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Film / Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives

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It's time they came out of the closet.

"The whole world is full of stupid myths about women."
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A Canadian documentary on the subject of lesbians and their culture in the 1940s-1960s. Nine different interviews are interspersed with a story about Laura, a young woman moving away and discovering her sexual orientation in a way reminiscent of classic lesbian pulp novels and their clichés; a common motif throughout. Co-directed by Lynne Fernie & Aerlyn Weissman and released in 1992, it can be viewed online for free at the producer's website.


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This movie contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Played with, the introduction warning audiences not to assume anyone shown is homosexual...or heterosexual.
  • Audible Gleam: The heart-shaped locket given to Laura from Meg does this, complete with cartoonish special effects.
  • Butch Lesbian: Discussed in detail, more so than femmes, due to the oft unbalanced ratio of the two.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Laura's visibly nervous as she smokes at the gay bar, though as she becomes more and more comfortable around Mitch, this isn't shown again.
  • Closet Gay: Many of the women in the film discuss their life before coming out and what it was like being closeted. The story of Laura also has her closeted initially.
  • Coitus Ensues: Near the end of Laura's story, she and Mitch have a pretty gratuitous sex scene that is a bit more explicit (not to mention lengthy) than seems strictly necessary. Then again, perhaps this was common in the pulp novels it was based on.
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  • Coming-Out Story: Most women interviewed discuss their coming out in the past.
  • Contemptible Cover: The primary aesthetic influence is campy old lesbian pulp novel covers.
  • Domestic Abuse: One woman, Stephanie, relates having been in a relationship where her girlfriend basically made her take the house wife role, and controlled her life. This included how Stephanie dressed and who she hung out with.
  • Hereditary Homosexuality: One of the women in the film mentions her oldest daughter is also a lesbian (to outrage from her ex-husband).
  • Heteronormative Crusader: A police officer who particularly harassed lesbians gets mentioned, though the police generally during the 40's-50's were like this according to the women's accounts. As well, one woman also talks about how her ex-husband grew outraged after learning she's a lesbian, became a homophobic religious zealot and then harassed her for many years in his attempt to "turn her straight" again. He was even more outraged after their daughter came out as a lesbian too, while trying to drive their youngest daughter away from them both.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: It's mentioned that the police used to beat up or rape lesbians with impunity, and the numerous hate crimes toward the Metropolitan Community Church (an LGBT-affirming denomination) are also detailed.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used often while showing hotels and other gay bars due to limited footage.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: They were less common in the 40's and 50's, according to women interviewed, though some of them qualified according to their looks as shown. One also made herself into a femme on getting involved with a fellow butch.
  • Male Gaze: Intentionally inverted in the narrative sequences, which generally end with both women looking directly at the camera.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: One woman, Stephanie, was butch but remade herself as femme when involved with another butch lesbian, a form of abuse as her girlfriend was very controlling.
  • Police Brutality: The police used to target lesbians with harassment, beatings and even rape.
  • Society Marches On: Especially noticeable in the CBC segment, which acknowledges the changing socio-economic status of women in the mid-century all while reassuring the audience that women will never leave their role as wives and mothers.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The gay bars of the 40's-50's are discussed, and stock footage is shown of them. Laura in the story also goes into one, where she's hit on by Mitch, a woman there, before going home with her.
  • Your Favorite: Mitch orders a grasshopper for Laura, knowing it's her preferred drink before they even speak.

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