Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture and Education 2015
ISBN 978-967-13140-6-7

Homosexual Men in Classic Film Noir

Alan Brayne



Restricted by a Production Code that stipulated there was to be no mention whatsoever of “sex perversion”, representations of homosexual men in classic film noir were bound to be elliptical. This does not mean, however, that there were no homosexual characters in the noir films from 1941-1958. But they had to be suggested rather than directly shown, and signalled to the audience through various codes. A common stereotype was that of the “sissy” who was simultaneously ridiculous (because he had traits which were supposed to belong to a woman) and unsettling (because, unlike the male protagonists, he understood women and womanly things). Homosexual pairings, meanwhile, were often depicted in terms of faux father-son relationships, in which the older man seduced, dominated and controlled the younger. When the two men were of roughly similar age, aspects of this father/son relationship remained, but one man (usually the more outré/debauched/queer) was seen as a corrupting influence, leading the other into immoral behaviour. These characters performed two main functions in classic noir. First, they added exoticism, danger, and an air of moral depravity, decadence and evil. Second, they served as a contrast to the normative masculinity of the hero, especially the hard-boiled detective, and, like the femme fatale, acted as a threat to this masculinity.


Back to Table of Contents
Download Full Paper (PDF)