Monday, December 15, 2014

The Gay on Film Blogathon: Tee and Lorraine

John at Hitchcock's World is at it again. He's come up with another wonderful blogathon. I swear the dude is taking up most of my December. It's in a good way, though, so I don't mind. He's already run two blogathons based on women in film. Now, he continues his quest to see all of us on equal footing with the Gay on Film Blogathon. It's all about strong gay characters in the cinematic universe. Yes, there are rules. In John's words...

  1. Pick one gay character or couple to write about from a movie of your choice. If you wish, you can do multiple articles highlighting different characters or couples.
  2. Once you have made your choices, you will need to make a case for why you think they are strong characters and a positive image of homosexuality.
  3. No stereotypes. Writing about a "camp gay" or any other stereotypical image of homosexuality will not be tolerated. If you do so you will be disqualified.
  4. Include a banner with your post. There are several to choose from below. If you wish, you can design one of your own provided it includes the title of this blogathon and imagery fitting to the subject matter.

Of course, I always like to bend the rules and find something you probably weren't expecting and may not have even known about. Therefore, I'm going with...

Tee & Lorraine
(The Women of Brewster Place, 1989)

The rule-bending part comes in what these two ladies appeared in. It exists today as a singular movie on DVD. However, in 1989, The Women of Brewster Place was a TV miniseries based on a 1982 novel by Gloria Naylor. It was a ratings success based heavily on the fact that it starred everyone's favorite talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, on her way to goddess status. The movie revolves around her character Mattie Michael and a number of other women who live in a piece of decaying urban tenement known as Brewster Place. However, Tee and Lorraine are not initially among them.

As things progress, Tee (played by Paula Kelly, pictured on the left above) and Lorraine (Lonette McKee, right) move into Brewster Place. It isn't immediately clear to their new neighbors that they are a couple. However, they are soon found out by next door neighbor/town-gossip Miss Sophie (Olivia Cole) who spies on them through the window they occasionally leave open. Of course, once Miss Sophie knows, everybody knows. Not surprisingly, their lesbianism is framed in them unflattering light. In keeping with the times, they are seen as people who have something seriously wrong with them, "others" to be outcast, possibly diseased.

I chose these two ladies because through it all, they are a normal couple trying to persevere under adverse conditions. These conditions cause some strain in their relationship, even threatens to tear them apart. Lorraine doesn't want to be seen as different. She wants to blend in and be friends with her neighbors. All of the disdainful talk and scornful looks cast in her direction deeply bothers her. In addition to her own emotions, she has the more tangible worry about her career as a teacher. This is a time when being outed would probably lead to her being fired. Tee, short for Theresa, is the stronger of the two. She is fully accepting of who she is and encourages Lorraine to be the same way. She really doesn't give a damn if the neighborhood hens accept her or not.

Eventually, an argument between the two leads to a heinous crime committed against Lorraine by one of the neighborhood thugs. This, in turn, leads to the galvanization of the women who were once all against Lorraine and Tee and an all out attack on the daunting brick wall that keeps them in Brewster Place. There are also some larger socio-economic issues being explored by this, but the fact remains that the very women who shunned them have come to their aid at the end. There is also the idea that in order for progress to be made, there must be suffering.

For me personally, it's one of the earliest representations of homosexuality I encountered that wasn't played for comedic effect and/or portrayed almost entirely as a stereotype. This couple was presented as a pair of people dealing with discrimination which struck a chord with me. They were dealing with what the heroes of Civil Rights in America dealt with. Other than their sexuality, they seemed to be no different than women I had known all my life. Neither was excessively masculine, or obviously damaged in a way that might be construed to "cause" her to be a lesbian. They just were. That's a good a reason as any to include them in this blogathon.


  1. I'm not sure I've heard of these two, but they sound like a pretty good choice. It also adds a bit of racial diversity, which I guess should hardly be a surprise from you at this point given both your entries to my Women in Film Blogathons. I'll add this one to the list right away.

    I really got to get my own entry up. I started on one but haven't done a lot with it. Hopefully I'll get a few more entries before the deadline as well.

    1. It's an interesting movie told entirely from a female perspective. I recommend both it and he novel. Thanks for coming up with blogathons which allow me to higjlight characters of color.

  2. I'd never heard of these characters. I like what you said about them being the first homosexual characters you knew who weren't played for comedic effect. That's a good point.

    1. Glad to have brought them to your attention. Before them, and about a thousand times since I've seen them, I'd only come across gay characters who were either the butt of the jokes, or the entire joke themselves. They helped me realize that homosexuals are people as layered and diverse as any. This made them the obvious choice, for me.