The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Lesbian Movie Cliches

 
 

Lesbian movies: Some are so so bad, but others can be so so good. Some are mostly good but a lazy storyline or trope will really make you groan. The Guardian published a piece the Top 10 Lesbian Movie Cliches, and of course we had a few to add to that list. What say you, team? What is the worst lesbian film cliche?

Dana Piccoli: Ugh, the self sabotaging lesbian. Leading lez meets the girl of her dreams? No worries, she’ll find a way to screw it up. Destructive behavior, emotional baggage, overall fuckery. High Art, Loving Annabelle, The L Word, And Then Came Lola, Four Faced Liar, the list goes on and on.

Dorothy Snarker: “The tragic, high-concept death” SAD DEAD LESBIAN is by far my least favorite lesbian movie cliche, even though SAD DEAD LESBIAN ends up happening in some of my favorite lesbian movies/TV shows: High Art, Lost & Delirious, The Children’s Hour, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hmmm, maybe I just love/hate it. Though I guess when one of the seminal works of lesbian fiction is called The Well of Loneliness, this sort of thing is bound to happen.

Dara Nai: I have two; one bad, and one good. First, The Self-Mind Fuck: Lesbian characters do way-hay too much over-thinking, brooding, obsessing and staring pensively off into the distance for my taste. Stop being such a drip. It’s boring. But then, there’s the Lesbians with Amazingly Cool Jobs: This is one trope I actually love. Because as you know, all lesbians are doctors, writers, artists, models, thieves, entrepreneurs, real (or pseudo, if you’re Gia) florists, and witches. We are one smart, creative bunch. Yay us! Oh, and one more thing. Regarding artsy lesbian sex scenes: Let’s call a moratorium on all close-ups of a hand, gripping the sheets in a fist, shall we? Thank you.

Lucy Hallowell: I hate the over-the-top homophobic guy. It’s almost always some dude who makes an obnoxious/crass/are you kidding me with this comment about how two girls in bed must be boring/no fun/pointless without a guy and how it’s not really sex blah blah blah. I’m not saying that homophobia is never blatant, or ugly, or that this stuff doesn’t get said in real life but honestly, the exaggerated, homophobic, villain guy has got to go.

Sarah Terez Rosenblum: The idea that lesbians giggle a lot during or after sex — this to me suggests that lesbian sex is just another girly bonding activity like shopping or stopping at Pinkberry. Exhibit A: Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone‘s sex scene in If These Walls Could Talk Two. Of course sex can be (I shiver at the word) fun, but I just think there’s a way the giggly-sex-lesbian cliche minimizes the power of lesbian sex.

Punky Starshine: I’m over the “two girls in a relationship is so SCANDALOUS” deal. I want (good) movies without a Big Lesbian Storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I think coming out stories (when done well) are EXTREMELY extremely extremely important and I never want them to go away. If it weren’t for Spencer Carlin’s, I might still be closeted myself. And I think it’s easier for TV shows because they can do the Big Lesbian Storyline but then drop it and ease their characters into regular life (i.e. Emily Fields). But I want movies about two women in a relationship without them being Movies About Two Women In A Relationship. I don’t want to see the women coming to terms with their queerness, I want it to have happened before the timeline of the movie. I want Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Friends With Benefits, but I want the two main characters to be women. Heck, Mila Kunis can even still be in it.

Elaine Atwell: The cliche that bothers me the most is the dreadful angsty acoustic girl soundtracks that all sound like they’re from 1996. I think that may be because a lot of directors came out during that time and have fond memories of it, but the only instance it was ever acceptable was Better Than Chocolate. The most egregious offenders in this category (and many categories) are Room in Rome and Elena Undone.

“Should I put on some Corday?”

Ali Davis: Can we get rid of the Angry Humorless Lesbian from both lesbian movies and mainstream movies? This 2-D character always seems to suggest that activists and activism are zero fun and, worse, implies that being emotionally damaged turns you queer. Plus, on whom is she based? All the lesbians I know are hilarious. Maybe I’m just hanging around with the right people.

Grace Chu:The Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss. From tvtropes.com:

Often classified as Fanservice or Fetish Fuel, this is mostly just a Ratings Stunt, calculated to get more viewers while creating a manageable amount of blowback from the Moral Guardians, who, while generally disapproving of lesbianism, have a sufficient Double Standard concerning depictions of male and female homosexuality that they generally save their outrage for, you know, serious dangers to society, like Dogma or Brokeback Mountain

The more flagrant examples were those portrayed in L.A. Law, The O.C., Ally McBeal, Desperate Housewives, Friends, Dirt and Heroes. Fortunately, since actual storylines that feature long-lived lesbian relationships have become more common on prime time TV, the Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss has lost its OMG factor and is going the way of the dodo.

Karman Kregloe: I find it really annoying when the rare film with an actual lesbian couple trots out a man for one of them to have an affair with or leave their female partner for altogether. Sure, it happens in real life. But it happens disproportionately in film. I liked The Kids Are All Right, but I didn’t want to. In fact, I almost didn’t see it because I knew this was a plot point. Lesbians cheat, just like everyone else. So if there must be a cheating storyline in the film, why not show the woman cheating with another woman? At least I’ll enjoy watching the illicit sex scene!

Erika Star: The Shane archetype. You know the one, the stylish and suave, leather-clad, brooding lady-killer that recruits the straight ladies and steals your girlfriend. Let’s be real, reinforcing the predatory lesbian stereotype just serves to remind us how painfully uncool and awkward real lesbian dating is. And, for me, how powerless I am against their swagger. I’ll feel much safer once they stop being so hot and start wearing rainbow RECRUITER shirts instead.

Jill Guccini: OK, so I’ve been pondering on my own thoughts about this for a day or so and I’m afraid no matter what I say it will be problematic and/or just sound really pervy, but I WANT BETTER LESBIAN SEX. This is how, with the very few exceptions, I see lesbian sex on screen: 1) one lady descends below the belt of another lady and that’s all we see; 2) they are both standing up and one lez does something indeterminate with her hands. THAT’S ALL, FOLKS! I mean, I know we can’t necessarily get porn on our TVs or anything, and sure, those are two ways to have sex, but personally I feel like one of the best things about being a queer is that there are SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS WE CAN DO! I said this is problematic because the truth is, of course, there are so many different things ALL sexualities can do, gay or straight or anywhere in between, and that’s not shown on TV either, so really everybody gets screwed (har har) in this aspect. But seriously, I feel like lesbians in particular have A LOT OF FUN OPTIONS. I want to see exploration of that, and the fact that partners can like different things (INCLUDING the fact that not being overly sexual can ALSO be part of your sexuality), and ALSO the fact that sex can often be funny and awkward and hilarious at the same time that it’s great. Not awkward and sad and rapey a la Girls but awkward and FUNNY. (Although I do give Girls props for inching closer to reality in sex, generally.) I just want more weird and diverse sex, OK, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

Trish Bendix: I, for one, am totally a fan of the “discerning indie/retro soundtrack” cliche — that’s one thing even some of the worst lesbian films having going for them. But in terms of what cliche I find so tiring, I have to go with The Predatory Lesbian. She’s conniving and creepy and all she wants is to get you in bed, then your life is just fucked because she’s not the relationship kind, no matter how beautiful she may be. If I have to trick you into sleeping with me, then I don’t think it’s going to work out well for either of us — like one of us is going to end up dead. As seen in Chloe, My Summer of Love, Cracks, The Moth Diaries, most vampire films.

What lesbian film cliche are you so over?

 
 

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