Deepha Meta’s Fire was the perfect note to end the course on. In the canon of queer cinema, it could be considered the polar opposite of Brokeback Mountain, sporting a non-western, non-white, lesbian narrative, but at the core of both films relies a conflict stemming from queer characters in a homophobic world. This is the heart of almost all of the films screened in the class, as if that queer sexuality, or perhaps sexuality in general, only breeds conflict. Even if every character in the film is queer, it’s hard to find a story where one’s sexuality is not at the center of plot. (Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends comes close, where class differences create tension, yet Fox’s promiscuity and Max’s infidelity are at the center.)
One part of me hopes for a future of film where the character’s sexuality has nothing to do with the plot, but another part of me thinks doing so would be erasure of their queerness in general. Similar to this hope is the doctrine of neoliberal LGBT thinking, which Lisa Duggan articulates in “The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism.” Queer neoliberals are the self-proclaimed center of queer politics, situated between the extreme left and right, that devalues radical queer theory and traditional heterosexist thinking. She cites Andrew Sullivan, contributor of the Independent Gay Forum (IGF), for articulating that a “homosexual person might be seen as a natural foil to the heterosexual norm, a variation that does not eclipse the theme, but resonate with it” (185). Previously making the analogy to how “albinos remind us of the brilliance of color” as if homosexuality didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the importance of heterosexuality. If a film were to present homosexuality without addressing it, it would be such an extreme universalization where it becomes invisible. I don’t know if their is power in this, or is simply problematic.
Duggan’s piece paints an even bleaker future for LGBTQ+ individuals, illustrating a potential “queer civil war” where political agendas create internal conflict in the fight for queer rights. Homophobia has been so internalized, that it is creating tension within seemingly like-minded individuals. Not only is a heterosexist world against queerness, now, but it might be beginning fight itself. Within the films we’ve watched, this idea of homosexuality as the cause of problems seems to be latent internalized homophobia as well. To create conflicts around sexuality creates accurate depictions and true to life stories, but in retelling similar “messy stories” repeatedly, it reiterates the idea that not much good comes from queerness. While this is problematic, it makes for the most successful films, as the heterosexual majority revels in their beautiful vulnerability of telling queer issues. For homosexuality to be fully embraced and celebrated, it seems that a destigmatized depiction of queer people has to not only be accept by the minority, but by the majority of the heterosexual world.