Straight-washing of Gay Movies Is Insidious And Wrong

Pride DVD

The straight-washing of gay references in the DVD promotional material for the movie ‘Pride’ in the US is not only deeply ironic, it’s contributes further to the inequality of LGBT people while making a mockery of the filmmaker’s work, says Rob Buchanan.


A civil rights banner saying: “Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners” has been photoshopped out of the promotional material and DVD cover of the film Pride for the US market. The blurb on the DVD cover had its wording altered to intentionally make the subject matter and the sexuality of some of the film’s protagonists obscure, by removing the references to LGBT activism. Instead of reading “a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists” it has been altered to “a group of London-based activists”.

The British movie was partly funded by the BFI film fund. Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI said: “It’s an unfortunate commercial reality both here and in the US that distributors have to deal with and consider in getting films onto the shop shelf. LGBT material is largely marginalised outside of rare hits like Brokeback Mountain.”

Despite this assumption that the US market would be intolerant, Pride has won critical acclaim at both the Cannes Film Festival in May and the Toronto International Film Festival, and has also been a big crossover commercial success at American box office. The positive portrayal of gay characters may be a hot potato for US cinema audiences, but further stigmatising potentially enlightening and inspirational movies only serves to increase the latent homophobia in the industry and bolsters overt homophobia society.

Pride Movie

This is hardly the first time that the promotion of a movie featuring gay protagonists has been ‘straight-washed’ to blindside potential audiences. The posters for the Colin Firth movie A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood’s seminal gay novel, created the impression that it was some kind of rom com between Firth and Julianne Moore. The film’s trailers were cut to imply a sexual relationship between Firth and Moore’s characters, leaving out the true romance in the movie between Firth’s character (a gay suicidal professor who has recently been bereaved of his long-time partner) and a young man.

Straight-washing goes beyond cynical marketing or clumsy editing. There is a message behind this that’s almost the polar opposite of the intentions of the creators of these films, and everyone involved in making them. LGBT people are being made invisible for mass consumption because the belief is that consumers find us abhorrent. Our equality is undermined by such actions. Straight people and relationships are not made invisible, because the belief is that they are more palatable, and therefore ‘better’.

That such straight-washing has been attempted with a movie about real life events like Pride is deeply dispiriting. The film centres on how actual LGBT activists supported the miner’s strikes in the 1980s, so it’s beyond absurd to present the movie to potential viewers as something it is not. Apart from it being deceptive marketing, the implication is that there is something both

shameful and illegitimate about LGBT people, which is deeply ironic considering the message and indeed the title of this movie.

© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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