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Your Guide to Ladies Loving Ladies on Film

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Basically a run-down of the history and categories of LGBT women on film






Cross-Dressing to Challenge Gender Roles
In the early days of film lesbianism was a taboo subject, if it even came up at all. The first forays into queerness for ladies on film came with gender-bending cross-dressing. Katharine Hepburn plays two of these roles. First in Christopher Strong (1933) and again in Sylvia Scarlett (1936) she plays Sylvia who disguises herself as a boy to avoid suspicion while running from the cops with her father. Queen Christina (1933) showed Sweden’s famous Queen as she preferred to dress and Morocco (1930) featured the infamous scene of Marlene Dietrich in a top-hat and a suit.



Lesbians as Villains
Eventually lesbianism was allowed to shown (or at least hinted at) on screen. While the films could show it, they could definitely not be condoning it, which is why many of them were portrayed as antagonists and even straight up villains. In Rebecca (1940) it was terrifying Ms. Danvers haunting poor Joan Fontaine. There’s also Caged (1950) and The Balcony (1963) that show LGBT women in questionable light.



Lesbians Vampires
Perhaps an extension of the villainous lesbian trope is the lesbian vampire one. Vampirism is something sexy yet forbidden; alluring yet dangerous. It makes sense that this was how lesbianism was thought of as well. Dracula’s Daughter (1936) was the first film to touch on this but did so in a suitably subtle way. It wasn’t until decades later that exploitation came into play for lesbian vampires. Blood and Roses (1960) retells the famous Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu story of Carmilla. Other tales of female vampires preying on unsuspecting victims were extremely popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s including Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Countess Dracula (1971), and another Carmilla story, The Vampire Lovers (1970). The Hunger (1983)’s villains were much more three-dimensional than it’s predecessors. In today’a age, lesbian vampire usually appear in low-budget horrors such as We Are the Night (2010) or as a satire in one of my personal favorite, Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009), which seems to mock society’s sexualization with LGBT women.



No Happy Endings Allowed
Eventually the censors started to allow more overt lesbian tones in films. However, being gay was still very much frowned upon. This meant that gay and lesbian characters in the mid-20th century could never have happy endings. They also somehow had to pay the ultimate price for their sexuality, whether that be unhappiness or even death.The Children’s Hour (1961), The Fox (1967) The Killing of Sister George (1968), Personal Best (1982) and Lianna (1983) all show the unhappiness that being queer will bring you and despite having representation, declines to show many positives that go along with being openly LGBT.



The Lesbian Revolution
By the 1980’s we finally started seeing LGBT characters who weren’t brutally murdered or otherwise an example of moral misbehavior. The shining beacon of light was Desert Hearts (1985) about two women who fall in love at a Nevada Ranch. After that came a flurry of three-dimensional lesbian characters in films that explored the realistic and diverse lifestyles of LGBT ladies. Some of these include Go Fish (1994), Watermelon Women (1995), The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995), When Night Is Falling (1995) Better Than Chocolate (1999), and If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000). This all culminated in the social commentary satire turned cult classic But I’m A Cheerleader (2001).



Rest at the source



Favorite LGBT movies everybody?

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