During every Pride, and ever more frequently, there is an aggressive push from corporate sponsors and political interests alike to broadcast their participation in the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.
We see you, wave the triple-decker ROYGBIV sandals, available for a limited time only. We want to be in you, sing the multi-hued photoshops of signature dishes from fast food franchises. We will write off our taxes to *one* charity and work throughout June to not let you know we sponsor bills against trans kids, blare countless icons of patent-hoarding pharmaceuticals, selectively arms-stocking department stores, and trans healthcare-incompetent insurance companies halfheartedly. And in my personal favorite bold PR move, screw you, we’re taking away the rainbow altogether, says the temporarily monochrome packaging of a candy brand.
My friends and fellow movie lovers, I am tired. The double consciousness of knowing a company wants my income and sanitized image, while actively doing harm to those it deems most exploitable, had my broken brain sighing in relief when I walked to my local 7-Eleven and noted that they did not bother to paste up rainbow anything. Is this internalized homophobia? No.
The problem is not that I hate being gay in June, it’s that companies would like to limit my desire to material representation during one month out of every year, and they’re so loud about it this month. You could almost believe that being gay is about looking like you stepped out of an ad—not sex, drugs, or god forbid, healthcare for all.
Luckily, I’ve consumed enough media throughout my life (and lived through my home state of California voting to repeal same-sex marriage in 2008) to know that any sudden embrace of palatable queerness is for one thing only: to distract us from fulfilling our destiny of being gay and doing crime. As The Living End and Kajillionaire remind us, we’re ill-adjusted vagabonds!
Following our ancestral history of breaking man-made laws, Set it Off and By Hook or by Crook instruct us to rob the banks that hand out ill-fitting plastic sunglasses at the parade on June 30 and make billions off overdraft fees by July 1. And as any of John Waters’ oeuvre drawls, if someone finds us digestible enough to sell our own aesthetic back to us at a marked-up rate, well, we will simply have to try harder to be downright disgusting.
I hardly have to remind anyone that the first American Pride was in commemoration of an uprising against law enforcement. Some corporate slogans have caught on to that language, thanking “brave trans folks” with pastel flag merchandise. However, the phrase “pride was a riot” is mired in the past, thanking symbolic faces obscured into legend for fighting for all of us, and exempting our own lack of cause. Pride is still a riot, if you want it to be. You can still challenge corporate and institutional interests in erasing erotic identity, forcibly upholding white supremacy in and out of queer culture, and targeting the most vulnerable for perpetual incarceration of both body and spirit. You, too, can fuck shit up!
In honor of the ongoing choice to accept our own monetized and dulled image, or as Born in Flames, Ema, or Bloodsisters would trumpet, to join with fellow queers in refusing to reign it in under capitalism, here is a list of twenty films, in no ranked order, that exemplify queer principles of anti-assimilation, collective strength, and/or straight-up crime for this Pride season.
These are films that deviate from a Hollywood norm of queer people victimized solely for their orientation (like the effortlessly-named Victim) or playing a queer-coded villain (sorry, Rope fans, we’ll get you next time!), and instead favor the notion of queer characters choosing, and often relishing, an act of crime, a more metaphorical life of an outlaw, or joining the ranks of a rebellious queer community.