I logged onto Netflix.
New: ‘The Prom’ (2020), directed by Ryan Murphy.
Prom is written in rainbow lights – an LGBTQIA+ film?
A prom is cancelled at a high school because one of the students wants to bring her girlfriend along.
Ah, a straight person’s LGBTIQA+ film, like a lot of the “LGBTQIA+ films”, focusing on homophobia.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of queer content for me to consume.
I was an avid reader – the kid that stayed up late reading under the covers with a torch, reading in the car, and always a book in hand. Most of the media I consumed came from books. I grew up with heterosexual themes, and even though I did mental gymnastics to justify small things, like glancing (or not) at the bra shop when we were at the mall, I thought I was straight, and these were my stories.
Mentions of homosexuality came up in derogatory ways. In Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (Louise Rennison, 1999), the only mention of homosexuality was the PE teacher being a lesbian, because she walks into the locker room when the girls were changing after class.
To be gay was a bad thing.
I was dealing with internalised homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality, feeling like I had to be straight, I had to have the same relationships as my peers, as the characters in books, tv shows, and movies.
Finally, we’re at a stage where queer young people are existing in media. Finally, a closeted kid can watch a movie or show directed at them and see representation. We don’t have to be looking to adult oriented content – YA media is presenting queer characters.
But at what cost?
So much LGBTQIA+ content features queerphobia as a main theme – whether transphobia or homophobia (because the bi’s are ignored). The protagonist has to try and justify their existence as a queer person in their community, forge their own identity, while still dealing with rampant homosexuality.
When we present representation to young people in media with it focusing on how normal it is to experience homophobia, we’re telling the young person that this is something they have to deal with – everyone experiences homophobia.
But that’s not the case, nor should it be.
Having a story with LGBTQIA+ characters and actors isn’t revolutionary when the story focuses on homophobia.
As a society, as people who consume or create media, we need to move away from the idea that any representation, no matter how small, how insignificant, or how problematic, is good. We need to be demanding, to consuming, and to creating content where homophobia isn’t present, and isn’t a key theme.
I don’t want to watch a movie about kids who bully a gay. I don’t want to watch a movie about a young queer person who is, statistically speaking, significantly more likely to commit suicide because of their sexuality. I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that representation of young people must revolve around the idea that being bullied for your sexuality is acceptable in any way shape or form.
Why would I want to watch a movie about adults bullying a girl, banning an entire prom so one (1) LGBTQIA+ young person can’t attend, and causing her to be a social pariah from the straight student body?
“Oh, but it’s presented as a bad thing, Felicity!” It shouldn’t even be presented at all.
Homophobia doesn’t add character. Media for young adults needs to move significantly far away from having homophobia as a theme.
It increases the risk of young people dying, of young people being afraid to come out, of young people being ashamed of who they are.
No, I won’t be watching ‘The Prom’, and neither should you.