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Comedy, the refuge of gays in Franco-era cinema

Carlos III University of Madrid


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Credit: UC3M

This news release is available in Spanish.

This research studies the presence and visibility of the gay world in Spanish cinema between 1940 and 1975. The report, published in the journal Zer by Alejandro Melero, professor in the UC3M Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, shows that there were genres that homosexuality appeared in more frequently. One such genre is comedy, in which it was very usual to portray gays as funny characters.

Beyond our borders--and in sharp contrast to Spanish cinema--directors like Alfred Hitchcock were forerunners in the representation of homosexuality, "suggesting the existence of this reality without making it evident," as in the case of the film Rope, from 1948. According to Professor Melero, during the transition to democracy in Spain, the claims of the gay world were "legalized" for the first time and there was a normalization of a cultural tradition of paradigms and archetypes of characters passed from one generation to the next.

"What we can now label as 'gay cinema' or 'homosexual character' was not designated that way in the Franco era. Characters that at present we could call 'gays' would not have been recognized as such by audiences from the period," says Melero. For example, in Los ojos dejan huellas (1952), by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, there are no homosexuals, only confusion that might suggest their homosexuality.

Strategies against Censorship

The research carried out by Alejandro Melero analyzes models for overcoming the censorship of the Franco era: implicit condemnation and the character as a subject of ridicule were the strategies used by screenplay writers, directors and producers, who this way passed through the filter established by the Office of Film Censorship. The study highlights the use of limits between the denotation and the connotation of homosexuality. As Melero explains: "One appeals to the personal connotation that each of us can make, defending the character or the scene by a denotation that is not related to homosexuality."

One director who used homosexuality as an instrument of humor was Mariano Ozores. In films like Operación cabaretera (1967), according to Melero, "Mariano Ozores's comic actors engage in outrageous behaviour with ease and have license to break all the taboos, including homosexuality."


Further information:

La representación de la homosexualidad en el cine de la dictadura franquista. Melero, A. (2014). Zer 19-36, pp. 189-204. ISSN: 1137-1102

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