Scottish Queer International Film Festival: Queering the Script

Year: 2020
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: Gabrielle Zikha
Writer: Gabrielle Zikha

By Joan Amenn

Excitement is running high at the 2018 Clexacon in Las Vegas. Young women of every ethnicity and age come together, sometimes bringing family members with them in support of their celebration. It has been a long, hard struggle for them to be seen and heard but the LGBTQ community finally seems to be breaking through the barriers of mass culture that have been so stifling.

The beginning of fan conventions can be traced back to the 1970’s with the original series of “Star Trek.” Cosplay, fan fiction and fan art all were first seen there, long before the Internet. “Fanzines” are self-published magazines of fan fiction and even in the age of the first incarnation of “Trek” there was a common theme of “slash fiction.” This was how straight women explored the possibility of a gay relationship between Kirk and Spock most commonly, although there were other characters written about as well. In the 1970’s this was seen as radical but it led the way to the “shipping” of the 1990’s when fans would write about their favorite television characters in relationships they knew they would never see filmed.

“Queering the Script” is about the behind the camera battles to depict LGBTQ characters in television series with respect and compassion. From the seminal moment that “Xena: Warrior Princess” (1995-2001) arrived through all the TV characters that followed her, “Queering the Script” offers an enjoyable tour of the few steps forward and many stumbles backward in the quest for representation. Especially painful is the revelation that from 2015 through 2017, sixty-two LGBTQ female characters died in television series.

“Queering the Script” is about the behind the camera battles to depict LGBTQ characters in television series with respect and compassion.”

The “bury your gays” trope, which was once a means of writing about homosexuality while still avoiding the wrath of laws and social conventions, suddenly became prominent in television programming. It is heart-breaking to listen to various members of the LGBTQ community tell how traumatizing they found viewing people they identified with onscreen dying again and again in series after series. The “subtext” that they got from mainstream television is that their lives were doomed to be tragic. This chilling message was finally pick up by the mainstream print media and articles condemning the slaughter of LGBTQ characters became widespread.

However, times are changing and so are the ways that the community has become visible on television. It would have been nice to see how the people interviewed live their lives outside of fandom. Do they find more acceptance now than maybe a decade ago? Are mentors for creative LGBTQ people easier to find so that their stories can be told and their art reach an audience? “Queering the Script” is a great history of how representation got to be where it is now but only gives a tantalizing tease as to where it could be going. So much more work needs to be done but it is exciting to glimpse how much diversity is being embraced onscreen.

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