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the film


The identification of a character as queer through subtext.

The Motion Picture Production Code, or the Hays Code, was a set of regulations for films first enforced in 1934 and lasted until around 1968. Among these regulations was the prohibition of "sex perversion," which included inferences to queer people. Queer people and their relationships could not be shown in films, and so, if they were to be included, they had to be alluded to.

Queer coding is not explicit, but it can be seen in the portrayal of these characters and the stereotypes or mannerisms they have that might be recognizable to audiences as queer. These characters might push against gender normativity and be disinterested in heterosexual relationships. They have often been villains—and sometimes monsters—pitted against heterosexual and cisgender heroes. In these films, queer coded villains pose a threat to other characters through their actions and behaviors and are usually defeated in some way by the end.

The facts


Giving fear a face.

Queer people and other minority groups are often depicted as villains and monsters because it allows films to easily outline the morals of their stories. It allows them to determine what behaviors are moral and accepted within society. Many characters that are labeled as villains are created to depict those who exist outside of what is expected, whether that be related to gender or sexuality.


There are consequences for characters’ connoted queerness. Many queer coded characters are killed or otherwise have unhappy endings. Although queer characters might not be explicitly shown, their deaths and negative outcomes are very real in their teaching of morality. Although the Hays Code ended in the 1960s, the archetype of the ‘gay villain’ has persisted. These stereotypes associated with queer people have been detrimental to public perception of the LGBTQ community. 

Monsters from old Hollywood movies. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and others appear in black and white.
The mission


And why they exist today.

The evolving nature of representation and perception means that something that was groundbreaking in the past can seem harmful now. Deciding whether something is a good representation or bad representation depends on the context and the time that it is presented in. We have to be mindful of what we consume and create, and how that affects our perceptions of the world. 

Although the queer villain has often been used to criminalize and demoralize queer people, the archetype has evolved to the point where we’re familiar with, and maybe fond of, these characters. In a society that recognizes a specific ‘default,’ those that exist outside of it can be acknowledged and ignored, accepted or othered.


When queer people have the ability to create for themselves, they can make themselves the hero. Queer people can also lean into their otherness. The queer villain can act as a narrative device that queer creators want to continue to hold onto. Antagonists, monsters, and villains can be useful tools for creating insight into what it means to be an outsider in a community.

A shadowed figure is silhouetted by pouring rain.
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