Why queer cinema’s obsession with youth needs addressing
The last couple of years has greeted us with a new wave of queer cinema, one that seemingly promises to strive for better representation of LGBTQ characters.
Hits such as Call Me Be Your Name, Beach Rats, and Love, Simon are lapped up by the mainstream, and the ever so comely boys that experience a lifetime of heartbreak and love in just a few hours, swiftly become Hollywood’s latest obsession.
While the success of these films deserve to be celebrated, their progressiveness is stunted, because all of these titles are driven by one similar focus. Youthfulness.
Centred around the lives of troubled teens, protective parents, and often confined to the classroom, queer films are becoming an extension of the coming-of-age genre.
Take, for example, Love, Simon. The film begins with a closeted school kid falling in love with an anonymous online character. As the film reaches the end, Simon comes out and experiences his first kiss with a boy. Just as we get to the equilibrium, the credits begin to play. We don’t get to see what happens next. Does Simon lose his virginity? Does his relationship struggle when he moves to college? Does he experience heartbreak?
The same goes for the film Beach Rats – whose unsatisfying ending, however poignant, leaves us with more questions than we had at the beginning.
Then, of course, there’s Call Me By Your Name. Arguably one of the biggest queer films in recent years, and a beautiful depiction of self-acceptance. But the movie’s ending coincides with the end of summer, and more devastatingly, the end of Elio and Oliver. We don’t get chance to see what follows from Elio’s first sexual encounter with a guy. Does he just sit by the fireplace mourning for eternity?
This hybrid gay-coming-of-age genre presents itself as an answer to proper LGBTQ representation but consequently leaves out those over the ripe age of 20. In other words, it’s premature.
Homosexuality doesn’t end when high school does. Our existence does carry on, we don’t graduate and then slip into a void of non-existence, and our coming-out is the very start of our story – not the end.
This is not to besmirch these types of films. It’s clear they serve a purpose to the people who are currently at that stage of life. But we also need films to push past that chapter and represent older LGBTQ characters.
Ideal Home – a comedy starring Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd – does exactly that, and it’s refreshing to see an older same-sex couple at the crux of the story.
Despite the film’s heavy criticism for playing up to the ‘stereotypical’ camp guy – most likely written by someone with Masc4Masc in their dating app bio – it’s one of the few films I’ve seen to feature gay character’s who have long left their teenage years.
It dares to suggest that queer people don’t have an expiration date and explores themes that many older people within the LGBTQ community can relate to. Having sex, having children, breaking-up, getting back together, being successful in your work, throwing parties, ageing, and perhaps the most under-represented theme of all – dealing with homophobia outside the classroom.
When more films begin to include these characters, only then can we truly appreciate and celebrate how far queer cinema has come.