Out of the Celluloid Closet

Michelle Williams and Chloë Sevigny played sapphic lovers in this made-for-TV classic

It’s not often that Hollywood decides to spend serious coin on a big-budget, splashy lesbian drama made for the girls only. It’s so uncommon, in fact, that in between the 1961 lesbian potboiler The Children’s Hour and 2004’s The L Word there was practically nothing on the big or small screen outside of a handful of exciting indie films that you had to seek out on your own. Sure, there was sometimes an incidental lesbian arc (Election, anyone?) but it was often played for laughs, or for the male gaze (Chasing Amy, anyone?)

So imagine how cool it was to see a movie about lesbians on HBO at the very start of the Willennium? That’s right: the year was 2000, and sapphics were finally getting the anthology film of their dreams and nightmares in If These Walls Could Talk 2.


Michelle Williams and Chloë Sevigny in the 1972 segment of the 2000 made-for-TV movie IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK 2. (Full post on the QCA Insta). IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK 2 2000. USA. (1972 Sequence) Director: Martha Coolidge Teleplay: Sylvia Sichel Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Chloë Sevigny, Michelle Williams, Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, Paul Giamatti, Natasha Lyonne, Nia Long, Regina King and Kathy Najimy #lgbtqia #lgbtqplus #queercinemaarchive #lgbtqhistory #gaymovies #sapphic #wlw #michellewilliams

♬ original sound – queer.cinema.archive

Dreams and nightmares, yes: because if there was one thing about these kinds of movies—movies made for queer people before the prestige TV breaking point of Queer as Folk and The L Word—it was that you had to pay for your representation in tears. Before any of us could put words to the trope now known as “bury your gays,” we simply braced ourselves for a sad outcome. Because in this era, if it was queer, it was probably tragic.

But we took what we could get, and in 2000, we got Nia Long, Vanessa Redgrave, Chloë Sevigny, Michelle Williams, Ellen Degeneres, and Sharon Stone all in one extremely sapphic movie. If These Walls Could Talk 2 took the Cher-starring, female-centered abortion anthology of the original and gay-ified it effortlessly.

Just the year before, Chloë Sevigny had played Brandon Teena’s girlfriend in the contentious trans drama Boys Don’t Cry. In that film, so much of her character’s screentime was devoted to her protesting that she wasn’t queer, despite dating a trans man. Now, a year later, she was showing up onscreen in a binder and white tank, being made fun of by femme lesbians for her throwback style.

But Michelle Williams, playing a shy femme, doesn’t care. “You accept who you are,” she says, “and I love that about you.” It’s a far cry from the more tragic installments in the anthology film, one which deals with the expense and stigma a lesbian couple experiences while trying to get pregnant, and another in which two lovers are suddenly torn apart.

This segment was decidedly different than the others: instead of focusing on what the world thought of queer people, it looked at how queer people see themselves. That’s something we don’t even have a lot of in 2024, never mind in 2000. And while most sapphic viewers had to seek out independent features—like The Watermelon Woman and Go Fish—to see happy queer lives and relationships represented, If These Walls Could Talk 2 was nothing to sneeze at.

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