I these proscribed places into the sunlit world,

I intend to explore how queer villains have been used in film
and how queer coding of villains and “evil” characters have survived despite
changing cultural attitudes towards gender and sexuality. Using The Celluloid Closet (Russo, 1981) as a
starting point, I will be talking about how things such as censorship and the
Hays Code created the need for “queer coding” and how this practice has
continued despite official rules about depiction being relaxed. To do this I
will be looking at films such as Cruising
(1980), The Rocky Horror Picture Show
(1975) and the James Bond franchise
which all feature explicitly queer villains; as well as The Hobbit trilogy and several films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe which feature queer coded villains.

The term ”queer” has been used in academic writing since
the 1980s as an inclusive way of describing gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender identities and experiences, and also defining a form fluid and subversive
sexuality. Queerness at its core is a rejection of the rigid gender binary and
heterosexual norms that permeate society. ‘That two males may engage in sexual
acts disrupts the dominant masculine hegemonic paradigm of patriarchy.’ (Myers,

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The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays
Code, was a set of moral guidelines which were applied to most motion pictures
released by major studios in the US between 1930 and 1968. One of the things
the Code forbade was “sex perversion”, which meant that queerness could neither
be shown or mentioned on screen (Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of
America, 1930). Thus, queer characters in film existed in a kind of “celluloid
closet” during this time.

Both movie monsters and homosexuals have existed chiefly in
shadowy closets, and when they do emerge from these proscribed places into the
sunlit world, they cause panic and fear. Their closets uphold and reinforce
culturally constructed binaries of gender and sexuality that structure Western
thought. (Benshoff, 1997)

As the Hays Code was relaxed, queer characters were permitted
on screen but only if their sexuality was presented as a moral failing of some
kind. Queerness would either be presented as a tragedy, with the characters
doomed to unhappiness and death, or it would be a trait of violent criminals
and monsters. This is a trend that has continued despite the shifting cultural
attitude towards queerness. Andrew Wheeler emphasised this point in his article
Sexy Loki, Queer Tricksters, And The
Problem With LGBT Villains (2013), when he said: