Important movies that remind us why we care about Pride
It’s about so much more than just beads and beer.
It’s June, and for the LGBT community, that means it’s Pride Month. Summer’s beginning is traditionally observed as the month when the thrust for LGBT equality began in earnest, en masse, with the Stonewall Rebellion. In June 1969, after enduring endless and pointless harassment by police in the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City, their rough little home bar, drag queens, transgender women, butch lesbians, and others fought back. They rioted for three days, setting fires, overturning police cruisers, marching in the streets, and generally causing mayhem that indicated a new day was dawning for the gay community.
The inclusions in 5 Films: The Pride Edition remind us not only of the importance of remembering these brave men and women who took a stand all those years ago, but also that there is much, much work to be done.
Four years before Stonewall Rebellion erupted in New York City, ten brave gay men and women demonstrated silently in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their black-and-white, block-lettered protest signs read: HOMOSEXUAL AMERICANS DEMAND THEIR CIVIL RIGHTS, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS AN INALIENABLE RIGHT FOR HOMOSEXUALS ALSO, and various other direct statements demanding equality. Each July for the next four years, the force grew. By July 4, 1969, one month after Stonewall, 150 people demonstrated at Independence Hall, a considerable number, considering the times. This short documentary introduces us to Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, Lilli Vincenz, Rev. Robert W. Wood, Nancy Tucker, and others, the same small band of buttoned-down rebels who conducted similar protests that year in Washington in front of the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. In 1970, following Stonewall, the Philadelphia march moved to New York City, establishing the first gay pride parade which was soon adopted regionally in other cities. 2004. Glenn Holsten directs.
Gayest moment: Adjusting one’s thinking to the realization that LGBT Pride didn’t begin with Stonewall. Equality Forum (equalityforum.com).
This period piece set in the volatile weeks before the Stonewall Rebellion in June 1969 reflects the angst and fear as well as the eventual resolve and hope of gay men and women of that era. Pre-AIDS, pre-Fred Phelps, pre-queers winning cases in the Supreme Court, Stonewall harkens back to a time when queers found solace and each other in a seedy bar where cops competed with the mob for “top bully” distinction. The film’s closing depiction of the Stonewall riot itself (which most historians regard as the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement) is almost anti-climatic, taking a backseat to the characters’ backstories told via interconnected subplots. It is a dramatic flipside of the conservative queers we met in Gay Pioneers, accurately depicting the cultural divides that continue in the LGBT community to this very day. 1995. Nigel Finch directs. BBC America (bbcamerica.com).
Gayest moment: La Miranda, the film’s chief drag protagonist, is played by Guillermo Diaz, whom we know as the macho Latin drug dealer from Showtime’s Weeds. Also, ironically playing an oppressive cop is Isaiah Washington, formerly of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, who ran into some real life problems by making homophobic statements against a fellow cast member.
Hannah Free (Sharon Gless), a strong, bold, butch, confident take-me-as-I-am lesbian, grows up and grows old in rural mid-20th-century Michigan with her “best friend,” Rachel (Maureen Gallagher). Gless, who we got to know so intimately as Michael’s super-supportive mom in Showtime’s Queer As Folk, is at her considerable best in this comedy/drama that accurately and prophetically depicts the angst facing fiercely independent, proud lesbians as they grow older and require day-to-day assistance. 2009. Wendy Jo Carlton directs. Peccadillo Pictures (peccapics.com).
Gayest moment: There are many, including when Hannah tries to get her mac on with a young, attractive visitor. Bonus gayest moment: some of the music here is contributed by The Voice first-season finalist and out lesbian, Vicci Martinez.
June is a month to take pride not in our sexuality, but in our sex lives, as well. For longer than you could say, “Is that a Long Horn in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” it was illegal in the Lone Start State to “sell, advertise, give or lend obscene devices, defined as a device used primarily for sexual stimulation.” In 2004, two Austin adult-toy store owners sued, claiming the anti-dildo ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment regarding right to privacy and finally, in 2008, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the oppressive statute. This screamingly hysterical documentary follows the journey from the halls of the Texas Legislature to sex toy retailers and beyond, and is well worth the humiliating (perhaps for some) thought of having this embarrassing title listed on your NetFlix account. 2002. Laura Barton and Judy Wilder direct. IA Films Inc. (dildodiaries.net).
Gayest moment: Texas satirist, Molly Ivins warning legislators that they may be in violation of Texas law if they have even so much as innocent physical contact on the floor of the Texas Lege, because the odious statute made it illegal “for a prick to touch an asshole.”
Set It Off
We’re still not entirely sure if Queen Latifah actually came out last month when she headlined the 2012 Long Beach LGBT Pride festivities. She said something vague like “Y’all my peeps (people),” adding, “‘I love you!” in response to the cheering throngs hoping for a declarative statement about her long-speculated upon sexuality. Here, four women from the LA ‘hoods struggle for survival until they hatch a plan that liberates them all, in one way or another. If she’s not a lesbian, the Queen should have won an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Closeted Role here: her exceedingly comfortable portrayal of the super-butch gansta girl, Cleo, was one for the record books. In or out, you make us proud, Latifah. 1996. F. Gary Grey directs. New Line Cinema (newline.com).
Gayest moment: When the scrawny, slight Stony (Jada Pinkett Smith) wallops Cleo (Queen Latifah) across the face for being a much too-aggressive Aggressive.