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Finally! Call Me By Your Name is an Oscar-nominated movie that normalises LGBTQ love

Spoilers inside.

Warning: There’s spoilers for a variety of movies ahead, don’t read on if you really hate spoilers.

Oscars Hilary Swank Best Actress OSC Source: PA Archive/PA Images

FROM BEING RAPED and shot (Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry), to suicide (Nicole Kidman in The Hours), to assassination (Sean Penn in Milk), and of course from AIDs (Tom Hanks in Philadelphia),  many actors have won Oscars for their portrayal of LGBTQ characters who meet sticky ends.

Many of these roles are biographical, such as Swank’s portrayal of transman Brandon Teena and Penn’s portrayal of the first openly gay elected official Harvey Milk: so their real-life heartbreaking endings are part of their story and should be included.

PastedImage-116 Source: Focus Features

However, the problem lies in the over-representation of LGBTQ characters who meet violent and/or tragic deaths.

In the 20 year period since Tom Hanks won an Oscar for playing a man who dies of AIDS in 1993, there have been 257 Academy-Award nominated portrayals of heterosexual characters, and 23 LGBTQ characters.

The low volume of LGBTQ characters is in itself not problematic, given that the EU calculates that just under 10% of the population is LGBTQ. The problem, however, is that of the heterosexual characters, 16.5% (59) die. Of the LGBTQ characters, a whopping 56.5% (13) die.

Of the 10 LGBTQ characters who are allowed to live, only four get happy endings.

Representation on films matters

Films allow people to escape into a world that is not familiar to them and to imagine other possibilities, others lives, other ways of being. As former First Lady Michelle Obama put it:

For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them.

Gay marriage referendum Source: PA Archive/PA Images

And for that reason, it’s been a damaging how LGBTQ characters are represented in cinema.

What parent in say, Roscommon, who perhaps does not know any LGBTQ people in real life, would be happy for their child to identity as LGBTQ?

Based on films, their child would be set up for a short and unhappy life full of misery and death. That’s why Call Me By Your Name is an important film.

There are no characters who meet violent or tragic ends. These characters do not suffer from homophobic slurs or beatings, nor do they experience isolation and rejection from their families.

PastedImage-72625 Source: Sony Picture Classics

Based on the novel by André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name is set in the long, hot summer of 1983 in romantically remote northern Italy.

It’s the story of 17-year-old American-Italian teen Elio Perlmam, (Chalamet) falling in love with Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, an American adult spending the summer as an intern for Elio’s father, Michael Stuhlbarg.

For a movie about two gay characters to be set in 1983 and NOT feature AIDs or homophobia is a fantastic step forward. Not because AIDS or homophobia is irrelevant, but because LGBTQ people deserve more than to be only represented on screen as pitiful figures of violent suffering.

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Call Me By Your Name is simply a beautiful story about experiencing your first love…and experiencing the bittersweet taste of losing your first love. It’s heartbreaking only in the sense that Elio loses his first love, but this is a feeling that anyone, LGBTQ or otherwise, can identify with.

As Armie Hammar, who plays Oliver, said:

Anybody, regardless of your orientation or identification or age or race or whatever, you can watch this film and you can remember the first time you felt infatuated with somebody.

PastedImage-16849 Source: Sony Pictures Classics

“Or (you can remember) the first time you felt comfortable enough to sort of present the open and honest, raw, unguarded version of yourself to somebody else and to have it received and appreciated and then reciprocated, when someone then gives you them.”

cmbyn Source: Sony Picture Classics

“We can all identify with that, you know? And that’s a beautiful thing that makes love what it is and that’s a very base, human thing”.

PastedImage-21523 Source: Sony Picture Classics

Finally, this story does not entirely gloss over that this teenager’s first heartbreak might be harder because he doesn’t know if he can tell his parents or not. One of the most beautiful parts of the movie about love does not involve the two lovers in the same scene.

It takes place when when Elio is nursing his broken heart and his dad gently delivers one of the most weep-worthy film speeches EVER about unconditional love and acceptance.

PastedImage-55058 Source: Sony Picture Classics

Even if no one’s parents could deliver such an Oscar-worthy speech on the fly, the beautiful support Elio is given by his father is hopefully more representative of what young LGBTQ people in Ireland can expect from their families.

Source: Octavia Morrow/YouTube

For its tender portrayal of a young man experiencing his first love and loss (Timothée Chalamet for the Oscar Win!), for the beautiful speech about acceptance and love, and for the stunning scenic shots of northern Italy, this film deserves the Oscar for Best Picture.

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