve into a queer-baiting-apologist-tumblr-style-shipping blog. At least not till August. 

So, stretch out your muscles because we’re about to attempt some real big reaches. Even if we’re having to really squint when reading between these lines, there’s one thing for sure – we’re going to be in for a gay ol’ time.