By: Aparajita Chakrabarty
Media has been our best friend and our worst enemy at the same time. We, as a generation, are known for living in a ‘media-influenced’ world, where there are new trends every other day, sprouting controversies in their way. But, what could stir up more controversy than a group of audacious individuals shaking up age-old views on sexuality and relationships, leaving traditionalists in quite a frenzy?
Whether through the magic of cinema or the pages of comics, we have all encountered LGBTQ+ stories, offering us a glimpse into the rich tapestry of human experiences. Like humor in moments of serious narration, LGBTQ+ themes have consistently found their way into our cinematic encounters, making a lasting impression each time. And being a huge Bollywood fanatic, the first thing that comes to my mind when I talk about a ‘gay-comedy’ is none other than the 2008 movie, Dostana. The plot is pretty simple, two men have to pretend to be gay to share an apartment with a woman. But not 10 minutes into the movie, we already start noticing bright red flags- disingenuous portrayal of the queer community, lying about sexual orientation according to needs, usage of vile homophobic humor for comedic purposes as well as perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. Not only do these hurt the sentiments of the audience, but also show how ignorant people have been about these matters. On the other side of the coin, we have “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan ” that stands as a prime example of a romantic comedy that exemplifies the evolving landscape of media portrayal. The film traces the journey of a same-sex couple, courageously confronting societal prejudices and familial resistance while endeavoring to find love and acceptance. By authentically depicting the characters and their subverting stereotypes, the movie adeptly combines humor with heartfelt storytelling. It not only sheds light on the complexities faced by individuals under societal norms but also rolls the stone for important discussions on inclusivity and acceptance in our ever-changing world.
Shifting our focus to Hollywood, the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters has undergone a significant transformation, testing the long-standing cliches. For what feels like forever, LGBTQ+ characters have been made into caricatures, often portrayed as comic reliefs or as damsels in distress, merely reducing their identities to forgettable punchlines and objects of pity. Classics, including ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, use LGBTQ+ characters for comedic relief, in a way mocking their effeminate traits and giving them the tag of absurdity. However, recently, there has been an impressive shift towards more authentic and multifaceted portrayals. Movies like “Brokeback Mountain”,” Call Me by Your Name”, ‘Love, Simon” have been critically acclaimed as they explore the complexities of queer experiences in a thoughtful and nuanced manner, challenging the notions and the cliches surrounding LGBTQ+ characters, without conforming them to predefined stereotypes and forcing them to fit into preconceived molds. These movies have not only superficially explored queerness, but have rather shown the various stages of acceptance, fear, and desires, humanizing the characters and making an effort to define them as more than just characters falling somewhere on a particular spectrum. Media has always been the biggest catalyst for social changes, stirring the conversation around LGBTQ+ rights and making space for acceptance and understanding. Through the gripping storytelling capabilities of numerous directors and authors, the media has been successful in revitalizing LGBTQ+ characters by presenting their struggles and wishes and portraying love stories in many relatable ways. Moreover, artists from all over the world have used their huge fanbase to advocate for sensitive matters regarding LGBTQ+ rights and numerous other related issues. Their influence has helped contribute to a more efficient cultural shift wherein conversations regarding taboo topics are encouraged.
While there is still progress to be made, it can be easily said that the strides taken in recent years have been very important in shaping the public’s perception of how the whole community works and what can be done to make people from all orientations feel more included. Through movies and TV shows, the industry has shattered norms, broken stereotypical barriers as well as paved the way for conversations that would’ve been impossible half a century back. As we move forward, we must take these triumphs with us but at the same time never forget the foundation that has been built, but rather continue the commitment to authentic representation, intersectionality and amplifying the voices that haven’t been heard. By harnessing the power storytelling holds, one can learn how to be more inclusive and make this society one where pride is not only prevalent in media but lives in the hearts and minds of people worldwide without judgment.