chapter  5
21 Pages

Homosexuality and film noir

Some of the first widely available images of homosexuality in our time were those provided by the American film noir. Given the dearth of alternative images, it is reasonable to suppose that these had an important influence on both public ideas about homosexuality and, damagingly, gay self-images. I know that as I grew up realizing I was gay I used to identify with characters like Waldo in Laura or Jo in A Walk on the Wild Side; they concretized and reinforced for me the negative feelings about myself that I’d picked up elsewhere in the culture. I know from work within the gay movement how widespread these images still are among gays and non-gays alike. It is important then to understand these images as one aspect of the armoury of gay oppression and indeed of sexual oppression generally. How gays are represented is always part and parcel of the sexual ideology1 of a culture and, as I hope my examination of film noir shows, also indicates the complex, ambiguous ways in which heterosexual women and men are thought and felt about in that culture.