Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?
I looked at 10 rules the Lesbian Romance films followed, tested 10 films against them and analysed the results, but I never looked at the rules themselves, so let's look at the first Lesbian Romance film rule...
They say before you can break the rules you have to understand them...
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.
There are a number of reasons that this rule could exist, but let's start with the most obvious one: It's just easier. A romance film is built on the will-they-won't-they tension and the obstacles that fall in their path on the way. If one of the characters is a straight girl, then there are a lot of those obstacles built in (see the other rules). That's not to say that it being easier makes the writer lazier. It just means that just don't have to go for ludicrous plots like most Rom-Coms do: He's a jaded cynical writer of Rom-Coms who doesn't believe in love, she's a fan of the genre who's looking for her one true love... but will she ever trust him again when his film based on their meet-cute is accidentally made into a major motion picture? With the tension built in, none of that rubbish is needed. It can be added, but it isn't required.
Next, real life. It happens. Not everyone finds their sexuality at the same time. Some of these stories are based on the writer's real experiences, or those of friends. It's probably not as clear-cut or cleanly delineated as it appears in films (even if these films are more complex than the normal love story) but film isn't a complex medium. However, this focus on first-ish loves ignores the majority of relationships that are out there.
Then there's fantasy. The straight girl finding love with another woman can be a fantasy for men and woman. And fantasy drives film.
Finally, it brings to light issues and prejudices. While two lesbian women will certainly face prejudice, the story of someone coming out shows them more starkly. The reactions of friend, family and society, the personal reaction to the realization and even the reaction to evens of the potential partner are all brought to the forefront of the story much stronger that otherwise.
The films looked at actually had some variety. Only 40% had the character not knowing (consciously) that she liked girls. Another 30% had her knowing, but still not completely out to everyone - keeping it a secret from parents/family or being in a straight relationship despite being homosexual. The remaining 30% it's unclear. So, in the 10 films looked at there were no clear cut examples for two out women falling in love.
Another aspect of the rules was that the woman coming out would be the POV character. That rule didn't hold up as well. Often the film would start that way and then begin to be shared by the couple. Some would be shared all along. Some would have other character get at least some of the focus, one was completely from a third party's POV. Most of the POV was from the woman coming out, because, on the surface her story has more obstacles, but it wasn't exclusively her point of view.
Other options: Two out woman was mentioned repeatedly above as another option. And, as noted, that was covered, to a degree, by some of the films, although not had both unequivocally and those films have less built in obstacles. The song above tells of two straight girls getting together. None of the films selected cover that (although, it could be argued for My Summer of Love and Lost & Delirious and most likely appears a lot in porn for the male market. Bisexuality opens up other options, but the idea of "one true love" that the romance means that those options are limited in a romance film (Bound comes close.
As always, the number of films looked at (10) means that a lot of films could cover more options. If you know a film that should be tested in, whether it follows this rule or not, please mention it below.
Please do the survey to determine future rule sets.
Also do the poll about my various blogs.