The Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar

The Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar

The Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar

The Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar

Synopsis

The lesbian bar has long been seen as a mysterious place, steeped in mythologies of clandestine meetings. This volume examines the lesbian bar as portrayed in films and television programmes.

Excerpt

In the last decade of the twentieth century, the lesbian bar was a frequently depicted site in film and television. Appearing in the controversial thriller Basic Instinct, the Dolph Lundgren action film The Shooter (also known as Hidden Assassin and Desafío final), and three female-centered Hollywood narratives—Boys on the Side, The First Wives Club, and Living Out Loud—lesbian bars also surfaced in the art-house films By Design, Henry and June, Bound, French Twist, and Chasing Amy. On both network and cable television, lesbian bars were featured in such diverse programs as The Simpsons, Xena: Warrior Princess, Relativity, Law and Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, Roseanne, Ellen, Sex and the City, If These Walls Could Talk 2, A Girl Thing, and The Truth about Jane. Concomitant with the surge in popular interest in lesbian lifestyles that began in the early 1990s, a phenomenon that some dub “lesbian chic,” the recent visual explosion of lesbian bars is certainly connected to this cultural development. However, in this chapter I argue that the rash of lesbian bars in film and television in the 1990s cannot be explained solely by the contemporary vogue for stories and images of lesbianism. This spate of lesbian bars in film and television is also part of a broad cultural project working to maintain heterosexual spatial supremacy, what geographers David Bell and Gill Valentine call “the hegemony of heterosexual social relations in everyday environments” (1995, 7).

In “(Re)Negotiating the ‘Heterosexual Street,’” Valentine argues that “the street… is not an asexual space. Rather, it is commonly assumed to . . .

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