Topic: Mistress and Tee Present: LGBTs in Horror
Yes, you read that right – Mistress and Tee have returned! It's been two years (!) since we last collaborated, and we've climbed out of the dungeon to talk about something you don't hear discussed all that frequently in horror circles: Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transgenders (if you don't know the difference between those last two, don't worry – we're getting there).
Horror, many times, seems to be the exclusive playground of heterosexuals. Oh, sure, we can't ignore the occasional bi-curious, recreational lesbianism that occurs every so often, but that is predominately used for titillation (Editorial note: We love puns). The thing is, LGBT people and themes have been in horror pretty much from the start.
James Whale, director of Frankenstein (1931), was not only gay, he was openly gay. If you were born in the last twenty years or so, you probably don't think that's a big deal, but stepping out of the closet before then turned a lot of heads. Fast-forward fifty years (which speaks volumes by itself) to the Eighties, and we have Tom DeSimone, director of Hell Night and Clive Barker who, if you're on this site, needs no introduction. Anthony Perkins, best known for portraying Norman Bates, also came out, which has since led to no small number of fans inexplicably assuming that, because the actor Anthony Perkins is gay, the character of Norman Bates must also have been. Our best guess is that these same people also make a point of never solving a Rubik's Cube near Doug Bradley, lest he drag them off to hell.
There have always been those folks who remain on the lookout for allegedly gay themes in films, ever-vigilant against the encroaching so-called “homosexual agenda.” Bride of Frankenstein was probably the first film to get called out and, many decades later, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, met the same fate. To be fair, they were both pretty homoerotic but (and this is the important part) THAT'S OKAY! Horror plays on themes that make the general population uncomfortable, and little else makes the general population more uncomfortable than homosexuality. Of course, when we say “homosexuality”, we're talking about man/man homosexuality – lesbianism is viewed through a different lens.
When the character of Theodora appeared in The Haunting (1963), not much of a fuss was raised. American society has tolerated homosexuality between two women far more than between two men. Unfortunately, the desire by many viewers to watch “two chicks get it on” turned lesbianism in horror mainly into a male spectator sport, with films such as May being one of the rare exceptions.
Who do studios turn to when they wish to seem accepting of gays, but are too squeamish to simply have gay characters? Bisexuals to the rescue! Not even actual bisexuals since, in most cases, simply androgynous characters (i.e., just about every mainstream vampire film in recent memory) seem to fit the bill. In the defense of all of us who love horror, most of those films aren't really horror films. Middle-school level “romance” stories with a couple vampires thrown on top don't actually qualify as horror.
When it comes to characters flexible in their sexuality, real horror (which is to say, films that are attempting to actually be horrifying) do a better job. Leatherface, from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only had a wig, he had an “Old Lady” mask and a “Pretty Woman” mask – made from actual human faces.
Leatherface | Lame vampires
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A man who dresses in women's clothing (and...uh...skin, we guess) is a transvestite. The reverse is also true; a woman who dresses in men's clothing is also a transvestite, although many times the better term in either case is “cross-dresser.” We've linked bisexuals and transvestites together explicitly to point out that the two are not necessarily related! Buffalo Bill, from The Silence of the Lambs was portrayed as both, but Leatherface was not. The important thing, and the thing that horror films have more or less nailed, is that sex and sexuality are complex and, occasionally, complicated things that can easily turn horrifying.
No article on the subject would be complete without mentioning transgenders in horror. Lana Wachowski (who wrote for both the Hellraiser and Nightbreed comics) was formerly half of the famed “Wachowski Brothers” prior to her gender reassignment surgery. The films, “Victim” and “The Skin I Live In” (or “La Piel Que Habito”), take a more...uh...forceful approach to the subject. Angela, from “Sleepaway Camp”, is somewhat more restrained version – and it was released in 1983.
Where does this leave us? Horror, for as much as some people think it all to be trite nonsense, has actually been well ahead of the curve in regards to LGBT, both in front of the camera as well as behind it. So the next time you're watching a horror movie with a friend and he turns to you and says, “Man, that's so gay!”, you'll be able to turn back to him and say, “Yup, it sure is” (and then you can go out and get a better class of friend.)
Last edited by TeeSeeBee (2013-06-04 02:10:44)