1 Sep 2014


Films 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?

These are the rules for Lesbian Romance Films.  Not the rules for romancing a lesbian.  I'm not qualified to do that.

The ten films tested were:

Rule #1: A Coming Out Story

  • Shared Focus:  (4)  The Children's Hour, The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, Imagine Me & You.
  • Mostly POV Character:  (4)  Better than Chocolate, DEBS, My Summer of Love, Jack & Diane.
  • POV Character:  (1)  But I'm A Cheerleader.
  • Different Character: (1)  Lost & Delirious.

Basically half-and-half focusing on the more feminine character or the couple sharing the focus.  Roughly similar numbers to the result in Rom Coms.  However, 10 films tested for each genre are pretty small numbers.

  • Out: (1)  Better than Chocolate.
  • In Lesbian Relationship/Not Out: (1)  Lost & Delirious.
  • In a Straight Relationships/Knows She's A Lesbian: (1)  Bound.
  • Doesn't Know She Likes Girls: (4)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, But I'm A Cheerleader, DEBS, Imagine Me & You.
  • Unclear: (3)  The Children's Hour, My Summer of Love, Jack & Diane.

In three cases it is not clear if the feminine character liked girls in the first place.  We'll ignore those for the moment.  That leave 4 films (57%) where the girl doesn't know she likes girls, leaving 43% who do.  Even then, only one of those is out as a lesbian, not not even she's out to her family.

Rule #2  There May Be T&A

  • No Nudity: (2)  The Children's Hour, Imagine Me & You.
  • Male Gaze: (1)  But I'm A Cheerleader.
  • Skin, no Nudity: (1)  DEBS.
  • Some boobs: (5)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, Lost & Delirious, My Summer of Love, Jack & Diane.
  • Nudity: (1)  Better than Chocolate.

The nudity is at about 60%, much higher that the Rom Com 20% but lower than the Slasher film's 70%.

Rule #3  Unsatisfied

  • Happy with Boyfriend/Happy with Life: (1)  The Children's Hour.
  • Unhappy With Male Partner/Unhappy With Life: (4)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, DEBS, My Summer of Love.
  • Unhappy With Male Partner/Happy With Life: (2)  But I'm A Cheerleader, Imagine Me & You.
  • No Relationship/Unhappy with Life: (2)  Better than Chocolate, Jack & Diane.
  • Happy in Lesbian Relationship/Happy with Life:  (1)  Lost & Delirious.

At  the beginning of the film only 1 was in a lesbian relationship, 2 had no relationship, 7 had male love interests, with only 1 happy.  The one in a lesbian relationship was happy with life in general (if a bit rebellious), the ones not in a relationship were generally unhappy. The one happy with a male partner was happy with her life.  However, 4 of the 7 females unhappy with their relationship were also unhappy with their life in general, leaving 3 who did like their life. 

Rule #4:  Enter the Lesbian

Cute-and-semi-Dyky:  (5)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, Better than Chocolate, But I'm A Cheerleader, Jack & Diane.
Vaguely: (3)  The Children's Hour, Lost & Delirious, Imagine Me & You.
Feminine:  (2)    DEBS, My Summer of Love.

Only 2 films didn't have some level of the other character being less feminine.  The others varied in degrees of difference with the main characters, but none so masculine as to be unattractive to the straight male viewer.  This is movies after all.

Rule #5  Just Good Friends

Just Good Friends:  (3)  The Children's Hour, The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Imagine Me & You.
Brief Friendship: (2)  My Summer of Love, Jack & Diane.
Antagonistic then Friends:  (1)  DEBS.
Antagonistic Relationship:  (1)  But I'm A Cheerleader.
Never Just Friends: (3)  Bound, Better than Chocolate, Lost & Delirious.

Three of the relationships are pretty instant, most of the rest go through some level of the feminine character believing that they're just friends.

Rule #6  Rejection by Friends & Family

From the Beginning: (1)  But I'm A Cheerleader.
Once they Find Out: (1)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love.
Rejection (Other Reasons?): (6)  The Children's Hour, Better than Chocolate, DEBS, My Summer of Love, Imagine Me & You, Jack & Diane.
Fear of Rejection causes Break-up: (1)  Lost & Delirious
No Friends/Family: (1)  Bound.

Rejection by friends and family (or fear of it) plays a role in 90% of the films.  It's important to note that in 60% of the films watched the reasons for rejection were murky and may or may not have been related to them being a lesbian.

Rule #7  Will They, Won't They/On Again, Off Again

Mostly Growing Relationship: (3)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, My Summer of Love.
Will They, Won't They/On Again, Off Again: (3)  But I'm A Cheerleader, DEBS, Imagine Me & You.
An Argument: (3)  Better than Chocolate, Lost & DeliriousJack & Diane.
No actual relationship: (1)  The Children's Hour.

These are romance films.  A number of the Rom Com rules are based around the assumption that romance is rocky, and the results here are the same.

Rule #8  Redemption/Acceptance

Destroyed Life: (1)  The Children's Hour.
Open Ending:  (2)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, My Summer of Love.
Partial Acceptance:  (2)  But I'm A Cheerleader, DEBS.
Acceptance: (2)  Better than Chocolate, Imagine Me & You.
N/A: (3)  Bound, Lost & Delirious, Jack & Diane.

In 2 - 4 films the characters were eventually accepted by their family and friends to some degree, but with ambiguity of ending and those not rejected it left only 1 film with the feminine character with their life ruined by the relationship.

Rule #9  Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After:  (5)  Bound, Better than Chocolate, But I'm A Cheerleader, DEBS, Imagine Me & You.
Attempted Murder: (1)  My Summer of Love.
Suicide: (2)  The Children's Hour, Lost & Delirious.
Ambiguous: (1)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love.

Half the films have a happy ending.  One ends with one trying to kill the other and two end in suicide.  A 50% happy ending rate is one film lower than the 60% rate of Rom Coms.  Both have one ambiguous film.  However, the unhappy endings of the Rom Coms involve the characters not getting together, but the Lesbian Romance films it involved the suicide or attempted murder of one of the characters, a far more extreme ending and suggests some truth to the idea that Hollywood loves the crazed-lesbian cliche.

Rule #10  No Sequel

No Sequels, Other Roles:  (3)  The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love, Bound, But I'm A Cheerleader, Lost & Delirious, Imagine Me & You.
No Sequel: (3)  The Children's Hour, Better than Chocolate, My Summer of Love.
Possibly Sequel: (1)  DEBS.

No sequels to any of the films so far.

The next set of films to be tested will feature a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Rank the rules below that you'd like to see next:

Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.
~ DUG.

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