Mrs. Doubtfire

A movie loved by most, Mrs. Doubtfire, starring the late Robin Williams, as an actor who’s life is basically falling apart: he recently quit his job, he is just divorced, and because of said divorce, he his now homeless. In order to turn his life around, the main character Daniel, dresses up in granny drag as a 60-ish year old woman playing the part of a nanny in his ex-wife’s household.

Filmed in 1992, Mrs. Doubtfire was a prime example of what gender norms of the 90’s were supposed to be. The cultural panic about divorce and the decline of men’s roles at home lead to insecurity about masculinity. Playing on that, in Mrs. Doubtfire, the mother wears the pants in the family, so Daniel has to prove his worth by wearing a dress.

In the process of trying to get the job of his ex-wife’s nanny, Daniel pretends to be a few different characters to throw her off. During one of the phone calls, his ex-wife informs the character that she has two daughters and a son. With this the character replies “oh, a boy. I don’t work with the males, ‘cause I used to be one.” His ex-wife immediately hangs up with a disgusted look on her face that implies “I could never have someone like that in my home!”

When looking at this joke from a perspective of audience members in 1992, it worked well. Now, it appears to be transphobic and insensitive. Although, during that time it was probably not intended to be offensive to transgender people, it did come out that way. In today’s society, especially, with famous transgender figures such as Lavern Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner make it difficult to make such gender-bending comedies without seriously offending someone. Some people even compare Caitlyn to Mrs. Doubtfire.

Later in the movie, Daniel goes to his brother and brother in-law’s house in order to transform into a 60+-year-old woman, introducing drag into the movie. Although they don’t outright call it drag in the movie, nor does Daniel go all out while doing his makeup like some drag queens we see such as Bianca Del Rio, we are able to get a taste of what drag queens might go through if they are going in and out of drag in a bathroom somewhere where it might not be accepted.

Towards the end of the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire agrees to go to dinner with his ex-wife’s family as well as meet a television producer at the same restaurant on the same night. At one point, Daniel forgets which table he’s going to in which costume, so he accidentally goes to the television producer’s table dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. With this the television producer is surprised as questions why he’s dressed as a woman. Daniel, thinking on his feet, decides that it would be a good idea to make a television show about her, using his granny drag to help his career as an actor.

We All Need A Normal Heart

The Normal Heart Front Cover

The 2014 film The Normal Heart, written by Larry Kramer, is a recreation of Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart. With a star filled cast, The Normal Heart is a beautiful drama that shows the unfortunate troubles of gay men at the start of and through the rise of the AIDS epidemic. Although this film existed in play form first, it was recreated as a way to reach a larger audience and show how seriously terrifying and mysterious the AIDS epidemic was for those living through it.

The Normal Heart starts off by showing the sexual liberty gays have recently acquired along with the happiness from their freedom. But the film quickly changes tone once gays realize they are being diagnosed with a rare and nebulous homosexual cancer. Once the main character, Ned—an openly gay writer, has a friend who becomes infected with this gay cancer, they start to seek out help. At this point, they go to Dr. Emma Brookner who is the one of the only doctors willing to work with patients infected with this mysterious disease. Dr. Brookner is looking for someone to be a leader and share her information with gay men; she finds Ned to be that man. At a meeting with Dr. Brookner, Ned, and many other gay men, Dr. Brookner shares her research and information with these men about how she thinks the cancer is sexually transmitted, and that the men should “cool it” because there is a high chance they will infect each other and die. The sexually liberated men scoff at her, but Ned knows how serious this disease is and decides to start an organization to get help and raise awareness for the disease. The rest of the film focuses on the development the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) organization intermixed with the personal struggles the gay men are facing at this time. The GMHC becomes one of the leading fighters to get support politically, publicly, and medically to combat the gay disease.

The film does not strictly focus on the disease, but also how this disease affects the personal lives of the gay men at the time. As if gay men weren’t already misunderstood enough, the gay cancer (which we now know is AIDS) adds another level of the struggles gay men face. The film depicts how gays during this time receive little to no help from anyone apart from other gays, how they become more feared than ever due to the rise of this mysterious cancer, how being gay is still full of doubt, fear, and confusion in addition to this crisis, and how it still is not safe nor secure to be openly gay to the public.

Although this film is largely about the AIDS epidemic, it still showcases many things presented in our sexuality unit. One specific aspect from our unit that The Normal Heart focuses on is Ned’s sexuality, his understanding of it, and his relationship with his family because of it. Until the latter half of Ned’s life, he always believed his sexuality was wrong; he had been told a plethora of times that he could change his ways, become straight, and finally be normal. This is very similarly to our reading of Merle Miller’s “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” where he says,

I have spent several thousand dollars and several thousand hours with various practitioners, and while they have often been helpful in leading me to an understanding of how I got to be the way I am, none of them has ever had any feasible, to me feasible, suggestion as to how I could be any different.

In both cases, we see that these gay men realized that no amount of therapy can change who they are; although it may be a more stressful life, they know who they are, what they are, and nothing is going to change that. In fact, we even see that after this epiphany, both individuals become happier and more at peace with themselves.

We also get to see how gayness crosses over to family life with Ned and his brother, Ben. Ben is a lawyer at a very successful law firm and Ned is seeking his assistance for the GMHC. Ned believes that the support of not just his straight brother, but Ben’s straight company will drastically help their movement. On the other hand, Ben thinks that the “straightness” of him and his company will not make a difference. It is at this point that Ned realizes his brother still doesn’t see him as a healthy equal, that Ben still thinks he is “sick,” and that his brother still doesn’t understand him, even though he accepts him; this is exactly the struggle Martha Shelley describes in “Gay is Good.” Here, Shelley explains that she is sick of liberals saying that it doesn’t matter who sleeps with whom, but what one does outside of bed; to her, this isn’t good enough anymore. She states,

[w]e want something more now, something more than the tolerance you never gave us. But to understand that, you must understand who we are. . . I will tell you what we want, we radical homosexuals: not for you to tolerate us, or to accept us, but to understand us.

In the heat of Ned and Ben’s argument, we hear a very similar frustration expressed by Ned towards Ben’s understanding and acceptance of Ned. Ben tolerates and accepts Ned, but he doesn’t truly understand Ned which, as Shelley agrees, is not good enough for Ned.

In yet another example from the film that connects to our unit, we see that to many in the straight world, one’s sexuality is extremely important and can influence someone’s opinions or actions towards a homosexual. During this time, Ned is one of the few open, politically active gay men; many of the other GMHC are closeted out of fear of having their lives ruined from the rest of the world not accepting them. Even the mayor and his assistant are gay, but they neglect the epidemic due to the potential of them being outed even though they are struggling through the epidemic themselves. As we saw from Joseph Epstein, he stated in “Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity” that,

[f]or this reason, and from an absolutely personal point of view, I consider it important [to] know whether a man I am dealing with is a homosexual or [not].

In a scene in the hospital at which Dr. Brookner works, we see this exemplified when a maintenance worker won’t go into the gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) section of the hospital to fix a TV because his union says he “doesn’t have to risk his life over some contagious fairy.” Another situation like this occurs when two gay men, one of them severely sick with the disease, are asked to leave a plane they are on because the pilot will not fly while they are still on the plane. These scenarios truly demonstrate the struggles gay men faced during this time period.

The Normal Heart is quite an outstanding film that explains a difficult period for gay men. The story encapsulates many of the struggles gay men have faced to get to the point they are today in a powerful story that can open the eyes to many who do not know about or who who do not understand the struggles gay men have gone through. Because of its excellent depiction, I highly recommend this film and believe it rightly deserves its place in this archive.

To get a glimpse of the film, here is the trailer:

Queer Culture In A Home At The End Of The World

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A Home At The End Of The World is a movie that was released in 2004 and directed by Michael Mayer. Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham wrote the screenplay as well as the novel that the film was based off of in 1990. The film was shot in New York City, Toronto, Phoenix and Schomberg and its premiere was at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Cunningham is a gay novelist and lecturer who wrote about what it was like to be a child in the 60’s and 70’s as well as an adult in the 80’s. The movie spans about 12 years and follows the lives of two best friends­— Bobby Morrow and Jonathon Glover. Bobby has been through many hardships in his life. He loses both his parents and his older brother and turns to Jonathon and Jonathon’s family for comfort and friendship.

Jonathon and Bobby develop a sexual and emotional relationship in their youth. They’re reunited in young adulthood when Bobby needs a place to stay. Jonathon lives with a colorful bohemian named Clare whom he is very in love with. However, Jonathon ends up falling for Bobby, his first and eternal love, all over again. The three roommates end up developing a three-way relationship and having a child together. Clare eventually moves away with baby Rebecca and leaves Bobby and Jonathon to themselves. Bobby cares for Jonathon in his last days while he dies prematurely of AIDS.

I chose to include this film in our digital archive because it shows what it was like to be homosexual as a child and having parents that aren’t necessarily accepting. I feel that this is relevant to our class because most of us are still young enough that our parents have some sort of dictation over our lives, and coming out might cause significant problems in our relationships.

This film represents a different type of queer culture. The beginning took place in the 60’s and 70’s when people were a lot less accepting over homosexuality than they are today. While Jonathon’s mother wasn’t necessarily unaccepting when she caught Jonathon and Bobby together, she was definitely less than happy. This speaks volumes coming from a mother who does drugs with her son; she’s clearly very open but still was uneasy about her child’s homosexuality.

To quote The Straight Mind by Monique Wittig, “These discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms. Everything which puts them into question is at once disregarded as elementary.” This really sums up how I think Jonathon’s mother acted. She sees heterosexuality as the norm and is confused that her son is straying from it.

Gender was represented in this film through Carlton. His part in the film was brief, but he broke away from gender norms. He wore feminine clothing, had long hair and talked about how beautiful the world was. Sex is represented in this film through Bobby and Jonathon exploring their sexuality together when they were young. Jonathon is beginning to come out as homosexual, but it seems as though Bobby is just open to everything. Even when they’re adults and Clare says in regards to Bobby, “The good ones are always gay,” Jonathon insists that Bobby isn’t gay.

This film clearly represents history well since the time period is set between 35 and 55 years ago. As I previously mentioned, it demonstrates how much harder it could be to be a homosexual person during a time period where things weren’t so acceptable. As far as the contemporary goes, some things really never change. Parents are still often upset about finding out that their child is gay. People still struggle to define their sexuality like Bobby. And people still go through tragedies and hardships, lean on their friends and come out better for it.

Fried Green Tomatoes

DVD Cover of Fried Green TomatoesOn January 24th, 1992, Universal Movie’s “Fried Green Tomatoes” opened in 673 movie theatres across the nation. Directed by Jon Avnet, the movie was a silver screen adaptation of Fannie Flagg’s 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. While Flagg was (and still is) generally credited with writing the screenplay for the film, the director, Jon Avnet, actually composed the majority of the script.

To follow the narrative of “Fried Green Tomatoes”, one needs to understand that the movie is really the composite of two stories. Set in southern Alabama, the film vacillates between the present day (or, what was the present day in the early 90s) and the early 20th century. While visiting a member of the family at a nursing name, Evelyn Couch meets 82-year-old Ninny Threadgoode. Rather open with strangers, Ninny begins sharing with Evelyn the life of Idgie Threadgoode, a woman who grew up in Whistle Stop, a neighboring town, nearly sixty years ago. From there, the past begins to chronologically weave itself into the present, and Idgie’s world becomes just as real as Evelyn’s. From the death of her brother to train side cafes to cancer, the audience follows the cultivation of a relationship between Idgie and Ruth Jamison. As Evelyn learns more about these women’s lives, she is inspired to take charge of her own and concurrently develops a profound friendship with Ninny, the present-day Idgie.

Marketed as a tale of friendship and how it can transcend across time to unite mere strangers, the film (to this day) seems to be largely written off by the public as innocuous in content and significance. Anyone with a keen eye, however, can immediately recognize that Ruth and Idgie’s relationship can’t fully be conceptualized by heteronormative standards of female interaction.

Sprinkled throughout the film, there are subtle interactions between Ruth and Idgie that lend themselves to suggest something more between them. These range from word choices, to tonality, to facial expression, etc. In an earlier scene where honey is retrieved and shared, Idgie’s imploration for Ruth to taste the honey and the looks they exchange almost bespeak of allegorical sexual exchange. Later, when Ruth announces she’s getting married and then pecks Idgie on the cheek, Idgie looks off in what can only be described as wounded and confused.

After she is married, Ruth quickly becomes the victim of domestic violence and the first person she turns to is Idgie. She then moves in with Idgie and the two open a café together. It is also during this time that Ruth has a child and Idgie along with another female character, Sipsey, help her raise the boy. When Frank, Ruth’s husband, shows up vowing to bring his wife and child home, he also intimidates the household with his ties to the Klan. Subsequently following these threats, Ruth asks Idgie whether she should “move on” to let Idgie settle down. Without a beat, Idgie replies that she’s “as settled as [she’d] ever hope to be”.

After Frank is killed and Idgie is on trial for his murder, Ruth is called to testify. Upon being asked why she moved in with Idgie, she replies, “Because she’s my best friend and I love her”.

From my perspective, the Ruth-Idgie dyad is best understood in Rich’s terms “lesbian continuum” and “lesbian existence”. Ruth and Idgie do many things together without or with minimal assistance from men, particularly jointly living and working together (lesbian continuum). While evidence of sexual desire between the two women might be disputable in the eyes to some, we can say with certainty that they do lead a voluntarily chosen life together where men do not dictate their movements and where they are economically independent (lesbian existence).

Drawing on the erotic, I think one could argue that Ruth and Idgie derive a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction from each other. Before they began spending time with each other, each woman was constricted to some degree by a sense of powerlessness; Idgie perpetually grieving for her brother and Ruth checked by scripture and the expectations of her gender role. Once they truly embraced each other, however, those personal limitations melted away and they became unwilling to allow themselves to concede to that position of vacuous living ever again. And, while Ruth did suffer at the hands of her husband for three years, I’m not sure she would have ever left if it hadn’t been for the personal agency she cultivated in her relationship with Idgie. Indeed, Ruth and Idgie are truly women-identified women.

A Marine Story- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

A Marine Story, is a 2010 drama film about a female marine officer, Major Alexander Everett, who was honorably discharged from the military. She unexpectedly returns home (a southwestern desert town) from the Iraq War due to the charged filed against her for “Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer”. She accosted a young woman, Saffron Snow, and her boyfriend for illegal drug and theft at a convenience store. Saffron, a disturbed woman turned out to be her neighbor’s granddaughter, who requested her to prepare Saffron for boot camp as the Judge gave her one week to prepare or else she was going to jail. The film is set in 2008 and was filmed in Los Angeles in 2009. A Marine Story is directed by Ned Farr and was premiered at the Frameline Film Festival on 2010. It also won the “Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature in 2010.

I chose this film because the film is a good example of the United States “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and the damage it does to the troops. The film focuses on Lesbian feminism and Native Concept of Gender and it targets audience of all gender and sexual orientation.

Lesbian Feminism: Everett reconnected with her old friends from past, Leo and Holly after returning. She could easily come out to Holly and explain why she was discharged and her sexuality and was accepted immediately with open arms. However, she couldn’t explain it to Leo until later and was surely not pleased to hear that. This shows she is not accepted anymore, because according to the society a “woman” has to be heterosexual. Also she is not a one dimensional soldier, even though she is tough she has a softer, maternal humorous side as well which is often seen when she is around Saffron or her close friends. This concept is also demonstrated by Monique Wittig’s “One is Not Born a Woman” where she says if someone if not heterosexual they refuse to be either a man or a woman and lesbians have to be something else, not-woman or not-man.

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Native Concept of Gender: J. Jack Halberstam said “In other words, female masculinity are framed as the rejected scraps of dominant masculinity in order that male masculinity may appear to be the real thing” in “An introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men”. This concept focuses most part of the movie. There was a scene where Everett and Leo went to a bar with Leo’s friends. The egoistic males were criticizing women marines as ‘WM’ (waste of money). According to them they are only good for secretarial work. Someone then said, “Males are better at most jobs due to muscle mass and that females are only as strong as the weakest males”. Leo then suggested the weakest of them should arm wrestle with Everett, where she easily defeated him breaking the traditional norm of men being stronger and masculine.  Even Saffron, who was first shown as a disturbed, brooding woman proved herself to be a capable woman and endure all the pain and hardships to achieve her goal.

The movie goes back and forth between Everett’s present and future leaving the audience in suspense. The flashbacks were about her deployments, her drills and her pride for being an American Soldier. The present was mostly about how she trained Saffron to be tough and pushed her off of her limits to make Saffron like her and the about the conflict she had to face for not being enough feminine. When her Commanding Officer interrogated her, Everett lied the whole time by referring to her marriage (which was basically a sham marriage) to hide her identity. This shows how dedicated she is towards her country. Throughout her life Everett tried to hide her sexual preference in order to be a marine. Her commanding officer advised her to resign before they can find something solid against her, in order to be honorably discharged. This whole situation was horrible to me because for any soldier, regardless of their gender, goes through inhuman training at boot camp to serve the country are advised to leave their passion based on their sexual preference. She was an officer, a drill instructor and Amphibious Warfare School graduate, yet she was looked down as someone weak who could be a potential threat to the military family when it came down to her sexual orientation. The Commanding officer also asked whether she had an affair with any ‘male’ soldier. She replied adultery is also forbidden in military, however, her commanding officer replied it was lesser of the two evils. One of Leo’s friend Dyke was so angry at her that he secretly took pictures of her being intimate with other girls and posted flyers all over the town which jeopardize Saffron’s future of getting into the boot camp. As people assumed she was having an affair with Everett.

The script writer’s main point was we should support troops regardless whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. Everett was punished under the United States Military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for who she was. She lived a closeted life with secrecy throughout her life. The movie portrays what other queer soldiers have to endure unfortunately. The following statement was posted at the end of the movie which represents discrimination to a whole new different level. Discrimination against queer soldiers and further more discrimination against ‘women’.

“Women are far more likely than men to be kicked out of the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy against gay personnel, according to government figures of 2010. Gender aside, more than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law since 1994”.

 

Pariah

Dee Rees’ 2011 award winning film Pariah   starring Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, and Kim Wayans   is about a young black girl accepting her lesbian identity. When the movie begins, Alike (Oduye) is shy and uncertain, but she slowly learns and comes to embrace all of herself.

Alike is a junior in high school whose only friend is the openly lesbian drop-out Laura (Pernell Walker). They hang out in lesbian clubs, in which Laura frequently pressures Alike to find a girl to have her first sexual experience with. Neither of Alike’s parents know about her sexuality, though her mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) has her     suspicions. Disapproving, Audrey forces Alike to wear more feminine clothes and spend less time with Laura. She pushes Alike to befriend Bina (Aasha Davis), a much more feminine girl from church.

Though their relationship starts out rocky, Alike and Bina grow to like each other. Their indifference becomes deep discussion about music and sharing their love for writing, while Laura slowly fades out of the picture. One night after a concert, they end up kissing. Because she has not had any previous experience, Alike is reluctant. But eventually she opens up and it is assumed that they sleep together. The next morning, Alike tries to discuss their relationship but Bina responds by saying they don’t have one. She says she’s not actually gay, just “doing her thing” and urges Alike not to tell anyone. Alike leaves abruptly and, once she gets home, cries her eyes out.

Alike wakes up to her parent fighting. Her mother is screaming about Alike being a dyke while her father Arthur (Charles Parnell) is consistently denying it. Eventually Alike gets involved and finally comes out to her parents. Her mother attacks her, the punches only stopping when Arthur pulls her off. Alike flees to Laura’s house.

Some time later Alike’s father finally comes to visit. He urges her to come home, saying that things will be different. Alike doesn’t acknowledge his statements, instead telling him that she got accepted into an early college program for writing. Alike leaves for California, unable to reconnect with her mother. The film ends with one of Alike’s poems.

Heartbreak opens onto the sunrise
For even breaking is opening
And I am broken
I’m open
Broken to the new light without pushing in
Open to the possibilities within, pushing out
See the love shine in through my cracks?
See the light shine out through me?
I  am broken
I am open
I am broken open
See the love light shining through me
Shining through my cracks
Through the gaps
My spirit takes journey
My spirit takes flight
Could not have risen otherwise
And I am not running
I’m choosing
Running is not a choice from the breaking
Breaking is freeing
Broken is freedom
I am not broken
I’m free.
This storyline definitely has parallels to the narratives of many LGBTQ+ community members, regardless of race, gender, or class. The trauma of being abandoned and seen as a freak by the people closest to you is not something new.
Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity is prevalent throughout this film. Butler argues that gender is not something we have, but something that we continually act out. In the beginning of the film, we see Alike on the way home from the club. While she is still on the bus, she slips out of her baggy clothes and into something more fitted and feminine. Audrey buys and makes Alike wear girly clothing, despite her daughter’s protests. During the scene where Alike comes out to her parents, Audrey tells her husband that Alike is turning into a man. This is what really emphasized the performance of gender. It is not her daughters gender identity or even sex that determines whether or not she is a girl, but how she is acting. And baggy clothes are not something that girls wear. Audrey’s motivations for buying Alike the clothing are so that she will become a “true woman”, and true women are always heterosexual. Of course, Monique Wittig would say that Alike never was and never will be a woman, and somehow I think her mother would agree.

Gender Roles in “But I’m a Cheerleader”

The 1999 satirical romantic-comedy film “But I’m a Cheerleader” is directed by Jamie Babbit and stars Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, and RuPall to name a few. The movie focuses on a teenage girl, Megan Bloomfield (Lyonne), who is sent to a conversion therapy camp, True Directions, because her parents and friends suspect she is a lesbian. There Megan soon comes to embrace her sexual orientation, despite the therapy, and falls in love with Graham (DuVall). The movie uses the theme of socially constructed gender roles to “cure” homosexuality.

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The production and costume design of the movie was meant to reflect the idea of gender roles. There is a progression from the organic world of Megan’s hometown, where the main colors are orange and brown, to the fake world of True Directions, dominated by intense blues and pinks, which show the artificiality of gender roles. In the camp, the male campers wear only dark blue shorts, shirts, and ties, whereas the female campers wear only bright pink skirts and blouses. By having the campers wear clothes that are typically associated with the standard male outfit and the standard female outfit, it tries to show the campers how normal straight people dress.

Besides making the campers wear gender specific clothes, they make the campers perform a series of tasks associated with each gender. For example girls are taught how to clean a house, change aBut_I'm_a_Cheerleader_BLUE baby, how to sew, specifically a wedding dress, how to wear make-up and look like a “pretty young woman”. Guys are taught how to change a tire and fix a car’s engine, how to play football, and how to chop wood and spit. The idea is if the campers realize and practice their intended role in society then their homosexuality will be cured.

Along with performing gender specific tasks, the campers are also given cards with images of their gender doing the typical gender roles the campers should be emulating. Megan and Graham are going over the cards, and Megan shows Graham a card of a but-im-a-cheerleaderwoman taking out the trash. Graham responds with “I see a woman” and Megan frustratedly says “ It’s a mother. Women have roles. After you learn that you’ll stop objectifying them.” The concept that is being taught at the camp is that homosexuality is caused by not conforming to the socially constructed gender roles. In order to cure this homosexuality, you have to act and dress like an ideal man or woman performing the gender roles given to you by society.

The idea that performing gender specific tasks and wearing gender specific clothes will change who someone loves is just ridiculous and ignorant. The movie showcases this in a funny light-hearted way but still gets the message across: love is love, and it cannot be cured.

The Kids Are All Right, But How Are The Adults?

“The Kids Are All Right” is a 2010 film directed by Lisa Cholodenko, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. It tells the story of married, lesbian couple Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore). They each gave birth to a child from the same anonymous sperm donor. The youngest, fifteen year old Laser (Josh Hutcherson), is interested in finding their sperm donor, and pressures his older sister, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), who recently turned eighteen, into doing it for him. They find their donor father Paul (Ruffalo), a laid-back guy who runs his own farm and restaurant. The kids are interested in continuing to see him, and he starts to get more involved with the whole family’s lives. He ends up asking Jules to help landscape his backyard, and while she’s working for him, they have an affair. One night, when the family is over at Paul’s house for dinner, Nic finds out about the affair after finding some of Jules’s hair on a brush and in the shower. After confronting and getting a confession from Jules, tensions are high at home. Paul believes he has fallen in love with Jules, and suggests her marriage with Nic is already falling apart, she should just take the kids and move in with him, but she declines. Paul turns up at the house the night before Joni is to leave for college, and Nic angrily confronts him and turns him away. After this, Jules apologizes for her actions and begs for forgiveness from her family. The next morning, they all drive Joni to college, without Paul. Nic and Jules affectionately hug Joni goodbye together. On the ride back, Laser says they’re too old to break up, and the film ends with Nic and Jules smiling and holding hands.

The film is an excellent representation of a normal, same-sex couple. It portrays a family going through difficult times. One child about to leave for college, another in the troublesome teenage years, and a struggling, long-term marriage. The major problem has little to do with the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, other than that Paul is their sperm donor. Though sperm donation isn’t simply unique to lesbians. Straight couples and even single women can and do get sperm donors. Jules cheats on Nic with Paul, not because she’s “becoming straight” like Nic questions, but because Jules desires support for her landscaping work, and Paul is offering that while Nic is extremely critical. The tension on their marriage is from them being together for so long, like many straight marriages. The problems they have with their kids, such as Joni about to leave for college and Laser hanging out with the wrong crowd, are similar to the same problems straight parents have. All the struggles they face have very little to do with their sexual orientation, showing that same-sex marriages go through the same matters as straight marriages.

One major critique is that the film follows the idea of the straight mind. Nic is clearly supposed to be the “man” of the relationship, and Jules the “woman.” Nic has a very masculine poise, is the breadwinner of the family, turns to work and wine when she feels lonely, and even has an ambiguously male name. At one point, Paul even refers to her as “my brother from another mother.” Jules is the more feminine character, trying to start her own business at home, and dresses more feminine with longer hair. Instead of adopting children, they both decide to go through pregnancy and childbirth, similar to what straight couples tend to desire. They experience little to no discrimination for their sexual orientation, and while ideal in a perfect world, doesn’t accurately represent what real lesbian couples experience.

Any possibility of sexual spectrum is removed and bisexual erasure is promoted in the scene where Nic confronts Jules about the affair. She asks Jules “are you straight now?” as if sexuality is something that can be turned on and off with no gray area.

Overall, the film is great representation of an average, lesbian marriage. It’s a normality that needs to be promoted more often in the movie industry. Though nowhere near suitable to represent all same-sex marriages, it’s headed in the right direction.

Timeless love — Love is Strange

Love is strange. It is strange because it can make two totally unrelated people become the most important one in each other’s life. It is strange because people can be bonded together no matter their sex, and no matter their age. The reason why I chose to write about this movie is that it is about a very unique kind of homosexual relationship.

‘Plain but touching’ is what I will use to describe this movie. It does not have a climax, nor a dramatic twist in the story line. Love is Strange directed by Ira Sachs is about two old gay couple, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who have been together for 39 years and just got married. After they get married, George get fired by the christian school which he has been teaching for many years. The couple cannot afford their apartment in Manhattan anymore so they have to rely on their family and friends for support.

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The first scene of the movie filmed the two old man’s feet side by side on the bed. We can see their rough skin and saggy belly exposing to each other without any discomfort. Everything seems to move so smoothly as they shower, change, and get ready for their big day. The many little details in their life show how they have accepted each other’s flaws. Their relationship is just like any other couples, except that they do not have the particular ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ that straight couple have. Halderstam’s article about female masculinity discussed about the heronic masculinity and the alternative masculinities, but I am wondering after watching this movie, does a relationship must have a “muscular” and “feminine” side? In Ben and George’s relationship, we really cannot tell who is more muscular who is not. Society give people these classifications which I found really useless sometime because many people just can not be included in these classifications. Many people believe that there must be a more ‘man’ or ‘girly’ side in a relationship but Ben and George disproved this view. 

The movie also touches upon the society’s view toward homosexual. During Ben and George’s wedding, everyone is blessing the couple. However, the scene turns to George being fired. It shows the contrast between acceptance and resistance. In the scene when Joey (Eliot’s son)’s friend is posing for Ben’s painting, Joey said, ‘This is so gay!’ and then apologized to Ben. This reflects that people still use ‘gay’ as a negative word, although the society seems to accept gay marriage. Also, when Eliot and his wife Kate realized that their son was hanging out with his friend everyday, they start to worry about their son being homosexual. Kate talked about how Ben and George influenced her during their wedding ceremony, but when it comes to her son, she is still resists this sexual orientation. However, this make us wonder how Ben and George strive through all those years together and finally being able to get married.

The scene I loved the most is when they are walking in an alley after having their little drink in a bar. The two old man walk side by side but not holding hands. It seems like they are the only ones in the busy Manhattan. George walk Ben to the subway and gaze fixedly at Ben as he walk down the stair and until he disappear. The director always uses long shots to give the audience a lot of space to wonder, and to think deeply.

The death of Ben also went very smoothly without any tears shown. Joey brings Ben’s unfinished painting to George. I think it may symbolizes that their love is still not finished.

 

A “Weekend” You’ll Never Forget

With his critically-acclaimed 2011 British modern romantic drama, “Weekend”, Andrew Haigh has created something truly special. “Weekend” is the tale of Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two very different people who meet at a Nottingham gay nightclub, have a one-night-stand (which turns to something more throughout the weekend), and are never the same again.

Russell is a single lifeguard who attends a house party with friends one Friday night, but leaves early to go to a gay club (partly for more drinks, partly to find a one-night stand). He finds the latter in Glen, a student artist. This is a romance film, so of course, they fuck. The next morning (Saturday), Glen asks Russell to describe the experience of the night and their meeting on a tape recorder “for an art project”, and from that point forward, 2 things are clear: these people couldn’t have less in common (making their life-changing relationship that much more amazing), and that this isn’t your ordinary LGBTQ+ romance movie.

Throughout the description, and at other points in the film, Russell is noticeably hesitant and reserved, while Glen is more open and blunt and descriptive. They meet again after Russell’s shift at the pool ends, and learn more about each other (Russell grew up in foster homes with his friend Jamie, who he’ll see Sunday for his daughter’s birthday; Glen’s moving Sunday afternoon to Oregon for 2 years studying art). With the latter revelation, Russell is sad, but they still promise to meet again at Glen’s goodbye party to his friends later that night. There, they talk more, fight, make up, and make out.

Sunday comes, and there’s no fairy-tale magic or wish that undoes what both said they’d do on this day. Their paths cross in the morning with more talking, and at night they’re able to meet one last time at the train station. Though who’s to say it’s the last time, or that it’s goodbye, because after all 4 days before neither of them even knew the other existed. Russell breaks his reservedness in public for a beautiful moment that also serves to express the many ways both change from this experience, this weekend-long fling. In another way, the fling changes Glen’s anti-relationship thoughts (he starts out not wanting to get in a position where he could be hurt again, but discovers some people are worth giving that risk a shot).

“Weekend” is one of a few LGBTQ+ movies deemed important enough to receive a DVD and Blu-Ray distribution release from the Criterion Collection series, which is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world throughout history, and releasing them in high-quality with historic bonus features. It’s been compared in numerous ways to Richard Linklater’s 1995 great “Before Sunrise”, which also lingered on the beginning of a connection. That film had a sequel, “Before Sunset”, which had the same characters retain their relationship years later, and while “Weekend” likely won’t receive a sequel, the ending leaves the possibility that this might not be a permanent end to their friendship and relationship. But even if it is, they’ve both been changed for the better.

Gay love stories have been more prevalent in cinema over the last two decades than ever before, with two in particular getting widespread mainstream praise and Criterion Collection releases (this and “Blue is the Warmest Color”). You’ll find few that are as important or realistic as “Weekend”. One of the best-reviewed movies of 2011, it’s also likely one of the best LGBTQ+ movies ever made. It’s a tender, honest, story about falling in love. It’s a tale of identity and self-definition. And it’s about love between two gay men. And that’s probably why it stands out so much among other LGBTQ+ films throughout history: the latter aspect is just a small part of it amidst the rest of the tale. Most people can identify with at least one of these two characters, and most people can sympathize with this tale, and most people can understand and agree with the potential tagline “Weekend” could conceivably have: “Sex is easy, love is hard.”

In conclusion, sometimes you meet a person truly special, that your life would never be the same with or without meeting, that you never forget. Glen and Russell were never the same after their “Weekend” relationship. And after watching “Weekend”, you’ll never be the same.