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10 Lowlights For LGBT People and the Movies in 2013

By Toby Ashraf, Judith Dry, Peter Knegt, Matthew Hammett Knott, Sophie Smith and Erin Whitney | /Bent December 30, 2013 at 10:50AM

Two weeks ago, this column reflected on the many positive reasons that 2013 was a landmark year for queer cinema and queers in cinema. In the spirit of community, we opened things up to a half-dozen or so contributors, asking them for some of their own personal highlights in that regard. Well, as things go, for every step forward there's usually a couple steps back. So once again we asked around -- this time about some of the things folks weren't so appreciative of when it came to queers and the movies this past year.
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Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster’s "coming out speech"
Note the scare quotes. The Golden Globes took a turn for the unexpected when Jodie Foster decided to use her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award to allude to her sexuality for the first time in public. I am not here to criticize the content of her speech, nor her decision to make it. I am glad for anyone whom it inspired or enlightened. And yet, in every word and gesture, Foster made it clear that this was not an “announcement” she ever wanted to make. “I already did my coming out about 1,000 years ago” she explained, “gradually and proudly to everyone [I] actually met”. At best a reconciliation, at worst an admission of defeat, it came after decades of the actress contending with a media that required her to define her sexuality in a way that did not suit or appeal to her. This is not about feeling sorry for Jodie Foster, the Oscar-winning multi-millionaire. But if this is how our culture captures and displays its “positive gay role models”, I think I’m good with Alexander the Great. [Matthew Hammett Knott]

The Lesbian Whitewashing of "Saving Mr Banks"
I can’t be the only person who would have happily replaced one of those interminable flashback scenes of drunk n’ crazy Colin Farrell with a moody sequence concerning, say, P. L. Travers’ torrid affair with the American Jessie Orage. There are those who would say the fact that the Mary Poppins author had significant relationships with women throughout her life is entirely irrelevant to the story of Disney’s fraught adaptation of her most famous novel. And yet the entire narrative of "Saving Mr Banks" was supposedly concerned with "Disneyfication" - that is, the bland homogenization of a spiky personal narrative to prepare it for commercial consumption. There are numerous compelling ways that Travers’ unorthodox sexuality could have been used to illustrate just what made her so uncomfortable with handing over her personal history to this hideously heteronormative storytelling machine. But I’m not sure what I expected from the studio whose idea of overtly gay characters are Timon and Pumba. [Matthew Hammett Knott]

"Passion"
"Passion"

"Passion"
Just when you thought Vito Russo’s "Celluloid Closet" might be nothing but a historical document, here comes Brian de Palma’s train wreck of a film called "Passion," which yet again features a powerful seducer whose sexuality is linked to her inevitable punishment. Apart from the usual sexism (women fight each other over men and power), de Palma pulls another ugly rabbit out his cliché hat, namely the lesbian side kick Dani, played by German actress Karoline Herfurth. Her open lesbian identity can be used to blackmail her (sexual assault), laugh at her (she is in love with her boss and makes a pass) and must be punished eventually. Her motivation - jealousy, unrequited love and revenge logically lead to her death. The only upside of this: hardly anyone has seen the film... [Toby Ashraf]

The Sex Scenes in "Blue Is the Warmest Color"
Watching Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) voraciously lust after one another in "Blue Is The Warmest Color," I felt more of a voyeur than an empathizer -- I didn’t see myself, or any sense of a woman, in them. They didn’t look at each other during sex, they didn’t talk or whisper or giggle (it was Adèle’s first time, why wasn’t she nervous?). Most importantly, they hardly even kissed during the first nearly-15-minute sex scene, and if you’re as passionate and lustful as those two you’d definitely be kissing. None of their sex scenes (except maybe the last when they finally interact as a couple) felt like two women making love, but more so like two heterosexual women acting out a male’s aestheticized lesbian fantasy. Their sex, which should more accurately be called endless-ass-slapping-sessions, doesn’t play as something performed for a queer audience, by a queer audience, or to depict queer people. Just as Joachim, the gallery owner in the film, says that men’s ecstasy is shown via women in art, the sex scenes in “Blue” are merely Abdellatif Kechiche’s ecstasy shown through his actresses. “Men try desperately to depict it,” Joachim says of mystery of the female orgasm. Sorry Kechiche, but even after nearly 20 minutes of sex scenes, you didn’t quite hit the mark. [Erin Whitney, who had nice things to say about the film too]