The 2017 Academy Awards made history for accidentally awarding La La Land Best Picture. What was meant to be a win for the Moonlight turned into a full-blown media phenomenon – news sites and journalists choosing to report the mishap, rather than the real history being made: Moonlight being the first fully Black cast and LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture.
Detailed in Jay-Z’s song “Moonlight”, this mix-up overshadowed the Moonlight in many ways, forcing it to share the attention it deserved with La La Land and forever associating it with said film. In many ways, this relates to Hollywood’s current process of manufacturing inclusivity: inserting one diverse character into the story of a straight, cis protagonist to inevitably be overshadowed.
While films like Moonlight and Portrait of a Lady on Fire are huge wins for the LGBTQ+ community, there is still an endless amount of shoddy queer representation in popular media, especially from huge companies like Netflix and Disney. To stay “relevant” without putting in too much effort, companies like these often opt for the token gay character, who has been seen way too often.
Tropes like this in 2021 feel like they should be a thing of the past but, apparently, this is wrong because they’re appearing more and more in popular movies. A few weeks ago, Netflix released a film called Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler. It follows a teen girl named Vivian who learns what sexism is and then decides to rebel against it at her school, through an anonymous zine she creates.
While there are many things wrong with this film, one thing in particular is its portrayal (or lack thereof) of queer teens. One of the many side characters in this movie is CJ – a trans woman, played by Josie Totah. She has a small storyline where she wants to audition for the role of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and does, but then it’s never mentioned again.
Vivian’s shallow view of feminism takes away from all of these more important storylines, focusing more on herself than real intersectionality. There were so many ways Moxie could’ve been great if it just decided to focus on the side characters’ stories, rather than the story we’ve all seen before.
On top of this, a character named Lucy kisses another teen girl (who is too unmemorable to name) at the end of the movie for no apparent reason. Throughout the film, there was absolutely no build-up to this moment – not even showing the slightest bit of chemistry between these two.
In other movies, a straight kiss would never be treated so shallowly. Even if it were between two random side characters, there would likely still be some sort of lead-up because if there wasn’t, what would be the point of including it?
The same goes for LGBTQ+ representation, despite many films forcing it and treating it like a careless afterthought. A two-second kiss, if that, is not representation and Hollywood needs to stop pretending like it is for the sake of seeming diverse. Disney pulled a similar stunt to this, with the promise of a gay LeFou in their live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, which turned out to just be a shot of LeFou dancing with a man at the end of the movie.
Hollywood can do better than this and it begins with hiring actual LGBTQ+ directors and writers, rather than resorting to apathetic portrayals of queer identities by straight, cis people that want to seem “woke”.
Hopefully then, representation won’t be treated like a mere afterthought.