It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Haunting, but I think I’ll have to revisit it after reading “Making It Out Alive: Theodora and the Lesbians of Horror” by Hattie on Autostraddle:
Here’s what really hits me though. This is a portrayal of an out lesbian in a ’60s film from a book written in the ’50s — and it’s favourable. She’s not shown as predatory. She and Eleanor become good, supportive friends. And although a lot of horrors are written from a moralistic perspective (you do something bad = you get punished in a horrible scary way aka teenagers having premarital sex) — there is no moral judgement placed on Theo…. The house doesn’t punish her for her sexuality.
The original novel, The Haunting of Hill House, on which the film is based is by Shirley Jackson, and I’ve got it on hold from the library.
A few notes regarding finding queer characters in older media: like the author of the article, you have learn to read between the lines in older media, what with the Hays Code and obscenity laws, queerness is often hidden in these works in the code words, nicknames, thematic elements, references, clothing, and longing glances as much as it is in what remains unsaid. As with Theo’s admission of living with someone but not gendering or putting a name or title to her partner. And coding yourself as queer, as a secret sign to other queer folks or even now, to set yourself apart from looking heteronormative, is still a thing, particularly if you’re trying to feel out an environment/person for safety.
Know any other horror media with queer characters portrayed positively? Leave me a comment!