Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Review of The Kids are Alright



The KIDS ain’t alright.

And we can use the term “kids” loosely here, as, in black gay culture; the “kids” are in fact, the children, the gayness – the LGBT community. Now I’m not sure if Cholodenko was playing on words or not. I doubt it.

I think the Lesbian Mafia summed up their thoughts on the movie in a way I found particularly fascinating as I found it predictable:

“We are sick of movies and shows depicting “Lesbians” f*cking men. The End. And if the people who produce this kind of thing knew we wouldn’t just sit down and shut up and we’d hold them accountable, we could discourage it. It isn’t just a matter of a difference of opinion this film perpetuates the damaging myth that only men’s sexuality is certain and Lesbians are - not really Lesbians, especially when they are more feminine.”

It's slightly refreshing in the face of all the kudos Cholodenko and company has been receiving. This popularity promises to make her a very wealthy power dyke and I'm very happy for her. We can use more lesbians wielding a little power over in Hollyweird. As an artist, we open ourselves up to critical theory on our messages and processes when we produce a work. And along with the accolades, I'm sure she expected the lukewarm reception of her film by some within the community.

In short, the film is about a lesbian couple who've been together for twenty years who are parents of two well adjusted teenagers. The teens decide to search for their sperm donor who in turn ends up in bed (very easily I may add) with one of their Mom's, completely disturbing the family unit. Lovely, concept, isn’t it?

The film stars two of my favorite actresses, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. And as expected, their performances were wonderful, especially Annette Bening who moved me every time she got screen time. Not only did she embody the character Nic, but I truly felt Nic's nuances, pain, loss and anxiety throughout the film.
Being in a relationship for many years with my partner in which we parent our child together, the movie touched many chords with me, mostly the complexities of a "marriage." No it's not easy, you could see this in the film but you could also see the deep love, the support, the foundation, the glue that held things together. On the surface, this seemed like a decent lesbian relationship - or just a decent relationship regardless of description. There are highs and lows and Cholodenko depicted this well. But underneath the surface?
The love between Bening and Moore seemed genuine like any other. Their individuality clashes were not unusual. They seemed somewhat affectionate enough. But I wanted to get into their bedroom. I wanted to see Bening and Moore demonstrate their attraction emotionally as well as physically. I wanted to see them get it on! So you want to know about the sex scenes? The one scene between Bening and Moore was absolutely horrendous. Details? You don’t want them. But I found it offensive, not only being a woman and a lesbian, but as a human being. The scene was despicable and poked holes in anything remotely erotic about lesbian sexuality. Moore was noticeably invisible in this scene and “butch” Bening (yes, the butches are a negative target) who seemed totally disinterested in the act with her gorgeous partner seemed more interested in watching the bad gay male porn they were using as a sex aid than banging her woman. Yes, lesbian bed death rears its lovely "head," here. Unfortunately, I think the overarching theme in all the sex scenes in this film is PENISES rule – whether they belong to straight or gay bodies. Doesn’t matter. I would retract this had there been at least one, loving, sexy scene between Moore and Bening when vaginas got a little airtime. Don't look for it.

Now there was ‘hot’ (and note I use the word hot very loosely here) sex. Those scenes involved Moore getting slayed by Ruffalo. We were treated to watching them in naked, sweaty, grunting action more than once – as if it were the best sex either of them have ever had. The point was over emphasized. I cringed a bit thinking the premise here was that Moore got fucked like most straight men believed a dyke should be fucked. And frankly, I was appalled. But I gotta say, the Lesbian Mafia had the same experience I did. Many straight couples in the theater, especially the men, got a kick out of the sex scenes – as they should. And by the way, there was another semi sex scene with Ruffalo and one of two persons of color in the film. A plot which was loaded on so many historically racial levels where Ruffalo is fucking his black female “employee,” a very young, very beautiful, natural sister (played by the gorgeous Yaya DaCosta) - who even suggested she would have a child by him???? (omg – chattel talk-Cholodenko, you gotta be kidding me). This plot could have been completely omitted. Is Cholodenko so insensitive enough not to see the racially, historical, colonial subtext here? Or maybe she knew. In many ways, this was probably one of the most fucked up parts about the film and it still kind of messes me up when I think about it. For that, she gets no pass from me.

And to have Moore fire the Latino gardener lying about him having a drug problem simply because he was privy to the knowledge this alleged lesbian was secretly being fucked to death by Ruffalo was a cheap shot - not to mention how disposable immigrant labor is. This was another plot in the film that was gratuitous and one we could have done without.

Remember the beginning seasons with Chaiken’s L-word where we had to sit through the subtle racist overtones in the few “of color” characters she tossed in? (note to white lesbian directors, if you use people of color in your projects, either show them with some dignity or just leave us out completely) I also can't forget how we were also assaulted by a barrage of men fucking lesbians. Thankfully she eased up on some of it but what I can deduce from it all is that the privilege of whiteness must mean that one must submit to the dominant culture in order to get your art produced, accepted and fed to the masses. Women and women’s sexuality are always represented as fluid as well as secondary to the power of male sexuality. And clearly people of color, if not exploited, should be erased entirely. Gay men are quite fortunate that that they don’t have to constantly be forced to watch a gay man being fucked by a woman. For lesbians, it’s an all too familiar reality in cinema which even in the 21st century we can't seem to escape. In Cholodenko's film, there were strong, even poignant points made with respect to lesbian families about love, relationships and parenting. It's a pity that it had to be co-opted by moments where the depictions of the values and feelings of marginalized groups had to be sacrificed in order to get these important points across.

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