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Before we loved ‘Simon,’ other movies paved the way

Watch these landmark LGBTQ movies

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(Screenshot via YouTube.)

The arrival of “Love, Simon,” as multitudes of commentators have already pointed out, is a groundbreaking moment for positive LGBT representation and presence in mainstream cinema.

While it’s undoubtedly the highest-profile release to focus on young people coming out, it’s certainly not the first. To celebrate this new milestone for LGBT inclusion, we’ve put together a list of other landmark movies that have tackled the same theme. In the era of streaming media, all of them should be readily available on one or more platforms, so look at this as a chance to catch up on some important titles you may have want to revisit.

In chronological order:

“My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985, dir: Stephen Frears) – Not so much a coming-out movie, but a must-see classic offering a positive depiction of gay love amid oppressive surroundings. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) is a young Pakistani in London whose entrepreneur uncle gives him a job restoring a run-down laundry and turning it into a profitable business; he enlists the help of a white street-thug (Daniel Day-Lewis), who is looking for a better life, to help him with the task, and the two oddly matched young men find themselves falling in love as they face the challenge of building both a business and a sanctuary for themselves in a community embroiled with racism, cultural intolerance and corruption. Audiences, gay and straight alike, adored it – the superb early work by director Frears, who has gone on to create a long list of acclaimed films, and Day-Lewis, here at the start of his remarkable acting career, certainly helped win them over – and it became one of the most lauded films of the ‘80s, still counted as one of the decade’s finest.

“The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” (1995, dir: Maria Maggenti) – A funny, tender, and refreshingly non-exploitative teen lesbian romance about a troubled tomboy (Laurel Holloman) and a pretty rich girl (Nicole Ari Parker) who find first love with each other – much to the dismay of family and friends. Concentrating more of its attention on the development of a relationship than the process of coming out, it drew praise for its realistic portrayal of non-stereotypical characters. After its Sundance debut it enjoyed relative commercial success – sufficient to boost the careers of its two stars, along with supporting player Dale Dickey – and won the GLAAD media award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release.

“Beautiful Thing” (1996, dir: Hettie MacDonald) – Originally made for British television, this kitchen-sink “dramedy” proved so popular it was released theatrically. Following the story of two working-class London teens (Glenn Barry and Scott Neal) who fall for each other amid the drug-and-alcohol-fueled drama of their council estate community, it’s based on a play by Jonathan Harvey (who also penned the screenplay) and appears on numerous lists of “essential” LGBT films. Featuring a sweet ending and a fun, retro soundtrack of songs by The Mamas and the Papas.

“Edge of Seventeen” (1998, dir: David Moreton) – Another early entry in the gay-teen-coming-of-age canon, set in the ‘80s and starring Chris Stafford as an Ohio high school boy whose summer flirtation with a college student (Andersen Gabrych) starts him on the path toward coming to terms with his sexuality. A favorite at Outfest and many other LGBT-themed film festivals on the circuit, it received a limited theatrical release and garnered acclaim from many mainstream critics as well – an all-too-rare accomplishment for the time. It also features Lea DeLaria in a supporting role.

“Get Real” (1998, dir: Simon Shore) – Another British film, also based on a play, about a gay 16-year old (Ben Silverstone) living in a rural town where homosexuality is viewed as the ultimate taboo. While cruising local restrooms, he finds his school’s star athlete (Brad Gorton) doing the same thing, which leads to a tentative romance and forces both boys to grapple with the idea of coming out.

“But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999, dir: Jamie Babbit) – Though not well-reviewed by mainstream critics upon release, this deliberately “trashy” satire found a friendlier reception from festival crowds and commentators in the LGBT media, and it has since become a fondly-remembered cult favorite. Starring Natasha Lyonne as a high schooler whose parents suspect her of being a lesbian and send her to a conversion camp, where instead of being “cured” she learns to embrace her sexuality and helps to lead a rebellion among the other campers. Cute and quirky as it may be, this comedy was also deeply subversive for its time, and fearless in its condemnation of religion-based intolerance and bigotry; it also features a colorful cast that includes Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Cathy Moriarty, Michelle Williams, Mink Stole, and RuPaul in a rare non-drag role.

“Latter Days” (2003, dir: C. Jay Cox) – Another festival favorite that met with opposition from the mainstream press, this highly personal romance from writer-director Cox also faced controversy over its portrayal of a young Mormon missionary in Los Angeles (Steve Sandvoss) who falls in love with his openly gay neighbor (Wes Ramsey) and is subsequently excommunicated, shamed by his family, and sent to a mental hospital to be “cured” of his homosexuality after he attempts suicide. Bleak as it may sound, it’s actually a watershed moment for gay moviemaking in that it offers the kind of sappy, crowd-pleasing love story (and yes, there’s a happy ending) that straight audiences had been enjoying since the beginning of cinema. For that reason, it’s a movie with a lot of fans (attempts to ban it by religious groups, Mormon and otherwise, likely only increased its popularity), and can still elicit a smile and a tear today. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mary Kay Place, and Jacqueline Bisset add some star power to the supporting cast – but the two leads are endearing enough to carry the movie on their own.

“Pariah” (2011, dir: Dee Rees) – Like “Moonlight,” this movie is a double landmark in that, in addition to its depiction of a teenager coming out, it also portrays that process from the perspective of a person of color. It deals with 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye), whose growing awareness of her sexuality brings even more turmoil to her already-turbulent home life. Expanded by Rees from an earlier short film, it was praised for its authenticity and for Oduye’s powerful performance, in addition to the work of Charles Parnell and Kim Wayans as Alike’s parents.

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Television

Ellen signs off after 19 seasons

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years then took a moment to dance through the audience with Twitch

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Screenshot/YouTube

BURBANK – The lights went dark forever at the Warner Brothers Stage 1 complex on the lot at Warner Brothers Studio, home to the Ellen show, as comedian Ellen DeGeneres ended her daytime talk show after a 19 season run Thursday.

In a highly charged emotional hour, DeGeneres paid tribute to her staff, executive producers and a global audience of loyal viewers. Highlighting the end run of the show DeGeneres brought on guest Jennifer Aniston, the actress having been the comedian’s very first guest on the first show.

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years and she then took a moment to dance through the audience with her ‘DJ’ Twitch. During the course of the hour she discussed the progress that had been made since the series premiered in 2003, noting that she “couldn’t say ‘gay’ on the show” when it started or make a reference to her wife, Portia de Rossi, because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal.

“Now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” she said.  Noting that there was resistance to the show and that few gave it a chance of surviving, DeGeneres promised that she wouldn’t be gone for long. “Today is not the end of a relationship, it’s more of a little break,” she said. “You can see other talk shows now.”

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Celebrity News

Crown Prosecution Service UK charges Kevin Spacey with sexual assault

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK

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Screenshot/Sky News UK

LONDON – The Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday that actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with five counts including three complaints relating to sexual abuse, which is alleged to have taken place in London, and one in Gloucestershire during the time period between 2005 and 2013.

Crown prosecutors told media outlets that the decision to move forward was based on a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate at Scotland Yard. The Directorate is a national police agency which handles specialist crime investigations such as e-crime, sex crimes (paedophile unit) or kidnappings.

In its reporting Thursday, the BBC outlined the cases against the actor.

The first two charges relate to alleged sexual assaults on a man, now in his 40s, in London in March 2005, while a second alleged victim, a man now in his 30s, is claimed to have been assaulted in London in August 2008.

The serious sexual offence charge – causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent – also relates to the second alleged victim.

The third complainant relates to an alleged assault on a man who is now in his 30s in Gloucestershire in April 2013.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, told the BBC that following the Met’s review of evidence the CPS had “authorised criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, 62, for four counts of sexual assault against three men”.

She added: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Spacey are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.”

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK.

Spacey’s alleged sexual assaults occurred while he was living in London and employed as the renowned Old Vic Theatre’s artistic director in London between 2004 and 2015.

Spacey has been embroiled publicly and later in court over sexual assault allegations since October of 2017 when Out actor Anthony Rapp told the world that the Oscar-winning actor had tried to “seduced” him when Rapp was 14 years old. 

Rumours about Spacey’s behaviour had circulated in film and theatre circles for a considerable length of time previous to Rapp’s allegation.

Spacey’s response was immediate. He apologized and came out. “I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey wrote on Twitter.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me, and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my own privacy,” Spacey said, adding “I now chose to live as a gay man.”

In July of 2019, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe announced that a charge against Spacey which accused the actor of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old boy in a Nantucket, Mass. bar had been dropped.

In court documents, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the charge was dropped “due to an unavailability of the complaining witness.”

News anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of getting her son, William Little, drunk at the Club Car, a bar in Nantucket, Mass., and groping him in July 2016 when Little was 18 years old.

In October of 2019, the office of then Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that prosecutors have declined to move forward in a sexual battery case against the actor because the accuser had died.

That case, one of several involving accusations of sexual misconduct and assault by the Oscar winning actor, allegedly occurred after an October 2016 incident. A masseur had claimed that Spacey had inappropriately touched him in a sexual manor at a private home in Malibu as he was giving Spacey a massage.

A statement released by the LADA’s office notes that the masseur’s allegations against could not be proven without his participation in court proceedings. The alleged victim had also civil suit pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Spacey for the same incident.

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault:

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Notables

Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”

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Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at time.com/time100.

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