Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Sharon Stone and Media Portrayals 

The National Center for Lesbian Rights awarded Sharon Stone the NCLR Spirit Award this past weekend. NCLR describes the award as follows:

The Spirit Award recognizes important contributions by allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Stone has long been active in her support and involvement with organizations that serve the lesbian, gay and HIV/AIDS community.

NCLR's About Page states:

NCLR is a national legal resource center with a primary commitment to advancing the rights and safety of lesbians and their families through a program of litigation, public policy advocacy, free legal advice and counseling, and public education. In addition, NCLR provides representation and resources to gay men, and bisexual and transgender individuals on key issues that also significantly advance lesbian rights.

So given that the goal of this organization is to advance lesbian rights and safety, and that this award recognizes contributions toward this goal by "allies" (aka straight but not narrow individuals) towards this end, I found it interesting that the AP's brief article (which is the basis for most of the news items) on the award to Stone opens by highlighting her fundraising efforts for AIDS research (a good thing) and her portrayal of "lesbian characters in movies including 'Basic Instinct'..."

Stone's character Catherine Tramell in 1992's Basic Instinct was a bisexual, extremely manipulative, sociopathic murderer who uses her sexuality to further her agenda. While this was Stone's breakthrough movie and one which received several awards and nominations, it would have been appropriate at least to mention her more recent work as Fran in HBO's 2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2.

If These Walls Could Talk 2 was a film entirely dedicated to portraying three sets of lesbians, each in a different era. The challenges faced in each setting (1961, 1972 and 2000) and the lives of the women in each segment reflect the progress made over those forty years. Sharon Stone co-starred with Ellen Degeneres in the 2000 segment, in which they portray a stable couple trying to get pregnant through artificial insemination. It's a nonsensational portrayal of a couple trying to start a family, and addressing both their fears and their hopes of what the future may bring. This film received even more nominations and awards, several of which were recognition for positive portrayals of GLBT characters.

If These Walls Could Talk 2 more appropriately embodies the goals of the NCLR and its Spirit Award. It would have been great if the media had at least mentioned it, rather than singling out the tried and true lesbian psycho-killer character from Basic Instinct.

For more information on media portrayals of lesbian and bisexual women, check out AfterEllen, a website dedicated to "Reviews and Commentary on Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Entertainment and the Media."

Amazon links: Basic Instinct, If These Walls Could Talk 2

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:52 AM