You’d think as a gay horror blogger, I’d have a lot to say about how gay men are portrayed in the genre. And sure, there are terribly cliché characters and some negative portrayals, but on the whole I think gays are actually represented fairly well. Especially in horror and especially now in the modern age.
So why don’t I feel the same about horror and lesbians?
For a while now, I’ve had a running list of lgbtq villains that can be found within the horror genre. And with each set of films I’ve never seen before, that list just keeps growing. But imagine my surprise… or maybe just more of a sad confirmation… that in the whole of queer villainy, lesbians and bisexual women seem to get the worst representations?
As I said, this may not be as surprising as it is expected. From questionable noir femme fatales to unattainable lesbians and bisexual lolitas, openly queer female characters have almost always been easier to have on screen than queer male characters. More acceptable, if you will. And while you may say this is a good thing, a championing of character diversity, it can honestly be bad when you take into account how the character – and in the grand design of cinema, all similar characters – are depicted.
Think now about a horror/scifi/dark drama flick that contains a lesbian character… Now think; is she cast in a good light? Is she an accurate portrayal of a true queer woman, or is she just an exaggerated caricature?
Much more often than not, the lesbian/bi character in horror/genre films is depicted as such in one of three cliche tropes. 1) She’s aggressively sex driven – desiring women but willing to sleep with men to further her agenda. 2) She’s batshit crazy – clingy, sociopathic, unstable, obsessive, delusional, or at least very socially awkward. Or 3) She’s a batshit crazy sex kitten – an object to be desired and feared.
It was actually more modern films that really got me thinking about these poor depictions of lbq women in horror. Nurse 3D, All Cheerleaders Die, Proxy, Contracted, and Breaking the Girls all came out in 2013. Jack & Diane, Hostel 2, High Tension, May, and Sick Girl (a Masters of Horror episode) all came out in the years before… And all feature lesbian characters in one of the three ways mentioned above.
None of the women is in a stable, loving relationship. None of them are what you could consider “heroic”. Hell, even lesbian background characters aren’t safe from these cliches. Take for instance the movie Grace, a mad mom and blood-thirsty baby flick. In it, a natural-birthing midwife (already a secondary character) has a girlfriend whose jealousy issues only serve to set-up bad circumstances later on in the film.
Even psychological and erotic thrillers follow this poor form. Basic Instinct, Mulholland Drive, Chloe, Passion, and even to an extent The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo all represent their lbq women as women who have serious mental and behavioral issues. Outcasts, crazies, and vile temptresses all around.
Modern films obviously aren’t solely to blame for such poor character portrayals. Even older genre choices are guilty. Those 70’s vamp films many of us love, up to The Hunger from 1983, all full of helpless victims and predatory lesbian vampires. You could even wager that Theo’s character in the horror classic (and subsequent remake) The Haunting is only represented, though lightly, as a lesbian-with-issues (past paranormal experiences and insomnia).
And let’s not ignore the films I’ve yet to see, but apparently harbor similar depictions: Cut, Lyle, The Moth Diaries, Baba Yaga… and these are just the ones I have left on my “Bad Lesbians” list!
To see such a long list, almost exclusively of horror films to boot, having something so unfortunate in common makes it hard to see things from any other perspective. It’s hard to say it’s coincidence that these lbq characters are all broken, sad, and dangerous. It’s hard to say that, “Sure, lesbians can be evil too,” when there’s so few lesbian heroes/final girls to balance them out.
It’s definitely time for there to be more Lana Winters for us to rave about. Strong, proud, smart, badass women to fight against the maniac slasher, and against the nonsense tropes and cliches we suffer with now.
It’s time for some good lesbians.