Is it problematic that most LGBTQ+ films are sad?

Faye Navesey explores why its so important LGBTQ+ films don't all end with misery

Faye Navesey
21st June 2020
Image Credit: IMDB
The increased popularity of films centring on the LGBTQ+ community is a huge sign of hope that attitudes are changing. However, whilst many of these films portray the community realistically, the overwhelming amount of films that end tragically call into question, is this an accurate depiction of LGBTQ+ experiences?

There is no doubt that for some films a sad ending is inevitable due to the incredible suffering that some LGBTQ+ people have, and continue to face in society. For example, films set in the past are limited in their scope for a happy ending because that just wouldn’t be realistic because of the harsh criminalisation of our community.

More films should celebrate the incredible achievements of members of the community throughout the years

However, there is a fine line between realistic and downright patronising. Certain films, often made by straight and cisgender people, portray LGBTQ+ life as an unending chain of misery and persecution that defines the characters entire lives. And whilst it is no secret that discrimination is a part of life for the community, it is highly problematic to depict the entire lives of LGBTQ+ people this way as it not only shows them as passive victims in their own stories but also sends a message to young people questioning their sexuality that it is not something to be celebrated but something that is simply going to cause them pain.

Marsha P. Johnson in The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Image Credit: IMDB

This isn’t to say that all of these films have to end happily, but in a time where we pride ourselves on the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights wouldn’t it be refreshing to see more celebratory films about some of the many heroes of our community like Marsha P. Johnson.

In short, sad LGBTQ+ films aren’t inherently bad but like all films, they should listen to the community they represent. Instead of straight people deploying tired cliches about life as a member of the community, LGBTQ+ creators with realistic depictions should be promoted and more films should celebrate the incredible achievements of members of the community throughout the years.

After all, if there are hundreds of heteronormative love stories with happy endings released every year then don't we deserve the same opportunity to see ourselves represented in these kinds of films?

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