Case 041: Dream Queensfiled January 26, 2023
All queer children crave the cinematic: gazing at our posters and DVD box sets, we long for fantastic worlds beyond our hometowns. And though movies and their stars embody all we want to be, they also capture the bittersweetness of our longing. Enter the teen dreamer, deluded shopgirl, or wistful waitress staring out a window, waiting for her big moment. In honor of those queers—and their femme idols—who furnish their fantasies with the grandeur of a big-budget feature, The InQueery is proud to announce the opening of the Mary Katherine Gallagher Theater, a permanent exhibition of feminine dreams and hallucinations from film and television history.
InQueery film curators established strict criteria to determine which scenes would be projected in the screening room. Contrary to the dictum of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, any dream will not do. This space celebrates delusions, daydreams, and fantasies, forgoing nightmares, drug trips, and Lynchian terrors. The Dawn Weiner “Special People’s Club” fortress invites visitors to lay supine on the floor and contemplate their crushes under synthetic starlight. The Claire Fisher warp-glasses allow you to see your family members through a surrealist, funhouse lens. And the Muriel Heslop listening booths play ABBA’s greatest hits and stage their own choreography.
It’s time to enter the exhibition. Railings have been installed in the gallery walls should your reality blur. Hang on, the dream montage is about to begin…
Hall of Fame: Superstar (1999)
Ever-dedicated to the cause, Molly Shannon devotes most of Superstar’s runtime to the cultivation of delusion: when Mary Katherine Gallagher isn’t fantasizing about fame and romance, she’s reciting Sally Field monologues from made-for-TV movies. Superstar never punishes its heroine for her overactive imagination, rewarding Mary Katherine’s ambitions with the Hollywood fireworks production she deserves. But in a film packed with batshit montages, nothing tops the Supermodel Documentary Hour scene, a blissful celebration of 90s fashion culture and teen-girl gibberish.
Love & Affirmation: The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996)
In The Great Muppet Caper, the long-suffering Miss Piggy indulges in a vision of underwater opulence. This is the life Piggy deserves, one in which she can dive like Esther Williams and languish in the crooning adoration of Nicky Holiday and Kermit the Frog. Speaking of suffering, Dawn Weiner (Heather Matarrazo) endures unending humiliation through Welcome to the Dollhouse, undergoing Jobian trials for the merest scrap of affection. The movie climaxes with a hypercut chorus of all the film’s grotesque characters saying the three words Dawn longs to hear…
Teenage Longing: Labyrinth (1986) and Dick (1999)
For those of us who feared reprisals if we confessed our locker-room crushes, the banquet halls of the imagination provided a safe floor upon which we danced the night away with our heart’s desire. The dream sequences of these films honor the depth and intensity of youthful infatuations, free from adulthood’s sexual fervor and dark animus. Though Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah is destined to face off against David Bowie’s Goblin King in Labyrinth, she can’t help but desire him as her handsome ballroom prince. And why shouldn’t Michelle Williams’ Arlene dream of running off with President Richard Nixon, to a secluded beach where he’ll make her a sand castle of the White House? Though juvenile, a teen girl’s crush is no less meaningful.
Hidden Gifts: Six Feet Under (2001-2005) and Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
If you’re going to cast vocal powerhouses in your serialized TV show, you’d do them (and their gay fans) a disservice by withholding a fantasy musical number. In the deepest crevasse of corporate disillusionment, Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) takes to the stage—or desk—to belt about the oppression of panty hose. Kristen Chenoweth secured an Emmy for two songs of tragic longing and loneliness in Pushing Daisies: “Eternal Flame” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. These women slogged through the quotidian worlds their characters inhabit, their gifts ever-unseen. But their fans know better. These musical moments, however private, validate the great talent within.
Dark Detours: Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997)
The queer imagination can generate bright and shimmering possibilities, but it can also act as a psychedelic engine of anxiety, warping our destinies. A vast, Breaking Dawn: Part II-length portion of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion is dedicated to a dark future that will never be, rendered by Michelle’s (Lisa Kudrow) dream logic. Michelle’s extended dream sequence reveals the grim future awaiting her if she and her best friend Romy never reconcile. Also conjured is the recipe for Post-it glue and a levitating Camryn Manheim. In taking its heroine’s neurotic imaginings far over the rainbow, Romy and Michelle twirls through the looking glass.
Master of the Montage: Bob Spiers, Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2001) & Spice World (1997)
The InQueery celebrates the work of director Bob Spiers, whose knack for blurry fadeaways, flashbacks and drug-fueled fantasias made for some of the greatest pop surrealism of the new millennium. For the deluded social climbers of Absolutely Fabulous, no episode was complete without a recollection of a debauched orgy in Marrakesh, an anesthesia-fueled faceoff with the Ghosts of Christmas Future, or a bedtime musical number with Marianne Faithful. Spice World, meanwhile, melds reality and chaos with more liberty than a playroom showdown between Barbie and the G.I. Joes. In Girl World, dreams are delicious, and logic is irrelevant.
Revenge and Retribution: 9 to 5 (1980) and Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
Unlike the contemplative teens who comprise much of the main exhibition, the grown-up renegades of 9 to 5 and Breakfast on Pluto dream not of love, but justice. In 9 to 5, Doralee reaches into a pornographic country domination fantasia worthy of Dolly Parton, in which the Cowgirl ladyboss sexually terrorizes her male subordinate, conveniently played by her real-life, abusive employer. If only! In Breakfast on Pluto, Kitten straps herself in patent leather and single-handedly defeats a cell of bomb-making transphobes by spraying them down with Chanel No. 5.
Pure Satisfaction: Dressed to Kill (1980), My Mad Fat Diary (2013–2015) and The Sweetest Thing (2002)
Schoolgirls may dream of handsome princes on white horses, but grown women have more specific needs. As a bored Jersey housewife in Dressed to Kill, Angie Dickinson really goes to town (with Brian DePalma’s help) in her oily masturbatory fantasy, giving a private audience a shower striptease we’ll never forget. On My Mad Fat Diary, 16 year-old Rae Earl learns how to pleasure herself with confectionery visions of every man in her life, from the soccer coach to her general practitioner. And for Cameron Diaz in The Sweetest Thing, paradise is the face of Thomas Jane between her legs, and ice cream à la carte. It’s your fantasy, girls. Take your time.
Our Conclusion: We’d rather stand before a funhouse mirror than gaze into a compact.
Queer Rating: Katy Perry, not Darren Criss