Ed’s note: This is a bit of a ramble…think of today’s Taco Break as a bunch of randomized conversation starters on a theme.
Queer film culture has a problem. It is very much aimed at cisgendered gay white men and women. Hell, most of queer culture is aimed at that audience. Let me stop you right there, and I have to say the usual caveats before everybody gets all up in arms about it. There is no problem with being a cisgendered gay white man or woman, and there is no problem with wanting to see yourself on the screen. We are not here to demonize that, as there is a lot of media that I like made by and featuring cisgendered gay white men and women. But, fellow Qs, let’s be honest: that demographic dominates the queer culture that gets made and the queer culture that gets seen. Sure, there are breakout movies like Pariah, Moonlight, and Tangerine. But, for every piece of entertainment that breaks out of the cisgendered gay white demographic, I feel like I see 4 or 5 others that plunk themselves right in the middle of it.
To be fair, there’s a reason for that. Gay white men and women make up a larger demographic of the queers who have money. Especially men. I was recently at a party for moneyed queer film lovers and the demographic was 9/10 gay white men (please to not be speculating which party I was at in the comments). Many of them were quite handsome too *rowr*. But, their demographic domination meant that they were both the funders of and audience for queer entertainment. The question becomes, how do I get an image of myself on the screen if the people with money are not the ones who look like me. In the immortal words of Hooper X, “Screw that “all for one” shit, alright? I gotta deal with being a minority in a minority of the minority, and nobody’s supportin’ my ass.”
A couple weeks before the party, I was having a discussion with a queer PoC filmmaker (who shall remain anonymous) who made a very impressive short film that did not fit neatly into a theme or genre. It was getting placed into festivals around the country, but it kept getting placed into sections like “International” or “Minority” or one specifically aimed at his race. That sort of placement made him feel tokened and not having his film mixed in with other “white” movies made the whole experience feel “othering.” But, to be fair, his film isn’t easily programmed by theme, with a big question surrounding it being “We like this, but where can we put this?”
This filmmaker said he was programmed in a festival where they just had 6 shorts programs that were numbered 1-6. Each program was a grab bag of shorts with a variety of ages, races, themes, genres, and lmoods. It was very randomized, but it put the PoC shorts in with the white shorts, the international with the American, and all of the letters in the quiltbag were jumbled together. This system was very egalitarian, but I have to wonder whether I’d appreciate that as an audience member.
One of my strong feelings as an audience member is that I do not ever need to see another coming out short (in part because I’m an cranky asshole who doesn’t hold youth up as the ultimate in gay beauty or culture). One thing I appreciate, as an audience member, is festivals that separate those particular shorts out and put them somewhere where I don’t need to see 5 of them in every program. And yet, he has a point. I like the idea of an egalitarian system where, if you don’t like this one there’s a new exciting different short just around the corner. But, I’d have to see how it functioned.
As the filmmaker pointed out, the programmers for the festivals are, essentially, some of the “gatekeepers” to queer culture. His film wasn’t punchy enough to become viral and the shorts programs are his best bet at gaining an audience. But, the programmers are beholden to their own limitations. Programmers have to make programs that keep the donors happy (the moneyed crowd, which are usually cisgendered white men), and they are also limited by the shorts that get made (many of which are usually financed by the same moneyed crowd) and the shorts that get submitted to the festivals.
Fellow Qs, we need a wider variety of filmmaking going on. How can we program something if it hasn’t been made? We need more happy lesbian shorts. More shorts from American PoCs. More trans shorts. More variety (especially more good queer horror…please!). The rainbow flag is supposed to show our colors, but its hard to show off our intersectional multitudes when we don’t have enough content to do so in a successful manner.
This is the system we’re in, and the system we need to make our own.