Where are all the gay people in horror?
There are wide arrays of hellish creatures, no shortage of ideas on how to creatively murder someone for the big screen, and more nonsensical plot twists than I can count. Yet, in this huge vastness of horror ideas, one thing remains ever constant: horror is heteronormative.
Almost every horror movie I’ve viewed—and I’ve seen a lot horror films—has included some really random unexplainable sex scene thrown in to attract more viewers despite its complete irrelevance to everything happening. Every single time it’s a cisgender straight (and usually white) couple. In the world of horror, there are either no LGBTQ people, or slashers and demons just like messing with straight kids more.
The first movie with a same sex couple I think of? Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. There’s an interracial same sex couple—two women to be exact— and get this: they aren’t killed off first either. Awesome! The bad part is, their lesbian-ness is completely fetishized—portrayed as the personal and very problematic fantasy of straight cis males who fetishize lesbian sex. There’s a scene where one of the guys goes and plays peeping tom on their sex, one of the women sees them and instead of yelling at him to go away, she just smiles at him and is completely cool with the fact that he’s spying on her and her girlfriend having an intimate sexual moment. The likelihood of that happening in real life is so slim. Realistically, he’d probably at least get the door slammed in his face.
The other movies I can think of are various “lesbian vampire” B-movies on Netflix, that I’m fairly certain are just thinly veiled softcore porn tucked into the horror section. And these are typically films made by straight men for straight men—hardly progressive LGBTQ horror.
If they’re not being fetishized, LGBTQ characters in horror films are being demonized. And that’s if they’re even in the movies in the first place. Though I love the movie Silence of The Lambs, Buffalo Bill’s character is unsettlingly problematic. I distinctly remember the creepy scene where he tucks his penis between his legs, dances in front of the mirror and wears a woman’s skin. Basically, he’s fantasizing about being a woman. There’s no doubt that Buffalo Bill is a terrible person in the movie, I mean, he wore a woman’s skin. But part of me feels transphobic elements radiating from that scene, as trans women are so often subjected to the offensive stereotype that they’re actually scary and socially deviant men.
Even more, the flamboyant “gay” monster trope is one that has been in horror movies and thrillers for quite some time. A Twitter user pointed me towards the original Fright Night, analyzed by many as having a clearly gay subtext. This subtext however is used in a negative light, one where the homoeroticism has a kind of evil seduction element to it. The gay villain in a horror film is usually never presented as outwardly gay, but rather campy and flamboyant, which is meshed into their deviance and evilness. They are eventually vanquished by the straight protagonist. I’ve never seen a horror film where the villain was a macho hyper-masculine guy who is defeated by a gay teenager. But I would really like to.
When there are LGBTQ elements in a film, it automatically becomes a “gay” film—one where the plot is centered around the character’s LGBTQ identity. Horror needs to incorporate LGBTQ characters into the genre while not exploiting them for fetishization, demonization, or as the token gay friend.
Next week I look at women in horror and the damsel in distress, scream queen phenomena.