Queer Representation in Film

By: Taylor Lambert

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Queer representation in film has been a hot topic as of late. Though we have seen increased visibility in recent years, equal representation is still out of reach, especially when harmful tropes such as “the gay best-friend” and “bury your gays”, are still everpresent in film. With an estimated 5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQIA+ according to Gallup 2021, it’s clear that the community only makes up a small percent of the population. 

Though the increased representation may be satisfactory at best, a deeper look shows lack of diversity within this increased visibility. There is a clear absence of female BIPOC,POC (which stands or Black & Indeginous People Of Color and People Of Color), and disabled LGBTQIA+ actresses, and characters in television, with most being able-bodied white men. The underrepresentation these groups face is made worse by the content they are allowed to create when they do show up in film. With most movies involving lesbians being filmed in a sexually-explicit way while most POC are a rarity in general, some would say that the anger surrounding queer representation is valid. 

As previously mentioned, the gay best friend, bury your gays, and dead lesbian syndrome, among others, are a few harmful tropes that plague the LGBTQIA+ community. The gay best friend trope can be seen in shows or movies such as Riverdale and Mean Girls. This trope shows that sexuality is only allowed to exist if it comfortably fits into the “straight world”. This stereotype consists almost solely of gay men in film being white, handsome, well-dressed, sassy, readily available for fashion/relationship advice, and having seemingly no problems of their own. They’re displayed as a sort of a one-dimensional side-kick to the typically straight female lead. 

The “bury your gays” trope is a product of pop culture closely related to “dead lesbian syndrome”. These tropes show the trend in the lack of queer character sand their insanley high death rate in comparison. Commonly the queer characters are killed off in the interest of furthering the straight leading characters’ story line. As of 2016 in about 16 shows, there had been roughly 146 queer TV character deaths and only about 18 couples. These statistics further prove how queer characters face a signficantly higher death rate compared to the number of queer characters. In the past, when more conservative writers were writing shows, they used these tropes to punish queer people for their sinful lives. These tropes also negatively protray queer relationships/lives and insinuates that you can’t be happy or live a long and healthy life if you are queer.

In short, the obstacles and inequality that LGBTQIA+ people in the film industry face is still at an all time high. Though it may seem like the industry will never change, small steps are made everyday to make equality in film a reality. 

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