BiMediaWatch: Silver Screen
It was a year of two queer films. It seemed like everywhere I went in 2015, bi and LGBT events were either showing Pride or Appropriate Behaviour. Wanting to cheerlead bi content, it disappointed me which one was the more rewarding.
The somewhat-glamourised story of gay activists in the early 1980s fundraising to support striking coal miners in the South Wales coalfield is told in Pride. If you don’t know the tale, during the year-long coal miners’ strike a small band of gay activists in London started fundraising to support the families of the striking men.
At first their money was turned away due to homophobia and the fear of guilt-by-association; but in time it was accepted and a bond grew up. It’s one of those stories that, growing up in the coalfield and then coming out onto the gay scene at the start of the 90s, I thought everyone knew.
The strike of course ended in failure but the National Union of Mineworkers went on to press the Labour party to change course and be a little more favourable to gay rights.
It’s a feelgood tearjerker of a movie, and there’s no bi representation at all, while separate lesbian organising is seen as detracting from the common cause: remember, it is set in 1984. Amusingly the USA DVD release of the film mentions neither the word “gay” nor “miners” anywhere on the sleeve. But it is a captivating story of people breaking down barriers between social groups that were fiercely at odds with one another.
Appropriate Behaviour on the other hand is a bi story: the narrative of a young bisexual Iranian woman in Manhattan working out what went wrong in her last relationship.
We get moments of raw humanity when she tries to come out to her mother, and in her desparate attempts to patch up a bad relationship that has come unstuck. But for the rest of the film it’s almost every bad bisexual trope you wouldn’t hope for: hurting your partner through being closeted; falling into stalkerish behaviour patterns; making poor choices in partners, and having lousy ill-judged threesomes… Though we’re doing better than some bi film representation in that she doesn’t kill anyone along the way.
Our heroine Shirin – like most of the people around her – seems to make most of her life decisions while drunk or otherwise intoxicated. Sometimes she gets away with them, sometimes they land her in a bigger mess. We’re perhaps meant to take that away as the lesson: when she starts making decisions for herself in the cold light of day perhaps she’ll move on, but for now she’s coasting on through.
Maybe that’s why Pride was more engaging: they’re both people on journeys, but much more happens along the way in Pride.
Or maybe it’s age, and if I were twentyone I’d see myself in Appropriate Behaviour. Instead I see my younger self, writ large, and am so glad to have grown older.