5 May 2014


Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  What about Lesbian Romance films, do they follows a strict formula and a set of rules?

Does a niche genre like Lesbian Romance films follow a genre.  They're often low-budget independent films, more likely to be seen in arthouse cinemas and at festivals.  Those sort of films don't have a formula, right?


A Coming Out Story

Rather than the story of two out lesbian women falling in love, it will be the story of a woman discovering that she is a lesbian and falling in love with a woman who already is one.  As such, the films will usually be from the POV of the woman who is coming out.

RULE #2 

There May Be T&A

Better Than Chocolate
Perhaps some early skimpy clothing for "the male gaze."  When it comes time for the sex, there will be a range of nudity, from PG sex with lots of sheets, to lots of nudity in the sex scenes (but little full frontal or graphic depictions of sex).  Usually it will fall somewhere between a rom-com and a slasher film.

RULE #3 


Imagine You & Me
The lead female will be unhappy with her life - and especially her boyfriend if she has one - but will not know why.  She may over compensate.  Others may suggest that she's a lesbian but she will point out the idea is ridiculous.  She will have to fight her own feelings, including her falling into "the male gaze."

RULE #4 

Enter the Lesbian

The L-Word
A out-lesbian will enter the picture.  But importantly, a Hollywood friendly lesbian stereotype.  Short (but ultra-stylish) hair, flat-ish chested, female blouses and pants (mimicking male attire, but not actually male attire), throaty voice, masculine skills (can fix things).  A nod to the bull-dyke stereotype, but male-fantasy friendly.

RULE #5 

Just Good Friends.

Personal  Best
The main woman will become best friends will the out lesbian (possibly first not realising that she is a lesbian, later not caring).  This will increase the suggestions that the main woman is a lesbian, which will increase her denials and confusion.

RULE #6 

Rejection by Friends & Family.

Tipping the Velvet
The suggestions and denials will build to a fight and a split between the main character and her friends and family.  A best friend may become jealous of the new friendship, but may frame it in homophobic terms.  Ex-boyfriends will be particularly angry about possibly lesbianism.  Being cut off from others will lead the main character's only source of comfort to be the out lesbian, bringing them closer still.


Will They, Won't They/On Again, Off Again?

Desert Hearts
As happens in all romance films things will get in the way of the relationship, most of the hurdles well have a lesbian element.  The out lesbian will also reject the idea of a relationship, not wanting to be part of someone's phase or experimentation.  Unresolved sexual histories may become an issue.  The backlash from them getting together may scare one or both of them.



But I'm A Cheerleader
Unless the film determines "punishment" to be the necessary answer, there will be redemption.  While the Rom-Com redemption is large, involving weird transport, a big stunt and a public declaration of love, the lesbian romance redemption will be a smaller, more person declaration of love (for a more realistic tone).  It will be followed by a public admission of love, with some surprise acceptance.


Happily Ever After?

Room in Rome
Endings of the films will generally become happier over time.  In the old days of Hollywood lesbianism was transgression and the outcome would be the death of one or both of the women, either via suicide (unable to cope with being an abomination), murder by a homophobe or murder by the other party to get rid of the bad thing she did.  The first and third of these lead to the "psychotic lesbian" cliche, that continued to exist beyond the need for punishment.  Any surviving partners' lives will be devastated or they will return to the normal (especially marriage) although they may be left "unsatisfied" by a normal life.
Over time the punishment should become lighter.  An "accident" will do.  Suicide due to rejection.  Illness.  Eventually, just rejection of one party by the other will do.
Eventually, the films will be allowed happier endings.  Initially, opening acknowledging their love and not caring about the acceptance of others, with later films showing acceptance, end eventually just the happy ending of the general genre.  Like any modern "romance" there will be unhappy endings, but the history of lesbians in film will make these throwbacks stand out.

RULE #10

No Sequels

If These Walls Could Talk 2
As with Rom Coms, happy endings generally preclude sequels, as do most unhappy endings.  Also, as niche or independent films, there is less chance of funding for sequels.  Also like Rom Coms, while there aren't sequels, many actresses may star in a number of different lesbian romances.


My plan is to watch, review and analyse ten Lesbian Romances that may fit the rules and to see how well the rules hold up.  My current plan for viewing is:  
What do you think of the rules?  Are they fair?  Any obvious omissions or glaring mistakes?  Any rules that you know don't work or predictions of rules that will fail or succeed?
And what of the film list, any that *need* to be added beyond the ten?  Any "categories" that need to be added or tested?  Any films that shouldn't be there?

*UPDATE:  The final analysis is done.*

Meanwhile, do the survey to determine the fourth genre to be tested.

~ DUG.       
~ DUG.

1 comment:

  1. It's always a problem picking 10. Those are really good suggestions. Tipping the Velvet I particularly considered but discounted because it was a TV mini-series rather than a movie. A bit of a random rule, I know, but still. When I first discovered the formula for these rules, my flatmate (who introduced me to most of these films) suggested Tipping the Velvet as a counter example, but the first episode pretty much exactly follows it. I haven't watched Boys on the Side, but as a film that doesn't fit it may be worth considering and I may make a change. And change is why I can't do a calender. When I started the blogs I had a very long calender to keep track of stuff. But changes happen. I'll consider working on one. Right now, I can guarantee (because I've already done them) that if you watch "Imagine Me & You" you're set for the next 2 weeks (Rom Com film #9 and Lesbian Romance #1).