In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Cinema

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies and Edited Collections
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • LGBTQ, Politics
  • LGBTQ Criticism, Camp
  • History
  • National Cinema and LGBTQ Issues
  • Bisexuality
  • New Queer Cinema
  • Queer Readings and Queer Spectatorship
  • Queering Individual Films and Directors
  • Transgender
  • Pornography

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Cinema and Media Studies Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Cinema
Niall Richardson, Jackson Nash
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0033


Mainstream cinema’s dominant subject has always been heterosexuality. Whether explicit, as in the romance genre, or simply implied, as in other genres, heterosexuality has been the foundation of mainstream cinematic representations. Queer characters, however, have been represented since cinema began, although only recently could they be labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Until the 1970s, queer characters in cinema were coded through a conflation of gender transitivity with sexuality. For example, gay men were coded as effeminate—the stereotype of the sissy—while lesbians were represented as butch. Arguably, the spectator did not always read the character as queer and simply responded to the violation of gender propriety. No matter how spectators read specific characters, people identified as queer have always appeared in cinema and television. Often sources of humor or horror, queer characters have appealed to audiences for generations. One of the main concerns for queer activism has been how representations have colored public perception of queer minorities. Given that, until fairly recently, many spectators may not have known someone who was identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ), the cinematic representations could fuel further homophobia or prejudice. And many young people growing up in relative isolation with questioning their gender have first identified with a queer character on screen. Arguably, negative stereotypes promote self-loathing in the queer spectator. It is for this reason that the study of LGBTQ issues in film and media has been a politically important area of scholarship— interrogating representations and readings and also considering films made by LGBTQ-identified directors. This scholarship grew from the earliest writings that attempted to theorize camp as well as from an underground concern with rewriting the history of film with a place for gay people. More recently, academic scholarship has debated how LGBTQ characters were represented in films (lesbian and gay criticism); how queer-identified spectators reread or negotiated the meaning of mainstream cinema (queer readings); or how LGBTQ people have represented themselves (queer cinema).

Anthologies and Edited Collections

Some recent anthologies have collected the most significant writings on LGBTQ debates in relation to film and media. Juett and Jones 2010 offers an interesting collection of academic writing and journalism on contemporary queer cinema and is useful introductory reading. Benshoff and Griffin 2004 offers good introductions to many of the key debates in this area while Stacey and Street 2007 has assembled the previously published queer film scholarship from the academic journal Screen. Alderson and Anderson 2000 addresses questions of queer desire in a variety of films.

  • Alderson, David, and Linda Anderson, eds. Territories of Desire in Queer Culture: Refiguring Contemporary Boundaries. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

    This edited collection foregrounds queer desire in representation and addresses a range of film and literary texts, including films by Derek Jarman, Pedro Almodóvar, and Todd Haynes and Cyril Collard’s Les nuits fauves.

  • Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin, eds. Queer Cinema: The Film Reader. In Focus. New York: Routledge, 2004.

    This collection contains essays that examine representations of sexuality in relation to historical and cultural debates. The anthology is very usefully divided into four sections. The first section considers queer directors, the second considers the importance of genre, the third thinks about camp, and the fourth section considers gay reception of representations.

  • Juett, Joanna C., and David Jones, eds. Coming Out to the Mainstream: New Queer Cinema in the 21st Century. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2010.

    This very eclectic collection brings together scholarly writing, journalism, and entries from established film producers that contextualize and reconsider queer cinema in current culture. Decades after Stonewall, and with the availability of gay civil partnerships and marriages, what does queer actually mean to contemporary cinema?

  • Stacey, Jackie, and Sarah Street, eds. Queer Screen: A Screen Reader. Street Readers. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    The editors have brought together all the previously published writing on queer issues and cinema from the past twenty years of the journal Screen. Films addressed include Rope, Bound, Alien Resurrection, and Boys Don’t Cry.

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