To commemorate Pride Month, FilmStruck — the exclusive streaming service developed by Turner Classic Movies — will be curating five collections dedicated to exploring LGBT themes and artists in cinema throughout June. And several icons are joining in on the party.
On Friday, actor Alan Cumming and drag legend Charles Busch will guide viewers through FilmStruck’s “Dressing the Part” series, which looks at cross-dressing on film and the influence it’s had on queer culture and social progress. The two performers break down the importance of such films as 1959’s Some Like It Hot and 2001’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
On June 22, Lea DeLaria will offer insight on the importance of lesbian cinema by examining seven films including The Watermelon Woman, the first feature film directed by a black lesbian, as well as Desert Hearts and Blue Is the Warmest Color. For the stand-up comic and cultural “dyke-con,” seeing these movies for the first time was a monumental experience.
“I loved that we were telling our stories for the first time,” DeLaria tells The Advocate about seeing The Watermelon Woman. “When I saw the change that was happening, that we were starting to tell our own stories, that was like, fuck yeah! This was not The Killing of Sister George, you know what I mean? This was The Watermelon Woman. And the fact that it was about black lesbians was just like, fuck yeah! So good. So cool.”
“I’d love to make a lesbian rom-com,” she adds. “That’s just something I’ve never seen. Of course we have laughter and humor and love in our lives, like everybody else. That’s the best part when I saw The Watermelon Woman — I saw us talking about us.”
Starting her career in stand-up comedy, Delaria was one of the first visible (and successful) butch lesbians on the stage and screen. Staying true to herself has certainly played a large role in that. “I’ve always been a commentator. That’s what I do. As a stand-up comic, that’s part of my job,” she says. “I never thought of myself as a role model. As a role model, your hands are tied. You have to behave in the box that they put forward — that’s what you have to do. I’m more of a 'this is wrong, this is right, this needs to be shook up' kind of person.”
Telling real stories, DeLaria says, is something LGBT people strive for — in particular, lesbians. In particular, butch lesbians.
“I think it’s very important for me to be visible as butch because butch is not the same as any other lesbian,” she says. “When we start to forget that there are other kinds of us out there, that’s not a good thing.” When talking of the LGBT community as a whole, DeLaria chooses to classify us all as “queer” but is adamant about calling herself “butch” “because butches are invisible. I need people to recognize, yes, I’m a lesbian, but I’m a butch.”
Delaria’s “give zero fucks” attitude has helped her reach audiences out mainstream comics like Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, and Wanda Sykes might not be able to reach. The rage she displays in her comedy, she says, comes from her upbringing and the nights she spent in jail simply for being queer. “I think at some point you go enough is enough. Everybody, I’m queer! Cops, I’m queer! And not only am I queer, I’m over it.”
Watch Cumming and Busch discuss FilmStruck's “Dressing the Part” series, and below that, find details on FilmStruck's Pride film series schedule.
"Dressing the Part" streams June 1: Alan Cumming and Charles Busch discuss their experiences and thoughts on this cinematic look at cross-dressing as an art form.
Star of the Week: Liza Minnelli streams June 8. Named one of Out's "12 Greatest Female Gay Icons of All Time," Minnelli shines in films like Cabaret (1970) and Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1972)
Written by Tennessee Williams streams June 8, featuring films based on the iconic playwright’s works, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Director of the Week: Derek Jarman streams June 15, featuring nine feature films from director and AIDS activist Jarman, including Sebastiane (1976) and Jubilee (1978) as well as a documentary about his life and work, Derek (2008), narrated by Tilda Swinton.
Classics of Lesbian Cinema streams June 22, featuring DeLaria as she examines seven lesbian films, including the first feature film directed by a black lesbian, The Watermelon Woman (1996); Desert Hearts, an adaptation of Jane Rule’s novel (1986); and Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013).