Reel to Real – How movies shape our views: 5 movies that can augment our understanding of the LGBTQ+ Community.

Everyone indubitably watches various forms of audio-visuals these days; keeping in mind the current context of the pandemic, social media snippets, short videos and movies are usually streamed from the early hours of the day to the later hours. Either we watch it alone, watch it with family and friends in our homes or stream it virtually to watch with a group of friends or family members. With these social activities come the greater, rawer power of movies. Psychologically, there is something known as re-enactment- wherein human beings tend to analyse various behaviours subconsciously and re-enact them in their real lives. A typical example would be watching movies or tv shows and viewing a person eating ice cream after a break-up; we tend to re-enact and cope in similar ways that we deem to be appropriate reactions to various instances in our lives.

A recent paper looked into the impact of films, and it was noted that audio-visuals shaped attitudes towards social transformation. It was also observed that a single movie did not create lasting effects on viewers. However, repeated themes that were exposed to individuals did result in a sustainable change. 

How does this happen? How can we attribute a part of our behaviour to the movies we consume? It is difficult to identify a single mechanism of mass media and its impact on the human psyche. However, various factors, including how realistic a portrayal is in a movie, the level at which viewers identify themselves to the essential characters, our very own individual personality traits and personal experiences, can vastly shape the amount of influence movies can have on us.

Let’s consider the example of stereotypes and how heavily they can influence us individually and socially– as social representations of certain individuals, groups of people or specific communities can impact the opinion of masses positively and negatively. This is because we are inherently social beings who have a need to belong in social groups, and in the process, we go with what society teaches us. In time, however, we realise that many things we previously learned or grew up believing may not be true, including our understanding of the LGBTQ+ Community. The examples cited above are quite suggestive; a realistic portrayal of communities can powerfully change the world into a more inclusive space.

The rainbow dust continues to settle across the world, symbolically representing how being a year-round LGBTQ+ ally is everyday work and is not limited to a specific month of the year. There is plenty beyond understanding queer identities, pronouns and the spectrum of gender and sexuality. While definitions can help us categorise concepts, there are everyday nuances, patterns of understanding communication, and struggles that the Community faces that cannot be captured within the definitions and conceptualisations that we as a heteronormative society created. Audio-visuals can provide us with a powerful way to grasp various cultures and communities’ lived experiences and reality. This is because a cinematic experience can lead to a unique inner experience that enhances our mind towards a complex state- it makes us more contemplative, critical and integrative regarding our beliefs. Understandably, educating ourselves and the community at large is constant work. Here is a list of 5 different movies that can help us understand the LGBTQ+ community better and increasingly allow us to strengthen our allyship.

Here are five movies that can help us understand the lives and experiences of the LGBTQ+ community- 

  1. Moonlight

This movie highlights a Black male’s identity and their sexual identity. It majorly explores the journey of a neglected child, an angry teenager moving towards self-realisation and fulfilment in adulthood.  The movie captures the importance of empathy and humanity, two crucial concepts for allyship. 

2. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga 

This coming of age, romantic-drama movie outlines the story of a closeted lesbian and her attempts to come out to her conservative and traditional Punjabi family. This movie hits closer to home as it traces the struggles of coming out in a conservative society and how acceptance and compassion can make an incredible impact on the person coming out. The film started conversations about women’s transgression and carried the beacon of liberalism. 

3. Love, Simon 

This romantic comedy-drama revolves around a closeted gay high school student struggling to juggle his friends, family, and blackmailer who threatens him with his identity and tries to unearth the identity of an anonymous classmate with whom he has fallen in love with. This movie even, if not entirely successful, has collaboratively depicted inclusion in its storyline.  

4. Margarita with a Straw

The movie is based on a teenager with cerebral palsy, relocating to America to complete her under-graduation. The film deals with various concepts that include sexuality, self-love, self-acceptance, and inclusion without stereotyping disability or the LGBTQ+ Community. 

5. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan 

This movie is a romantic comedy film that tells the story of a gay man and his partner who have trouble convincing the former’s parents of their relationship. This story depicts the clash between freedom, conservatism, tradition and modernity and overall brings out a powerful message of love and acceptance. 

To summarise, movies inspire us and allow us to engage critically with multiple aspects of life. It can provide us with snippets and stories of the struggles and strengths of individuals and communities. Movies help us realise the patterns in which they mirror and shape culture, how they provide us insights into the historical underpinnings of many matters. Watching informative and realistic movies that provide an accurate picture of lived experiences can transform our understanding of various communities and stereotypes or misconceptions associated with them and constantly work towards creating an inclusive world.

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Archana Raghavan is a trainee psychotherapist and researcher, pursuing her masters at TISS, Mumbai. She enjoys reading and writing on mental health, therapy, identity and culture.
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