Screened Out, Pt. 1

I watched several of the movies featured on Turner Classic Movies in their Screened Out film festival in June. I also skipped several because, as interesting as the history is, there is only so much you can take of watching negative images. In fact, we were thinking of starting a drinking game for whenever Richard Barrios, author of the book Screened Out that was the basis for TCM’s series and cohost for the movies, would emphasize that “It wasn’t a great movie” or “The images of gays in this film are very negative.”

It was ironic that a festival featured for Pride month would have so little to be proud of. But that’s not really true. The series and Barrios’ book feature films from the pre-Stonewall era, starting with the dawn of motion pictures and ending with the watershed year of the Stonewall riots. The movies here show us where we came from, giving greater significance to where we are now, and that is something to be Proud of.

One point I disagreed with Barrios on was his comment after The Children’s Hour which also seemed to be his message for all these films, that we should “bracket” off this negative portrayal of homosexuality in its historical context, looking at it as an artifact of the past more than as any current reality. I disagree. Those negative portrayals, as hard as they can be to watch, are still very much part of queer life, in part because they reflect attitudes that are still present both in film and real life, but also because, even with the progress we have made, and even as some of the portrayals in the films seem quaintly antiquated, they still form a basis of queer identity even as it rebels against them.

I’m hoping I can make that point clearer as I talk about 3 films from the latter part of the series that made me think. I watched them all in one night, which added to the impact. These were movies from the 1950s and 60s, some of the first that were allowed to directly address the topic of homosexuality but still part of that very different pre-1970 era. They’re reflections of outdated ways of thinking but also contain glimmers of truth and authenticity.

Because this will be long, I decided to break it into separate posts, discussing 3 different movies: Tea and Sympathy, The Children’s Hour, and Staircase.

Update: Tea and Sympathy

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1 Comment

  1. July 13, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    […] Update: Screened Out, Pt. 1  […]


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