Sapphic psychos: Do films denigrate lesbians?

Critics say gay women are still screen villains, but men get a much better deal

Rachel Shields
Sunday 21 March 2010 01:00 GMT

Sex, violence and Sappho make for an explosive mix on screen, and reap dividends at the box office. But, increasingly, lesbian and bisexual women are upset by what they see as negative stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood. The new film Chloe, starring Hollywood heavyweights Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried, faces a backlash from cinemagoers who believe that Seyfried's character perpetuates negative stereotypes of lesbian and bisexual women as psychotic killers.

"Chloe portrays its bisexual character as stereotypically [in film lore] psychotic," said Jane Czyzselska, editor of the lesbian magazine Diva. "It is their sexuality that is presented as a cause of psychotic or suspect behaviour," she added. Critics cite Jennifer's Body, in which Megan Fox plays a bisexual man-killer, and Cracks, in which a teacher's crush on a pupil leads to the girl's disappearance. They argue that gay men are more positively represented, citing Tom Ford's A Single Man and, among others, the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain.

Here's a selection of recent movies to help you make up your own mind.


Former Bond girl Eva Green swaps cocktail frock for tweed skirt to star as a teacher at an English boarding school whose class of teenage swimmers are infatuated with her. Cue lots of artful shots of synchronised swimming and girls in bathing caps. When a beautiful Spanish student arrives, Green takes more than a pedagogical interest, but is rebuffed by the teenager, much to the horror of her fans, who go on to exact a shocking revenge.


Atom Egoyan's film stars Julianne Moore as Catherine, who hires escort Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to test her husband's fidelity. When the women become sexually involved, Chloe turns violent, placing the family in danger.

I Love You Phillip Morris

Jim Carrey's latest release tells the true story of Steven Russell, a married policeman who comes out and turns to crime to fund a lavish new lifestyle. Arrested for an insurance scam, he falls in love with Ewan McGregor's Phillip Morris, in prison. When Morris is released, Russell escapes to be with him.

Jennifer's Body

Megan Fox's acting talents are put to the test as Jennifer, a possessed cheerleader who seduces and kills her male classmates before getting it on with her geeky best friend, Amanda Seyfried. Written by Diablo Cody, whose previous work includes the acclaimed Juno, the film revolves around lots of gratuitous shots of the blood-smeared, semi-naked Fox.

Brokeback Mountain

This moving story – a two-decade love affair between cowboys played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger – was nominated for a mass of awards. It became one of the highest grossing romances of all time, and was the butt of "bareback mountin'" jokes for months.


Actor Sean Penn complained that there wasn't enough sex in this biopic of gay rights activist/politician Harvey Milk, so juicier scenes were added, but the film focuses on Milk's public life. The story, of the first openly gay man elected into public office in California, was released to coincide with the state's referendum on gay marriage in 2008.

Butterfly Kiss

UK film-maker Michael Winterbottom has unlucky teen Miriam run away from home and into Eunice, a sado-masochistic lesbian serial killer. While Variety described their relationship as "a lesbian love story", it is light on hearts and flowers, heavy on sex and murder.

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free


Tom Hanks bagged an Oscar for his tear-jerking 1993 portrayal of an HIV-positive gay man who sues his firm, successfully, for discrimination – to an award-winning Bruce Springsteen soundtrack.


Often described as the best gay film of all time, this lavish Merchant Ivory adaptation of an E M Forster novel tells the story of English gent Maurice, who finds friendship with Clive and love with gamekeeper Alec.

Lady Gaga video

US channel Fox is not the only one offended by the popstrel's new video. Lesbian bloggers have complained about scenes in a women's prison that show Gaga kissing a girl, being hit in the face, and going on a killing spree.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

While the kiss between actresses Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz may have delighted many male cinemagoers, lesbian bloggers criticised director Woody Allen's characterisation of Maria Elena, the knife-wielding bisexual beauty played by Cruz.

A Single Man

Despite being said to resemble a 99-minute advert, designer Tom Ford's achingly stylish directorial debut earned critical acclaim for its portrayal of a gay university professor struggling to come to terms with the death of his partner in 1960s Los Angeles. Colin Firth bagged a Bafta for his performance as the heartbroken prof, while Nicholas Hoult ( Skins) appears as his obsessed student.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in