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Gay Images in Film: A BRIEF HISTORY - INCLUDES PICTURES


Metropolisforever
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Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality. Arguably, the first gay film was the Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894). In his book The Celluloid Closet (1981), film historian Vito Russo discusses the film, claiming, without attribution, that it was titled The Gay Brothers. Russo's unsupported naming of the film has been adopted widely online and in at least three books, and his assertions that the film's content is homosexual are frequently echoed. In addition to there being no evidence for the title Russo gives the film, in fact the word "gay" was not generally used as a synonym for "homosexual" at the time the film was made. There is also no evidence that Dickson intended to present the men?presumably employees of the Edison studio?as a romantic couple. Given the lyrics of the song Dickson plays, which describes life at sea without women, it is most plausible that he intended a joke about the virtually all-male environment of the Black Maria. Still, this may be seen as one of the earliest examples of same-sex imagery in the cinema. An excerpt of the film is included in the documentary based on Russo's book, also titled The Celluloid Closet (1995).

 

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Of course, porn films have ALWAYS been around. In the old days, they were called "stag films". These films were often filled with perversion. In fact, many of them are probably illegal in most states. The films also frequently included homosexual imagery.

 

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Another early (non-pornographic) gay film was the French film L'?clipse du soleil en pleine lune (The Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and the Moon) (1907). In this film, an effeminate moon and devilish sun begin flirting until the sun moves up behind the moon, whose face now suggests an ****. As they part, both look exhausted.

 

This film is famous for its suggestive eclipse scene. Homosexual caricatures or not, the shot of the sun and the moon is a sex scene without the sex.

 

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Gay imagery was VERY common in the silent era and pre-Code era. Dozens and dozens of gay films were released.

 

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In 1922, the MPAA was founded.

 

In 1930, the MPAA adopted the "Production Code".

 

In 1934, the MPAA established the "Production Code Administration," which required all filmmakers to obtain a certificate of approval before they could release their movie. In order to receive a certificate, the movie had to be free of "excessive or lustful kissing," any references to "sex perversion" (e.g. homosexuality) and any depiction of childbirth, among other things. However, many gay films were released WITHOUT Code approval. Also, many films had homosexual content, but were approved anyway.

 

Arguably, Bringing Up Baby (1938) was the first work of fiction, aside from pornography, to use the word "gay" in a homosexual context. Robert Chapman's The Dictionary of American Slang reports that the adjective "gay" was used by homosexuals, among themselves, in this sense since at least 1920. Donald Webster Cory writes in The Homosexual in America (1951):

 

"Psychoanalysts have informed me that their homosexual patients were calling themselves gay in the nineteen-twenties, and certainly by the nineteen-thirties it was the most common word in use by homosexuals themselves."

 

Donald Webster Cory wrote that it was such an insiders' term that "an advertisement for a roommate can actually ask for a gay youth, but could not possibly call for a homosexual." According to Vito Russo, the script actually had David (Grant) saying, in an attempt to explain why he is wearing Susan's marabou-trimmed negligee, "I... I suppose you think its odd, my wearing this. I realize it looks odd... I don't usually... I mean, I don't own one of these." However Grant ad-libbed his own line, "Because I just went gay all of a sudden." Vito Russo had pointed out that this was an indication that people in Hollywood, at least in Grant's circles, were already familiar with the slang connotations of the word. However, neither Grant himself, who was rumored to be bisexual, nor anyone involved in the film ever confirmed this. The term "gay" did not become widely familiar to the general public until the Stonewall riots in 1969.

 

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Kenneth Anger was another gay film director. One of America's first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner, Kenneth Anger occupies an important place in the history of experimental filmmaking. His role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate. Kenneth Anger was arrested on obscenity charges following the release of Fireworks (1947). The case went to the California Supreme Court, which declared the film to be art. His film Scorpio Rising (1964) was censored for indecency, and the case went to the Supreme Court, where it was decided in Anger's favor. Some early Kenneth Anger works never made it to the controversial screening stage because negatives were confiscated and destroyed by self-policing labs to which he had sent film for processing. Conversely, other viewers were overly appreciative of Anger's eroticism, pirating and showing his films in nightclubs.

 

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Flaming Creatures (1963) is the name of a small experimental film produced in the USA in the early 1960s by Jack Smith. Due to its surreal, graphic depiction of sexuality, the film was seized by the police at its premiere, and was officially determined to be obscene by an NY Criminal Court. The 45-minute featurette attracted media and public attention, and has been described as a "controversial featurette". This also made Jack Smith famous as a film director across North America. Smith himself described the film as "a comedy set in a haunted music studio." The film features an array of transvestites, hermaphrodites, drag shows, a sexually ambiguous vampire, a drug **** and a well-built cunnilingual rapist. Sexual ambiguity is a prominent visual theme, which is particularly shown by overlapping images of flaccid **** and breasts.

 

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In 1964, the Production Code was revised to allow for "tasteful references to homosexuality."

 

In 1966, Jack Valenti became president of the MPAA, and faced scrutiny from civil rights, gay rights and youth movements. In fact, the MPAA STILL faces scrutiny from civil rights, gay rights and youth movements.

 

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As the swinging sixties drew to a close, the Hays Code was a badly beaten relic of a bygone era. In an attempt to please conservatives and liberals, the industry introduced movie ratings with the perspective that adults shouldn't be told what is and is not permissible in movies. Instead, the rating for each film would let parents decide for themselves what their families should see, and some films would be considered off limits for children entirely.

 

In 1969, the X-rated gay movie Midnight Cowboy won Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It is the only X-rated film to ever receive an Oscar. A year after its initial release, the film was re-submitted to the MPAA without any changes, and received an R rating. Although, the MPAA claims that it was "edited for re-rating".

 

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Cross-dressing has always been a popular topic in comedy. Some classic examples include Bringing Up Baby, Some Like It Hot, and Tootsie.

 

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In modern times, gay imagery in film is extremely common. There are entire festivals dedicated to gay movies. There are entire gay channels. However, gay films are still protested by conservative groups, and the MPAA still faces scrutiny for being "unfair" towards gay films.

 

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There is still a lot of stuff that I haven't talked about. This post could go on forever, but I'm going to stop it here.

 

Message was edited by: Metropolisforever

 

Message was edited by: Metropolisforever

 

Message was edited by: Metropolisforever

 

Message was edited by: Metropolisforever

 

Message was edited by: Metropolisforever

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This is my third time to sign off as I am not feeling well but I keep seeing things to resond to. I find this intereting. On the Here network Friday of this past week they gave a list of their new film for the week. One is called **** Promo and gave an hour's worth of the original trailers of films depcicting gay characters. Well here is where I hit the floor, Wings the very first Best Pic Winner had a gay theme. I had no idea. And still don't know how accurate that it, as I wonder if people were trying to put something there that is not really there. But as a gay man, or any man, one can not deny the one element of homosexaulaity which was very evident, allowing kissing and the words, of course they were printed since it is a silent, where one declares his love for the other. And this was not a brotherly love. I had no idea this was part of Wings. Wow. I guess we were flying way before those monkeys and tornados in Kansas. Good thread. Thanks.

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