Most movies, even ones with lesbian characters, are written and directed by straight men. The problem is that most of the time when a lesbian is in a movie, it’s usually not a realistic portrayal. The new film Carol however, does its share to debunk harmful stereotypes while also telling an emotional, riveting love story.
Stereotype No. 1: Lesbians can’t be classically beautiful
Stereotype No. 2: Lesbians prefer to look like men
Both Carol and Therese are fashion savvy, and both look like women straight out of 1952, the year Patricia Highsmith wrote the book, The Price of Salt, which was adapted into Carol. They are also both incredibly feminine.
Stereotype No. 3: Lesbians hate men
Therese has a boyfriend at the beginning of the film, and Carol is divorcing her husband, a man she tried her best to love but couldn’t. Neither hates men; they are simply coming to terms with their sexual orientation in 1950s America when “coming out” was pretty much unheard of.
Stereotype No. 4: Lesbian women enjoy “turning” straight women gay
While Carol is immediately attracted to Therese and isn’t sure about her sexual orientation, she’s not a predator. She casually leaves a pair of gloves on the counter top at the department store where Terese works. It’s up to Terese to return the gloves or not.
Stereotype No. 5: Lesbians are psycho killers
The film Basic Instinct from 1992, starring Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas, really reinforced the negative stereotype that lesbians are mentally off-kilter. Both Carol and Therese are emotionally stable.
Stereotype No. 6: Lesbian sex is steamy, and men love to watch it
The sex in Carol happens off-screen. While we see Carol and Terese make out, it’s not gratuitous in any way. Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy purposefully limited the sex, saying, “I think our senses have been dulled generally by too much sex in movies for no good reason. There has to be a really good reason for it. In this case, the movie has been building to that shared moment of intimacy. It’s in a real place, not in a fantasy construct of four-poster beds with gauze, music and sexy nightgowns. Instead, it’s just some crappy radio in a horrible-looking room with luggage on the next bed. It’s wonderful, I love the way that [it] was shot. It leaves you probably wanting them to have more, which is exactly why just one unencumbered scene works. So you want them to get together again.”
Stereotype No. 7: Lesbian relationships always end tragically
We don’t want to give away the ending, but we think it will make you smile, not cry.
Carol opens in theaters on Friday, Nov. 20.