Gay and Lesbian film: The Birdcage, The Business of Fancydancing. But classical Hollywood cinema? I thought they were all about the ideal society, where men work and lead the household, while the innocent women raise the kids and cook. Apparently, there actually was homosexuality to be found in older films, and a lot more than I had ever expected or imagined.
However, this homosexuality, as per movie industry regulations, had to be subtle, in secrecy, and often only detected at the time by those who were seeking homosexuality–gays and lesbians themselves. It went by often unnoticed, or in fact humored upon. A very funny scene of this subtle humor can be found in the last scene of Some Like It Hot, in which Joe E. Brown seems to be okay with the fact that the woman he’s fallen in love with is actually a man.
In addition, many instances in which gay men were shown in classical Hollywood film involved the “sissy,” or the effeminate man who clearly went against the ideal man of the first half of the twentieth century. Although this was and still may be a very comical character, it slowly demoralized and degraded the self-esteem of those viewers who were truly gay, because it portrayed them as something less than normal; a people to be ridiculed.
Watching The Celluloid Closet and hearing the guest speakers commentate on the true impact of classical Hollywood films opened my eyes to an entirely different view of the humor that I had never thought about in a criticizing manner. I realized because almost every instance or mention of homosexuals in older films involved humor and ultimately ridicule, it only served to instill fear and resent into the already closeted and embarrassed gay population of the time.
Nevertheless, in today’s world, homosexuality is becoming increasingly acceptable, and so it seems to me that gay humor now may not be quite as malevolent or alienating as it used to be, since there is less to worry about, so to speak, today. I know for sure that one of my gay friends is fine laughing at his own sexuality, because it’s ultimately about confidence; as any people are more socially accepted, they become more confident, and are more comfortable with laughing at themselves.