Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Film: Bodycount

Since Philadelphia there have been, by my count, 257 Academy Award-nominated portrayals of heterosexual characters, and 23 of gay, bisexual or transsexual characters. Of the heterosexual characters, 16.5% (59) die. Of the LGBT characters, 56.5% (13) die. Of the 10 LGBT characters who live, only four get happy endings. That's four characters in 19 years. Behind the Candelabra won't be eligible for any Academy Awards due to its cable TV distribution, but it's keeping Oscar's kill-the-gays mentality alive and kicking. Or rather, dying and haemorrhaging.
Whether it's suicide, Aids (a particularly maudlin Ed Harris performance in The Hours employs both), being beaten to death, state execution, getting shot, or getting raped and then shot, LGBT characters are just not allowed the happy endings that their straight counterparts enjoy. My personal favourite comes from A Single Man, in which Colin Firth simply drops dead for no reason. Presumably overwhelmed by sheer homosexuality, his heart can no longer keep beating. Beware, non-heterosexuals: Sudden Gay Death Syndrome can strike anywhere...

James Rawson writing for the Guardian Film blog

Vito Russo's 1981 book, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality In The Movies - genuinely groundbreaking, seminal etc etc - ended with a "Necrology" of over 30 gay characters on film and how they died.
Hollywood's clearly come a long way, eh?


  1. Yeah I think a sensible analysis of how LGBT people are portrayed in films should be focused entirely on how many of them get rose-tinted happy endings.

    In other news I'm currently watching the 1985 Patsy Cline biopic and at least she dies in a plane crash so hip hip hooray for equality.

  2. Not fair and not accurate about A Single Man.

    The Colin Firth character doesn't 'drop dead for no reason' - it's flagged early on that he has a medical condition which could kill him at any time. In the film, he finally finds love after years of cruising and grief for his previous partner, then ironically dies just as his life begins again.

    There's nothing homophobic in the movie - it treats the three central gay characters very sympathetically.

    Otherwise, a good article.