Films about queer people are fine, as long as they're not too queer...
That most often seems to be the tack Hollywood takes. They'll make a glowing biopic about a queer icon, or a moving queer love story, but when it comes to actual queerness or *gasp* queer sex... well, Hollywood tends to tiptoe around things, because we mustn't turn off the straights!
Most recently, this issue has been brought to the forefront with the release of the Freddy Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. The film had a backlash before it was ever released for its plans to tread lightly when it came to Mercury's sexual identity, and especially his battle with AIDS during its early years as an epidemic among queer people (along with other marginalized groups). The marketing of the film seems to strain to obscure Mercury's identity and the film's queer content, and now that the film has finally dropped, many reviewers are finding that those early suspicions of "straightwashing" were dead on.
Perhaps with Bohemian Rhapsody on the brain, a Twitter user recently unearthed promotional materials for another queer film that was "straightbaited" within an inch of its life: Ang Lee's 2006's Oscar-nominated film Brokeback Mountain, a story of a love affair between two cowboys that was widely marketed as a story about just plain ol' love at best, and explicitly straight love at worst.
And this trip down memory had people kind of shocked!
But they perhaps shouldn't have been. As others pointed out, it wasn't just Brokeback Mountain that got this "straightbaiting" treatment:
Nor was this just a mid-2000s phenomenon. Call Me By Your Name suffered a similarly derivative marketing push just last year:
But the tweet that really struck a nerve was this story, from professor and "queer Twitter" icon Anthony Oliveira:
Which triggered all kinds of memories of the film for queer and non-queer folks alike:
But these weak-spined marketing efforts were no match for the power of the film itself, which endures as a watershed for many queer men to this day, as one of Oliveira's followers made clear.
No verdict just yet on whether Bohemian Rhapsody will have the same iconic place in the queer art pantheon, but given that the film itself barely goes there when it comes to Mercury's queerness--in contrast to films like Brokeback Mountain, which definitely does (hashtag tent scene)--it seems that'll be a tough sell.