Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy Heteronormative Endings

After a disappointed viewing of something, I'd like some help making a list of classic movies with non-heteronormative endings.
Thelma and Louise Okay, but dead.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Dead. Again.
The Thing (1983) Mac and Childs will freeze to death and there were only male characters to begin with but still, not yet dead.
Casablanca At least when Louis and Rick walk off to begin their “beautiful friendship” they are both still alive. Do I really have to go back to 1942 to find something?

One of my favorite movies is Aliens (1986). It combines my two favorite genres: science fiction and horror. Marines, a kick-ass heroine and Vasquez. (I know this is a blog celebrating the beauty of men, but damn, Vasquez was hot.) I loved the movie even after Vasquez had to blow herself up to keep from being made into an alien host. Where I stopped loving it, is at the end, when Ripley and Newt and Hicks are all tucked snugly away in their pods. He and she and a baby makes three. The classic and disappointing ending.

I expect it from romance and even action adventure, but why does a forward thinking genre like science fiction still cling to heteronormative endings? If there is a gay character who survives, he or she must be alone and suffering. Is it the 50’s? I just watched something that sparked this blog and I don’t want to get overly specific in case people haven’t seen it, but when the executive producer is gay, can’t we expect something beyond he+she+baby, gay-character-alone-and-miserable ending?

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, and I apologize for my rant, but I’m tired of these mainstream stories that write gay love as a tragedy, even when it’s couched in noble sacrifice. Tara and Willow anyone?

Science fiction as a genre usually tries to offer a suggestion of hope in the future. It’s as if we can’t see past procreation with heterosexual parents as hope for the future. And while it takes a damned good writer to lure me into the mpreg of slash fanfiction, there are other alternatives for the next generation. It’s as if people are caught in some kind of retro mind-trap. I’m dating myself again, but when Anita Bryant was “Saving Our Children” I was just heading into my teens. I got into heated arguments with people, including my dad. “Gay people can’t have kids and that is a threat to me as a teacher,” he said. Even at thirteen I called bullshit. “Gay people can have kids. They just go about it differently.” (Dad’s come around nicely, btw).

So is it too much to ask for a mainstream horror or science fiction movie where while the focus may be on the happy couple and their little promise of the future, there’s a same-sex snuggle off to the side? One where they didn’t, you know, die?


theoscillatingfan said...

The part that makes it more disappointing to me is when it IS a queer show-runner still touting the idea that the story can only happen or only work when the queer protagonist loses his lover/mate. I (sadly) expect that kind of short-sightedness from heteronormative creators, but when it's espoused from within the community, as well, I feel like it gives the heteronormative community the latitude to point fingers: "Well, HE/SHE agrees with me!"

And I find it disheartening when it becomes obvious that someone from within the community has bought into the notion that that's the only valid way to tell stories or to produce the proper motivation to a character to advance the story. We are motivated by many things and many other stressors than the death of a loved one.

Amie said...

I agree with you both so completely that I have nothing to add. This kind of thing annoys the ever loving crap right out of me! Wouldn’t a change of pace be nice?

Louisa Edwards said...

I know EXACTLY what you just watched, I bet. I felt the same way, almost betrayed, like I'd expected something more, better, from this show and been so completely heartbroken by the turn it took, I honestly can't imagine myself ever watching it again.

I can think of several endings in the style of Casablanca, with two guys riding off into the sunset, but only in a very straight, buddy movie sort of way. And often at least one of them is in a happy het relationship at the same time.

For emotional healing, I recommend renting Shelter, a very sweet, well-acted indie film about a guy learning to put his own needs (some of which are for a gay relationship) before the needs of his family. There's even a cute kid! It'll make you feel better, guaranteed! Sorry you're going through this heartbreak; I completely sympathize.

Maia Strong said...

This is the second time this week that "Shelter" has come up randomly in my online life. I think I *must* rent it this weekend.

I'm right there with all of you on this point. My cry is simplisitic but heartfelt: I blame Star Trek. I love Star Trek and have for as long as I've been a conscious, sentient being, but modern incarnations all failed to take a stand against the heteronormative culture in the way that the original show took a stand against accepted gender and race roles. Because the modern show-runners are a bunch of cowards who don't have the balls to embrace Roddenberry's concept of IDIC, they failed to be the genre leader that the orginial show was. And let's face it, where Trek goes, the genre tends to follow--for good or ill. Just my opinion, and like I said, it's simplisitic. Take it for what it's worth.

Becky Black said...

Given that they then just killed off poor Hicks and Newt in the crash at the start of Alien 3 then it would have been better to give Hicks at least a nice heroic warrior's death in Aliens, rather than just "oh, whoops, he's dead!"

Heh, sorry, that's not what the rant is about, but that's bugged me for a few years. I agree with you though, there's often a depressing pattern. The ending might be justifiable dramatically for any given story on the list, but taken as a whole it starts to look dodgy.

Unknown said...

I bet I know what you watched too. I was...unhappy. Sitting beside me, my very straight, very uncomfortable-with-the-idea-of-two-men-kissing husband even cried foul. Which I don't mind saying, surprised the S*** out of me, made me proud and glowy inside enough to somewhat mitigate the fact that that was a crap ending.

If we can't even get it right ourselves, what can we expect from the het world, really? So the only recourse I see, is to write lots of books with the right ending until there are enough stories out there for people to understand that HEA isn't just for straight people.

K.A. Mitchell said...

I'm sure if you saw it, it wasn't hard to figure out how annoyed I was at RTD. What Erin. Amie, Louisa, Maia and Jamie said about expectations really rings true for me. I do have a responsibility to my work and how it's perceived. Take characters having safe sex, for instance. And what is true for all minorities is true for this community as well. We don't have to prove we're as good as; in order to change minds, we have to be BETTER.

I have Shelter on my DVD shelf. Yes, it was good. Have you tried Boy Culture?


Star Trek continually dropped the ball, much to my disappointment. I think they are afraid. When Sir Ian was cast as Gandalf, he got threats from crazy homophobic fanboys upset about making Gandalf "queer."


I think that's the point. They didn't know they'd be making another one six years later, but even if they did, they wanted that pat he/she/baby ending so Hicks had to live. And he had to be incapacitated or Ripley couldn't have faced off against the queen alone. Gender roles are as strong a conceit as heterosexuality.

Keira Andrews said...

In defence of RTD, his Queer as Folk did end with a fabulous ride off into the sunset for our heroes. One of my fave endings.

With TW, I really didn't see it as heteronormative. Other major characters died too (end of S2), so I feel this was more just in keeping with the heartbreaking nature of the show.

I totally hear what you're saying, though, especially since gay drama has so often ended with death.

theoscillatingfan said...


I think the problem is that, at a certain point, no story really stands in a vacuum. The decision of one author-creator to kill off or otherwise damage the queer characters and queer relationships becomes another signpost on a very long highway. And until the number of stories where the queer people get to walk off into the sunset with their loved ones and families equals the numbers where they don't (and we're nowhere even NEAR close to that kind of parity), it's always going to be a questionable decision to write a story where the queer characters sacrifice everything and the cisgendered get the HEA.

Keira Andrews said...

I hear what you're saying, Erin, but I guess I side on the creator's right to tell his or her story. Again with TW, straight characters have died terrible, tragic deaths. Hell, the grandson died a tragic death. So I don't think a queer character should be immune just because he or she is queer. If the character should die for the story, then they die.

That said, I'm a huge fan of HEA for everyone. :)

theoscillatingfan said...


Yes, a creator has the right to write whatever story they like. And we have the right to express our disappointment in their choices or otherwise criticize the work. So it goes.

And certainly I think the fact that tragic endings for queer character is a pervasive characteristic that needs to be both critically examined and, often, criticized.

Keira Andrews said...

I didn't say you don't have the right to express your disappointment, and as I stated twice, I hear what you're saying, as so many gay characters in history have died. I just don't think it's automatically wrong or questionable when a gay character dies or doesn't live HEA. That's just my opinion. :)

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