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I was about 15 years old when I first watched “Blue Is the Warmest Color”. More accurately, I was about 15 years old when I watched almost two hours of the three-hour movie. I was entering a sexuality crisis — did I like girls? Did I really like men, or was I convinced I should? Being a young teen on Tumblr in the early to mid-2010s, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was the only WLW (woman-loving-woman) movie that I ever saw or read about. There were people that loved it, and there were people that thought it was just okay. Some hated it, but I didn’t know that until years later. I thought I was the odd one out, that maybe I didn’t like girls because I couldn’t stomach a whole movie about queer women. There were not many other options for lesbian movies with emotional weight that I heard — or knew — of in 2016.

Instead, I watched queer movies about men. They were less sex-oriented, less pretentious and felt more real. My favorites (and many of the Tumblr-users’ favorites) were foreign-made, like the Dutch film “Jongens” (also known as “Boys”) and the Brazilian film “The Way He Looks”. They were sweet, memorable and represented a youthful search for love that I resonated with. “But I’m a Cheerleader” was closer to what I was looking for in lesbian love, but the campiness and humor (and denial) did not have what I was looking for at that age.

While the movie I was looking for did not come until years later, (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, 2019), many other gay and lesbian movies came out with modern and recognizable actors, though still predominantly white. “The Happiest Season”, a holiday movie from 2020, attempted a popular romance trope through the queer lens. While it was fun to watch and performed by at least one actor who has been openly queer, I felt like it missed the mark a bit. One character, played by Kristen Stewart, was “out”, but her long-term partner, played by Mackenzie Davis, was not. The viewers, as well as Stewart’s character, do not find this out until 11 minutes into the movie, and then we spend the rest of the time watching the two try to keep their relationship a secret. 

In the response to the movie, many viewers called Davis’s sexuality into question, breaching one of the more recent representation questions: “Should actors that do not identify with the LGBTQ+ community play queer characters?” Some viewers were more tired of the often realistic, though hard reminder, of the “secret relationship” trope. If films are meant to represent both real-life and imaginary life, can we not watch a film where queer women are together without any social, career or familial repercussions? The viewers only get 10 minutes to watch two happy lesbians in love before the secret is spoken and chaos ensues. 

The “we’re a secret!” trope is arguably better than the “Bury Your Gays” trope. Queer women in particular have been dying on-screen for decades, often to advance the plot or to explore another character’s grief. Their characters become useless, virtue signaling to viewers that the TV show producers or screenwriters are not, in fact, homophobic and are aware that WLW exist in the real world. They just aren’t worth a happy ending. 

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” concludes with an unrequited love, a very unhappy (though alive) resolution. “Happiest Season” ends with the leads together, but who’s to say that was the ‘happy’ ending. Personally, I thought Aubrey Plaza and Kristen Stewart had better chemistry. At least they did not end with death, nor with increased family tensions concerning their sexualities. Some people love “Blue Is the Warmest Color” and “Happiest Season.” Some people hate these movies. Whether they are good or not, there should be more WLW romance movies that we could compare them to. There should be more bad lesbian movies made just like there should be more good lesbian movies. There should be enough that we can hate them because of their quality, not begrudgingly like them only because they are at least a type of representation.

In the same way that we are seeing more and more MLM (man-loving-man) romance stories being produced on the big screen, we should be seeing more femme and gender-nonconforming love stories. It would be great to see movies with queer romance as a secondary genre, similar to how action and comedy movies have romantic side-plots or a recognizable and consistent romantic partner for the lead. If there are enough movies made without the “secret” trope, “Happiest Season” can become more enjoyable for what it is. The lack of diversity in theme, as well as the consistent lack of representation for non-white queer women, makes movies like “Happiest Season” worse for what they don’t show.

Giselle Mills is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at