Sexuality Happens

Maybe the Kids Aren’t All Right

***Cross Posted on ShannaKatz.com***

Thanks to Q, I had the opportunity last Wednesday night to go check out the new movie with Annette Benning, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, entitled The Kids Are Alright.

Now, the basic plot, as advertised, is that there is a lesbian couple, who have an 18 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. The son convinces the daughter to get in contact with the sperm donor that provided said sperm to create the kids (each mom carried a child). They meet him, and now the family dynamic changes, and the movie ensues.

Voila. It’s supposed to be cool and trendy and did super well at Sundance. I had some hopes for this movie, in that it was showing an LGBTQ family as a REAL family, not as hot and sexy lesbians, or those with issues coming out, or any of the other many ways lesbians have been portayed. They have kids, they have a dining room table, and a house, and conversations and the same issues that every other type of family has with communication, and teenagers, and so on…

And now, for the spoilers. If you don’t want to hear about the actual movie, stop reading now.

Ok, so basically, you have fairly happy family. Some issues, like all families, but there are two teenagers, and two moms, and everyone seems to communicate fairly well and get along, although the moms definitely could have used a couples counselor to help them work through a feel control/free-flowing hippy issues.

Then suddenly, the sperm donor (Paul) is brought into their lives. Jules (Moore) is a more woo-woo, free flowing femme-ish type, and is open to him. Nic (Benning) is a bit more andro/butchy, and seems to be nervous (understandably) about letting this guy into their kids’ lives. Long story short, Nic starts doing Paul’s (Ruffalo) landscaping and BAM. They kiss. And if that wasn’t enough, they start having sex, and the noises she makes with him are waaaay different and seemingly “better” or “more satisfying” (according to the movie) than the sex she has with Nic.  She tells him she’s married, she’s gay, she loves Nic, but then, more sex between Paul and Jules.  Jules keeps it a secret from Nic until they have a family dinner at Paul’s place (Nic is willing and trying to get to know him better), and Nic goes to the bathroom and finds Jules hairbrush…and hair in the drain (like at their home), and then in his bed. The movie ends with them removing Paul from their lives and getting back together and talking about how marriage is tough, but they love each other and will work through it.

My beef? It’s two fold. First of all, this movie perpetuated lesbian stereotype right and left, from the drinking massive amounts of wine to the butch/femme to the station wagon of sorts to the watching gay-male porn, to the being woo-woo and wanting hugs in unison (you’ll have to see it to get it). It made a big deal out of Jules not shaving her legs (gasp!). And worst of all, it perpetuated the stereotype that lesbian relationships don’t work out not because of family/relationship/communication/wants and needs issues, but because truly, all every woman, lesbian or not, wants is OBVIOUSLY a man. Every woman must have a penis in order to feel fulfilled. It also perpetuates the idea that lesbian (or gay or queer) relationships are not as “real” as straight marriage; Paul seems to glaze over the fact that Jules is married to Nic, and even suggests that he and Jules start a life and family together at one point, as if her 18+ year marriage to Nic was completely invalid. Way to give the anti-gay movement fuel for their fire about how dysfunctional lesbian families are.

Issue two? The fact that I feel that this movie is going to stir up even MORE biphobia in the queer community. For some reason, we as a community tend to exclude bi folks as being queer, as if them having a relationship with a cis-man (bi women) or cis-woman (men) makes them “less” queer. Now, while Jules never openly identified as bi, her sexuality was clearly a bit more fluid that just “lesbian/gay,” as she openly enjoyed sex with Paul. So basically, we have a queer or bi acting woman on screen, cheating on her lesbian wife with a man. Which seems to be the issue that is ALWAYS brought up when biphobia rears its ugly head; don’t date bi-women, because they’ll leave you for a man.

Now, I know that this generalizing statement is bullshit. As if dating a lesbian-identified woman will somehow protect you from cheating/being cheated on. Infidelity hits ALL types of relationships, regardless of the gender or orientation of the partners. Period. However, movies like this seem to reinforce this misnomer, that bi-women of any sort will always end up going for a man. NOT FUCKING TRUE.

So in the end, I AM glad that their is a movie bringing lesbian visibility to the big screen, as I think this movie will be a hit. I did like that it was a lesbian family, with gender presentation diversity in the two women. However, I have a LOT of reservations about how the content of this movie will be used against the LGBTQ community by those who are against it, as well as the issues surrounding bisexuality that this movie may serve to worsen.

And those, dear readers, are my thoughts on the upcoming movie The Kids Are Alright, to be released July 16th at an Indie theatre near you.

-Essin’ Em

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Cross July 6th, 2010 10:16 pm

    Well, I look forwaqrd to seeing it for myself, but from how you’ve described it (and the previews I’ve seen) I sahre your concerns about propigating the bi-phobia.

  2. alphafemme July 8th, 2010 12:37 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve had quite a few apprehensions about this film and it seems they’re quite founded. I’m not sure I’ll want to see it; seeing stereotypes perpetuated gets me so riled up! And it seems it’s doing a disservice to both bisexual-identified women AND lesbian-identified women by not intelligently investigating the complexities of Jules’ sexual identity.

  3. Polly July 10th, 2010 2:00 pm

    Very much appreciated, Essin ‘Em. A friend directed me here, and I don’t want to Bogart your comment stream so I can just say that my longer response went in the comment stream of my own blog here.

    But this film definitely is a fur-rubbing film (in the less fun sense of that phrase), and will probably leave a lot of our fur matted down in the wrong direction. I reckon that we’re all going to be making our final calls on the film based on what we each feel are the net gains and net losses in the realms of LGBT women’s and family’s representation that we hold most dear. A guess. That and also the costs we can tolerate given the potentially wide appeal of the plot, as seen from a distance & the trailer. So it could be a split between accommodationist/radical strategists as well as between those concerned with representations of women’s sexuatities and those concerned with representations of queer women’s families.

    Those lines are often fairly close to one another, and the splits of course leave many of us in fairly problematic, for many probably untenable positions, since the splits could be located right down our middles. The fact that my femme partner ultimately loved the movie could say something about her allegiance to her sisters, or about how much she wants mainstream folks to think about our families as valid, in spite of the inherent risks and concessions this film capitulates to.

    For my part (and at this point in my life — I might have felt very differently years ago), the good of the film outweighs its harm, and I think it decisively creates more space for more stories — ones with fewer capitulations — to follow. In other words, in spite of its problems, it’s an advance, not a retreat nor a retrenchment into monodimensional stereotype. But that’s just one opinion among many.

    At any rate, thank you for raising these critiques so clearly. I look forward to the good, mutually enlightening work we can do as a community in the midst/wake of the ensuing dialog.

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