Sure, “Sunset Boulevard” might not be the first movie you think of textual queer cinema, but this film’s inclusion is perfection. The bulk of the film is about the strange relationship between struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) and aging starlet Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), as well as tackling themes of industry abuse, sexism, and ageism. Like most of director Billy Wilder’s films, it is rich with thoughtful points on the state of Hollywood, but on a surface level, it doesn’t seem very queer at all.
However, when you read between the lines, it actually makes total sense why Van would have its poster hanging in both her apartment and the store. “Sunset Boulevard” is arguably one of the hallmarks of camp thanks to Swanson’s dramatic and wide-ranging performance. In one scene, she can be melancholy before being dramatically angry in the next. As Logo TV once wrote, Norma is “drama for drama’s sake,” even comparing the character to famously melodramatic drag queen Alyssa Edwards. One can even make the argument that the relationship between Joe and Norma is one that mirrors that of a drag mother and a drag daughter. No matter how you interpret “Sunset Boulevard,” it has its own unique mark on queer cinema, and it’s great that “Yellowjackets” has acknowledged that.