2007 Year in Review: Movies

Horrific

When lesbian/bi characters weren’t serving as background characters in mainstream films, they were busy being trotted out to the wolves in horror movies. Actually, queer female characters ran the gamut this year, from serving as the only sane person in the film in Bug to pure exploitation in films such as Hostel 2, Return to House on Haunted Hill and Rise: Blood Hunter.

While it’s somewhat positive that this kind of exploitation was relegated (perhaps quarantined is a better term) to one genre, horror directors aren’t off the hook for their stereotypical decisions.

In Bug, Agnes (Ashley Judd) is stuck between an abusive husband and a mysterious stranger with more than a few screws loose. Her queer best friend, R.C. (Lynn Collins), sees the danger and tries her best to rescue Agnes from a hellish journey into insanity. She doesn’t listen, but it’s refreshing to see the lesbian character presented as sane, competent, honorable and, in fact, the only non-victim in the piece.

Similarly, the aforementioned subplot in Planet Terror featured two lesbians who were, at the very least, presented as sane and normal in a decidedly wacky world.

Unfortunately, queer female characters didn’t fare so well in Hostel: Part II, which featured a lesbian character as one of the victims of an underground society dealing in torture, rape and murder. As the current king of the "torture porn" subgenre, the entire film is an exercise in exploitation and misogyny, decidedly more so than the first Hostel.

Supernatural lesbians didn’t fare any better in 2007. The straight-to-video flop Return to House on Haunted Hill featured a three-way lesbian ghost make-out session that was just as ridiculous and hokey as it sounds.

Rise was another offender. In the film, Lucy Liu stars as Sadie Blake, a lesbian vampire with a thirst for revenge. The film is vapid and derivative, and Blake’s lesbianism is clearly nothing more than a ploy to increase the titillation factor. In fact, the nude love scene between Liu and co-star Carla Gugino is one of the highest selling points of the movie — a telling sign.

Asian Representation Continues to Increase

If 2007 was revolutionary in any way, it was due to the proliferation of Asian lesbian/bisexual women as main characters in feature films. The last two years also had a handful of films that featured queer Asian or Asian-American characters in leading roles, including Red Doors, Floored by Love, The Gymnast and Saving Face. But in 2007 alone, prominent films such as Love My Life, Spider Lilies, The World Unseen and Nina’s Heavenly Delights headlined film festivals and generally accounted for some of the most interesting and relevant filmmaking in queer cinema this year.

Perhaps more importantly, the fact that these films were even made (and promoted) signals a growing awareness — even receptiveness — to lesbians and bisexual women within their respective cultures.

The aforementioned Nina’s Heavenly Delights presented an interesting glimpse into the world of a young lesbian brought up with both Eastern and Western traditions, and her journey to find herself within a world of varied cultural influences. Similarly, Love My Life deserves special mention for its honest and matter-of-fact look at what it means to be LGBT and living in Japanese society today.

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