Bright Wall/Dark Room was founded on the principle that speaking about film in human terms—how it makes us feel, how it helps us relate to the world around us, how it can crystalize and galvanize our human experience—was as vital to the critical process as anything else. Since our beginnings as a website in 2009, we’ve been striving to find and share the films that bind us together; to seek out commonality, regardless of our superficial differences.
When we first floated the idea of publishing an entire issue dedicated to LGBTQ films, we were concerned that, as editors largely identifying as straight, we might not be able to approach the essays and films in the most ideal way. Although we see ourselves as allies to people of all sexualities and gender identities, we were afraid we’d make a mistake in our representation of Queer Cinema. But, seeing a fair and honest representation of Queer Cinema as vital to our mission of exploring the universal human truths that this particular art form affords, we had to try.
I spoke to a queer friend on the subject of this issue and how best to make use of this platform we have. I struggled and over-explained and ultimately landed on the question, “What sort of angle would you hope we’d approach this issue from?” She smiled and I was struck by how easily all of my worries fell away. “We just want to have our stories told,” she said. “Same as you.”
I mean, of course.
Seeking that moment of perfect recognition in a piece of art is what drives us to the cinema time and time again, and that search is a profoundly human experience. “The movies,” Roger Ebert reminds us, “are like a machine that generates empathy.” We lose nothing from a fuller representation of what it means to be human. We gain everything from a more empathetic understanding of our friends. In Little Miss Sunshine, Frank (Steve Carrell) explains to Olive (Abigail Breslin) why he’s depressed and suicidal over his failed love affair with one of his students. She fixates on her uncle being in love with another boy. “That’s silly,” she says, very much a child. “You’re right, it’s silly. It’s very silly,” he says, very much an adult. You don’t have to be gay to know the pain of a broken heart, but Frank’s sadness comes with a depth that must be acknowledged. Christopher Plummer’s Hal from Beginners is finally able to live his truth after 45 years as a closeted gay man, and we can’t help but feel his joy at discovering the “wonderfully loud” house music at a gay club. And again, you don’t have to be gay to know the thrill of self-discovery, but the perspective of a person who’s spent half a century denying themselves is valuable. It helps us be kinder, better people. The human experience – in all its shapes and forms – should be denied to no one.
Thankfully, we are finally seeing some points of light that reflect an accurate representation of the Queer experience at the movies. Don’t get us wrong, there is more to be done and there are more stories to tell, and it’s important to those of us who consider ourselves allies to listen carefully to these stories. We have some wonderful writers in this issue and we are excited to listen, learn and share in the specific moments of beauty, of pain, of bitter laughter and joyful tears; of everything that makes us so sublimely human and how we found that at the movies.