Same-sex relations have occurred for millennia, across the multitudes of cultures, yet the portrayal of same-sex relations on screen has been an uphill slog, firstly in getting them there, and secondly in having them portrayed in a positive light.
Films deliver back to us glimpses of reality, however when one gathers up these condensed moments of onscreen storytelling, one finds that the reality we are delivered is often very selective.
The motivations that dictate the kind of reality we are presented with are often related to financial gain, yet content can also get quashed because it is considered too ‘dangerous’ and hence controversial. So what defines dangerous content? It can be anything from women believing they are powerful; to workers believing they have rights; to same-sex couples thinking their love is also normal. But hang on a minute, aren’t all these things true?
Industry insiders will tell you that Hollywood is run by a bunch of guys who are bankers and corporate thinkers lacking imagination, hence the overload of remakes and sequels. Many people, from the descamisados to the upper echelons, will tell you that our society is run by the same dominating forces. These dominating forces have views and beliefs, oftentimes from handed down rhetoric of a prejudiced nature, and these are further filtered down to the masses. So as viewers and indeed human beings, confusion forms in our minds as to what we deem okay and appropriate.
Perhaps it’s important to understand where decisions are being made from. Are they controlled by threats from advertisers, religious groups or the minority of voices that choose ignorance over understanding? Or are they based in an uncompromised truth, such as love shows no discrimination? Once we let another person’s views filter into our own belief system without any questioning or exploration of our own, the foundation on which we stand is shaky to say the least. And while executives wait for the population to be ‘ready’ to view certain scenes, a large portion of the population are and have been living and breathing it in real life and not only wanting to have characters that they can relate to, but feel some kind of validation as human beings a part of this universal society. We need to educate people with information not propaganda. Fear is the greatest destroyer of humankind. Let’s learn to see with loving eyes instead.
5 ‘Why the controversy’ onscreen kisses:
1. Thelma and Louise
In 1991, a powerful film about two discontented females on the run was one of the first films to deal with the subject of rape and contained a lesbian subtext running through it, which included a finale kiss before the famous cliff jump ending. This film became a sleeper hit, earning six Oscar nominations and winning best for screenplay. It should have been a catalyst for many more releases with female-focused leads since it proved it was profitable, however this has not been the case.
When the late 90’s television series Ellen aired The Puppy Episode in its fourth season, which revealed the lead character Ellen Morgan’s realization that she is a lesbian, it came with a kiss between Ellen DeGeneres and guest star Laura Dern.
Not long after, the show garnered criticism for being ‘too gay’ and the series was cancelled after one more season, with both lead and guest star facing career backlash. This was despite the fact that it was a huge ratings success and won multiple awards.
3. Madonna and Britney Spears MTV Music Awards
In 2010, a poll conducted by Selfridges listed the kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards as the most famous kiss of the last decade. It was considered one of the most shocking and iconic moments in the history of the music channel’s annual awards.
4. Coronation Street
When the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street aired a scene in 2014 in which two of its male characters shared a kiss while shirtless, it received a slew of complaints and homophobic messages, even though the scene was considered tame compared to similar scenes shared between heterosexual characters on the show. And ironically, earlier in the show’s viewing history, a 2003 broadcast featuring a gay kiss attracted a 54.7% audience share.
5. Bollywood’s first
In Bollywood, the biggest entertainment industry in India, scenes of intimacy used to be limited to hugs. In the past, kissing scenes have caused bus burns, train blocks and other kinds of protests. In 2010, the film Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun (Don’t Know Why) was released, a love story about two gay men in a changing Indian society, featuring an onscreen same-sex kiss. Before its release the Indian censorship board wanted the producer to cut a number of scenes deemed ‘too risky’, including Bollywood’s first onscreen gay kiss. It had already screened at international film festivals attracting rave reviews and distribution, and even on home soil the West Indian state of Maharashtra gave awards to the film’s lead actors Kapil Sharma and Yuvraaj Parashar for their portrayal in the film.
Yet its subject matter still caused controversy and Yuvraaj Parashar’s parents publicly disowned their son for playing a gay man, stating that they were “highly concerned about the reactions from our community.”
Want to same-sex kiss for a cause? Check out the global initiative we are supporting called KISS OFF! www.kissingoff.com Get involved June 28 – July 4, 2014!