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Separating the Gay Degrees of Cher’s Six Films

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‘Cher: The Film Collection’ reveals why she is the greatest gay icon of all time
By Nancy Ford

Perfectly timed to accompany her return to the big screen via Burlesque with Christina Aguilera, Cher: The Film Collection reminds us why Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere continues to captivate us after all these years. Presented as a comprehensive package, the filmography makes evident the bond weaving Cher to the loyal gay audience that has become increasingly committed to her with her every reel.

Take Good Times, Sonny and Cher’s very first film together, shot in 1967. Though not the least bit gay in its premise or presentation, this silly, almost biographical romp marked the directorial debut of William Friedkin, who a few years later directed the controversial gay thriller Cruising.

Then there’s her first dramatic film, Chastity, released in 1969, the same year Cher released that other Chasity, her lesbian daughter who later would become her transgender son. On the run in Mexico, Cher’s character starts working at a lesbian whorehouse, the madam of which is a lesbian who develops a crush on her.

From there, Cher glides comfortably into her role opposite serious actress Meryl Streep in Silkwood (1983), garnering an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of (wait for it…) a lesbian.

Bridging the degrees of gay separation in Cher’s next two movies is a bit of a challenge. True, the connections are buried, but they do exist.

Aside from all that opera, there is no stone-cold direct gay connection in Moonstruck, Cher’s heady masterpiece for which she took home the top actress Oscar for her portrayal of “old maid” Loretta Castorini. But the role had been first offered to, and turned down, by Sally Field, who now plays the biggest gay-supportive mom in television history. That stretch aside, by the time Moonstruck was released in 1987, Cher herself had long been enjoying her status as the ultimate gay icon.

Also in the gay stretch category falls 1990’s Mermaids, directed by Richard Benjamin, who also directed Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which featured a gay racecar driver.

Finally, in Tea with Mussolini (1999), Cher plays opposite Lily Tomlin, whom you may have heard, is a lesbian. For good measure, Tomlin’s Tea character is also a lesbian.

And the circle is complete. The gays are everywhere, and where there is gay, there is Cher. Is it too early to start looking for the gay connection in Burlesque?

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Metro Goldwyn Mayer (mgm.com).

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