Jun 24, 2024

On YouTube: The "Sissy" Stereotype in Classic Hollywood and Grand Dame Guignol, AKA "Hagsploitation"


In a time when homosexuality was illegal, 1930s Classic Hollywood films commonly had so-called “sissy” characters. Clearly coded as gay, their effeminate demeanor was presented for laughs and ridicule. While these characters were meant to be mocked, they triumphed in their own way. They were bold in expressing their identity, were typically engaged in careers they were passionate about, and lived how they pleased, without caring what anyone thought of them.


Known as Hagsploitation, Psycho-Biddy, and the more elegant Grande Dame Guignol, there was a subgenre of movies primarily in the 60s and 70s in which middle-aged to elderly screen queens extended their careers in horror. While many found these roles demeaning to the actresses, these genre films would often effectively explore the anxiety, fear, frustration, and powerlessness a lot of these actresses, and women their age, felt in a society that either scorned or forgot them as they aged. They were also a great vehicle from them to cut loose with bold, unhinged, and often delightfully campy performances.

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