When I was 19, I fell in love with the woman I plan on spending the rest of my life with.
I remember the day we met vividly, and I probably always will. It was the picture-perfect first date. We had embarrassing moments, traditional first-date jitters. We embarked on hilarious excavations of a vibrant collection of romance novels in the forgotten nook of a quiet bookstore. It was everything I ever wanted, and everything I never imagined I’d have. Here was this person, unlike anyone I’d ever met, who felt like home from day one. I walked away from that date smiling and panicking because I knew I was destined to fall madly in love.
Valentine’s Day, though not the only day this happens, is a beautiful chance to relive moments like that every year.
We’ve had many dates and many Valentine’s Days since then. Almost four years’ worth, in fact. We’re fortunate in that we have a lot in common, including a shared love of movies — specifically rom-coms. There truly is no better way to snuggle up to your honey than with a good rom-com. And we’ve seen many, but it is worth noting that we’ve never seen a film together, in theaters, that featured a queer woman’s romance — on Valentine’s Day or otherwise.
My wonderfully heterosexual friends get to partake in that age-old dinner and a movie Valentine’s tradition, and know, consciously or not, that odds are good they’ll be watching a love that looks a lot like their own on the screen.
I got to say, I’ve been yapping about representation nonstop over the course of this column, but this really grinds my gears. Hundreds of movies are released every year, and we haven’t had one good, lesbian Valentine’s rom-com?
Maybe instead of fretting over the lack of lesbian representation at the box office, my partner and I should’ve simply scanned the annals of *insert streaming service here*, looking for the queer content we deserve.
Films featuring queer women certainly exist. We’ve got hits such as “D.E.B.S” and “But I’m a Cheerleader.” Campy classics filled with cheesy tropes and ridiculous scenarios. Both great, but both 15 to 20 years old. And while rom-coms are generally regarded as lower-caliber films, many of the films representing queer women are just straight up bad. But more recently, queer women have been on the receiving end of a number of critically acclaimed dramas — films such as “Blue Is the Warmest Color” or “Carol,” one poorly disguised porn, the other properly disguised porn.
There are people who adore both of those films. But the situation stands that both of them, regardless of whatever arguments you can conjure up, are tedious and, frankly, boring.
Where’s the enemies-to-lovers trope? The fake dating trope? How about a meet-cute, or any meeting, for that matter, that isn’t so sexually charged that a part of you feels compelled to look away. I’m talking wholesome, silly, ridiculous and miraculous forays into the depictions of queer women’s romance.
Last March, LGBTQ+ audiences were treated to the queer-driven romance “Love, Simon.” After a frightening year for queer people in the U.S., the debut, and subsequent success, of “Love, Simon” was a breath of fresh air. Gay men haven’t had it much easier in film than queer women have, so “Love, Simon” was an edifying example of the kinds of films largely absent from queer media.
With the importance and success of such a film, I ask, why stop there?
Why not deliver a show-stopping film with an ensemble cast of queer folks. People whose lives are connected in various degrees like in “Love, Actually.”
Think “Rent.” But you know, not tragic.
No life-or-death stakes, just a bunch of bumbling fools living their normal lives, trying to find love any way they know how. “Love, Actually” is widely accepted as one of the greatest rom-coms of all time because of its universal themes of love and life. If these themes are so universal, why not go that extra step and make Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) gay?
Better yet, why not cast all women and make them all gay!
Queer people, specifically women, have had their love dramatized, hypersexualized and straight-up condemned a hundred times over. I want greater representation for all of us. And for me, I would love to see a cheesy rom-com starring an all-womxn cast. It would be revolutionary and so important for the community.
Everyone deserves the chance to see their love on-screen. I write this in the hope that maybe next Valentine’s Day, I’ll be in a movie theater, hand in hand with the woman of my dreams, watching some unsuspecting woman find the same.
Areyon Jolivette writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on finding and celebrating identity through art. Contact her at [email protected].