And there is division about what makes characters queer among fans too…
Content note for discussion of bigotry and queermisia throughout the article.
Queer representation often comes under fire. The queer community is loud and proud when it comes to an entertainment world which wants to tell everybody’s stories but theirs. This has become ever more clear recently with Star Wars and Marvel both drawing ire from fans.
There are claims that in Solo: a Star Wars Movie, Lando is pansexual, despite no ‘evidence’ for this being given in the film. Deadpool 2 suffered from similar accusations of queerbaiting (although given the production of the film that may have been the least of Marvel’s worries). Several characters, including the main character, have all been speculated to be queer and yet there has been a complete lack of confirmation on-screen. There’s just enough content to hint at queerness to get an entire community’s hopes off, but not enough content to offend the allocishets.
Hollywood is undoubtedly not doing enough for queer representation, while trying to cash in on the idea it is, in fact, progressive despite doing little to nothing about their own toxic fandoms. However, a central problem is that writers just don’t understand queerness and audiences want different things.
“A central problem is that writers just don’t understand queerness and audiences want different things”
Writing about identities can be that inaccurate that certain marginalised communities might hope their representation is skipped until people actually know what they are doing. This is understandable. Bi, pan and aromantic people have long been portrayed as sex addicts, dangers, perverts and have even had their identities conflated with being psychopathic which veers wildly into ableism. Trans people have also been pathologisied and there is a long history of cis-washing trans roles and getting the writing terribly wrong. There are so many tropes with queer characters it could take until Dumbledore is actually portrayed as gay to finish listing them all.
Yet, how exactly should certain identities be portrayed when it comes to writing? Trans actors should always play trans roles, that is never up for debate. But there are certain identities that have drawn criticism for not being explicit enough. This is a huge worry because creators are inept enough to end up thinking a pan person can only be believed as pan if they try to hook up with everyone on-screen.
Relationships do not always have to be explicit. Same gender relationships are just one element of exploring queerness but actually, it’s really just about identities. Can people say the words they identify as? Are they free to express themselves? Can we have a more nuanced look at queerness rather than swapping out a man loving a woman for a man loving a man?
We don’t always need same-gender relationships and different gender relationships aren’t inherently not queer. What we do need though is a complex look at identities which then influences an entire script, and not just throwaway lines either by the actors in interviews or by production companies. Until Hollywood is actually committed to showing queerness then we aren’t really getting queer representation at all.
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