Wednesday, April 02, 2014

My First Time: Film Edition

So last week (or was it the week before – time you blurry vixen, you) the AfterEllen Huddle question was one I rather liked, but didn’t have time to participate in. It was simply, “What was your first lesbian film?”

You always remember your first, right? Sort of. I think my first was “Go Fish.” It is, at least, the first that made a positive impression on me about lesbian life and love. (Though not necessarily about lesbian acting.) I think that’s why I still have such a soft spot for (and, yes, own) the movie. It was the first film to present being gay as something that could be very normal and not at all traumatic or tragic that I can recall.

While thinking about what my first (film) was, I also got to thinking about the first experience of seeing it. How different that experience must be for (clears throat) The Youths of Today. In order to watch a lesbian movie back in the day you had to either 1) Go to the theater and sit in the dark with a bunch of other people, or 2) Go to the video store and try to slip in The Big Lesbo movie in between a copy of “Forrest Gump” and “Reality Bites.” There was a public declaration either way. And, depending on your level of outness at the time, a degree of courage it took to buy that ticket or bring your rental to the counter. I remember it well, because when I started watching my first gay movies I definitely was not out.

Figuring it all out today just takes a couple downloads and, boom – you’re in gay movie heaven. There is so much more privacy (depending on your level of paranoia about the NSA) today to sit and watch the gay from the comfort of your own home without anyone else being the wiser.

I can’t even imagine how much easier it is now, with so much available at a few clicks. But, also, there was something exhilarating about actually seeing that first film out in the big wide world. I know lots probably still do as well.

Though, despite our advances in technology, some things remain universal. No matter the delivery method, there will always be a period in our burgeoning coming out where we consume every.single.lesbian.movie there is in an attempt to see ourselves. Granted, TV gives us a lot more to look at these days as well. But there’s nothing like those nights – probably after the rest of the house has gone to sleep – when you sit and watch the magic of the movies. Even the bad ones. Yeah, “Bar Girls,” that means you.

Ah, memories. So, tell me, what was your first? And how did you watch? And remember, this is for science, so be honest.

33 comments:

Carol A said...

Mine was "Claire of the Moon" which was dreadful, I got it on video and was in bits at the counter.
My first time to go to the movies for a lesbian film was "Go Fish" which was far better.
I think both experiences gave me a little shot of courage and belief in myself that downloading wouldn't

Ape said...

Mine was fucking Amal or Aimee and Jaguar, i'm not sure anymore, the sad part is that i'm still not out yet even though those films are from the late nineties.... I went with my "friend with benefits for 8 years" who is married to a guy now...

Vibeke said...

I'll never forget it. Fucking Åmål, all the way. Or as censored Americans know it: Show me love. What a kick that movie was!

Melli said...

My first movie was "When night is falling". I saw it in a little cinema with a good friend. Ist was awesome! I have to think about it for a long, long time.
I will never forget.

Carmen SanDiego said...

Fried Green Tomatoes in the VHS category and But I'm a Cheerleader at the theater. Man, I'm old

Sarah said...

Lianna (1983) followed quickly by Desert Hearts (1985). Now, tell me again who's old? Lurked at my local video place and almost threw up with anxiety. I was sure the clerk just KNEW. Waited until my roommate was traveling and then watched sitting so close to the t.v. so that i could shut it off quick---just in case.(no one was home but me. so sad) Watched each one about 3 times.

Anonymous said...

Desert hearts. I remember it was on the tv and my neighbours had come to visit my parents so I had our living room and the tv all to myself so I got to watch it just listening out for anyone passing by and ready to switch channels at the steamy bits!
Think I was about 14 or 15 and my heart and my head nearly exploded at what I was seeing, a real love story with two women. And it was hot! Hormone city for a young teenaged lesbo!
Have watched it as an adult with fond memories. Took me another 10 years or so to figure it all out and come out after that.
Hot Cay leaning in that window for a kiss in the rain.. still magic.

Gaëllan said...

Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson. I wsa in a very deep Kate Winslet phase and was watching every movie she stared in at the time. Found it at the video rental, watched it a summer afternoon.

The first one I saw in theaters... I'm not sure if I've seen one to this day. Except for that lesbian tango and kiss in Frida :)

TheWeyrd1 said...

My first was Personal Best or it might have been Lianna...way back in the 80s. Both with decidedly unhappy versions of lesbian life. I think my next two were Claire of the Moon (the editing of which drove me nuts, but I was in my 20s and it was much better viewing it later in my 40s) and Desert Hearts which is still a favorite. All of these were seen in the theater I think, except maybe Personal Best was seen on video tape. Also, I saw my favorite all time movie in the movie theater in '84 which happens to include a lesbian scene with Jodie Foster...The Hotel New Hampshire.

Anonymous said...

I saw The Hunger sometime in the 80's I think. I was obsessed with David Bowie (his adrogyny was riveting to me but had no idea why!) I raved about Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve to my mom over dinner and she kept giving me funny looks. I was clueless! I must have re-wound the t-shirt scene a dozen times and not figured out that might be odd.
Sometime later I was casually watching an episode of LALaw. Two actresses chatting in a parking lot, I wandered by the tv and said to it "Just kiss her already." AND SHE DID! Gob smacked! That was the moment it dawned on me that maybe I was looking for something other, in media and film, because I wanted to find myself.
hollyrocket

Rachelle said...

It's a good question. I'm part of the new generation, pretty much like you described, that's me, and so I really don't know which one was it. Besides, I used to watch a lot films... Now I'll have to study this particular case... Maybe it was something like Brokeback Mountain, I mean, forget it, it probably needs to be lesbian right?

Puppe said...

Fucking Åmål was my first, too, I think. I got it from the library on VHS. For some reason you couldn't use the automatic check out for video cassettes so you couldn't just sneak out but had to interact with someone. That was always awkward and I was always ashamed of my picks, so don't know if revealing my willingness to see a lesbian themed film could cause more heart palpitations. And besides, I most definitely wasn't gay! I just really, really, really wanted to see it (and other gay themed films that made me feel a bit funny).

maya said...

Snarks, you and I are about the same age, so yeah, it was Go Fish for me too. I was just trying to figure out what happened to my VHS copy the other day...And I'm with you on Bar Girls, :P

Lisa S said...

Oh dear...Personal Best! Watched it with a "friend" laying on the floor in the dark during a sleep over. Man, those were the days.

Lynette Alford said...

Early 90's and first lez movie I saw at the theater was Bar Girls, there were so many bad movies of both gay and lesbian variety that my friends and I had a joke about it. Thank god for a gay guy at the local Blockbuster who kept an extensive collection of lesbian titles and let me add to the list.

Morgan said...

Mine was "I Can't Think Straight". Still remains my favorite lesbian movie (and one of my top 5 fave movies of all time). Second was "Imagine Me & You" I think... Started off light hearted. lol

Anonymous said...

"Personal Best" (we felt so daring!) and then "Desert Hearts"--Oh my! It still sends my heart pitter-pattering just thinking about it.

t. said...

this post brought back memories i didn't even know i had, and i'll sound naive at best with my answer… ah well. can we call "henry & june" (1990) a proper gay movie?! anyway, i remember watching it on tv in the early 90's, so so late at night, the only hours movies 'like those' were on. the awkward part of my answer is that in my head those two couldn't be two women, cus women couldn't kiss. there had to be something with the kissing scenes, some sort of trick i couldn't figure out. so, yeah, naive at best. the scenes intrigued me, but in a way i couldn't fully realize.
fast forward a couple of years, and i'm at the local video store. the owner keeps suggesting i should pick a movie called "when night is falling" (1995), but i'd read the synopses and would not have the nerve rent it, cus that'd be making a public declaration that i was indeed curious. that guy was a visionary and i was a late bloomer.
a few years later (2000) i ran into him at a gay bar. i'm sure he thought 'see?! i tried tellin' ya!' :P

Anonymous said...

NOTHING says "totally straight here, no funny business, look the other way" like nervously renting The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love" from the Blockbuster on the corner.

And then, ten years later, ordering all six seasons of The L Word from interlibrary loan... which requires that all DVDs must be held behind the circ desk, checked out by in-person request, and desensitized by hand. One. By one. By one.

Egads.

Beati3 said...

I can't remember the single movie, but here in Australia in the late 80s there was a brilliant thing on SBS tv called "Out on Tuesday", which had a fab selection of gay and lesbian bits and pieces ranging from shorts and documentaries to whole movies. I remember watching this in my bedroom late at night with the sound turned down so I could hardly hear it. I think one night they showed "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" leading to an über crush on Hanna Schygulla. Not a happy film though.

no-one said...

Mine was Chutney Popcorn, which I rented because I had a thing for Jill Hennessy back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Aah, I think I sweated bullets purchasing the (Special Order) books 'Desert Hearts and Claire of the Moon' as there was no Amazon or other (r)etailers at that time. But honestly, I was bored one day and went to a small art deco theatre here in Melbourne (Australia) to kill time and the ticket dude asking me whether I was sure I wanted to see this 'Desert Hearts' film, uh, clueless was a slight understatement. I couldn't understand his fuss and I was bored and wanted to see a film. Well, eye opener to say the least. There was only one other person in there with me and as I settled in I saw them leave half way through.. Then the other shoe dropped along with my jaw.. Once it finished just as the credits rolled I snuck out the exit hoping not to run into anybody. I felt so guilty but not as squirmish as purchasing the book. Seriously, you kids have it so much easier these days. The old party trick of action and science fiction videos sandwiching your actual choice is a highly skilled art of boldness and fear. ;)

Kiwi said...

Claire of the Moon...enough said bless...actually amazing I stayed on the curly and wide ;)

Triplestripe said...

Bound was my first movie. I saw it in the cinema, as the second movie of a double feature. The first movie was terrible! I was taken by a friend and her GF her were both about 5 years or so older then me. i was under 18 too, so had to sneak in!

lisa said...

Personal Best.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching "The War Widow" on TV in the mid-1970s with my housemates.

Stefanie Stokes said...

I haven't watched many lesbian movies but my first one was 'If These Walls Could Talk 2' late one night on BBC 2. It was a revelation and I remember even back then thinking that it was so sad that the elderly women had to hide their relationship :(
Also it was my introduction to the awesome Ellen!

Anonymous said...

Back when Blockbuster was king, the family did movie nights that evolved into watch your own movie nights. I manage to get away with having the parents rent "But, I'm a Cheerleader","Go Fish", and "Incredibly True..." all in one night. I was bold in my trepidation, I guess. The latter of which was written to omit the "Girls in Love" part which made it easy to sneak in. I remember the anxiety I felt as I looked on the shelves, trying to find titles that didn't "stand out", pretending I was looking at something else if someone came close, the way the cases slid around in my hand as I walked to meet my mom and the counter... I remember carrying the bag home. I remember the car ride and trying not to seem too excited/suspicious, I remember waiting until the evening was really winding down to go to my room and watch. I sat as close to my TV as possible. The volume was practically inaudible. I'll never forget it. I've come so far since I was that scared 12 year old that was alone in my room praying no one would open the door and see what I was watching. That night will always have a special place in my heart (no matter how absolutely terrible "Go Fish" ended up being.

Anonymous said...

if these walls could talk 2 i think was one of my first (though i saw switch sometime around then too :) love lorraine bracco and ellen barkin... i forget the rest of the film :) )

anyhoo. everythign that i watched when i wasnt out was late night, on cable, with the sound turned down to 1 so only i sitting inches away could hear it. hand at the off button ready of course in case my mum woke up and wondered why i was still up at 1 and 2 am :)

saw lots of films that way. (hope i get the titles right)
killing of sister george, the hunger, the fox? (ick), beautiful laundrette (i watched gay man movies in secret too) better than chocolate, but i'm a cheerleader, desert hearts, it's in the water, if these walls could talk 2 , go fish...

i think go fish was the first disc i bought for myself.
(yeah, over amazon and hid the package so nobody could find it ;) )

anyhoo :) hope this helps )

Deb said...

My first true lesbian movie was "Imagine Me & You" which I rented through Netflix. (My Hollywood Video didn't carry it.) I'd seen "If These Walls Could Talk 2", "But I'm a Cheerleader", and others on TV, but it was my first purposeful rental. And it was still terrifying.

No, I wasn't looking someone in the eye to rent it. But I was telling the internet I wanted it. And the internet is everywhere and remembers everything. I knew after I requested it that my next email would be, "Based on your past rentals, we suggest these movies..." And the gay would be in my email. And when I first purchased a movie off Amazon, I knew my Amazon account would be populated with suggestions related to my 'big, gay movie purchase'. It wasn't just the video store clerk who knew now, it was this big, living, ridiculous internet thing that everyone spent their time in front of.

Streaming movies makes gay films more accessible, which is awesome. On most platforms, though, there are those little buttons that say, "Like this on Facebook" or "Tweet this film to your followers". One wrong click of a mouse and someone could easily out themselves when they didn't want to.

I'm not saying this is more challenging than walking up to someone, looking them in the eye, and saying, "I'd like a ticket to the movie with lesbian characters." I'm just saying it isn't without the strees and worry of "What if someone finds out before I'm ready to tell them?"

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