Monday, February 01, 2021

How the first time I ever saw LGBTQ people on screen made me fear Pam Grier

The first LGBTQ characters I remember seeing on screen are the lesbians who fought Pam Grier in Foxy Brown. But it had an opposite effect on me than the one the makers of the movie probably desired.

I'm going to divert a little from the usual fare in order to tell an interesting story about LGBTQ images. I hope folks reading this will give their comments in the section below.

On Twitter today, a question was raised which had me chasing memories. It was:

Ironically, as much as I write about LGBTQ issues, I could not remember the answer to this question. I remember seeing that Harry Hamlin movie, Making Love, in 1983 on network television courtesy of a channel in another state my T.V. could catch because my local station wouldn't show it.

I remember seeing a strange CBS movie, Welcome Home, Bobby in 1986 about a guy who may or may not have been gay.

And I remember seeing Revenge of the Nerds on VHS in the same year, which is extremely ironic because a little under a decade later, my college life mimicked that of the black gay character in the movie - i.e. being a semi-closeted black gay male in a predominantly white fraternity.

Then it came to me. 
The first time I remember seeing a queer/LGBTQ person on screen was in the first movie I ever saw on screen - Foxy Brown starring Pam Grier. To the uninitiated, Grier was the queen of blaxploitation, which itself was a genre featuring generally low-budget action movies in the 1970s starring black characters. They were also very controversial.  This particular movie, Foxy Brown, was one I saw at a drive-in with my uncle, aunt, and cousin when I was a little boy. In it, Grier was fighting a crime cartel in her neighborhood. The scene below was her attempting to rescue a prostitute from a lesbian bar:


 One would think that this scene created a negative view of LGBTQ people in me. Actually, it was the opposite view. Being a small child, I didn't understand the dialogue, but it disturbed me tremendously how Grier caused a huge brawl. To my young mind,  Grier went into the bar and began beating the hell out of the women who were simply minding their own business. Subsequently for a number of years - at least until college when I saw the movie again - I always had a fear of Pam Grier.. I saw her as the "big black lady with the afro who came to parties and fucked people up." I even imagined her using razor blades on folks (which she did not in this movie).

Maybe my experience proves how young people are simply too hip to fall for the junk that adults traffic to get us to fear each other. Or maybe, there was a small part of my mind which was aware of my LGBTQ sexual orientation, even at that young age, to recognize this silly attempt to demonize a bar full of lesbians.

Who knows? Regardless, I encourage and appreciate your comments about the first time you saw a queer/LGBTQ character on the screen.

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