This week, online content provider Hulu added an LGBT category to its free service and Hulu Plus genre options, which has come about from its newly established release agreement with LGBT film distributor Wolfe Video. And it wasn't the only major content distributor to make the change recently either, as YouTube Movies has also added an LGBT category to its genre categories. While this may not seem like such a major step at first glance, for many LGBT viewers eager to see stories they relate too, access and awareness can mean everything.
Particularly for young people, online platforms like Hulu and iTunes are becoming one of the principal ways audiences watch film and television content. And for individuals that may not have access to the LGBT film festivals hosted in major cities or be very well versed in LGBT film history, something as simple as an LGBT genre tab on their favorite website can introduce them to the wealth of films the queer cinema canon has to offer.
As Kathy Wolfe said in her recent op-ed for the Huffington Post:
For LGBT youth who are just coming out, this kind of accessibility to diverse and affirming images can have an enormous impact on their self-esteem, serving as a much-needed counterbalance to the bullying and harassment that so many of our young people must navigate. For LGBT people who live outside major urban areas and aren't lucky enough to have access to LGBT film festivals, these films can be a sociocultural lifeline. For anyone who has ever felt isolated or alone in their gay identity, access to films that reflect and celebrate our lives can truly be a lifesaving experience.
Experiencing queer film as a lifeline to stories we can see ourselves reflected in is an experience many in the LGBT community can relate to. For some of us, that meant nervously renting copies of movies like Querelle or Desert Hearts from the video store as adolescents, absolutely terrified of running into someone we knew. But watching those same films helped may have helped us find the inner confidence needed to eventually come out and live open, honest lives.
As GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said, "Making such groundbreaking and popular LGBT films available and accessible to a wider audience can have a tremendous impact on LGBT people longing to see relatable stories onscreen. We applaud Hulu and Wolfe for their leadership in bringing stories that can touch, inspire and entertain so many.”
Now younger generations will be able to discover and watch powerful and unique films like Paris Is Burning, Frida, or Tales of the City on their home computers, televisions, or cell phones even. And maybe they'll find a new source of inner confidence that much quicker.