Who are the most important LGBT characters on screen?
Jax Griffin is the organiser of Bradford’s Drunken Film Festival, and will be showing a special screening of The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert at Delius Artworks, with a party and drag hostess. We asked Jax about the representation of LGBT characters on screen, and she shared her thoughts with us below. Add to this... View Article
Jax Griffin is the organiser of Bradford’s Drunken Film Festival, and will be showing a special screening of The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert at Delius Artworks, with a party and drag hostess.
“As you’ve probably seen by now, my company CameraShy is joining forces with Artworks Creative, LGBT Equity, and Live Cinema to put on an event for LGBT History Month.
We’re all super excited to be screening Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, one of my favourite films, let alone a great LGBT movie.
It got me thinking about representations of LGBT characters in cinema and television. Those characters can sometimes end up being quite flat, defined solely by their sexuality and/or gender or become the butt of the same tired jokes.
So when you see a film with an LGBT character with dimension, it really is something to celebrate.
This is just a short list of a few actors and their characters I think it’s worth mentioning and remembering this month.
John Dall and Farley Granger as Brandon and Philip in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’
Rope (1948) is possibly the earliest portrayal of homosexuality on screen outside of independent and art cinema.
The sexuality of the characters is entirely presumed and largely irrelevant to the plot, though they do appear to be a couple.
Sexuality was not Hitchcock’s interest however – the two characters were modelled after real life murderers Leopold and Loeb, who were a young gay couple that murdered a boy simply because they believed themselves intellectually superior.
It is the portrayal of this aspect of the characters which Rope focuses on, and it is also what makes the film so utterly fascinating.
The audience finds themselves often torn and almost convinced of their motives before reason takes back over and you are once again disgusted by their murderous actions.
It’s also important to note that their malevolent behaviour is never linked either implicitly or explicitly to their sexual orientation. It is merely an aspect of their being.
John Inman as Mr. Humphries in ‘Are You Being Served?’
John Inman is an incredibly important figure in LGBT media representations. His character of Mr. Humphries was one of the first gay characters in mainstream television in the UK or USA. Though this was never openly stated, it was a generally accepted facet of his character.
Despite this obstacle, the character of Mr. Humphries is one of the favourites from the classic show, which first aired in 1972. To put that in perspective, homosexuality was only legalised in the United Kingdom in 1967.
Mr. Inman bravely helped pave the way for today’s youth to be able to live a life of freedom – a life which, for a large portion of his own time, he was denied.
John Barrowman as Captain Jack in ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’
John Barrowman’s portrayal of Captain Jack is interesting for two reasons.
First, the character is pansexual, which immediately stands out as unique in terms of characterisation, particularly for the mainstream media.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the first appearance of the character is on a children’s television show.
While Torchwood was designed for slightly older audiences, Doctor Who has been a staple children’s show on the BBC since the 60s.
By having an interesting, complex character with an alternative sexuality, Doctor Who promotes equality to one of the most important audiences – youth.
Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in ‘Orange is the New Black’
As the most current person in this listing, Laverne Cox made waves very recently by becoming the first openly transgendered person ever to be nominated for an Emmy.
Nominated for her role as a guest actress in Orange is the New Black in 2014, she became a series regular.
Distributed via Netflix, OITNB is one of the most popular tv shows currently airing.
Cox’s character is also a transgendered woman, bringing trans issues into the open on mainstream media.
Hollywood still has a long way to go, but Laverne Cox is paving the way to a more open and accepting industry.
There are so many more actors worth mentioning, but in an effort to be brief I’ll stop here.”
LGBT film in Bradford
Bradford is lucky enough to be getting amazing screenings of some of the best of LGBT cinema this month.
Aside from the screening of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, there will be screenings of Carol, with a powerhouse performance by Cate Blanchett, Paris Is Burning – which is the definitive drag documentary – and many more events scheduled throughout the month of February.”