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A History of Queer Representation in Film

LGBTQ+ representation in film has faced censorship, prejudice, and coded portrayals over time. Early mainstream Hollywood films often used gay characters for comedy or avoided explicitly stating their queerness. However, a brief relaxation in Germany's film production code in the early 20th century allowed for international LGBTQ+ classics like "Anders als die Anderen" and "Mädchen in Uniform."

From 1934 to 1968, Hollywood's Hays Code, officially known as the "Motion Picture Production Code," imposed strict guidelines on U.S. movie studios regarding permissible content. Homosexuality was considered taboo, requiring subtle coding to depict queer themes on screen. The first image shows Joseph Breen, an American administrator of the Production Code, engaged in conversation with British director Michael Balcon and others. Breen played a significant role in overseeing the censorship regulations enforced by the "Hays Office," the governing body of the Code. The following films span from 1938 to 1968.

The Hays Code was officially lifted in 1968, as its strict guidelines started to diminish and loosen over the years. The societal "sexual revolution" of the 1960s made audiences more receptive to once deemed "vulgar" subjects. In its place, the Motion Picture Association introduced the new film rating system (MPAA) in 1968. The following films span from 1969-1985.

In 1992, B. Ruby Rich (pictured here) introduced 'New Queer Cinema,' a term she coined in Sight & Sound Magazine to describe a wave of independent films in the early 1990s that explored fluid sexuality. Examples include "Orlando," "My Own Private Idaho," and "Poison." The films featured here range from 1986 to 2005


In 2017, "Moonlight" made history as the first LGBTQ+ movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It featured an all-Black cast and contributed to more diverse and nuanced gay cinema. These films range from 2010 to 2021 🎬


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