No I don’t mean the Winter Soldier I mean the movie. Because I’ve been thinking about it a lot, which is understandable given that I saw it about (about who am I kidding) twelve times in theaters. So let’s establish that first: I very, very much enjoyed this movie.
I loved the introduction to Sam Wilson and the way he was used as a foil for Steve - the veteran who’s made peace sharing the screen with the veteran who doesn’t know what peace is. I loved Steve and Natasha’s relationship. I loved that they made Sharon her own person first, and I pray that they keep her as her own person instead of falling victim of the photocopied female trope. I loved the way the action scenes reflected the personalities and skill sets of the characters involved, that they were choreographed in a way that made them unique to their participants instead of a generic tour of explosions.
But as with all things I love, there are aspects of the film of which I am deeply critical. The treatment of Peggy Carter is one such issue, one that I could write an entire post on, and possibly will. The number of casualties, and how little attention those casualties are given by our heroes. But what I really want to talk about is the thematic elements of The Winter Soldier and the unfortunate implications brought by Hydra’s presence in the film and their actions in the MCU.
The way the ads were framed for this film made it seem like Steve would be taking on SHIELD itself, tackling the issues of a surveillance state and the kind of government that would support one. Such things are the ideal purview of a character meant to embody the best of a nationalistic spirit. Such things were tidily side-stepped by the introduction of Hydra to the mix.
Now, stay with me for a minute. Think about it. At the outset, we’re shown SHIELD’s plan to help create a “safer” world. Eliminating threats before they happen. Punishment coming after the crime? Can’t afford to wait that long. Essentially, SHIELD is preparing to execute thousands for thought crimes, and they’re close to making that (criminal) dream a reality.
But that’s Hydra talking!
And that’s the problem. No, it’s not. It’s not just Hydra. It is also SHIELD. There are hundreds, thousands, who are complicit in the creation and institution of this plan. Fury gets in Steve’s face and tells him to get with the program. SHIELD supports these measures. Not unilaterally, I’m sure, but enough to make it happen. They are absolved of guilt in the narrative because of the presence of Hydra in their midst, but how can the motives of one group be extricated from the motives of the other?
They essentially did want the same thing, Pierce was right about that much - but one man’s target was another man’s hero. Literally the only thing that changes when Hydra takes control is whose finger rests on the trigger. But we forget that, because Hydra is framed as the enemy in the text of the story, and SHIELD is framed as a perhaps complicit but unwitting victim. Which they are so, so not.
They are just as guilty as Hydra, and just as wrong. The narrative sort of gestures vaguely in this direction with Steve’s insistence that the whole mess has to go - but Fury looks for support in the conversation, still wanting to salvage some aspect of the monolith, and - to duck into related canons - tasks one of his (white cis) men with doing exactly that.
In saying that Hydra has been feeding crises for 70 years, The Winter Soldier removes from those organizations, states, and individuals in history who perpetrated those crises any responsibility for their actions and the fallout therefrom. Maybe this was hyperbole on Zolatron’s part, but we’re given supporting evidence for his claim within the context of the film. Again, it could be exaggeration, given that this information comes from an enemy, but as we’re given no conflicting evidence to work with during the narrative, we are thus required to give certain credence to the idea.
As a historian, this is where the movie kind of lost me. It effectively renders recent history into an artificial construct, and unintentionally posits that if not for Hydra’s influence, the world would probably be A-okay. It allows the “out” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of saying “Hydra did it” when it comes to any discussion of uncomfortable truths of the past seventy years, and opens up the way to absolve political entities of decisions that they made in the real world. In essence, it neuters the film’s ability to speak to a modern world that is veering toward a dystopic future, because of the events of a chaotic past.
The film’s whole relationship with responsibility and the nature/importance of ordinary heroism is shaky at best. Which breaks my heart, because Cap’s whole thing is the importance of ordinary heroism. His significance is not his personal strength; it’s the personal strength he attracts and inspires in others. And to paraphrase Zolatron, the inspiration that Steve offers in this film virtually amounts to a zero sum.
Again, stick with me for a minute.
He absolutely inspires Sam to step back into the field - as far as Sam is concerned, Cap’s need for assistance is the best reason in the world to get back in the fight. In some ways he inspires Natasha to open herself up to a future where she is known but still accepted, where her personal safety is less significant than the world’s right to know what happens behind closed doors (I by no means grant Steve the honor of being her sole motivation, but his presence and his trust don’t hurt). He inspires those members of SHIELD not serving Hydra to stand up and take back their organization - and here, the narrative fails.
The narrative fails because the SHIELD agents fail. In spite of what Steve says, in spite of what many of SHIELD’s members are willing to do, what they try to do, they can’t win. Rather than telling us that the ordinary man can still make a difference in a world of extraordinary problems, the failure of SHIELD personnel to make any inroads in recapturing their facilities or taking down the helicarriers themselves sends a very different message. It says “even if you try to fight, you won’t win, no matter how many small soldiers fight with you.” It says “don’t worry about that big scary police state, someone will come save you from it.” It says “only the ones with superpowers matter in this fight.”
It takes away the opportunity for anything but tragically heroic actions - tragically heroic actions that make no difference in the grand narrative scheme. Sharon and her people take a stand, and the helicarriers fly anyway. The nameless SHIELD agent in the hangar bay cries out for his fellows to close the bay doors, and he and all of the rest are shot down. The agents trying to secure the building are annihilated by Rumlow and his men. The pilots trying to get Steve air support are slaughtered wholesale by the Winter Soldier. No matter what they do, they lose, lose, lose.
That, in my mind, is the ultimate failing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Rather than embracing the opportunity to reinforce Steve’s beliefs, his message, the idea that he’s just an ordinary man - a kid from Brooklyn - it puts distance between him and the ordinary men who follow his lead. Sam and Natasha are both extraordinary in their own ways, superheroes without superpowers. They are allowed to keep pace with Captain America. But the people to whom he matters the most, the ones to whom he should make the biggest difference - the narrative chooses to leave them behind.
It’s not a story about people who just need a push in the right direction from the right person, people who can change the world with their beautifully ordinary strength. It ends up being a story about how those people need to be saved, and that there’s nothing they can do until they are.
What’s needed here—if evil isn’t going to triumph completely, and I’m not sure that Jae isn’t right and evil is the only thing left to triumph—is a new generation of heroes, independent of Brooklyn, Kansas, and Kiev. Heroes who are equipped above and beyond. Samurai. Jaegers. Berserkers. Dorian Greys. Sphinxes and Hecubae. The merciless.
at the Dallas Theater Center. So tired but OH MY GOSH.
-SET IN MODERN DAYS! COPS. POLICE BRUTALITY. GUNS AND EXPLOSIVES AT THE BARRICADE. Riot shields. Caution tape set up after the barricade fell. Hearing their radios reporting as they stepped over the students’ dead bodies. It was chilling.
-guns as an active part of the story, more so than the 1800s version. JVJ literally knocked a gun from Javert’s hand and took it when he ran after Fantine’s death.
-the only non-ensemble characters portrayed by white people were Javert, Enjolras and a couple other students (not including Marius), and the Thenadiers. Eponine MAY have been white but I’m not quite sure. The subtext of racism played into the story that already existed SO BEAUTIFULLY that it made me cry MORE than usual
-In “One Day More” they were holding signs that said “living wages for all” “everyone deserves clean water” “we are all God’s children” “freedom” “never slaves again” and I just !
-Thenardier during “Dog Eat Dog” song, which is always disgusting ANYWAY - but at the line, “Someone’s got to collect their odds and ends / As a service to the town!” He reached down and lifted up the head of one of the dead students, Courfeyrac I think, and squished his lips to “sing along” to the service to the town part, and I was so disgusted and angry I started crying furiously.
-The costuming. Not just cop uniform for Javert, but the SWAT-like masks and uniforms for prison guards, the fact that those were the SAME men who later showed up in “Lovely Ladies,” and later barricade police forces, orange jumpsuits for JVJ and the other convicts in the prologue, seeing the factory workers dressed crappily while the foreman got a white shirt and dress pants and the CEOs and Mayor walked through in their nice suits and barely looked at the workers, a home being foreclosed and a family being kicked out and the homeless men and women with their cardboard signs being “cleaned up” in the streets of Paris, and all the sudden the distance and “how could that even happen” in the historical version became “oh my gosh, I am literally doing this in my life, how many times have I been part of this problem and not known it?”
-ok lol hipster Enjolras and other students with their mac laptops and coffee cups at the cafe
-But SERIOUSLY, each cast member was so talented, and each of their heritage highlighted something about the story of the character and how those struggles exist NOW. Indian Jean Valjean. Black Fantine and Young Cosette. Asian Adult Cosette (it was a little awkward having her change ethnicity as she grew, but I’m SO HAPPY they didn’t just make her actress be Eponine because of the tradition of casting Asian women as Eponine ever since Lea Salonga…), diverse ensemble including latin@ men and women as well…I could cry. I DID cry. JVJ being punished more extensively for a simple crime and the implied subtext with his being easily mistaken for Middle Eastern. Fantine as a single black mother being singled out for aggressions at her factory workplace and later brutality. The tender, TENDER moment with her on a modern hospital bed in a hospital gown as she’s dying, and he looks at her and UNDERSTANDS the prejudice that she’s faced - that he played into! And that the privileged students were similarly diverse, so no one race was pigeonholed into a certain role of suffering, and, and, everythiiiiiing
-“Turning Through The Years” with police caution tape and red and blue flashing lights
-Realizing that I could read on the news about a riot involving students somewhere, under 10 dead, etc - and be sad but not have it mean as much to me as it should. Because it SHOULD. Every time this happens, now, and it IS happening now, it’s Les Miserables.
-“Will join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? … Tomorrow comes!” This production effectively took the passion I always feel at the end of Les Miserables and directed it to look at myself and the true injustices of our age, our lives, our society. Bam.
I’m sure there’s more I’ll think of later but I was just so…wow.
If you live in the Dallas, TX area and want to see it! https://www.dallastheatercenter.org/show_details.php?sid=70
I hope we have/get a a bootleg of this I totally want to see it now and travelling to Dallas is sadly out of question.
Okay so I know Grantaire drawing Enjolras in his sketchbook and being really protective and secretive about it because of this is a really common trope
But what about Enjolras who takes a notepad with him at all times so he can write down thoughts that come to his head or clever phrases or parts of stories or newspaper articles or statistics that he might be able to use when he’s writing essays or speeches then suddenly gets really tetchy when Combeferre asks if he can borrow it to write something in and Enjolras who nearly rips Courfeyrac’s head off when he tries to steal a bit of paper
And Enjolras who becomes frantic when he realises it isn’t in his bag and he can’t remember where he’s left it and is pacing around his kitchen trying to mentally retrace his steps when the doorbell rings and Grantaire’s there holding the notepad with a look of consternation on his face and asking “This is yours, right?” and Enjolras nods and tries to snatch it out of his hand but Grantaire just holds it out of reach and walks in and puts it onto a table and opens it to a certain page and points at it and quietly says “Please explain.”
Because the page is titled “GRANTAIRE” and is almost entirely covered in neat scribbles in what is painfully obviously Enjolras’ handwriting and Enjolras has to desperately try to think of a suitable explanation that isn’t the truth because he doesn’t know how well Grantaire would take “I wrote down everything I like about you to try and figure out these weird emotions you make me experience and I may have concluded that I’m in love with you”
#Then then THEN#Enjolras is trying to bluff his way through an excuse that has more holes than a ringbinder#when Grantaire sighs and rolls his eyes in frustration then pulls his sketchbook out of his bag and puts it beside Enjolras’ book#and it’s open to a page full of adoring sketches of Enjolras#and Grantaire just goes ”Let’s try this again shall we’#best of both worlds tbh
Few notes: All books redirect to goodreads page. My focus is on high/heroic/historic/mythological fantasy, any other genres are stated in the brackets.
Please, add books and notes at will but remember to include only these in where either the protagonist or an important side character belongs to LGBTQ+.
(I also have a list here, which I’m going to update every time someone adds another book to this list)
GAY/BI MALE CHARACTERS
- Rain Wild Chronicles (part of Realm of the Elderlings series), Robin Hobb
- The Books of Outremer, Chaz Brenchley
- The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
- The Tale of the Five Omnibus, Diane Duane
- The Last Herald Mage series (part of Valdemar series), Mercedes Lackey
- Nightrunner series, Lynn Flewelling
- The Steel Remains (part of A Land Fit fot Heroes series), Richard K. Morgan
- The Wode Series, J. Tullos Hennig
- Mordred, Bastard Son, Douglas Clegg
- The Knights of Camelot series, Sarah Luddington
- The Mortal Instruments, Cassie Clare
- Kirith Kirin, Jim Grimsley
- The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff
- Shadowdance, Robin Wayne Bailey (trigger warning for rape)
- Doctrine of Labyrinths series, Sarah Monette
- Swordspoint & The Privilege of the Sword & The Fall of the Kings (part of Riverside world), Ellen Kushner
- Iskryne World Series, Sarah Monette
- Torsere Series, Annabelle Jacobs
- Captive Prince Series, C.S. Pacat
- Micah Grey series, Laura Lam (a bisexual intersex afab male protagonist)
- Gay Knights And Horny Heroes: Tales from the Court of King Arthur, Michael Gouda (very nsfw in a very ridiculous setting. Also spoiler: everyone is gay and horny)
- [steampunk] Havemercy series, Jaida Jones, Danielle Bennett
- [steampunk] A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger series), Gemma Files
- [steampunk] The God Eaters, Jesse Hajicek
- [steampunk] Lord of the White Hell, Ginn Hale
- [urban fantasy] Rifter Series, Ginn Hale
- [urban fantasy] Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
- [urban fantasy] The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice
- [sf] Bas-Lag Trilogy, China Miéville
- [sf] Warchild series, Karin Lowachee
- [dystopian sf] Mind Fuck, Manna Francis
LESBIAN/BI FEMALE CHARACTERS
Good Lesbian Books - it’s worth checking this site; it’s a guide to lesbian books, with books neatly organized into genres and themes
- Circle of Magic, Tamora Pierce
- Huntress & Ash, Malinda Lo
- The Steel Remains, Richard K. Morgan
- Chronicles of Tornor, Elizabeth A. Lynn
- When Women Were Warriors series, Catherine M. Wilson
- The Saga of the Renunciates & Thendara House (from Darkover series), Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Lythande, Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Elemental Logic series, Laurie J. Marks
- Banshee’s Honor, Shaylynn Rose
- Kushiel’s Legacy series, Jacqueline Carey
- Wolfcry (part of The Kiesha’ra series), Amelia Atwater-Rhode
- The Dark Wife, Sarah Diemer
- The Witch Sea, Sarah Diemer (for free! The link leads to the download page)
- Sappho’s Fables: Lesbian Fairy Tales series, Elora Bishop and Jennifer Diemer
- Queen’s Champion: The Legend of Lancelot Retold, Cris Newport
- Celaeno series, Jane Fletcher
- Green Universe, Jay Lake
- Sing the Four Quarters (part of Quarter series), Tanya Huff
- Fires of the Faithful (part of Eliana’s Song), Naomi Kritzer
- Dragon Age: The Masked Empire (part of Dragon Age series), Patrick Weekes
- Nantuket Trilogy, S.M. Stirling
- By the Sword, Mercedes Lackey
- Sword of the Guardian, Merry Shannon
- [urban fantasy] The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan
- [urban fantasy] Gossamer Axe, Mass Market
- [urban fantasy] The Red Tree, Caitlín R. Kiernan
- [urban fantasy] The Cirlce, Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
- [urban fantasy] Modern Faerie Tales, Holly Black
- [sf] Ascension, Jacqueline Koyanagi
- [sf] Jacob’s Ladder series, Elizabeth Bear
- [sf] Santa Olivia series, Jacqueline Carey
- [sf] Ammonite & Slow River, Nicola Griffith
- [sf] The Telling, Ursula Le Guin
- [sf] Dreamships, Melissa Scott
- [sf] The Stone Gods, Jeanette Winterson
- [sf] Adaptation series, Malinda Lo
- [dystopian] The Holdfast Chronicles, Suzy McKee Charnas
- Vows and Honor series (part of Valdemar series), Mercedes Lackey (asexual female protagonist. Trigger warning for rape as a background story!)
- The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff (one of protagonists is an asexual mage princess)
- Banner of the Damned, Sherwood Smith (asexual female protagonist)
- The Deed of Paksenarrion (part of Paksenarrion series), Elizabeth Moon (protagonist may be read as asexual, she certainly isn’t interested in anyone)
- [sf] Jacob’s Ladder series, Elizabeth Bear (asexual lesbian protagonist)
- [sf] short stories: A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea) , Mountain Ways, Unchosen Love (both from The Birthday of the World and Other Stories) , Ursula Le Guin (polyamorous marriages - between two men and two women)
GENDER NON-BINARY & TRANSGENDER CHARACTERS
- Farseer Trilogy & Tawny Man Trilogy & Fitz and The Fool Trilogy (part of Realm of the Elderlings series), Robin Hobb (gender non-binary major character)
- Eon series, Alison Goodman (one of side characters is trans woman)
- Bloodhound (part of YA series Beka Cooper), Tamora Pierce (features a trans woman)
- The Bone Palace (part of The Necromancer Chronicles), Amanda Downum (major trans female character)
- A Story of the First History series, Mary Gentle (gender non-binary protagonsit)
- Children of the Triad series, Laurie J. Marks (one of the species, Aeyrie, is genderless, referred to with gender-neutral pronouns Id, Ids and Idre)
- Micah Grey series, Laura Lam (a bisexual intersex afab male protagonist)
- Tamír Triad, Lynn Flewelling (Princess Tamir is born female, but to protect them they are magically transformed into male and raised as a boy. Later in the books they are transformed into female again)
- [urban fantasy] The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (main character is in a relationship with her transgender girlfriend)
- [dystopia] The Butterfly and the Flame, Dana De Young (trans female protagonist)
- [dystopia] Bone Dance, Emma Bull (agender protagonist)
- [sf] The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard (an anthology of transgender narratives)
- [sf] Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold (major intersex character, trigger warning? for referring to them with “it” pronouns)
- [sf] The Left Hand of Darkness (part of Hainish Cycle), Ursula Le Guin (intersex society)
- [sf] 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (very broad range of gender and sexual identity)
- [sf] Imajica, Clive Barker (one of characters is an interdimensional traveler whose body can shift between sexes)
- [post-apocalyptic] Wraeththu series, Storm Constantine (intersex society)
Anonymous said: Do you have any recommendations for queer movies that end happily?
+ various additions:
Oh man, NOT ENOUGH.
I can rec these few that I’ve seen personally:
Imagine Me and You - LENA HEEEEAAADDDDEEEYYY
Guys and Balls - German comedy about a dude who puts together a gay football team to take on his hometown’s homophobic counterpart.
The Gymnast - It’s not a traditional “happy ever after” but it ends optimistically. Also AERIAL SILKS.
Shelter - I watched this with two girlfriends and we spent the entire movie fangirl flailing around in our PJs.
I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone (Portuguese: Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho) (on youtube here) - WATCH THIS IMMEDIATELY. It’s only about 20 minutes long but it’s disgustingly beautiful. They’re also filming a feature length version right now.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch - it’s a MUSICAL. A beautiful, beautiful musical!
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - If you haven’t seen this you need to look at your life and your choices.
Kinky Boots - Less sexuality, more gender identity and performance. I heart it so much.
And these two are next on my list (somebody come at me if I’m wrong about the happy ending thing):
Saving Face - A Chinese-American lesbian and her traditionalist mother are reluctant to go public with secret loves that clash against cultural expectations.
I love you Phillip Morris - A cop turns con man once he comes out of the closet. Once imprisoned, he meets the second love of his life, whom he’ll stop at nothing to be with. (EDIT: I have been told this does not end happily - DAMMIT!)
If anyone has any other additions to add to this list, PLEASE DO. I need ALL of the happy ending queer movies!
The Birdcage - I’ve seen this and it’s amazing. I’m offended with myself that I forgot to include it in my original list.
But I’m a Cheerleader - Ditto to the above
Mambo italiano - The son of Italian immigrants to Canada struggles to find the best way to reveal to his parents that he’s gay. (recced by anon)
Were the World Mine - A bullied and demoralized gay student at an all-boys school uses a magical flower derived from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to turn many in his community gay, including a comely rugby player for himself. (recced by @starwilson)
Touch of Pink - A gay Canadian living in London has his perfectly crafted life upset when his devoutly Muslim mother comes to visit. (recced by @deviousness-carter)
Weekend - After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what’s expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special. (recced by @haleswallows - “the ending isn’t an “happily ever after” but is good none-the-less" )
I’d like to throw:
D.E.B.S -Spies and Criminals! Handcuffs! Fake Kidnappings! The movie also contains the line: “I didn’t even want to be a criminal I wanted to be a pirate!” Also it is wonderful and ends happily ever after. Honestly one of my favorite movies ever. Ignore the IMDB rating this movie is wonderful.
Make the Yuletide Gay About coming out to your family and make sense of the person you were and the person you are now. There are bunk beds and candy canes and Filthy jokes and a dad character who is stoned this entire film and joy to watch. The family stuff ends happily, the central gay male couple ends happily, you will end this movie feeling happy.
Maurice - a gay man in the Edwardian era struggles to come to terms with his sexuality.
Big Eden - after moving home to care for his ailing grandfather, a man finds love with the local storeowner (thanks to the ENTIRE TOWN’S matchmaking schemes.)
Private Romeo - Romeo and Juliet at all all-male military school. (Yes, it has a happy ending!)
Tipping the Velvet - a Victorian-era lesbian travels through London’s gay subculture.
Fire - a relationship begins between the a shopkeeper’s young wife and her older sister-in-law.