Netflix and stress: The lesbian movie night dilemma

Choosing the wrong queer film can lead to awkwardness or ugly crying

Netflix and Chill is the budget “date” idea of the century. Though gettin’ down and dirty while a movie plays in the background is nothing new, coining a phrase makes it all the more official.

With this in mind, you’re planning to invite a lady over to watch a movie. You’ve met a couple times, been on a few dates, and just want to have a relaxed evening at home. A seemingly foolproof idea — the movie night is a timeless crowd pleaser.

Or so you thought.

You see, I once had the naive idea of watching a film on a second date. Just a wee baby dyke at the time, I found myself cuddled up in a dorm in front of a dimly-lit laptop. In an attempt to seem sophisticated, I cued up the movie Boys Don’t Cry.

Hoping to come out of the viewing enlightened and maybe looking a little sexy, I was instead reminded that on the contrary, girls do cry as I sobbed grotesquely into a pillow. This happened time and time again, a year later with If These Walls Could Talk 2 and eventually with Rent.

The Great Rent Catastrophe (AKA, the cautionary tale)

The Great Rent Catastrophe (as I like to call it) is a memory emblazoned into my dating history. Picture an acne-ridden 19-year-old whose thrift shop wardrobe could rival the likes of Betty White. I was lean, keen and ready to date anyone with a pixie cut within a 200-mile radius.

I’d invited a girl to spend the day with me, and eight hours later we were still inseparable. We eventually went back to my house, where she suggested we watch Rent.

As an avid musical viewer, I was excited to see one that featured all three tenets of a quality show: queers, bohemia and Idina Menzel. I settled in for the long haul, cuddled up in a stranger’s arms.

Of course, Rent is devastating. Your favourite character dies, reprises get increasingly sombre, and the curtain closes just as you’re reminded that life continues whether or not your community is in shambles. By the end of the show, I was blubbering like a hormonal preteen reading Chicken Soup for the Soul, a cacophony of cries escaping my mouth resembling that of a seagull in an oil spill. Bodily fluids cascaded from my facial orifices, coating the front of my date’s blouse.


Needless to say, that relationship had an untimely ending.

Films and TV series that won’t make you cringe, cry, or break up

So how does an unassuming lesbian looking for love find the perfect film to watch that’s not going to make you nervous sweat or ugly cry?

The first step is to begin rifling through your mental catalogue of films. In some ways, there’s the pressure to watch a queer-oriented film that features your favourite celebrity heartthrobs. If you’re looking for something to “set the mood,” this is an absolute must. On the other hand, it can be both painful and uncomfortable to watch two hours of straight actresses having the most ridiculous sex scenes (I’m looking at you, Blue is the Warmest Colour).

Speaking of sex, you’ll want to avoid media that could be too overtly sexual. You just met this woman, and you haven’t quite taken that next step. Two hours of Shane’s drug-infused orgies from The L Word may give your new beau the wrong idea.

The final thing to cross your mind is the potential for tragedy. Queer-oriented films are absolutely riddled with doom and gloom. After an inevitably clunky coming-out montage, the main character almost always dies or gets fired and you’re left with a strangely sexual cautionary tale. Nothing ruins a date quite like a blunt reminder of the silver screen’s complete disapproval of your sexuality.

Now, you may be thinking I’ve gone a bit far with my analysis. After all, I am known to be a buzzkill every now and again. Unfortunately in this case, I find myself speaking from first-hand experience.

But fast-forward a few years (and several Netflix and Chill trial-and-errors later), after a never-ending reel of trauma, tokenism and downright bad writing, I was on the hunt for a list of criteria to decipher good films from disappointing ones. Essentially, I needed a Bechdel Test for queer inclusion, and I found just that. In order to pass GLAAD’s Vito Russo test, a film must,

  1. Feature an identifiably queer character.
  2. That character must be multidimensional with a life outside of queerness.
  3. The character in question must also be vital enough to the plot that their disappearance would be grounds for upheaval.

For my own criteria, I might add that all featured queer characters must have a conversation for more than 30 seconds that does not revolve around discrimination or homophobia.

Since finding a movie that fits these guidelines sounds a bit farfetched, I thought I’d do a bit of research for your next dating escapade. Here are three possible fits:

Carol (2015)


As most reviews would indicate, the movie Carol is breathtakingly gorgeous. I’ve never seen such an honest portrayal of love and uncertainty between two women. With a sprinkling of delicate pauses filled with lust, and an overtly gay storyline, this movie does not disappoint.

There are so many pieces of this film that make it unique. Carol skips the dreaded yet predictable turbulence of the Hollywood coming-out story. The characters are confident, thus the audience is easily swept into the magic of the era. Impending tragedy is handled in a calculated way that allows viewers to feel hope. The protagonists have a hand in their destiny as opposed to being pawns for peddling a spiteful agenda. Sexual components of the story are much-anticipated and appropriate in length, curtailing objectification.

This film is perfect for a cozy date on the couch. It’s sexy, empowering, and has an unbelievably strong cast that any pop culture novice would be able to recognize. My date and I were completely entranced by the characters, the costumes and the more . . . sultry scenes (sorry, mom).

Disclaimer: if you make your partner watch this film 15 times, it has the opposite effect. I would especially caution against trying to make them dress up as Carol for Halloween . . . or on other occasions.

Pride (2014)

FilmIsNow Movie Trailer/YouTube

If you’re looking for something a little lighter, Pride is a feel-good masterpiece. This movie illuminates a queer history with which many Millennials have never engaged.

Based on a true story, Pride follows the creation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, an advocacy group for those affected by the British miners’ strike in the 1980s. The whole film begs the question, what’s gayer than a movie about unions and queer resistance?

As a date night note, this is a great film for a pair of sapphists who aren’t quite ready to go down sexcapade lane. It has a wholesome storyline coupled with a tale of impressive perseverance.

My date and I saw this film in a theatre full of teary-eyed Baby Boomers. We left with a fire in our hearts, a greater appreciation for each other, and a newfound respect for our queer predecessors.

The Fosters (2013–)


On a completely different note, The Fosters is the perfect series to embark on with a new gal pal who may be sticking around for the long term. There are three seasons currently available on Canadian Netflix, all of which just keep getting better.

The show depicts Stef and Lena, a lesbian couple raising a mix of biological and fostered children. Their sexuality isn’t the focus of the show, but often comes into play to illuminate how queerness informs their daily lives. Though a family-oriented program, The Fosters portrays the ongoing intimacy between Stef and Lena in a heartwarming way.

The Fosters is especially interesting because it explores youth sexuality beyond that of the typical primetime show.

The only downside to this series is its ridiculous dose of drama. Picture a gay Degrassi: it might take three estranged parents, two car accidents and a school shooting to get a kiss out of the protagonists, but I’ll be damned if I miss it.

Overall, Netflix and Chill may seem like a daunting scenario for a pair of lady lovin’ movie buffs, but finding the right balance of nuanced romance, sex and drama is possible. On the bright side, you may not even remember the film if the date goes well.

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