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By Kevin Nelson · June 6, 2022
Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor and commemorate the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, which began on June 28th, 1969, and became the tipping point for the Gay Liberation movement in America. Although we still have a long way to go, it’s important to acknowledge how far we’ve come. So, let’s take a moment to highlight the films and TV series that celebrate the queer community.
Depictions of queer and trans people in film have been around since the birth of the industry but were often hidden and coded to avoid censorship or discrimination. The Hays Code was adopted in 1930 by the film industry, which sought to regulate the morality of the masses by prohibiting profanity, nudity, violence, and perhaps the most damning “sin” of all: being gay.
Of course, this was all nonsense — but it helped keep the LGBTQ+ community in the shadows and without proper representation on the screen for over 30 years. It wasn’t until the 70s that queer camp began to make waves with filmmakers like John Waters and films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Today, series like Crush, Stranger Things, and Atypical, along with films like Billy Eichner’s upcoming Bros have shifted the perception of the LGBTQ+ community by simply portraying us as humans with emotions, like everyone else — and it feels good to see normality in our representation instead of reliving trauma or being the butt of a joke.
When my niece showed me the young teen show Julie and the Phantoms in 2020, I couldn’t help but finally feel like I was seeing myself depicted properly on the screen. For the first time, I felt seen. I wish I grew up with a show that depicted characters like me, like this. I feel like I would have been much less confused.
So, as we start to see more diverse and inclusive films and TV series, this Pride Month, let’s look at some scripts that showcase all of the beauty that the LGBTQ+ community has to offer.
It was while Steven Canals was studying film at Binghamton University that he saw the documentary Paris is Burning and was astonished that he never heard about the ballroom community, despite growing up in the Bronx in the late 1980s. His father worked around the corner from where the balls took place, yet he never knew they existed. It would be years until it was the right time for this story to be told.
After Canals spent some time working as a staff writer, he began shopping the idea around town. For two and a half years and 166 meetings, he kept getting the same old spiel. It was too queer, too trans, too black and brown. It wasn’t until he met Sherry Marsh that he found someone who would champion the show. One of the things she said to him was, “Timing is everything.”
Marsh learned that Ryan Murphy bought the rights to Paris is Burning and introduced the two. They decided that instead of doing a faithful adaptation of the doc, they’d create an original story with fictional characters.
Pose flawlessly pulls together the perfect balance of camp, powerful performances, and serious DRAMA, much like what the legends of ballroom past, present, and future brought to the floor. Pose is not only centered around members of the LGBTQ+ community in front of the camera, but also created by trans and queer people in all forms of production, including the incredible efforts of activist, writer, director, and producer Janet Mock. Pose rightfully won a whole bunch of awards, including Best Actress Golden Globe for Michaela Jae Rodriguez. You go girl.
Canals told The Hollywood Reporter:
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“I look at Pose as being so much more than just a television show, and it was so much bigger than just my career. To me, it was a form of advocacy. It was a form of allyship, especially to the trans community, coming from a queer cisgender person. And it felt like an opportunity to create a new historical record, a new visual record of what that time period looked like for our community. This was an opportunity for us to not rewrite history but to have that story be told from our own voices.”
Hopefully gone are the days where straight men and women star in roles tailored for LGBTQ+ talent, but if I were to give the pass to anyone — Robin Williams would get one. This film came out at the right time. Most people in America didn’t talk about it. Whereas “coming out” once was used in queer communities to refer to “coming out” to your true self and joining the society of peers found at drag balls, this was the era of keeping the closet door firmly shut. The Birdcage helped start the conversation. The character tries to hide his family’s true nature from a conservative family at the center of the story, and because of its success opened the door for more mainstream representation. It’s about
After a long and storied career of entertaining crowds with improv and stand up, longtime collaborators and former comedic team Elaine May and Mike Nichols got together again to write their first feature script together with The Birdcage, which is the seventh adaptation of La Cage aux Folles, a 1973 French play written by Jean Poiret and Francis Veber.Download the script
Sean Baker always knew he wanted to be a director, so he did everything in his power to achieve that goal. After graduating from NYU, Baker made a name for himself writing, directing, and producing his own independent films. Mark Duplass made an offer to fund one of Baker’s micro-budget films, so after the festival run of his fourth film Starlet, he called Duplass and asked if the offer still stood.
Baker and co-cinematographer Radium Cheung shot the film on three iPhone 5s smartphones. To research for the film, Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch would go to two centers that served the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles, and it was on one of those fateful trips that they met Mya Taylor. Something about her energy was magnetic, and they’d soon meet regularly with Taylor to talk about life as a transgender sex worker.
It wasn’t long before she started bringing her friend Kitana Kiki Rodriguez to meet with the filmmakers. Upon sitting down, Baker was blown away by their chemistry. They have clashing personalities yet are friends, so they complement each other. He knew they found their two leads. It wasn’t until Taylor told them about a story of a trans sex worker who found out their boyfriend cheated on them with a fish (a drag queen that passes as a woman).
Baker knew he found the story.Download the script
Love, Simon is a rom-com written by writing team Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (Showrunners of This Is Us). It was touted as the first major studio romantic comedy about a kid coming out but portrayed a very specific worldview. Much of the criticism the film faced was addressed in the spin-off Hulu series Love, Victor.
Aptaker told ET:
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“He [Simon] was very privileged, he had these incredibly liberal, supportive parents and these friends who he had grown up with and had his back no matter what. That is really just one very aspirational version of a coming out story.”
Drawing from the glam style of 1970s Britain, Richard O’Brien wrote the original play for The Rocky Horror Picture Show to distract himself from his lack of acting work. Since he wrote it for himself, he mashed together all the things he loved — the unintentional comedy found in B movies, melodramatic sincerity, and rock’n’roll.
The show went from underground to selling out worldwide in short order, leading to a feature film that brought back most of the original cast. Tim Curry’s turn as Frank-N-Furter is iconic, sincere, and dazzling. Made even better that he was imitating the Queen’s proper posh accent.Download the script
Baz Luhrman has an impeccable eye for technical details and delivers decadent visual spectacles. As a writer and director, his screenplays are just as technical. Co-written by Craig Pearce, Moulin Rouge! is a great musical about bohemian lovers caught in a love triangle in one of Paris’s hottest cabarets in 1900. What’s not to love?
Cabarets have a long history of being underground safe havens for the LGBTQ+ community, offering a place that commonly features burlesque and drag shows. Perhaps that is why this one resonates so much within the community.Download the script
I didn’t want to include this one but I think it’s historically important. Boys Don’t Cry came out a year after the murder and torture of Matthew Shepard in 1998. It tells the true story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was brutally murdered and sexually assaulted in 1993. Both of these stories were fresh in my mind growing up as a child. I kept my sexuality repressed for years because of cases like these — which by all means are still happening, especially violence against trans people.
This was a time in my young life when the dangers of revealing my sexual identity seemed very real, especially as a child growing up in Florida. The only depictions I saw of people like me were headline tragedies, a part of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, or being the butt of a joke. Boys Don’t Cry put the world into a very real perspective for me, no matter how hard it was to watch.Download the script
Written by writing partners Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana and adapted from Annie Proulx’s short story, Brokeback Mountain may be led by two straight, cis-gendered white males, but it’s an important entry nonetheless.
As much as it’s a film about a gay love affair between two cowboys, it’s also about the homophobia that prevents them from embracing that love. It’s a tragedy brought on by their own toxic masculinity, societal pressure, and familial duties.Download the script
I could provide you with many reasons why Carol is on this list, but the only one that really matters is Cate Blanchett, of course.
Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy wrote the original script when she was hired by producer Dorothy Berwin to adapt Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 semi-autobiographical novel The Price of Salt, which was originally released under the pseudonym Claire Morgan to protect Highsmith’s career from being ruined for writing lesbian romance books. The name of the book was changed to Carol in 1990 when Highsmith decided to republish it under her own name.
Nagy underwent over a decade of rewrites to appease different investors and producers who came and went. Nagy and Berwin had a hard time selling the script because, at the time, a different kind of gay or lesbian movie was being made with a strict agenda. It also didn’t help that the two leads were women. It’d take the industry that long to come around.Download the script
Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is pure visual poetry. His writing does a wonderful job at displaying the internal struggle of a young man grappling with his emotions, as they go against how he was raised to survive in the streets. It’s this conflict of self that really resonates with me.
Read this screenplay if you want to learn how to craft huge moments around subtle exchanges.Download the script
Written and directed by Dee Rees, Pariah tells the story of Alike, a teenager coming to terms with her identity of being lesbian while being raised by a mother who rejects her daughter’s sexuality. In trying to force Alike to wear feminine clothes and attend church, she befriends a girl from Church.
The two begin having a relationship and she finally comes out to her parents, and her mother isn’t supportive. After a huge blowout fight, she tells her father that she’s not running away but choosing to go on her own path. It’s an empowering, hyperrealistic, character-led drama.Download the script
Thelma & Louise is a story about two women who defend each other against the transgressions of men and go on the run together.
Screenwriter Callie Khouri, who was making music videos at the time, was inspired to write the script over six months after the idea struck her while driving home from work. She took inspiration from her friendship with country singer Pam Tillis.
There’s no intimate love affair between Thelma and Louise, but they ultimately decide to die together. There must be some love in that.Download the script
We’ve made a lot of progress toward proper representation of the LGBTQ+ community. As more people assume positions of power, we’ll likely see a vastly different landscape than we see now. The coming out of queer and trans folk in film is an act of liberation and a celebration of the one true thing that matters most in this world, no matter what gender or nongender you choose — love.