20 LGBTQIA+ stories with upbeat endings

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20. The Birdcage

Like many LGBTQIA+-focused films that find wide appeal (or, at least, nationwide showings), The Birdcage generated a fair amount of controversy in its time. The 1996 box office hit was a remake of the French-language La Cage aux Folles, released in 1978 and deeply popular in its own right.

To those of us in the 21st century, The Birdcage may hit a few awkward notes. The relationship between its two gay main characters, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), relies a bit much on gender binaries found in many hetero relationships. Albert, who plays “Starina,” the headlining drag queen at the Birdcage club, is as flighty and sensitive as any cringe-worthy female stereotype.

Furthermore, the pair frantically tries to conceal their relationship when their son, Val, brings home his prospective in-laws — one of whom happens to be a bigoted senator. How do they go about it? Albert takes a page from Mrs. Doubtfire and dons a wig and sensible skirt suit in an attempt to fool everyone.

Armand and Albert

Sounds bad, but The Birdcage is ultimately saved by the relationships and the characters at the heart of the story. Armand and Albert are played with great humanity and humor by Williams and Lane. They manage to get past all of the references to Madonna and a little too much mincing and find something more meaningful. Lane especially deserves kudos for bringing real depth to Albert, who tries to please his partner and son, but ultimately refuses to conceal himself.

This positive depiction of a gay couple and their son was especially welcome in the mid-90s when conservative groups vocally lobbied for “family values.” Gay rights were an ongoing struggle, as much as they are today. The notion of legally recognized partnerships and marriages for LGBTQIA+ people often seemed like a distant dream. To see two generally happy men in a loving, mostly realistic relationship was a ray of hope. Even with the stereotypes, that’s worth something.