Who doesn’t love themselves a good period drama? We absolutely love watching people rock fancy costumes, talk in old-timey ways, and have a little bit of a peek into eras long past. If you’re gay, you may be doubly interested in period drama films because, throughout most of history, being gay was kept on the down low. So, it is nice to get a glimpse into how people would have suffered trying to battle who they loved all those years ago. So, this does beg the question – are there gay movies set in the Victorian era?
Yes, there are gay movies set in the Victorian era, but probably not as many as you would think. Period dramas, while fun, are not being produced all that often. When they are produced, many of them lack homosexual relationships. This is because many of the top Victorian-era period films are based on books from the era and, back then, it would have been highly illegal to write about homosexuality from a positive perspective.
Let’s explain what we mean. We’ll also talk about some of the top gay movies and TV shows set in the Victorian era.
Are There Gay Movies Set in the Victorian Era?
Yes, there are. However, as we said, there is nowhere near as many gay movies set in the Victorian era as you may think. There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, there aren’t that many period dramas set in the Victorian era. While it was a period that society underwent massive amounts of change, it isn’t something that genuinely appeals to the movie-going public. The only period dramas set in the Victorian era that seem to gain any sort of major viewership are those based on popular books, and popular books from the Victorian era rarely, if ever, featured gay relationships.
The reason why those books do not feature gay relationships is that many places, especially the UK where many pieces of Victorian literature were produced, had laws that made homosexuality a crime. As a result, many people rarely wrote about it. They didn’t want to be convicted of a crime. Even popular gay writers, such as Oscar Wilde, rarely wrote about gay relationships. In fact, the closest he came with Picture of Dorian Gray, which had homosexual themes but never outright spoke about homosexuality. As a result, film producers don’t really have a whole lot to work with.
So, yes. While there are gay movies set in the Victorian era, it probably isn’t going to be the best era to look for these movies. The Victorian era rarely has movies made about it anyway and, when they are made, they are not going to feature gay relationships.
The Top Gay Movies and TV Shows Set Around the Victorian Era
Because there are a limited number of gay movies set in the Victorian era, it would be nigh on impossible for us to give you a list of them. So, we figured that rather than focus purely on Victorian gay movies, we’re going to mention gay movies set in broadly the same time period (even if they miss the Victorian period by a few years), plus a few TV shows that may be worth checking out.
Maurice is an Edwardian period movie. It is set just a few years after the end of the Victorian period, so while it isn’t strictly Victorian period, many of the sensibilities displayed in the movie have a ton of overlap.
Maurice stars James Wilby and Hugh Grant. The movie follows the two as they develop a love affair while at the University of Cambridge. Throughout the movie, there is a battle to keep the affair secret, particularly since some of their friends have been sent to prison for being homosexuals. Over time, the two of them become the victim of blackmail, where somebody threatens to expose their relationship.
We won’t spoil too much of this movie, because it is something that every gay person genuinely needs to watch. Unfortunately, it didn’t do too well at the box office, but if you want to see sexy Hugh Grant in one of his first movies, and where he actually does a decent job of acting, then add it to your watch list. It just may be a touch difficult to track down.
As we said – this isn’t set in the Victorian period, but it does feature many of the same laws that would have been around then. This means homosexuality was a crime and, if it were exposed, it would have led to a prison sentence. At the same time, the two main characters are part of the upper class, and their homosexuality being exposed would have had a huge impact on their social standing.
Gentleman Jack (TV Show)
Gentleman Jack was a joint BBC and HBO production that came out in 2019, so it is one of the newest shows on this list. Set in 1830s England, two women fall in love. Based on a true story, it follows the diaries of Anne Lister, a major landowner back in the Victorian era. The relationship between the characters is a major focal point of the TV show while, at the same time, the plot deals with Anne Lister’s rise toward becoming the major power she was in the coal and land industry back in the 1830s. It is an epic story and one of the best examples of lesbian culture in the 1830s, plus one of the rare examples of women gaining tons of power without men involved back in the Victorian period.
If you can, we highly recommend that you also read Anne Lister’s diaries yourself. They were originally written encoded so people could not see her sexuality. It wasn’t until decades later that this code was cracked, and she became somewhat of a lesbian icon. A woman who was proud of who she was back then, but knew that if anybody knew the true her, it would break everything that she had worked so hard to build.
Doctor Who (TV Show)
Ok. So, Doctor Who is a sci-fi TV show. It is a little bit different from some of the other Victorian-era TV shows and movies on this list. However, they do end up in the Victorian era a whole lot (you can thank limited BBC budgets and easy access to Victorian sets for that).
Since Doctor Who came back in the early 2000s, there have been a lot of gay romances in the show. One of the cool things about Doctor Who is that it never overly focuses on the gay romances. They are just accepted. Nobody comments. It just happens. This is probably one of the only times you will ever see that with something set in the Victorian period.
Now, obviously, Doctor Who isn’t going to be for everybody. If you are looking for full Victorian period dramas, then Doctor Who won’t deliver. If you are looking for a fun, family-friendly sci-fi show, then it is absolutely perfect!
Tipping the Velvet (TV Series)
We’ve got another TV show for you here. Tipping the Velvet was originally a book, but it became a very controversial TV series in 2002 (produced by the BBC).
Tipping the Velvet is a coming-of-age story set in the Victorian era. It follows the development of a forbidden lesbian relationship. It isn’t exactly 100% accurate to what life would have been like at that time in Victorian England, but it is a beautiful story, and it is said to mimic the author’s own experiences when she was the same age.
Even if you put the lesbian love affair to one side (although, it is the main focus of the book), the TV show is wonderful as it pulls you into Victorian England. It is perfect for Victorian-period lovers!
Picture of Dorian Gray
We were in two minds as to whether to include Picture of Dorian Gray because, in theory, it doesn’t contain any homosexuality at all. Although, that is the point. Oscar Wilde wrote the original book at a time when being gay was a crime (despite him being very ‘out’ himself). Picture of Dorian Gray was meant to show a ‘bromance’ between two men, with very homosexual undertones. This comes through in the movie.
So, while the movie doesn’t contain any gay scenes, note that it is a story written by a gay man who was trying to get a point across. For this reason, many people do see Picture of Dorian Gray as a gay movie set in the Victorian era.
Fingersmith (TV Series)
This TV series may be a bit hard to track down now, but it is a worthwhile watch if you want to see gay stories set in Victorian England. In Fingersmith, two women fall slowly in love with one another while living a life of crime. It is a fairly lengthy story, but one that will keep you engrossed from start to finish. While the crime elements are the main focus of Fingersmith, it is nice to see the development of the forbidden relationship.
It is worth noting that the TV series, understandably, does cut back on some of the underlying pornographic themes found in the original book. But, if you want a good work of fiction with a lot of lesbian sex, then it may be worth reading through Fingersmith.
While there are not many gay movies set in the Victorian era, you will find a good number of gay movies and TV shows set within a few years of the Victorian period. The reason for the limited number of Victorian-period gay movies is that there aren’t that many Victorian-era movies to begin with, mostly because it wasn’t a very interesting time in history (and those movies don’t generally attract a lot of people to the box office), and because the limited number of Victorian era movies that are released rarely, if ever, feature gay romances. However, at least you do not have zero options from that time period. We suggest that you check out the movies and TV shows on this list to get started.
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