Bumblefuck, USA

The movie opens with the suicide of Matt, a character that we do not know anything about at first. Alexa, a young Dutch woman from Amsterdam who was a close friend of Matt travels to the US in search of answers regarding Matt’s life. Alexa rents a room in a man’s home in Iowa where Matt grew up. Throughout the movie, Alexa makes a documentary which is comprised of interviews from people in the queer community who have come out. Alexa believes that Matt killed himself because of his sexuality because shortly before committing suicide Matt came out as being gay. The interviews we see throughout the movie discuss things that range from first kisses and dealing with their sexual identities to suicide attempts.

Throughout her interviews and exploration of Matt’s death, Alexa meets Jennifer. Actually, Alexa wakes up in what appears to be Jennifer’s living room after a night at the bar. When Alexa first opens her eyes she sees Jennifer who is working on a piece of art she is putting together from recycled materials. Jennifer offers Alexa a cup of coffee and in her rush to get out of the house, Alexa leaves with her coffee in hand. Then a few days later Alexa returns to Jenifer’s window with a fresh hot cup of coffee in hand and apologizes for running off so quickly. She then invites herself in through the window and insists that she go along with Jennifer to help her look for materials in the junkyard. From there, their friendship grows and soon Alexa realizes that she might be finding out more about herself from this trip than she had intended. Through rough questioning of herself and her sexuality Alexa finally comes to the conclusion that she likes Jennifer. This is commonly experienced by members in the LGBT+ community and it relates very strongly to the overall content of our class.

Though the questioning of her sexuality that Alexa, as well as many of the people she has interviewed are shown to have experienced fall in line with many of the readings as well as discussions we have had in class, this is not what stood out to me the most in the movie. There was one particular line during one of Alexa’s interviews with a lesbian woman that really caught my attention and made me think back to our very first readings. The woman being interviewed said something along the lines of how she thought it was ridiculous that women are only conceived as an idea so long as a man is involved. She then went on to talk about how society sees women only as compared to men and she asks why women can’t just be seen as women, and as stated it made me think all the way back to when we read “One Is Not Born a Woman” by Monique Wittig. Throughout which Wittig talks about how women only exist as a concept of the society which they live in. Wittig also talks about how if we could somehow no longer have the classification of man then we would no longer have to have the classification of woman and maybe things could be equal rather that men being superior simply because of their classification as a man.

300 & The History of Sexuality

 

Upon reading David Halperin’s Is There A History of Sexuality? I immediately connected it to the 2006 film 300, directed by Zack Snyder and starring Gerard Butler, which is based on the 1998 graphic novel of the same name. The film focuses on the historic Battle of Thermopylae in which a small contingent of Spartan warriors took on a vast Persian army. The film and novel are clear fictionalizations of these events, but are interesting to look at for their representations and misrepresentations of a central tenant of ancient Greek civilization: masculinity and sexuality.

The film is ripe with eroticism and hyper-masculinity as the warriors themselves are near naked, incredibly buff and constantly cast in a romantic light. Spartan culture was indeed focused on the ideal male form, to the point of instituting a ritual in which weakness is discarded even as early as birth. Shaved Spartan boys are then thrust into a world of violence enduring what they called the agōgē in which they are taken from their mother’s and raised by men.

What the film completely ignores is the pedagogic relationship boys were required to develop with an adult male Spartan who would be their tutor. There is some hint of this between the soldier Stelios and his younger friend Astinos but what homoerotic behavior might be inferred from this is overruled by the quote early on in the film where the main character King Leonidas refers to Athenians as “boy-lovers” with a tone of disdain. The Persians, meanwhile, are portrayed as much more sexually open, having orgies and presenting themselves effeminately with makeup, piercings and perfumes. They are also portrayed as the villain however, and their legion of inhuman monsters fighting for their lustful androgynous masters makes the film seem even more homophobic.

The monstrous Persian representation, as well as Leonidas’s remark against homosexuality (or potentially pedagogy), is in stark contrast to the rest of the films conception. In addition to worshipping the male form, the film is overflowing with imagery of penetration. This is mostly in the form of spears and swords bursting through Spartan enemies and spraying blood everywhere. Indeed the fighting is glorified at an erotic level, frequently being slowed down to highlight the Spartan prowess at an almost pornographic level. These visualizations fit better with Halperin’s exploration of Greek culture and its focus on male dominance and insertion. The films few sex scenes also revolve around penetration, represented in one scene by the involuntary gasps of air Leonidas’s Queen must release with each thrust of his spear. In another scene the Queen gives her body to a politician to help win support for her husband’s war, and the climax of the film culminates in her penetrating him back with a sword in the gut.

This brings us to the role of women in Sparta, which was unique even amongst the Greeks of this time period. When a Persian messenger challenges the Queen for speaking out of turn, asking, “what makes this woman think she can speak among men?” she retorts “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.” Even having more rights than most women of their time is somehow still summed up by male dominance, in this case Spartan ego. Still the Queen plays an important role in the plot of the movie and in the war effort, speaking at the Senate to rally support for her husband. Despite this the film emphasizes that love is a weakness in the eyes of the military. This could have to due with the male superiority in Greek culture, as women were seen as inferiors and objects of desire alongside boys. Real Spartan men were not permitted to live with their wives and could only visit them secretly in the night, though leaving the barracks at all was discouraged.

To me, Halperin’s purpose was to display that while today’s society views sexuality as a binary that has existed since the days of Adam and Eve, it in fact has a much more vibrant history. Indeed it seems Greek and Spartan sexual cultures were so different from our own that we cannot completely understand what it was to live within them, let alone expect a movie audience to grasp the cultural differences as historical realities.

Peaches’ Fatherfuckers

peaches-fatherfucker

Fatherfuckers is Canadian recording artist Peaches’ third studio album released in 2003. Peaches penned and programmed all of the songs for the album herself, most of which are rock-oriented. Fatherfuckers spent eight weeks on the U.S. Top Electronics Albums chart and sold 40,000 copies. To promote the album, Peaches opened for Marilyn Manson in Europe.

This album was huge for Peaches in expressing her bisexuality. Most of the songs on the album have to do with sex in some way, and the ones that don’t still often refer to her being interested in both genders. This is why I chose to include this artifact in our digital archive— it’s extremely expressive of queerness and bisexuality. The album cover also includes Peaches with a beard, which shows her openness to gender fluidity.

In the first track on the album, “I Don’t Give A…”, the music and lyrics are both very repetitive. The beat seems to mimic what Peaches is saying, which is basically just her repeating, “I don’t give a fuck” and “I don’t give a shit.” I think this makes the point that she’s resolved to be herself and not care what anyone else thinks of her. Peaches’ song “I’m The Kinda” is also very repetitive in both lyrics and beats. This seems to be a huge trend on her album that I believe she uses to express how determined she is to let everyone know who she is. Her foul language has a feminist tinge to it, which is relevant to our class topic of lesbian feminism.

In the song “Shake Yer Dix”, Peaches asks both males and females if they’re with her, and if they are they should “shake their dicks” and “shake their tits”, another clear display of her sexuality in a very sexually explicit way. This is another song where Peaches displays her determination to be herself and be accepted for it. A line in the song says, “I’ll be me and you be you.” The beat of this song is clean and soft, giving it a sensual feel.

The song “Stuff Me Up” is a very sexual song. It alternates between the phrases, “eat a big dick”, “eat a big clit”, and “why don’t you stuff me up?” Not only does this display Peaches’ bisexuality, it also expresses her sexual desire. Another extremely sexual song on this album is “Back It Up”. In this song, Peaches uses phrases like “I like to lick it and suck it” and “I like to tease it and tap it.” The beat and rhythm of this track is very sexual with heavy bass and echoing notes.

In “I U She”, Peaches alternates between saying “I you he together” and “I you she together”, clearly displaying her bisexuality. She then continues to repeatedly say, “I don’t have to make the choice. I like girls and I like boys.” This is the one place on her album where she explicitly states that she likes both boys and girls, in a sort of gay liberation. This reminded me of a discussion we had in class about how men used to sleep with both woman and men and still consider themselves straight. Although it does appear that Peaches identifies as bisexual, she emphasizes that she doesn’t have to make a choice. She then continues to talk about crops and whips, showing us that she likes to be with both males and females in a sexual way. This song really embodies the entire idea of the album in the way it shows both her sexuality and her desire to express and be heard.

dark play or stories for boys

Written by Carlos Murillo, dark play or stories for boys was conceived at a summer playwriting workshop at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2005. In 2006, it was presented at the Latino Theatre Festival in Chicago and in 2007, it gained national acclaim at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

10631190_10152416392481319_2028894599510406227_oSeveral months of the past relived in the course of a few minutes in the present day, dark play is a mind-fuck-of-world crafted by Nick, the narrator and protagonist. An undergraduate student, Nick finds himself thrown back to his teenage years when the woman he’s sleeping with, Molly, stumbles upon the multitudinous scars that litter his torso. Confronted with the question of how he received them, Nick vacillates throughout the entirety of the show between remembrance and reality, trying to reconcile whether he should tell Molly the truth. The truth, of course, is anything but simple. Originating in a time of virtual chat rooms and seemingly unfounded duplicity, Nick explains how when he was fourteen, he crafted an Internet persona named Rachel and won the heart of a naive sixteen-year-old named Adam. Drawn into the pretense, Nick becomes addicted to the relationship. Crafting numerous other online personas to sustain the world he has created and to permit him to spend what little time in person he can with Adam, he spirals into a pit of lies. Finding it necessary to kill off Rachel, Nick then intricately lays out for Adam a strategic plan that ultimately culminates in Adam stabbing him to death. Nick, however, does not die. The show ends with him sharing this story with Molly, who refuses to believe him, and a nonchalant return to reality.

While Nick never explicitly states it, one can imply that he is gay and devastated by the fact that Adam will never love him because he is not female. Hints are recurrently dropped throughout the show regarding Nick’s sexuality. When slipping back into the memory of the past – specifically what we can infer to be his time with Adam – Nick expresses the sensation as such:

“And that’s when time stops

And I feel the familiar sensation –

Sweat glands juicing up,

A hardening between my legs

That low grade migraine

When I’m like an atom in a particle accelerator

And the world around me slows like it’s moving through peanut butter.”

Each time the audience returns to the present with Nick, he recounts this physiological response. He does this eight times throughout the show.

When offering a hypothetical situation to a teacher, Nick describes the actor in the scenario in a manner that sounds remarkably like himself and adds the clarifier “gay”. A little while later, when delineating the virtues of the Internet, Nick expresses that the worldwide web is the one place “where a kid [his] age and… of [his] demeanor” can escape, emphasis stressed on the word “demeanor” in the script. Indeed, Nick’s activities online seem rather akin to cruising, for not only is he canvassing an extremely public space but also he later appears to be doing so in the interest of sex. For instance, Nick outlines some precursory stunts he pulled online before meeting Adam, one of which included posing as a “pair of nubile, underage, sex-hungry Asian chicks” looking for a “mature American man to show [them] the ‘American way of life’”. This incident is also significant for another reason. Upon opening one of the several hundred email replies he received in response to the ad he posted, Nick finds himself confronted with the photograph of a naked man. While reticent in his reaction, Nick does describe it as “trigger[ing] a feeling in [him]”.

CT  CTH 0127 fringe-ott.jpgThe show is also peppered with the word queer, and interestingly enough, Adam always interjects it when he’s describing his feelings for Rachel. Indeed, it seems like an authorial dig at the homosexual overtones, almost as if Murillo is having Adam subconsciously recognize that his online relationship is actually with a man. What more, there is the fact that Nick engages in oral sex with Adam twice. When reflecting on it after the first time, he admits that he “wanted it to happen” but found himself simultaneously unsatisfied because Adam cried out Rachel’s name, not his. Adam’s participation in sex, once while inebriated and the second time while completely sober does suggest a trade-like-quality to him. While he does present himself as heterosexual and primarily interested in falling “in love” with women, he does not appear to rebuff Nick’s advances.

When it finally comes to the point where Adam is to kill Nick, Nick employs the online persona of Olivia, an ostensible homicide detective, to communicate strict instructions on how to go about the matter. Olivia (really Nick) stresses to Adam that when he stabs Nick, he is to tell him that he loves him. She makes him promise that he’ll do so, in fact. Olivia appears seven times through the show before making the purpose of her character known and recites those very words each time, foreshadowing what is to come.

When one reads the show from front to back, Nick’s resolution to die seems so rational that it feels like an appropriate solution to a horrendous situation. Because of this impression, though, I don’t think we interrogate what is really being implied by not just the act of murder but also Nick’s entreaty of it. Not unlike Paul in Willa Cather’s short story, Nick seeks out particular corners of the Internet because he feels a certain listless emptiness in everyday life. And like Paul, once it registers with him what he is, Nick seeks out a means of self-destruction. He describes it as a “darkness and danger lurking in [his] soul” and when embodying Olivia he communicates to Adam that

“Nick is beyond depraved.

He’s become an inhuman monster.

He must be put down.

We need you to eliminate him”.

It is clear that Nick comprehends himself as abnormal and perhaps within the context of psychosocial development, Freud would point to him losing his father at the age of eleven as the precipitator. Without a father figure to complete the cycle of male-identification with and the added caveat that the man he knew as father lied to him about their lineage for more than a decade, perhaps this is why Nick “became” queer.10383846_10152416404981319_4841902767104532302_o

In any case, while on the verge of death, Nick experiences a resurrection and white light moment, an upwelling of love pervading his body. He lives and when we meet him again some time later, he has only just finished in engaging in heterosexual sex. This leaves us to wonder the implications of his heavily machinated murder. If intended to “kill the gay” within, was he reborn straight? Is he bisexual? Or, does the possibility exist that his feelings for men have simply reposed as dormant for so long? He notes his physiological response to the past to us, but does he really permit himself to realize what those feelings insinuate?

Cool and collected at the end the show, there is a slightly flippant and ascendant color to his tone. And, as he states in the beginning of the play, he has a chronic proclivity to “make shit up”. So, where does that leave us?

Does anybody really know?

Boy Wonder- James Robert Baker

41QN7E327PL._SX297_BO1,204,203,200_

James Robert Baker was a transgressional gay themed fiction writer and filmmaker. He was raised in a conservative family in southern California and explored his sexuality when in high school and realized he was gay. However, he was afraid to come out as his dad was abusive and conservative. He committed suicide at the age of 50. His interactions with his family and society can be seen in most of his novel and film, but most extensively in Boy Wonder, written in 1988. Baker is best known for his novel, “Tim and Pete”, “Adrenaline”- about two gay fugitives’ lovers. Baker has a very strong voice in gay literature both in the mainstream literary culture as well as the gay community itself.

Boy Wonder was set in Orange County, California about a boy, Gale Shark Trager and how he led his life due to his different way of viewing life and feeling confined by the norms and expectations of the society and how he broke free of the confined. Shark’s father Mac Trager, was a racist bully and his mother, Winnie Trager was a hypochondriac. In both cases, Paul and Shark’s father’s had a conservative mindset. He always had a hard time fitting into the society and adjusting to his school peers similar to the writer Baker. He became friends with his gay neighbor, Kenny Roberts and fell in love with a blonde teen, Kathy Petro. Obsessed with Kathy he filmed her masturbating and while he went to develop the film, Kathy’s father pressed charges against him and Mac learns how perverted Shark was. Mac took Shark for a VD “drip check” and Shark accused Mac of being a homosexual. This can be related to “Paul’s Case” by Cather, where Paul had a hard time adjusting to his school where everyone bullied him. Later Shark moved out of his house and moved with his friend. Throughout his life he randomly hooked up with all kinds of people in his life to make movies and moved from place to place and never settled with anyone. Shark threw out Kathy (who was his girlfriend at that time) out of the car after a fight, the cops shot him afterwards. Even though there are queer people throughout the century, very few people have the strength to come out of the closet and most people either commit suicide or do something stupid that end up destroying their career or sometimes their life. Eventually Shark moved to a bigger city in Los Angeles where he attended UCLA, this can be related to Paul’s moving to New York. This represents that bigger cities have more opportunities and are more open towards LGBT people. He never got any support from his family or peers as he never fit in the traditional norms of society. Both the writer and the character, Shark suffered mental disturbance through their life.

Baker’s suicide can be related to Paul’s suicide for being gay. Even though Paul killed himself for being gay and afraid of the society, Baker’s suicide can be related somewhat for the same reason. Baker killed himself because several critics called his novel “Tim and Pete”-“The Last Angry Man”. He faced difficulty maintaining his financial position and publishing his last novel “Right Wing” primarily for its advocacy of political assassination in combating AIDS discrimination after the AIDS pandemic began to take a huge turn in the gay community.

untitled

Elephant (2003)

Elephant is a drama film directed by Gus Van Sant that is based on the events surrounding the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The film follows an ordinary school day, introducing us to many different characters along the way. We meet Alex and Eric entering the building with weapons in the middle of the day and, due to the film’s non-linear narrative, see a flashback to the day prior and see what a normal day at school is like for them. Alex and Eric are two outcasted students who are mistreated by their peers. They become infatuated with the fantasy of killing those in their path in order to escape the reality of being rejected.

elephant

Alex and Eric entering school before the shooting.

elephant_8

The students about to begin looking for those left in the building.

While there are many interesting plot lines within the film, it is important to focus on the experimental nature of how the movie was produced. It is composed of many tracking shots of students going about their everyday lives, but also tracking shots of Alex and Eric running around the school with their guns. There is no narration of thought, which is extremely frustrating as a viewer, however the particular filming draws parallels to the graphics of a violent video game. As we see Alex and Eric walk through the halls from behind, it is very familiar to controlling a video game character. This only enhances the fantasy of the situation, leading us to believe that committing this massacre was an escape from their reality.

This idea of escaping reality is also found in Willa Cather’s story Pauls Case: A Study in Temperament. Paul was also a student who struggled to fit in at school and at home, so he made the decision to leave Pittsburgh and run away to New York to live out a new life “entirely rid of his nervous misgivings, of his forced aggressiveness, of the imperative desire to show himself different from his surroundings”. Paul played up the part of his character, building his perfect fantasy by dressing how he pleased and spending money on fancy dinners and alcohol and thinking that he would finally be happy. However, this all changed when Paul realized his father was coming for him. His fantasy was coming to a close. In the end, Paul took his life in order to permanently escape the reality of the trouble he would endure at home.

While Paul’s fantasy ended with him taking his own life, Alex and Eric ended theirs by taking the lives of others (in addition to Eric also being shot by Alex). Their sexualities can be linked to their desire to escape what life had been for them, as Paul was outwardly homosexual. While we don’t know Alex and Eric’s sexualities, they do share a kiss in the shower together the morning of the massacre, which can at least be considered non-normative. An interesting concept to note from both the story and the film is that neither piece ends concretely: we do not know what comes of Paul’s death or of the massacre, however lives were certainly taken under unnecessary and unfortunate circumstances.

The L Word (2004-2009)

The L Word is a TV series that follows the lives and loves of a small solid group of lesbian, bisexuals, straight, and transgender people living in Los Angeles. They live with their family and friends that either support them or despise them. The TV series was released in 2004. I will be analyzing the show as one, but I also chose to focus on how gender roles play a big part within the lesbian relationship between Bette Porter and Tina Kennard.

 

bette and tinaJenny

The setting of this TV series takes place in the west side of Hollywood. In the beginning of this TV series the main focus was the lesbian relationship between Bette Porter and Tina Kennard and their heterosexual neighbor Tim Haspel and his sexually curious girlfriend Jenny Schecter, who had just moved in with him. As well as their friends and families around them. In the very first episode Tim Haspel’s girlfriend moves in with him. Jenny comes off as a sweet heterosexual female who is confused when she realizes her new neighbors are a very open lesbian couple by the name of Bette and Tina. Throughout the Jenny’s bisexuality leads her to realizing that men were not for her once she came across Bette and Tina’s hot lesbian friend Marina Ferrer who basically turns Jenny out and helps her realize that she is attractive to women.

Bette and Tina are the most dominant lesbian couple in the series. They were together seven years and counting the time they took apart. Bette was the director of an art museum who portrayed as the domme (masculine lesbian) in the relationship and Tina was unemployed in the beginning who portrayed as the femme (feminine lesbian). Their relationship connects with gender roles stereotype in today’s society, which is set on allocating masculine and feminine roles to partners in every couple whether it involves a gay, straight, or lesbian couple, their relationship endured the same bittersweet obstacles as heterosexual couples. These obstacles included starting a family, infidelity, break, forgiving, and marriage.

 

Brother to Brother

Brother to Brother is an independent movie written and directed by Rodney Evans. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 where it won the Special Jury Prize for a dramatic film and later received 8 other nominations and 7 awards in the gay and lesbian film circuit. Rodney Evans, born in 1971, spent six years working on Brother to Brother, starting with the idea of relating his own present-day experiences with to a larger historical perspective. This film is just one of many LGBTQ themed works that Rodney Evans has directed, written and produced.

Perry

The movie Brother to Brother tells the story of Perry, a college-age gay black man living in New York City. Perry had been kicked out of his home for being gay and feels lost in the world, struggling to find his place in the gay community and black community. He feels alienated from the gay community because he feels that too many white gay men only want him because he is black. He feels outcast from the black community that won’t accept his sexuality.

One day while on the sidewalk, Perry’s friend is reciting some poetry when a man approaches them. This stranger finishes the verse and disappears, leaving Perry and his friend confused. The next day Perry is reading a book of poetry by Bruce Nugent and he recognizes the poem the stranger finished. “Smoke, Lilies and Jade”:

…he blew a cloud of smoke…it was growing dark now…and the smoke no longer had a ladder to climb…but soon the moon would rise and then he would clothe the silver moon in blue smoke garments…truly smoke was like imagination…. 

It turns out this stranger is a regular at the homeless shelter that Perry works at. After

Bruce Nugent

confronting him, Perry learns that this man is in fact Bruce Nugent, one of the few openly gay writers and painters of the Harlem Renaissance. They quickly become friends, as Bruce sees a lot of himself in Perry. The two frequently visit the house where Bruce lived and wrote during the Harlem Renaissance. The film draws parallels between the struggles Bruce faced in 1920s New York.

Bruce tells Perry all kinds of stories about his younger years as a writer while they explore this house.  Bruce tells Perry about his relationship with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, both very prominent writers in the Harlem Renaissance. With these authors and others, they write a magazine with articles from black writers talking about gays, lesbians, black culture and sex workers. The group got lot of negative criticism from important critics and was attacked by the black community including the NAACP. Bruce also metaphorically walks Perry through a party they threw at the now decrepit house, where they have alcohol in the prohibition era and there are many gay men and women hooking up. Though there are many decades separating Bruce and Perry, they shared similar experiences and Perry learns a lot from Bruce.

Many of the memories that Bruce shares relate to George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940. We see in Bruce’s younger years the more visible, fairy-type gay man. We also see the way that gays were persecuted in the mid twentieth century. In one scene, Bruce is seduced by a sailor, colloquially known as a ‘trade,’ but it is a trap. Bruce is arrested and brought to court for being gay and is even accused of attempting to rape the sailor.

Through his friendship with Bruce Nugent, Perry learns from Bruce’s experiences of many decades prior, and starts to be more comfortable with himself. Perry moves on from a relationship that wasn’t very good and gets more confident about his place in the gay and black communities. In the end, tragically, Bruce dies of a heart attack. Through telling the stories of Bruce Nugent and Perry, Brother to Brother relates the struggles of modern day gay black men to 1920s Harlem Renaissance era gay black men, showing that the world today can be just as complicated and hostile as it was back then.

Better Than Chocolate: A Lesbian Happily Ever After

Better Than Chocolate is a Canadian romantic comedy directed by Anne Wheeler. Released in 1999, the film was, and continues to be, ahead of the curve in its depictions of lesbian love, life, and community. The film follows the life of Maggie, a recent college dropout who works at a lesbian bookstore, Ten Percent Books, where she lives until she is forced to get a real apartment when her mom and brother move in with her. She also works as a dancer at The Cat’s Ass, a nearby lesbian nightclub. Maggie meets Kim, an artist living out of her van, the same day her mother calls, and Maggie invites her to move in with her as well. Most of the comedic action ensues in the first few days after Maggie’s mother Lila and brother Paul move into the apartment, as Maggie and Kim must navigate their new relationship in secret.

Throughout the film, Maggie has a variety of interactions with other lesbians and queer women, most notably Frances, her boss, who is occupied for much of the film with fighting customs for her confiscated books, and with fellow nightclub performer Judy Squires. Two romances play out during the film, one between Maggie and Kim, and another between Frances and Judy. In addition to the positive portrayal of lesbian love between Maggie and Kim, the film also provides a look at the acceptance and rejection Judy feels as a trans lesbian woman.

Unlike many of the sexualized depictions of lesbians in popular culture, Better Than Chocolate shows that sexual relationships between women are more than steamy sex. Maggie and Kim’s relationship is cute and sexy, not just sexualized, and they are not framed for the “male gaze,” rather, camera angles allow for a sense of privacy without being too far removed to show their intimacy. They do have sex their first night together, but despite their relationship moving along fast, their intimacy is realistic and loving. Not only do they laugh together, but they embrace the awkwardness of getting to know each other, both in and out of bed.

Maggie and Kim blend art, love, and sex on their first day together.

In order for Maggie and Kim’s relationship to work in the end, however, Maggie must be open to the world, specifically her mother, about her feelings for Kim. Ultimately, this is only possible because both characters, mother and daughter, grow during the course of the film. Lila is the one who finally brings the topic up and asks them what is going on, and at this point, she is ready to be open to her daughter. But when Maggie is unable to tell her mother that she loves Kim, the relationship is temporarily broken. Lila’s development is important, however, because it offers an alternative narrative in which a child’s homosexuality can actually bring a family closer together rather than tearing it apart. Lila is willing to open her eyes and accept Maggie’s sexuality and decisions, and the end of the film provides a moment of resolution for mother and daughter.

Even though it is ultimately resolved, this break in their relationship is hard on both Maggie and Kim, and both rely on Judy to vent their feelings and ask for advice and comfort. Judy also supports Lila, befriending her upon her arrival, out of concern for her loneliness. Rejected by her parents and habitually attacked and mocked by some patrons of The Cat’s Ass, Judy lives perhaps the loneliest life of any of them, and yet she never gives up or stops asking to be taken seriously. Even though Judy’s character is not played by a trans woman, her character is not treated as a joke; instead Judy is a character with depth. It is very important for her to distinguish herself from male drag artists, and more than anything she would like to be accepted as a woman and as a lesbian woman by other queer women. After all, she too has hopes and dreams and a desire to love and be loved. Also important is her refusal to forget her rage. She has no sympathy for her parents, and, as her performance at the club shows, no sympathy for those who disrespect her gender.

Judy and Frances find love.

Refreshingly, both relationships end happily. While many queer films culminate in tragic death or focus on loneliness, it is a tragedy that brings them together. In this way, the film provides a happy ending for these four characters while still being able to address issues of violence and hatred that comes both from society at large and from within the lesbian community. The positivity at the end of the film is a stark contrast to the life and death of Willa Cather’s Paul. Written more than 90 years before Better Than Chocolate was released, Paul, like Judy and to some extent Maggie, feels isolated and trapped, but instead of being exiled for their behavior, the two women are able to find love and acceptance. Maggie takes power into her own hands by deciding to protest book censorship and her own personal censorship of herself. Judy decides to be her authentic self and to lung into love. Hopefully this film will continue to shape more recent narratives into ones where this is possible.

Only Straight Girls Wear Dresses Stereotype

Only Straight Girls Wear Dresses is a lovely song by CWA from a compilation album called Stars Kill Rock. About twenty different artists contributed to this alternative rock album. The album itself was released by a label called Kill Rock Stars in 1993 which was a “left-wing, feminist, and anti-war” label.

The lyrics of this song and even the title portray a certain stereotype for women in general. I feel as though in the LGBTQ+ community as well as in the cishet (cisgender, heterosexual folks) community girls who like girls are seen as badass and really butch. On the other hand, straight girls are seen as very feminine and into “girly” things. None of that is necessarily true. Straight girls as well as lesbians come in many different types. There are femme lesbians, butch lesbians, dykes, bull dykes, and many different more. Then on the other hand, there are different types of straight girls. They can be masculine or feminine or anything in between. With that said, what one identifies with can change at any time. The point I’m trying to make here is that physical appearance and sexuality don’t necessarily correspond. In some cases it does and in others it doesn’t.

I heard this song a really long time ago like in middle school (I was weird, okay), and when we began George Chauncy I thought about this song. The reason being was the discussion on the different types of homosexual men. When talking about the types of gay men, I thought about the different types of lesbian and straight women. I feel as though there there are a lot of expectations for lesbians but not nearly as much for gay men. That is how this song relates back to the class. Gay men and lesbians are similar enough in the types that there are. More feminine gay men are like femme lesbians. This song could really be switched around to say “you know, only straight men act very masculine and like sports and stuff” which again, isn’t necessarily true.