I ask you, dear reader, is there anything riskier or more problematic than being a lesbian in this catastrophic political climate? Just one thing, and one thing only: Being a lesbian in the movies.
You see, cinematic lesbians have the overriding tendency to die by the last reel of their tragic romantic adventures; whether they commit suicide (as in The Children’s Hour), die from a mysterious illness (as in Fried Green Tomatoes), or get struck by a falling tree—ouch (as in The Fox)!
Precious and few are the lesbian films that come complete with happy and satisfying endings; but rest assured, fair Ladies, we do have in our cinematic canon just a few epics where she doesn’t die at the end!
1. Desert Hearts: An absolute classic of lesbian cinema directed by Donna Deitch and based on a novel by Jane Rule, Desert Hearts is the story of recently divorced professor Vivian (Helen Shaver) who finds a ravishing and unexpected new love in free-spirited casino worker Cay (Patricia Charbonneau). These two share a passionate and warm-hearted relationship that culminates in a shared train ride back to Vivian’s hometown—and the train doesn’t blow up en route or anything! Major bonus!
2. But I’m a Cheerleader: An absolutely charming and precious comedy about a high school cheerleader who gets shipped off against her will to a gay reeducation camp—run by RuPaul. Yeah, you can guess how well that goes. Yet beautiful Megan (played by Natasha Lyonne) does find the love of her life in Graham (Clea Duvall). Directed by Jamie Babbit.
3. Imagine Me and You: Beautiful, sweet Rachel (Piper Perabo) thinks that she has found the love of her life in Heck (Matthew Goode)—until, that is, she lays her eyes on the flower designer at her wedding, played by Lena Headey. Now I must admit one thing; the bi side of me questions the sanity of anyone who would leave Matthew Goode for anyone. Still, this is a romantic, funny, and absolutely endearing comedy feature. Directed by Ol Parker.
4. Saving Face: A bright, attractive young Asian-American woman defies family and tradition to find vibrant and scintillating love with a saucy young rebel. This funny and touching romantic comedy does indeed save face—and to brilliant effect; exploring a loving but complicated mother/daughter relationship in addition to a vibrant and sexy love affair. Starring Joan Chen and Michelle Krusiec; directed by Alice Wu.
5. Claire of the Moon: Director Nicole Conn’s early classic concerns two strong and opinionated beauties who meet and fall in love at a writer’s retreat. One of the first lesbian films to portray a happy ending, this quiet and touching romance was also the first to feature a lingering last shot of two women walking hand in hand down a long, sandy beach. Again—bonus! Stars Trisha Todd and Karen Trumbo.