SNL Nails Historical Queer Romance in ‘Lesbian Period Drama’

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It’s hard out here for a queer woman who loves movies. While representation of queer characters and storylines has exploded on television, thanks to a seemingly endless supply of streaming channels, lesbian and queer representation in film is still limited to a certain type of feature. That feature is usually a prestige period drama centered on two repressed/depressed women (usually cis, white, and straight) who find one another, slowly flirt via long looks, and ultimately don’t end up together because of SOCIETY. These films can be excellent (like Portrait of a Lady on Fire or Carol) or they can be dour slogs (like Ammonite). But my God, what I wouldn’t give for a warmhearted, goofy sexy romantic comedy where someone actually smiles.

There’s just not that much out there for us, barring gay classics like But I’m a Cheerleader and Imagine Me & You. And yet, like clockwork, each year we get another awards bait movie featuring straight actresses, more often than not directed by straight men.

That’s exactly the kind of film that Saturday Night Live skewered in last night’s episode. “Lesbian Period Drama” saw host Carey Mulligan and cast member Heidi Gardner in a filmed sketch spoofing this niche genre. Mulligan plays a “medically upset” wife who is prescribed seagull sounds, gray skies, and a female companion, played by Gardner. What follows are all the trappings of this kind of film: long silent walks on the beach, 12 lines of dialogue performed over 2 and half hours, and layers upon layers of moody atmosphere and “Academy Award winning glance choreography.”

The trailer voice-over reads, “A film that isn’t afraid to ask, will these lesbians be lesbians together?” as the duo share long walks, lingering glances, and so much wind in their hair. The trailer also nods to the common trope in these films, the IRL queer actress who plays the ex of one of the women, i.e. the Sarah Paulson role. Kate McKinnon amiably plays the ex, with a tuxedo and confident swagger.

I personally loved the review from Lesbian Monthly, where the tired reviewer says, “Sure. I mean, I’m gonna see it.” I have literally said those exact words to friends when we talk about depressing queer films. Pop culture beggars can’t be choosers. The trailer also mocks the explicit sex scenes often found in these films, described as “Two hours of excruciating tension, all building up to a sex scene so graphic you’ll think, oh right, a man directed this.” We see you and we judge you, Blue Is the Warmest Color.

This sketch might honestly be the best queer-themed piece SNL has ever done. It’s just so specific and niche and honestly, I thought nothing could top Kristen Stewart’s Totino’s commercial. I am thrilled to be wrong. Well played, SNL. Well played.

(featured image: screencap/NBC)

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