That’s So Gay…Because It Actually Is

It’s that time of year again: Dolly Parton’s A Holly Dolly Christmas is playing and it’s  time to make the yuletide gay except…. I don’t have any queer Christmas themed ideas. Sorry. I tried, I really did but man, did this year fry my brain! I could write a piece dissecting how gay Rudolph is, except Pink News has already done that; I could talk about lil twink Arthur Christmas and his lesbian butch elf sidekick, but my heart’s just not in it. After the release of Happiest Season – a canonically lesbian Christmas film – I just don’t see the point in needling a straight Christmas film for kernels of subtextual queerness. So, instead of my usual That’s So Gay column, I’m going to round off this year by celebrating some actually gay films. My list is by no means the DEFINITIVE list of queer films, but they’re some of my favourites so please enjoy my humble offering this cold winter night. 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

A festival darling and an instant classic in every sense of the phrase, Céline Sciamma’s masterpiece is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and tender. The story follows Marianne (Noémie Merlant) who is hired to secretly paint an engagement portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).Over their time together on a secluded island, their love story is ignited and the audience revels in the warm engulfing flames. With scenes so achingly stunning, it’s a film that will stay in the minds and hearts of everyone who witnesses it’s beauty.   

The Favourite (2018)

Twisted, bizarre and hilarious, this ridiculous dramatisation of Queen Anne of England (Olivia Coleman) and her lovers is pure scandalous joy. Trying to escape poverty, Abigail (Emma Stone) acquires a job serving Queen Anne and soon charms her way into her inner circle and trust, much to Queen Anne’s lover Sarah’s (Rachel Weisz) chagrin. From director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite revels in his peculiar perception and plays with unique cinematography and brilliantly blunt characters. 

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight hit headlines in the film community not only for it’s infamous win at ** but more importantly for its spectacular beauty. With stunning cinematography, mesmerizing acting and a heartfelt script, Moonlight was an instant classic from Barry Jenkins. Following the childhood, adolescence and early adulthood of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes), Moonlight portrays the confusion of figuring out identity in a world that constantly pits difficulties against our protagonist. A story of love, abuse and masculinity, Moonlight will never leave the mind of its audience. 

The Birdcage (1996)

A classic from queer herstory, The Birdcage is a film that delights in queer culture and strikes the perfect balance between kitschy satire and respectful embrace of drag nightclub culture. Boasting acting talents like Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Christine Baranski, this endlessly quotable and constantly hilarious masterpiece is sure to bring a smile to anyone, which is a welcome subversion of the usual stereotypically tragic queer story that the media loves to portray.   

The Watermelon Woman (1997)

Is a landmark film in queer cinema as the first feature film directed by a black lesbian, Cheryl Dunye. With a slightly autobiographical format, the film follows Cheryl (played by Dunye herself), a film student who is making a documentary thesis about a woman who played a side character in an old period film and who captivated Cheryl despite her short time on screen. Dunye sheds light on black stereotypes in film as well as lesbian romance and shared a genuine story of love, both for people and art.

The Handmaiden (2016)

A story filled with twists and turns, this is a film that would be ruined with too much explanation. In its simplest essence it is a film about a con to marry and hoodwink a young heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), for her fortune, but what transpires is so much more thanks to the blooming romance between Hideko and the woman who was sent to betray her, Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri). It’s a bewitching, funny and exciting film with beautiful shots, production design and costume.

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) 

Comedy, romance, and 90’s nostalgia, But I’m A Cheerleader is packed with everything you’d want in an easy-going fun film. Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is sent to a conversion boot camp to “cure” her lesbianism and while there, she and her fellow queer roomies band together to get through the ridiculousness of their situation and better understand themselves. Filled with instantly recognisable stars including Rupaul and Clea DuVall (who would later go on to direct The Happiest Season), this film is a delight and manages to be endlessly cheerful despite it’s potentially bleak premise. 

Pride (2014) 

Set mostly in a small Welsh village, Pride is the epitome of wholesome queer cinema. Based on a true story, this film follows a team of LGBTQ+ activists who travel to the village of Onllwyn to help the efforts of striking miners. The film is a lovely portrayal of community allyship and shows how kindness can go a long way. 

There are many MANY more films that I simply did not have the word count to talk about, so instead I ask that you share your love for an actually LGBTQ+ film. Comment or tweet us your favourite gay films and why you think more people should watch it. 

But that’s it for the year, so from your friendly That’s So Gay detective, have a happy new year, and may 2021 be even gayer!