One last time, Happy Pride Month!!! June has gone by at a lightning speed and like last year, Covid-19 has certainly made it a different pride month than years previous. As many in-person events have been cancelled, one way to celebrate Pride is to consume LGBTQ+ media. Why not end June by watching a movie that represents LGBTQ+ characters? Bake a rainbow cake, grab your popcorn, and a couple vaccinated friends, and dig in to one or more (probably not all) of these films!
Rainbow cake recipe here: https://www.thebakerupstairs.com/2014/03/six-layer-rainbow-cake.html
1. D.E.B.S. (2004)
I first watched D.E.B.S. at a middle school sleepover with my “straight” friends. We just were interested in the spy girl premise. Then, the protagonist, Amy, and the villain, Lucy, started kissing. Now I and my friends are all openly bisexual. We probably just happened to find something that we could relate to when we picked it out, but perhaps it did awaken something in us.
D.E.B.S. is about a group of young women who go a top secret all-women spy school. The protagonist, Amy, “encounters”, Lucy, after been sent on a mission to spy on the known criminal and figure what she’s up to. Much to Amy surprise, Lucy does not kill her, she instead flirts with Amy and takes her out on a date! Amy ends up leaving school be with Amy, while her comrades believe that she has been kidnapped by Lucy. Not only was this movie part of my friend groups’ collective bisexual awakening, it’s actually a really funny, entertaining film! It definitely is cheesey, but what else can you expect from a movie with a secret all-girls spy school where the spies are all clearly part of some organization since they’re running around in matching uniforms. D.E.B.S. manages to keep things light which unusual to see in a lot of LGBTQ+ films. It was also the blueprint for the enemies to friends to lovers trope in sapphic media. This is one my favorite tropes. D.E.B.S. walked so She-Ra andthe Princesses of Power could run.
Watch for free on Tubi https://tubitv.com/
2. Philadelphia (1993)
While it was not really made for LGBTQ+ people, and is more meant to send a message of tolerance to cishet people, Phildelphia was one of the first films with an LGBTQ+ protagonist. The true story of Andrew Beckett (Geoffrey Bowers in real life) who was fired from his law firm for having HIV, and started a lawsuit against them, deeply connected to me. I wept at the end of the film, when Beckett succumbs to his illness. (It’s not a spoiler because viewers know at the beginning of the film that he has HIV which at the time was a death sentence.) The song “City of Brotherly Love” by Neil Young at the end of the Philadelphia was particularly moving. And while it would have been preferable to have a gay actor playing the role, Tom Hanks’ performance was stunning.
I ended up watching the film repeatedly and introducing it to my friends during Pride celebrations because I have never been able to get it out of my head. Yes, it does follow the “bury your gays” trope, but it does make sense in the context of the film with Beckett having HIV which has unfortunately killed many in our community, and still does, particularly for the marginalized. Though now treatable, one in two Black MSM (males who have sex with males) contract HIV at some point in their lifetime. HIV is a part of our history and our present and a subject that Philadelphia tackles beautifully.
3. Huit Femmes/Eight Women (2002)
Looking for something very different in tone from Philadelphia? How about a sapphic French musical comedy murder mystery? Introduced to me by a friend in college, Huit Femmes, has enough camp to make it truly feel like summer. Huit Femmes means Eight Women, although the term “femme” also works well as a play on words in English given it’s use in the lesbian community. These eight women are trapped together by a blizzard after the man of the house is murdered. Who did it? Did these women have an affair with him? Or are they having affairs with each other?
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
I will admit, I thought it was funny at first, when I saw that my local library put a Rocky Horror DVD in the Pride display. Perhaps because as an older movie, Dr. Frankenfurter using the terms, “transvestite” and transsexual” seem outdated and now offensive. But upon further consideration this film with a cult following, really has been majorly influential to the LGBTQ+ community. My first exposure to the Rocky Horror Picture Show was the ABC Live version starring Laverne Cox, which was fun, but it didn’t really do the experience of seeing it with an audience justice. I watched the actual film in a theater with my friends, all of costumed in fishnets and red lipstick. People chanted special lines while they watched the film, and sprinklers turned on while it rained. Everybody got up to do the “Time Warp”. It was wonderfully weird as the trailer said. With other LGBTQ+ students in the crowd, I finally felt like I was with my people. Find some vaccinated friends to watch it with for your pride celebration.
5. Paris is Burning (1990)
Paris is Burning documents the lives of the New York drag scene in the 80’s in which Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people built a haven and found families for themselves. This classic documentary has educated many on things like “voguing” and “throwing shade.” With the popularity of the ballroom show, Pose, and using terms that come from this culture on the Internet, it’s time we all learn about this history and culture. I will warn you, like many films documenting LGBTQ+ history, Paris is Burning is sad at times. It even made me cry, but I think this also proves its effectiveness.
Watch it for free here https://watchdocumentaries.com/paris-is-burning/
6. Love, Simon (2018)
Love, Simon is about a closeted gay highschooler, who finds out through the internet that he not the only student at his school who is secretly gay. In his corresponding with “Blue”, he finds himself falling in love, and eventually coming out of the closet. Love, Simon is near and dear to my heart because, after seeing it in theaters with my friends, it inspired to come out to my own mom. Simon’s story of coming out made it seem a little less terrifying. And like Simon, I didn’t want to be keeping a “huge ass secret” anymore. Love, Simon has however come under criticism for the way it makes coming out the resolution to the story rather than the beginning. The plot centers Simon gayness around other people’s reactions to it. It buys into a larger narrative of “coming out’ that in this day and age may not be so necessary. Still, Love, Simon itself acknowledges this strangness of coming out when Simon points out that straight people don’t have to come out. He imagines scenes of friends coming as the straight to parents to point out the absurdity. There are several other funny scenes from Simon’s imagination. I also enjoyed that Love, Simon was a lighthearted teen rom-com.
7. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Another college friend introduced me to But I’m a Cheerleader. This ultra campy comedy is about Megan, a cheerleader who gets sent to gay conversion therapy because her friends and family think that she is a lesbian. She later falls in love with another girl there, Megan, whom the trailer cheekily calls her “friend”. I love the comedy of But I’m a Cheerleader, how it points out the loopholes and hypocrisies in a heterosexual society. As a feminine sapphic woman, I also enjoy how it both acknowledges and defies stereotypes. Also, the love story is between Megan and Graham is excellent. They have the chemistry, darling.
8. Handsome Devil (2016)
Since I studied abroad in Ireland, it would be remiss of me to not mention any Irish films. I present to you: Handsome Devil! This film follows Ned, a boarding school student who is bullied over not liking rugby. Much to his dismay, his new roommate, Conor, is a rugby player. Their English teacher suggests that they perform a song together in the school talent show to bond. I don’t want to give too much away but I love how Ned and Conor’s friendship forms, and the way Handsome Devil, like But I’m a Cheerleader, dispels stereotypes. Also, there are some top notch comedic moments.
9. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
I got to see these film in theaters and boy it did not disappoint! Queen really does have some banger songs. Also, hearing Freddie Mercury played by Rami Malek (whom I love) say that he was bisexual which was an extremely validating experience as a bisexual. It was the only time I have seeen someone say that aloud on the big screen. One issue I did hear about was that the film portrayed Mercury’s parents as much more conservative and less accepting than they are actually are, which is pretty racist to presume. Still, it was cool how the film acknowledged the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, biphobia that Freddie Mercury experienced. The ending when Queen played at live aid made me quite emotional.
10. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
Described as the “serious version of But I’m a Cheerleader“, Cameron Post is sent to conversion therapy camp for being after being caught with her girlfriend. She befriends Jane and Adam who join her in making fun of the camp. I prefer But I’m a Cheerleader but I still quite enjoyed this one. It’s can be quite serious, but not overly sad which can be a difficult line to walk, and there certainly is a sense of humor coming from the teens.
I hope you guys had an awesome Pride Month! Don’t forget, you can experience pride and consume LGBTQ+ content all year long. After all, we do not just exist in June.