Flag Wars and Gayborhoods

Imagine a utopia. Queer paradise. A place where you were constantly surrounded by pleasant, like-minded people that all get along. A place where you never had to worry about discrimination or prejudice. Life is just easy-going without any unnecessary negative experiences. Theoretically that’s what a gayborhood, or a neighborhood with a large number of LGBTQ+ residents, is supposed to be. And while there are plenty of benefits to living in a place filled with people like you, there also comes some strong negative impacts.

In George Chauncey’s Gay New York he discusses the queer communities in the late 1800s that were established in different parts of New York. Contrary to popular belief, prior to World War II gay men were able to congregate and share their identities and were not forced to live solitary lives. These are the first gay neighborhoods in the United States that we know of, granted they consisted primarily of cis gay men so they are fairly different from the ones we see in large cities today. These queer oases facilitated the creation of a very strong gay culture and gave members of the queer community outlets to showcase talents, socialize with people that had similar identities, and form romantic relationships with one another. They also served as a sort of barrier to the policing of queerness by creating a safe space.

Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras’ 2003 documentary Flag Wars depicts a more modern version of gay neighborhoods. It follows the conflict in a Columbus, Ohio neighborhood between the gay and African American communities as a large white, LGBTQ+ population begins moving in and gentrifying the neighborhood. Throughout the film the queer population uses civil law to speed up the process of removing the African American community. This includes having parts of the neighborhood declared historic to create restricted housing codes, fighting the presence of low-income housing, and continually making code enforcement complaints. The displacement of these people is treated with such nonchalance. At one point in the documentary, while attending a neighborhood meeting a member of the queer community states, “If you can’t take care of your house then don’t live there.” If only it was that easy. I understand the want to have a clean, beautiful neighborhood but most of these people simply do not have the money to allocate funds to the upkeep of their homes. The woman they were following in particular had a disease and was living off a $500 per month disability check. It is important to remember that people sharing one or both of these identities are all in need of safe spaces and that it is always better to be allied than at each other’s throats.

This is not an isolated incident. Gay neighborhoods typically begin in low-income neighborhoods that are then revamped and given higher taxes, pushing the existing population out of their homes. An influx of LGBTQ+ peoples is now seen as a early marker of gentrification to come.

In addition to gentrification, gay neighborhoods are often not always inclusive to all members of the queer community. Since these neighborhoods are usually of higher income, residents tend to be white and wealthy. There is usually a higher concentration of gay men than women since research shows that lesbians are less likely to live in close proximity to one another. And of course there are populations that are unwanted as in any community, such as prostitutes and those with “strange” kinks, which are pushed out either because of the gentrification or because of harassment by other residents.

I am not saying that gayborhoods are the worst places in the world. I am sure there are some people that have really benefited by living surrounded by others similar to them, especially in the past, knowing they will be safe where they sleep and not hated solely because of their sexual orientation. But it is important to recognize and change the faults of our queer community rather than pretend they don’t exist.

Venus Boyz

Venus Boyz is a documentary film directed by Gabriel Baur in the 1996 New York City life. Various participants of the LGBT community showed a creative and insightful look into their everyday lives. This documentary showed Drag King and Queens in and out of their characters. These people opened up their sexual life, their family life, and a small glimpse into the inside of their beautiful realistic mind.

The following characters below are biological female:

Bridge Markland who is androgynous person plays Karl and Angela. Karl is a sweet, king and non violent man. Angela is sex bomb that radiates self confidence. Bridge lives in Berlin and expresses herself as a neutral person, not expressing either genders.

Shelly Mars is an aggressive female that expresses that personality as MO B Dick. Shelly has been a Drag King for 20 years and performs alongside other Drag Kings in the bar in New York City.

Mildred Gerestant is a person that does not categorize his/her gender. He/she says in the documentary “I’m not a Butch or femme. I just–whatever im feeling. I can be one way one day and another way the other. I just know it.” Mildred is a quite shy and to herself during her full time job as a computer analysis. But when she changes into Dred he becomes an erotic, lively man that says or does whatever he wants.

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Storme Webber knows Mildred as his “Granny”. Storme was born and raised with a lesbian mother and a bisexual African American father. For being exposed to the queer culture as a young girl, Storme developed the mindset to handle anyone looking at her/him through outlooks only through distinct race and gender. As a transgender he/she is drawn to identity indifference, it gives a sense of comfort. He/she express,

“And so with Masculinity its the same. Its what surrounds it you know, its this its always a, the dichotomy, its the moving forward and the holding back and the being vulnerable and this is what is interesting that’s what i find that makes any performance good passion.”

Diane Torr mostly enjoys portraying herself as male characters. In her previous years before drag she was was married and had a daughter. But she wasn’t happy with herself, and so she found something that made her feel comfortable, which was being a Drag King most of her every day life. She feels more respected and more confident living as a man and dating butch lesbians. She also explains the outlook on women,

“As woman its like were open for access 24 hours a day.

 

People have to like us. That’s like the ruling thing in our psy

ches. So what does it mean to be a woman? What kind of a woman am I? I want you to like me. I want you to hold me. I want you to fulfill my dreams.”

Judith Halberstam a gender theorist says:

“We don’t as individuals reinvent the meaning of gender. Each person individually, one person at a time. We, we come in to genders that have already being constructed for us within political, economic, social cultural context. So what we do, when we are in agenda is perform an already socially constructed script.”

All of these participants may not identify as a female in this documentary biut make no mistake,they love their genitals and do not want surgeries to permanently keep them from being a biological female. Not many people outside of the LGBT community such as myself knew their are Drag Queens and Kings, who are both fighting to break stereotypes given to them.

In class we discussed the comparisons and contrasts of Caityln Jenner and the character Moira in the move “Transparent”. Although Caitlyn does not perceive highly to some members of the transgender community, she still suffered in what every woman in the documentary has gone through; and that is being an outsider.Moira in the show does show authenticity and reliability which more transgender people can gravitate towards but it was just a character in a TV series. Desire, sexual orientation, body, romance have no gender identity labeled with only men and woman, but i feel only pure satisfaction and self acceptance to ones self.

 

“The Living End” – Fuck The World

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FUCK THE WORLD!

Greg Araki, “The Living End”: [an irresponsible movie] (1992). Both HIV+, Jon – a pessimistic movie reviewer – and Luke – a borderline psychotic wanderer (to be modest) – take a road trip across the states. Filled to the lip with violence, alcohol, sex, and just really, really poor decisions, the duo’s embodiment of the opening phrase “FUCK THE WORLD” becomes something of comedy. While a vital move in bringing the immediate issue of HIV/AIDS to the mainstream with support for an LGBT community through that lens, “The Living End” also embodies a significant amount of rage and pain felt by many who were abandoned during the AIDS crisis. More than a tribute, the exaggerations of this film manifest the raw emotional anguishes likely faced by many of the LGBT community, especially gay men.

Jon’s rather ordinary life is immediately disrupted by his positive HIV test and Luke (another HIV+ man with a known kill count of at least 3). We are immediately immersed in a seeming binary of extremes for those diagnosed with HIV: try to continue living as normally possible, or take life by the balls in light of an untimely and inevitable end. Faced quite literally with the end of living, Luke persuades Jon through multiple means (seduction, coercion, intimidation) to explore the latter alternative. Jon complies and indulges himself, with continual reluctance as he constantly keeps in touch with his best friend and primary support Darcy – who even then seems rather helpless in the ordeal despite her best efforts. Jon is thrown back and forth between Darcy’s pleading for him to come home, and Luke’s exhilarating (and criminal) antics.

So yes, there are moments of humor, at Jon’s complete oversights of Luke’s violent side in favor of his sweet and sometimes deviant sexual behaviors (public nudity/sex, choking at climax). However, we’re still left with Jon’s sense of apathetic loss of direction as he constantly asks “Why,” and Luke’s senseless disregard for any aim whatsoever, attempting suicide at sexual climax to avoid the slow decay of disease. Too bad, they figure, they were not born sometime later after the seeming invention of “safe sex.” Yet this was the places thousands of people found themselves in while a presidential administration turned away.

Many tried to just keep on living, something more akin to Sir Ian McKellen’s character from “And the Band Played On”, although a diffusion of enjoyment of life towards cynicism, depression, and apathy are unsurprising if not expected. Luke offered an excitement for Jon, a means to live life to the fullest with what little was left, so much so that he abandons possible treatment (as if he could have afforded it). Conversely we have Luke, who has been so pushed to the edge every day of his life is a fight to survive. People of all sorts of crazy and ignorant come out to kill him on the premise of perceived sexuality (Luke having that “something” that marks him as gay in the time period; never mind the disease is slowly destroying his immune system too). Rage of all sort manifests with Luke, for his illness, for the hate he receives, for the end he can do nothing to stop or put off. And it burns out at some point, leading him to rape and suicide. So for as much as there might have been a laugh at Jon’s reaction to all of that, from a slap across the cheek to a deep, passionate kiss, there’s also a terrifying truth to it. There is a necessity for presence, real understanding.

It’s not that Darcy didn’t mean well trying to help Jon keep life “together,” but life couldn’t be that way after his diagnosis; nor is Luke’s wild ride of liquor, guns, blood, sweat, sex, and more a means of fulfilling what’s lost with the acquisition of the virus. To have someone there, to hold, to love, in the dark final hour, it was worth it for Jon. He pleads with himself all the time, “Why,” why does he stick around with some psycho rather than go back to his normal life. He was truly displaced and, on a macro scale, abandoned. The actions of the LGBT community and allies during and immediately after the AIDS crisis deserves applause, such that Luke’s rage was not widespread, but rather efforts were made to educate and learn more about the virus and means of caring for people. It could seem appropriate, only in the progress of history where HIV/AIDS is no longer equal to death, that we can take a camp look at the ordeal and just how sensible it would have been to take a rampaging road trip when the people with the means to help didn’t give a fuck.

Dancing, Drugs, and Dopamine

      Imagine a world where there is nothing but dancing, drugs, and dopamine. A world where you can snap your fingers and the most glamorous, exciting night is right in front of you. Parties, elaborate costumes, music; what can go wrong?  In the film “Party Monster” directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, Macaulay Culkin plays Michael Alig, a club promoter and leading member of the Club Kids of New York City, which hosted this glamorous lifestyle in the late 80’s and early 90’s that seemed to rise at the snap of Alig’s fingers. This euphoric and fabulous life was all Michael wanted, so he pursued his dreams and moved to the city to later establish the Club Kids, where he hosted parties and people came dressed in outrageous costumes. Mostly flamboyant and drag-like personas emerged. The Club Kids grew and grew until they were hugely prominent in the underground club scene. Alig learns to rules of fabulousness from James St. James (Seth Green), and he takes flight from there. “Party Monster” does a fine job in depicting Michael Alig and the Club Kids, and I believe it is a spectacle of queer culture that is important to take a look at.

Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin as James St. James and Michael Alig

     The darkness that was behind Michael Alig is something very important to understand “Party Monster” gives us a very accurate presentation of drugs that drove Alig to madness. Being an addict, Alig could never get enough. In almost every scene of the film, we see him high or using. It’s crucial to learn the role of drugs in this underground club life that Alig was basically constructing for himself. Some may argue the lifestyle wouldn’t even be sustained without them. Much of the plot is driven by his drug use, such as his overdose, being warned about them; his relationships are even sustained by them in certain ways. The phrase “dinner is served” is used multiple times throughout the film referring to the drugs he’s prepared for a large group or even an intimate night with James. Almost every action Michael performs in this film is under the influence of hard drugs such as heroine, ketamine, or methamphetamine.  

Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig

      Murder is also a theme in this film. Part of Alig’s darkness is his real tendency to kill. He brutally murders his lover, Angel (while high) and dismembers his body. He stuffs his legs in a garbage bag and puts the rest of the remains in a box. Eventually he confesses and was sent to prison for manslaughter. This murder resulted from a long argument about drugs. He was so high he barely remembered his actions. 

Culkin and Green post-murder scene

      The culture and goal of this film, in my opinion, is not to just tell a story of Michael Alig and the Club Kids, but to really show darkness and pain that is behind the glitz and glamour of what often is, queer culture and practice (but not all). The culture of queer club scenes, underground drag, and practice cult-like groups, etc. There is a strong parallel between this film and “Pink Flamingos”. There are lines that both can connect to such as brutality and darkness, yet glamour and some sort of “perfect world”. Alig believed his club promoting and Club Kids was his perfect world, just like Divine did with her group. When actually, the reality of what they were engaging in was nothing but destructive. Like we discussed with “Shortbus”, and the actual existence of these kind of places, there is a certain set of “rules” and “norms” that govern these kinds of places always led by this great and fabulous leader. Justin Vivian Bond, Michael Alig, and Divine are all faces of their own “clubs” who really act as the eyes, ears, and especially mouths of these environments. “Party Monster” is a really important addition to queer film, in my opinion, and the true story of Michael Alig is something to take notice of when learning the history and culture of the queer club scene. 

Macaulay Culkin, Wilson Cruz, Seth Green

“Party Monster” movie poster

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.

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.

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Alex and Eric entering school before the shooting.

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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.

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.

After Sex (2007)

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After Sex is both a comedy and a drama film that discusses eight couples and their behavior after engaging in sex with one another. The film was released in 2007. Although I will analyze some of the scenes, I chose to focus on one scene in particular which involves Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana.

In the movie after sex their isn’t one specific setting for the entire movie, being that the film focuses on eight entirely different couples. For those of you who have not seen the movie. Most of the couples in the film are in some type of bedroom or bed when their situation occurs. The movie starts of with the first couple by the name of Leslie and Christopher. In the film it comes off as if the couple aren’t really together, but there just friends with benefits. Everything is okay until Christopher makes a comment on how he wants Leslie to come out and say how much she loves him. But Leslie feels as though Christopher wants her to say how much she loves him, so that he can say how much he loves her. Simply Because he is frightened by what her reaction might be. But that might be a problem that Christopher needs to work on.

Then we have our second couple by the name of Jay and Freddy too gay men, that have sex. After Jay decides that since he has never had sex with a guy until then that he is not gay. Well, doesn’t want to believe that he is gay, because is he scared of what the people around him might think. So Freddy goes into making him(Jay) understand that he used to be just like him, even went on to tell Jay that he attempted to kill himself when he was younger because he could never fit in he was often bullied. Only then Jay realizes that he might be gay but doesn’t know what exactly to do about it.

Now we have too females by the name of Nikki and Kat. Nikki allows Kat to perform Oral sex on her often but has yet to admit to being gay. She often tells Kat not to catch feelings for her because she doesn’t have time for that. Simply because she likes boys, And Kat then tells Nikki that she is also not gay but Nikki doesn’t believe her. Towards the end of the scene Nikki gets Kat to admit that she is gay for the first time. Kat goes on to say that she has no problem with being gay as long as her parents doesn’t find out. But during a scene in the library when Nikki ask Kat the question of how does she taste? you can see that there is a possibility that Nikki might be a little bisexual or even gay by the way there looking at each other.

I feel as though several scenes in the movie After Sex could be related to Chauncey’s “Gay New York” . Due to the fact that most people in the gay community was once looked at, as disgusting. But the fact that everyone is able to come to together and prove to the world or the society we live in. That we are humans with feelings, and that we are just different from what most people consider normal. Doesn’t mean we have to be looked at as shameful. In Gay New York  we see that they continue to live their lives regardless of how people view them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvQKs5rbUeY