In the fifties and sixties a thriving genre of trashy, sensationalistic pulp novels purporting to expose the sordid twilight world of lesbians sprang up. While most these dime store novels were written by and for straight men and traded mostly in ugly stereotypes about lesbians (and their eventual defeat and/or rescue by a male hero), a rare few were actually written by lesbian authors who attempted to treat their heroines with respect—and a healthy splash of camp and sensationalism, too.
Among the most famous of these were the five novels that make up The Beebo Brinker Chronicles
, by Ann Bannon. The books follow the coming out
and search for love and happiness by pretty, feminine, very damaged
Laura, and her Bifauxnen
lover Beebo in 1950's Greenwich Village. Melodrama, angst, and sex ensue.
Not to be confused by a certain cat that smokes and has facial hair.
- Cast Full of Gay: The only straight people are there to be pined over unrequitedly.
- Contemptible Cover: Done in the 50s with images that look very tame compared to today. The recent reprints take it Up to Eleven with incredibly over-the-top and sleazy images in order to replicate the effect.
- Freudian Excuse: Laura's parents were divorced. Not only did lesbianism require a Freudian Excuse in The Fifties, this counted as one. Although in the second book, Laura says her father hates her because her family crashed their car into a lake and only Laura survived. If divorce didn't make her gay, this sure would.
- Gayngst: And plenty of it. It was the 1950's.
- Gayborhood: Greenwich Village, a real life example of this trope at the time.
- If It's You, It's Okay: In the first book, Odd Girl Out, this was Beth's stance toward Laura before she went outright hetero.
- The Masochism Tango: Laura and Beebo. Oh dear God.
- The Alcoholic: Beebo and Jack. An unfortunate, and unfortunately realistic, side effect of all that Gayngst.
- Suddenly Sexuality: Averted (the trope didn't really exist at this point). It's rather notable just how realistically complex the characters are. The first book has Laura go through a rather arduous process of coming out, first thinking If It's You, It's Okay before moving on to a Psycho Lesbian Stalker with a Crush phase, finally ending with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy (without sacrificing her own happiness in the process).