LGBT+ Representation in A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born – Copyright Warner Brothers 2018

     Gaga has never separated her politics from her art, and since the beginning of her career she’s put LGBT+ advocacy at the forefront of her work – dedicating countless performances to the queer community and standing up for those who so often feel unable to stand up for themselves. In 2009 she solidified herself as an ally to the community with her Are You Listening speech, calling on Obama’s administration to follow through on their promise to liberate the LGBT+ community and legalise same sex marriage, and almost ten years later she’s still making waves and striving to make us heard.   

     Where, then, does LGBT+ representation fit into A Star Is Born, a movie that hangs off a heterosexual love story and a young artist’s rise to fame? It would have been easy to give our young heroine the cliché of a gay best friend who supports her on her journey, but instead A Star Is Born gives us something infinitely more intimate.

     It’s in the opening few scenes that a gay pride flag first appears through a taxi window, and it comes as no surprise to first find that Gaga’s protagonist, Ally, is performing in a drag bar. Much like her real life counterpart, Ally is indeed an ally, and the love she gives to the LGBT+ community is reciprocated tenfold. In a world that rejects her musical ability, it’s the queer community that first truly acknowledge her talents.

     It’s not just Gaga who doubles down on her commitment to the LGBT+ community though, Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut in A Star Is Born, and it’s Cooper’s character Jackson Maine who first drunkenly stumbles into the gay bar where Ally is performing. Jackson is the last person you’d ever expect to find in a gay bar, he stands out like a sore thumb, and yet instead of ridiculing or mocking the queer people that surround him, he wholeheartedly accepts them from the offset.

     It shouldn’t be surprising, really, to see the lead in a movie giving LGBT+ people the basic respect that they deserve, but in a world where the mainstream so often puts queer people at the brunt of the joke, it’s refreshing to see a movie that instead celebrates them for who they are. Ally’s cohort of queer friends continue to support her throughout, and the movie is filled with nods to the LGBT+ community – it’s in a drag queen’s dressing room that Jackson and Ally first meet, and it’s in one of the most intimate and tender scenes that we see Ally applying fake eyebrows and drag make-up to Jackson’s face. The entire movie is scattered with subtle love notes to the LGBT+ community, and it’s clear that both Gaga and Cooper made a conscious effort to give queer performers a platform.

     Shangela, one of the drag queens featured in the movie, said that Cooper “created an environment that made us feel very comfortable and allow[ed] us to explore our character. I love that. I think it helped us create magic.” And create magic they did – A Star Is Born is a triumph, not just for its commitment to celebrate queer talent, but for its tenaciously gripping storyline and awe-inspiring performances. It made this gay man very happy, and I know it will resonate with countless others too.