Finding Myself

Parker Posey Will Always Be My Queer Icon

· Updated on October 4, 2023

The first time I fell in love with Parker Posey happened to be the first time I ever saw her. She sat in a 90s indie girl pose, perched upon a stack of books wearing a colorful fuzzy sweater and tights. An empty, upside-down martini glass dangled between her fingers and the amused, exhausted smile on her face told a story of a confused girl on the journey to becoming an adult. She was, without exaggeration, perfect. 

My best friend Keith had picked up the box for Party Girl—the quintessential 90s New York City house music film—and that image told us nothing about the movie. The stupid tagline—presumably a lame attempt to capture the Clueless audience—read: “sassy, savvy, and definitely clued-in,” creating even more confusion. I know the 90s were cheesy but damn, someone go back in time and fire the copywriter. 

Luckily, the power of Parker Posey couldn’t be thwarted by mismarketing.

We rented the movie from the Central Florida video chain 16,000 Movies, a magical place that carried the latest blockbusters as well as the most obscure movies you’ve never heard of. Varied titles like Joe Vs. the Volcano, La Hain, Cyndi Lauper’s Vibes, The Dead Next Door, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Batman Forever, and Party Girl lined the walls. This place was a burgeoning film lover—and queer person’s—mecca.

“It has Parker Posey in it,” Keith said, as if I were supposed to know who that was. Maybe he remembered her from Dazed and Confused (“AIR RAID, BITCHES!) He had an impeccable memory for unusual details.

She possesses a loneliness that comes through when she tells her stories, highlighting an interior life that is celebrated and protected. If that’s not queer, I don’t know what is.

For a movie about the house music scene the sound quality left something to be desired, but Party Girl‘s overall charm compensated for it. The lack of lighting and film print quality didn’t matter. The movie immediately spoke to us: it was about a city we idolized, from the perspective of a woman so relatable to us that we felt psychically connected to her. Party Girl is queer, surprisingly well-constructed, sweet, and funny. Guillermo Diaz adorably plays a neurotic DJ, and Liv Schreiber an obtuse British bouncer, both playing off of Posey’s broke New York City girl ordering a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of Baba Ghanoush and a seltzer from a hot street vendor. She’s on the verge of becoming a librarian, and, by extension, an adult.

As soon as the movie ended we began quoting it. Lines like: “I would like a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance. Preferably one that will make my unborn children grow gills.”

Girl, we felt you. Truly.

Within the year I’d fallen into a minor obsession with Posey, watching Kicking and Screaming, Drunks, and Flirt, but it wasn’t until I discovered The Doom Generation—in which Posey has a hilarious queer cameo—that I really began to understand just how strange and wonderful she could be. That movie, in all its 90s weirdness, changed what I believed movies could be. It was about kids like me: disaffected, aimless, pissed off, and sad. The music lyric quotes woven into the dialogue combined the two things I loved the most in a way I had never seen so expertly done before or since.

In moments of sadness, when I felt alone, when I felt the world being hateful towards a tall boy who also liked boys, I watched The Doom Generation, Party Girl, Daytrippers, Clockwatchers, and Parker Posey made me forget all of the bullsh*t. She made me laugh, and she made a queer kid in the South—described by others as quirky at best, and as a f*ggot at worst—know there were others like me out there doing bigger things. In a way, her characters shaped me. Watching her somehow reminded me I could be seen, and safe. 

It was also with Keith that I discovered Frisk, gay director Todd Verow’s adaptation of the Dennis Cooper book of the same name, featuring performances by not only Posey, but Alexis Arquette. The film is gay as f*ck, filled with erotic violence and moodiness. Most importantly, it looks like it was made for under a thousand dollars. These kinds of queer movies, existing on the fringes of the industry, mostly only found in the back of queer magazines, are the ones that made Posey so interesting. We instantly loved the movie for all its flaws, its unapologetic adjacency to porn, and its pitch-black nature.

The spring before I moved to New York City, my boyfriend and I went to see her and Matthew Broderick in a play called Taller Than a Dwarf. I don’t remember what the play was about, and it wasn’t very good, to be honest. Nonetheless, I relentlessly loved her in it, and we waited at the stage door so I could meet her after. She came out wearing rollerblades, and I took a picture with her (on a real camera.) She was everything I wanted her to be – sweet, funny, humble. I couldn’t have loved her more. In the photo you can tell we are both hot from the summer heat, and we’re both smiling, and she has lipstick on her teeth. We snapped the photo, briefly chatted, and she disappeared on her rollerblades into the wilds of Times Square.

A few years later I was working in a store in Little Italy where I’d often stand in the doorway and watch passersby. On a warm evening I caught sight of her stumbling toward Elizabeth Street wrapped in the arms of Ryan Adams. I could be wrong, but I think they’d been drinking. As they passed the doorway I said, “Parker fuckin Posey,” and she stopped and a giant grin stole her face. She threw her hand up into the air, and Ryan planted a giant kiss on her face and they fell onto the hood of a car and made out before carrying on towards Chinatown. New York citizens never failed to give a show.

Not long ago I read her memoir, You’re on a Plane. Her deep southern roots only confirmed my connection with her. She is, in every way, unapologetically strange, and yet also normal in the ways that make the most sense to me. She possesses a loneliness that comes through when she tells her stories, highlighting an interior life that is celebrated and protected. If that’s not queer, I don’t know what is.

Parker Posey is a queer icon that not enough people talk about. She’s not the Britney Spears of film, nor the Nicole Kidman we’ve grown to love over the years, but she’s one for the weirdos who choose their own divas: divas with heart and grit, the divas you just might see in a dive bar on 14th Street near NYU.

Whether it was her neurotic character in the iconic Best in Show, her devout bitchiness in Scream 3, or her expert villainy in movies like Blade: Trinity and Superman Returns, she was the main event of every film she appeared in. Much like Winona, Parker possessed a joyful peculiarity that made her stand out among the often boring faces of the movie stars of the time. She transcended the conventional, fearlessly told difficult stories about queers in a time when it could still ruin your career, and did it all with an unhinged joy. ♦

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