Todd Haynes (born January 2, 1961) is generally regarded as one of the most offbeat and unique directors currently working today. His films are noted for constantly subverting his audience's expectations so that they'll be more open to his social commentary, if there is any at all. Getting his start with 1987s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, the short film, instead of using actors, used Barbie dolls to tell the story of the rise and fall of the group, with Haynes whittling down the doll in order to simulate Karens slow death from Anorexia and presenting Richard Carpenter as a Jerkass deeply in denial about his homosexuality. Haynes ended up getting sued by Richard due to this presentation and the fact that Haynes failed to get proper licensing for their music. Haynes lost, and the film is now available as a bootleg.
Nethertheless, he went on to make his feature-length debut with 1990s Sundance-winning Poison, which drew the ire of Moral Guardians (most of whom didn't see the movie to begin with.) due to Haynes receiving partial funding from the National Endowment For the Arts, and the media promptly pegged Mr. Haynes as part of the New Queer Cinema movement along with other directors such as Gus Van Sant and Gregg Araki. Beyond that, Haynes films focus on a variety of topics from Gayngst, (Poison, Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven, Carol) Stepford Suburbias, (Safe, Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce, Carol) the nature of fame (Velvet Goldmine, I'm Not There, the silent portions of Wonderstruck), the toxicity of chemicals that humanity takes for granted (Safe, Dark Waters), and Out-and-out weirdness (Everything except his latest works.)
- Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
- Poison (1990)
- Safe (1995)
- Velvet Goldmine (1998)
- Far from Heaven (2002)
- I'm Not There (2007)
- Mildred Pierce (2011)
- Carol (2015)
- Wonderstruck (2017)
- Dark Waters (2019)
Tropes applying to his oeuvre and the man himself:
- Acclaimed Flop: Every film of his, save Far from Heaven and Carol, has bombed, yet they're praised to high heaven anyways.
- Mind Screw
- Playing Against Type: Haynes is known for his complex, confusing movies about identity and sexuality. In Mildred Pierce, he presents a straight adaptation of the book with none of his transgressive subtext. Wonderstruck, his first family film, is an adaptation of Brian Selznicks YA novel, a love letter to the silent film era, and a dual period piece, with two storylines, one taking place in the 1920s, the other in the 1970s. And Dark Waters is in a similar mold to socially aware fact-based legal thrillers about environmental pollution, such as A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich, but with a murkiness and attention to gory detail that is all Haynes own.
- Postmodernism: Especially when it comes to the ideas of identity and/or sexuality being used to show the artificiality of film as a whole. Confused yet?
- Production Posse: Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale in starring roles, and Christine Vachon as his go-to producer.
- Spiritual Successor: I'm Not There is one to Velvet Goldmine, given their focus on fictionalized versions of famous musicians.
- Haynes himself is one to Douglas Sirk, given old-school Melodramas such as Heaven and Carol.
- Carol is one to Heaven, being another 1950s-set romance film dealing with homosexuality in a Stepford Suburbia environment.
- Dark Waters is one to Safe, as it pulls back the curtain and dramatically shows the downsides of chemicals that are part of everyday life.
- Straight Gay: A lot of his characters and the man himself.