Queer Lives Don’t Thrive: “The Hours”

“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard, always the years between us, always the years. Always, the love. Always, the hours.”-Virginia Woolf. Three women’s stories intertwine in the most unexpected ways in director Stephen Daldry’s 2002 drama film The Hours. The Hours captures Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep)’s lives, each at a different time and place. Despite each of their stories existing at different times, each woman has something in common- desolation due to the impact of being queer. The Hours’ representation of queer people creates the implication that being queer is destructive and is potentially fatal to the queer individual and the people they associate with by having three queer women shown in unhappy relationships. Within one hour and fifty-four minutes, The Hours displays the impact being queer has had on the main characters of the film. Since the stories of the three women are intertwined in The Hours, this essay will explore each of the queer women’s stories individually.

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At the beginning of The Hours, the audience is greeted by the suicide of Virginia Woolf. In this scene Virginia walks down to the river to drown herself, as Virginia narrates the suicide letter she had left for her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane).  The audience watches as Virginia slowly dies, being dragged on the bottom of the river by the flowing current.  This scene acts to inform the audience that Virginia is so depressed that she cannot take living any longer. By using her death as a starting point in Virginia’s story, it gives the audience a lens to look at Virginia with. It intrigues the audience, leaves them questioning what led Virginia to kill herself. When the film returns to Virginia’s story, it then backtracks on Virginia Woolf’s timeline, to present more of Virginia’s story to the audience.  The Hours  portrays the time in Virginia’s life where she is working on her novel, Mrs Dalloway.  Virginia struggles with depression, but tries to keep herself occupied with writing. Virginia and Leonard moved to Richmond from London, in order to give Virginia some fresh air and silence. Virginia dislikes Richmond, and confronts Leonard about the move:

Virginia Woolf: I’m dying in this town.
Leonard Woolf: If you were thinking clearly, Virginia, you would recall it was London that brought you low.
Virginia Woolf: If I were thinking clearly? If I were thinking clearly?
Leonard Woolf: We brought you to Richmond to give you peace.
Virginia Woolf: If I were thinking clearly, Leonard, I would tell you that I wrestle alone in the dark, in the deep dark, and that only I can know. Only I can understand my condition. You live with the threat, you tell me you live with the threat of my extinction. Leonard, I live with it too.

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The most happy the audience sees Virginia is when Virginia’s sister Vanessa (Miranda Richardson) comes to visit with her children. Virginia is overwhelmed with joy and spends the day with her family. Before Vanessa and her children head back home , Vanessa kisses Virginia goodbye on the cheek.  Virginia grabs the back of Vanessa’s head, pulls her close, and proceeds to kiss Vanessa on the lips. The length of the kiss plus the intensity is definitely non-normative for society’s family roles, even for the time this was set in. This scene plays off of the predatory lesbian stereotype, making Vanessa look helpless and Virginia look even more mentally unwell. After this queer encounter with Vanessa, Virginia suddenly plummets down into a deeper depression. Virginia’s depression not only impacts her life severely, but also everyone around her. Virginia’s husband along with her sister worry about Virginia’s mental state. Virginia begs her sister to talk well of her, to tell everyone that she is getting better, but the look on Vanessa’s face (after the kiss) tells the audience that she will not do what Virginia asks. This part of the film creates this interesting way to view Virginia, as a helpless and unstable character.  Virginia dwells in her depression, and her story ends with Virginia preparing her suicide letter.

Laura Brown is a pregnant house wife in the 1950s, who struggles to fulfill the gender roles bestowed upon her. On the outside, the Brown’s seemed to be living the American dream, but in reality, depression haunted Laura Brown. Laura’s husband, Dan Brown (John C. Reilly) is a way at work during the day, so Laura watches their son, Richie (Jack Rovello). When Dan is around, Laura does everything in her power to make him happy and believe that their life together is healthy. When Dan goes to work, Laura wrestles with her depression. During the day, Laura escapes reality by reading Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway.  Laura relates to the main character in the novel, Clarissa Dalloway. Laura relates to the character Clarissa in Virginia Woolf’s novel because Clarissa is unwell but presents herself as being fine, and Laura does the same. When Laura is not reading or sleeping, she is battling depression while trying to spend time with her son and be a good house wife.

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On Dan’s Birthday, Laura decides that Richie and her should make Dan a cake. Laura teaches Richie how to make a cake and they get to work. Shortly after applying the icing to the cake, Laura’s neighbor Kitty ( Toni Collette), comes over to ask Laura to watch her dog. When Kitty is waiting for Laura to make her a cup of coffee, she notices a book on the counter. Laura’s response and hesitation to elaborate on the book show how much she relates with the main character of the book:

Laura Brown: Oh, it’s about this woman who’s incredibly – well, she’s a hostess and she’s incredibly confident and she’s going to give a party. And, maybe because she’s confident, everyone thinks she’s fine… but she isn’t.

This part of the scene with Kitty seems to be an invitation for conversation about Laura’s feelings, but Kitty dismisses the summary of the novel and they begin to talk, Laura finds out that Kitty is going to have a growth in her uterus inspected by doctors at a hospital . Laura senses as Kitty anxiety about going to the hospital and goes to comfort her. As Laura hugs Kitty and kisses her head softly, her lips move down Kitty’s head and to her mouth. Laura kisses Kitty passionately and pulls away to look into Kitty’s eyes with raw emotion and desire. Yet again, the stereotype of predatory lesbians is displayed. Laura turned an ‘innocent’ kiss into a passionate one, by taking advantage of Kitty in her emotional state.  Kitty gets up and pretends nothing happened, and leaves to go to the hospital, turning down every offer Laura gives to get Kitty to the hospital.

Devastated, Laura lashes out at Richie and throws away Dan’s cake. She then takes her purse into the bathroom to fill with pill bottles and takes Richie to a babysitter, Mrs. Latch (Margo Martindale). Laura checks into a hotel and begins to read Mrs Dalloway, before she follows through with her plan to overdose on pills.  Laura was extremely unhappy with her marriage with Dan, with raising Richie and another child on the way, and with what had happened with Kitty that afternoon. She didn’t want to live the American dream any longer, of heteronormativity.  Laura battles the urge to kill herself, and wins because she comes up with a solution- abandonment. Instead of killing herself, Laura created a plan to leave her family (not right after the suicide attempt, but within a few years of that day) in order to become who she wanted to be.

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After finishing reflecting on her life and finishing Mrs Dalloway, Laura puts on the American dream facade  and pretends that everything is normal.  Laura picks up Richie and they go home to make Dan another cake, this one turning out perfect. Laura chose life over death, despite if it was a moral decision in the eyes of normative society.

The final queer main character in The Hours is Clarissa Vaughan, who lives in New York and is an editor. Clarissa just so happens to match Virginia Woolf’s main character in Mrs Dalloway, Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa is throwing an award party for her friend and former lover, Richard Brown (Ed Harris) who won an award for his book. Richard Brown just so happens to be Laura Brown’s son, but the audience doesn’t find that out until towards the end of the film. Clarissa is in a long term relationship with Sally Lester (Allison Janney), so the audience is informed that she is queer. Clarissa struggles to juggle her relationship with Sally and Richard. When the audience sees Clarissa with Sally, their relationship is portrayed as boring and almost loveless, and Clarissa seems more concerned with Richard than Sally. Any interaction that is shown between Clarissa and Sally is trivial, despite the years that they have been together. Any effort that Sally puts into showing her love for Clarissa goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s as if Sally is second choice to Richard, since their romantic relationship never worked out.

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Clarissa tries to keep everyone happy, but never thinks of herself. She takes on being Richard’s caretaker, because he has given up the fight with AIDS. This portion of the film portrays Clarissa as having a stronger bond for Richard than for Sally. She stops in to check on him the day of the party and remind him, and he questions her about the party:

Richard Brown: Who is this party for?
Clarissa Vaughan: What are you asking, what are you trying to say?
Richard Brown: I’m not trying to say anything. I think I’m staying alive just to satisfy you.

Clarissa assures him that the party is, indeed, for Richard. She then leaves and keeps herself busy throughout the day by running errands in order to have the best award party for Richard. When Clarissa stops by to pick up Richard, he is suicidal and sitting on his windowsill. Clarissa tries to get Richard to back away from the window, but he refuses:

Clarissa Vaughn: All right Richard, do me one simple favor. Come. Come sit.
Richard Brown: I don’t think I can make it to the party, Clarissa.
Clarissa Vaughn: You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to go to the ceremony, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can do as you like.
Richard Brown: But I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that…
Clarissa Vaughn: You do have good days still. You know you do.
Richard Brown: Not really. I mean, it’s kind of you to say so, but it’s not really true.

Richard pushed himself from the windowsill and Clarissa watched in horror. The party was canceled and Clarissa spent the rest of the night cleaning her home and waiting for Laura Brown to come down from Canada. Laura stayed at Clarissa and Sally’s town home for the night. Clarissa struggled with not just losing a friend to suicide, but a former lover who she still loved. Richard had been battling AIDS for years, but could no longer stand the torment, so he took his own life.

All the queer characters in The Hours  struggle to live happy lives.  In every  story, despite the year, every character deals with suicide, in some way. This gives the audience the idea that being queer is destructive and happiness is nonexistent for queer individuals, and additionally pushes the judgment of queer individuals by attaching a stigma to depression. This film also pushes queer stereotypes onto the viewers, strengthening the belief in these stereotypes. Heteronormative lives lead to happiness and queer lives lead to death. Not only does this film display depressed queer people, but it also gives little contrast or comparison to the film’s idea of heteronormativity.

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

All photos were found on google.com

Daldry, Stephen. “Laura Brown in The Hours-second scene.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
The Hours. Dir. Stephen Daldry. Perf. Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2002. DVD.

I wanna touch you but there’s history: “Lovesong”

As I was driving home from class, all I could hear was this song, playing  over and over as my mind processed the film Lovesong.

“You wanna touch me but you’re too late
You wanna touch me but there’s too much history
Starting to live the lies we tell ourselves
I only need you to be friends with me.”- Lyrics to Touch by Shura

Lovesong opens with Sarah (Riley Keough) being woken up by her daughter, Jessie ( Jessie Ok Gray). Sarah struggles with being in an unhappy marriage. Her husband ( Cary Fukunaga) travels for work and is gone for months at a time. The film’s beginning scenes do a fantastic job at letting the audience assume that Sarah is unhappy. Riley Keough did a fantastic job looking genuinely sad about her life- the way she speaks to Jessie made me so sad. Sarah tries to be happy and sound happy for Jessie, but you can hear the desperation in her voice, the longing for a better life. Just as the audience gets used to Sarah and Jessie, another character comes into the story. Sarah’s long time friend, Mindy (Jena Malone) comes to visit Sarah and they take a road trip together, in an attempt to reduce cabin fever and make Sarah happy.lovesong-movie-trailer-images-pics-stills-riley-keough-jena-malone-4.png

On their road trip together, they stop at a rodeo. This is where I started picking up on some strong chemistry towards one another, or some sort of jealousy at least (then again, maybe that’s because I am lesbian with high hopes). When Mindy starts flirting with one of the bull-riders, Sarah starts to get anxious and tries to get Mindy to leave. Sarah finally gets Mindy to leave, and they continue on their adventure. They stop at a hotel for the night and decide to have a few drinks after Jessie falls asleep. As they drink, they start reminiscing about college, and previous partners. Sarah suddenly gets sick from drinking and goes to the bathroom to vomit. As she is vomiting, Mindy holds her hair like a good friend. After Sarah finishes, Mindy comforts her, and comforting her turns into kissing. At this part of the film I had some major mixed feelings- part of me was like, “How sweet,” and the other part of me was saying, “MINDY, SARAH JUST GOT DONE VOMITING, THAT’S NASTY!”.

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After the vomit aftertaste kisses, the next day Mindy and Sarah cannot keep their eyes off of each other. They go to a carnival to ride some rides, and while they are on the ferris wheel, they hold an intense staring session. There was so much tension during this scene, I thought my heart was going to explode. After they snapped out of staring at one another, Sarah starts to scream along with Jessie, and Mindy howls like a wolf- a cry of freedom?

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Sarah and Mindy seem to have found happiness in their bond, but reality sets in for Sarah (that she is married). Mindy gets hurt when she realizes that Sarah isn’t ready to have a relationship, and gets a bus ticket back home, giving Sarah ten minutes (or less) of a heads-up. Both Sarah and Mindy go their separate ways, both upset with the outcome of their road trip together. The film then sends the audience three years into the future, to Sarah and Jessie (now played by Sky Ok Gray) on a road trip of their own. They are traveling to Tennessee to attend Mindy’s wedding. When they get to Mindy’s fiance’s family home, Jessie quickly bonds with Mindy’s fiance, Leif ( Ryan Eggold) along with the rest of his family. Sarah offers to help with wedding preparations (sincerely, but probably to keep her mind occupied). After a few days, Mindy has her bachelorette party, where everyone gets completely hammered as they bar hopped. Towards the end of the night, Sarah and Mindy begin to kiss, rekindling their chemistry all over again.  Mindy ends up staying with Sarah in her hotel room that night. The day after the party was the wedding day and Mindy went back to Leif’s family home to get ready. As she starts to add the finishing touches to her wedding look, Mindy starts to get anxious and asks everyone who is in the room to leave, except Sarah.  Mindy and Sarah decide to go on a walk, into the woods. Somewhere along their walk, they find an area to snuggle in. For what seems like hours, Mindy and Sarah cuddle and stare into each other’s eyes.

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As afternoon turns into evening, they discuss what to do. Should Mindy call off the wedding and be with Sarah? Is Sarah ready for a relationship with Mindy? NOPE. Instead, Sarah suggests getting back to the wedding, and Mindy agrees. This part broke my heart- I was for sure that they had skipped the wedding during their long cuddle session, but I was deceived… They both gave up on the love they had for each other for the sake of social norms and to avoid the hassle of calling off a wedding. I’m not doubting that Mindy could be happy with Leif, but it breaks my heart that Sarah gave up so easily, and just let her go. So, the film basically ends with Mindy getting married and Sarah watching. The feelings Sarah must have felt as she watched Mindy get married… heartbreaking.

 

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Weareshura. YouTube. YouTube, 04 Mar. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Black to Blue: “Moonlight”

I did not know what to expect from the film, Moonlight, but I am most certain that even if I had expectations for this film, the film itself would have gone above and beyond those expectations. This film didn’t just tell a story, it made the audience take a step back from their own lives and view their own stereotype ideas. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for someone to die, or for the main character Chiron ( Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Shariff Earp) to get raped, but none of that happened. Instead, Moonlight told Chiron’s story about being African American and growing up as a homosexual. According to Hilton Als, author of “MOONLIGHT” UNDOES OUR EXPECTATIONS, unravels the audience’s views and expectations of the film, “”Moonlight” undoes our expectations as viewers, and as human beings, too. As we watch, another movie plays in our minds, real-life footage of the many forms of damage done to black men, which can sometimes lead them to turn that hateful madness on their own kind, passing on the poison that was their inheritance,” (Als ).

The film started with Chiron as a young child, being chased by boys at school that wanted to beat him up, due to the way he looked. Chiron, or  “Little” (Alex R. Hibbert),  hid in an abandoned building. The boys started throwing trash at where Little was, but eventually tired out and left. A local drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali) found Little in the building and took Little under his wing. Over time, Little warmed up to Juan and began to open up to him and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe) about his home life.  Little began to trust Juan and Teresa, and they became parent figures for Little, giving him food, shelter, and love.

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The part of Moonlight that stuck with me the most was when Little’s mother, Paula (Naomie Harris) becomes addicted to drugs. She neglects Little, and gets jealous of how much Little admires Juan and Teresa. One night when Juan was checking a regular spot for drug dealing, which is referred to in this film as a “hole”, Juan spots Paula, and tries to tell her off. Paula screams at him and laughs at Juan, because he is the one dealing drugs to her. When Paula sees Little later that night, she screams “faggot” at him. The scene is heart wrenching- watching the scene through Little’s eyes was almost too much for me to stand. From a very young age, Little struggled with being verbally and physically abused for being gay, even before Little himself knew what being gay meant.

One thing that I absolutely love about this film is how it is cut up into ‘chapters’ of Chiron’s life- child, teenager, and adult. As a teenager, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is still being teased at school, but still has an old friend from elementary days, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).  Terrel (Patrick Decile) is by far the meanest bully to Chiron, and mocks him constantly in and out of the classroom. One day, Terrel gets in trouble for being mean to Chiron and threatens Chiron with getting beat up after school.  After school, Chiron stays in school and hides from Terrel and his friends. Chiron runs into Kevin, and they talk about Kevin’s recent reason for detention- having sex with a girl on school grounds. Later that night, Chiron has a wet dream about Kevin having sex with a girl.

Kevin and Chiron run into each other at the beach one night, and share a blunt. After talking for awhile, they start kissing and Kevin gives Chiron a hand job.  After being intimate together. Kevin drives Chiron back home. The next day, Terrel (who just so happens to be friends with Kevin) chooses Chiron as the victim for Kevin to beat up. Chiron takes the punches, one by one, and stands up as many times as his body will let him, all while looking Kevin straight in the eyes. After getting beat up, Chiron takes action by going behind Terrel in class and hitting him with a chair ( it was like a scene from WWE, only Terrel was down for the count).

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In the last chapter of the film, the audience sees Chiron as an adult, going by the nickname that was given to him by Kevin in high school, Black (Trevante Rhodes). Black lives in Georgia, and deals drugs in order to make money. Black visits his mother in rehab and the audience sees Black rekindle his relationship with his mother. As Black is laying in bed one night, he gets an unexpected call from Kevin (André Holland). They talk for awhile, and then Kevin has to get back to work. After catching up with Kevin, Black decides to go back to Miami to visit him. Surprised, Kevin gleams with joy and makes Black a special meal at the restaurant he is working in. During that night together, Black confesses that Kevin had been the only man to touch him, and the film ends with both Black and Kevin resting their heads on each other.

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This film is such a beautiful film, full of vibrant colors and emotions. Moonlight is the first film I have watched about African American gay men, and it was done in such a tasteful, raw way- a masterpiece.

 

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Als, Hilton. “”MOONLIGHT” UNDOES OUR EXPECTATIONS.” The New Yorker (2016): n. pag. BlackBoard. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.
Young, Vershawn A. “Compulsory Homosexuality and Black Masculine Performance.” Poroi 7.2 (2011): n. pag. BlackBoard. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Wine, Wives, and Urban Life: The trifecta that creates “The Kids Are All Right”

I love this movie, for many different reasons, but mostly because of the intense celebrity crush I have on Julianne Moore (what can I say, I have a thing for redheads).giphy (58)

Even though I do love this film, there are some kinks that I do not like. This film is about two children, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska) who were raised by Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a lesbian couple. giphy (57)

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Laser begged Joni to get in touch with the sperm bank, in order to get information on their sperm donor and meet him. At first Joni was hesitant, but then she gave into her own curiosities and got his information. This was all done behind their moms’ backs, in order not to hurt their feelings. “The Kids Are All Right follows the journey of Laser and Joni meeting their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), and creating a bond with him” – that’s the nice, fairy-tale summary of this film. In reality, The Kids Are All Right is a film about normalizing the struggles of gay marriage, by giving lesbian characters stereotypical, normative issues in a marriage. According to Tammie M. Kennedy, author of Sustaining White Homonormativity: The Kids Are All Right as Public Pedagogy,  this film follows in the footsteps of heteronormativity by presenting the lesbian characters with traditional, stereotypical parental traits, “the same-sex relationship dynamics emulate the cliche of “father knows ´best,” the plot-point so prominent in popular comedies and steeped in white homonormativity. While hardly butch/femme in appearance by queer standards, the couple project a more traditional relationship in subtle ways,” (Kennedy 125). One of these subtle ways can be seen in one of the biggest issues I have with the film. One of the biggest issues I have with this film is how Nic and Jules have such boring interactions. Sure, there are some cute moments in this film, but depicting boring interactions is an attempt to make gay marriage more heteronormative- “Look honey, gay people plateau in their relationship after years of being together too, just like us.”

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According to Lisa Duggan, author of The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism, … new homonormativity- it is a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption,” (Duggan 179). An great example on this definition can be seen in The Kids Are All Right.

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The sex scene between Nic and Jules (uh-oh, her she goes again, complaining about the sex scenes in films).  Nic and Jules attempt to have sex while watching male gay porn, and they accidentally turn up the volume on the television, making the sex sounds incredibly loud. This kills the mood for them, because the panic of having their children hear it took over the want to please each other. While this scene is quite humorous, I think it is also a very negative thing (Spoiler ahead, turn back now if you don’t want me to ruin this film for you). My biggest issue is that there is not a good representation of lesbian sex in this film, about a married lesbian couple. Yes, they have children, and yes, they have  been together for a long time, but the audience only gets a glimpse at a failed attempt between Nic and Jules, and that’s it. When Jules and Paul start having an affair, the audience gets longer sex scenes, with less humor.  I know this is an attempt to show the urban living stereotypes of marriage issues- steamy affairs, a higher consumption of wine, the kids acting out,etc., but there’s something else that gets drowned in the wine and stereotypes- a good representation of gay sex in what is supposed to be a gay film.

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Yet another issue with this film is the white-washing of urban living. The only time the audience ever gets a glimpse at non-white characters are of the characters that are working under the main white characters. The Kids Are All Right portrays that white is the norm, that white is urban-living, which is a stereotype. According to Richard Dyer, author of The Matter of Whiteness, humanity is still struggling with identifying whiteness as a race, “The old illusory unified identities of class, gender, race, sexuality are breaking up; someone may be black and gay and middle class and female; we may be bi-,poly- or non-sexual, of mixed race, indeterminate gender and heaven knows what class. Yet we have not yet reached a situation in which white people and white cultural agendas are no longer in the ascendant. The media, politics, education are still in the hands of white people, still speak for whites while claiming- and sometimes sincerely aiming- to speak for humanity,” (Dyer 11). The Kids Are All Right plays into whiteness and denies any other race included in this film a positive scene for their characters. For example, the landscape worker, Luis Ramirez (Joaquín Garrido) was fired, and the hostess at Paul’s restaurant who also cared for Paul, Tanya (Yaya DaCosta)  was turned down and denied a future with Paul, because of his love for Jules.

I love this film, but it definitely has a lot of issues.

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Duggan, Lisa. “The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism.” Materializing Democracy (2002): 175-94. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.

Dyer, Richard. (n.d.). A Matter of Whiteness. In Whiteness: The Power of Invisibility (pp. 9-14)

Tammie M. Kennedy (2014) Sustaining White Homonormativity: The Kids Are All Right as Public Pedagogy, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 18:2, 118-132, DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2014.849162

 

Alike’s Coming Out Story in “Pariah”

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I have liked all of the films we have watched in our Queer Film class, but Pariah has to be one of my top favorites now. This film holds true power in breaking African American stereotypes as well as portraying a rawness in the reality of living as a closeted young lesbian woman. According to Jennifer DeClue, one of the author’s of Pariah and Black Independent Cinema Today: A Roundtable DiscussionPariah created universal appeal for black lesbians, “… Dee Rees’s Pariah is a cinematic contribution that has made black lesbian coming of age not only visible but universal in appeal. Alike’s coming out to her
parents makes her sexuality visible in the narrative structure of the film, and
Focus Features’s distribution of the film makes black lesbian sexuality visible on
the national and perhaps even international stage as well,” (DeClue 425).

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Pariah starts inside of a strip club, where women are pole dancing and the majority of the audience of the pole dancers are women as well. The audience finds Alike (Adepero Oduye) hanging out with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker). After a night of hanging out at the club, they both take the bus home. At Laura’s stop, Alike assures Laura that she will be fine going home alone and insists that Laura get off at her stop. Once Laura got off the bus, Alike began to change out of her clothes that made her appear as a butch lesbian into her “normal” clothes- the clothes that Alike’s mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) pushed her to wear. Once Alike gets home, she tries to be as quiet as possible, in order to not get in trouble. Alike’s sister, Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse), catches Alike sneaking home after her curfew, and alerts their mother with a loud sound. Alike is then confronted by her mother  and scolded about breaking curfew.  The next day, the audience watches Alike go to school. Once she gets there, she goes to the restroom and changes into the clothes she likes to wear. She appears to be out to everyone except her parents.  From her being in school, the audience learns that Alike is a very intelligent young woman that has great grades. She also loves to write poetry and has her English teacher, Mrs. Alvarado (Zabryna Guevara) critique her work.  pariah-005

Alike tries her best in school in order to make her parents proud of her. Alike’s friend, Laura, has a different story. Laura lives with her sister and works while studying to get herself an GED. Laura lives openly as a butch lesbian who hangs out with other lesbians. Alike likes to spend time with Laura as well, but she is so afraid of actually getting involved with another woman sexually and also the thought of getting caught. One day, Laura and Alike made plans to hang out, but Alike’s mother forced Alike to spend time with Alike’s mother’s coworker’s daughter, Bina (Aasha Davis). They spent time together in Bina’s room, listening to music. After awhile, Bina came onto Alike, caressing her skin and gave her a kiss. Alike got scared and left Bina’s house and went to talk to Laura. Laura was upset that Alike stood her up (which wasn’t Alike’s fault) and ignored Alike’s cry for help. According to Mignon R. Moore, author of Lipstick or Timberlands? Meanings of Gender Presentation in Black Lesbian Communities, Alike being ignored by Laura and the other women she was with is a common fear, “The fear of stigmatization from one’s own group members can be paralyzing, particularly when those whose opinions matter most, those to whom one feels closest, and those to whom one turns for support and
protection from outsiders become one’s harshest critics,” (Moore 118).

When Alike went back to school, Bina and her talked about it, and decided to go to a party together, where there would be live music. After the party, Alike and Bina went to Bina’s house where Alike would spend the night. Little did she know, Alike would lose her virginity to Bina that night. The next morning, Bina was cold towards Alike and told her that she wasn’t gay. This broke Alike’s heart and she went home, took off her clothes and cried herself to sleep on her bedroom floor.

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After waking up, Alike goes downstairs to investigate what her parents are fighting about. Her parents were fighting about Alike, and how Alike’s mother was trying to prove that Alike was gay, but her father (Charles Parnell) is in denial. Alike breaks up the fight and admits to being a lesbian, to which her mother responds to this with punching Alike in the face. After that night, Alike runs to Laura, who welcomes her in to her home to stay.  Alike loses her contact with her mother, but keeps a relationship with her sister and her father. After the end of the school year, Alike goes into a writing program at a college. The end scene is Alike sitting on the bus, watching Laura, Sharonda, and Alike’s father watch her ride towards a new chapter in Alike’s life. This film is heartbreaking, but very realistic in terms of following what happens to a lot of LGBT youth in the United States today. Not everyone accepts the idea of anything outside of heteronormativity, and this film captures how some religious people view homosexuality and how social status can cause issues.

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Keeling, K. & DeClue, J. & Welbon, Y. & Stewart, J. & Rastegar, R. “Pariah and Black Independent Cinema Today: A Roundtable Discussion.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 21 no. 2, 2015, pp. 423-439. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/581608.

Moore, Mignon R. “Lipstick or Timberlands? Meanings of Gender Presentation in Black Lesbian Communities.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 32.1 (2006): 113-39. BlackBoard. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.

High on the “Weekend”

Weekend is a refreshing gay film full of laughter and emotions. I fell in love with the characters right away, and I couldn’t get enough of their intense conversations and hilarious humor (I am a sucker for British humor). Weekend is a film that covers, you guessed it, the span of a weekend. During the weekend, two men evolve from being a one night stand, to something more. At the beginning of the film, the audience follows Russell (Tom Cullen) starting his weekend off by going to a party  at his friend Jamie’s (Jonathan Race) house. After being there for a little while, he decides to leave early, telling Jamie that he wants to go home. Russell gets on the bus to go home, but decides to go out to a gay bar instead. Once Russell gets to the bar, he spots Glen (Chris New) and watches him throughout the night. Russell even follows Glen to the bathroom, but doesn’t try to start conversation.  Just when the bar is about to close, Russell and Glen go home together. The next scene starts with Russell and Glen in Russell’s bed the next morning. Glen pulls out a recorder and starts interviewing Russell about what sex was like. Russell was hesitant to answer questions at first, nervous about being open about his sexuality (because he is closeted) and having sex with men. Glen explains that he is recording for an art project that he his creating. His art project will hold a collection of experiences from the men Glen has slept with.

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After the recording sessions was done, they exchanged numbers and Glen left Russell’s apartment.  Russell shuts the door and grabs his laptop and begins to write about Glen. The next scene shows Russell working as a lifeguard  at a community center. On lunch break, Russell listens as a man he works with describes his sexual experience from the previous night. Russell sits quietly, too afraid to come out to his coworkers. After work, Glen meets Russell outside of the community center and catches a ride from Russell on Russell’s bicycle. This portion of the film was quite humorous and cute to me. I was surprised that Russell suggested giving Glen a ride, since he was so unsure of “looking” gay or coming out. Once they reached Russell’s apartment, they had some food and talk about Russell’s childhood in foster homes, which evolves into Glen giving Russell a hand job. One of the things that I really enjoyed about this film as that, yes, there is a lot of sex in this film, BUT it is tasteful and feels realistic. I think that the sex scenes are realistic and are good representation of what  sex between two gay men can be like. With each sexual encounter, I felt their bond grow more intense (along with their conversations, of course). In comparison, Weekend is more realistic and authentic than Brokeback Mountainin every way.

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After their afternoon together, Glen left Russell’s apartment, but had a hard time shutting the door, because he didn’t really want to leave (butterflies in his tummy, perhaps?). He also informed Russell that he is moving to the United States on Sunday and he invited Russell to his going away party that night. Russell eventually agrees to go to the party, but over text, after he has thought about it for awhile. The way Glen and Russell look at each other seems so natural and it creates this feeling as if the audience is their with the characters. Russell was hurt by the fact that Glen was moving, and so soon. Saturday night was the most intense, in terms of their chemistry , in my opinion. Russell talked with some of Glen’s friends, had some drinks, and talked with Glen at the bar.  They leave the bar to go to a carnival, where they play bumper cars. When they went back to Russell’s apartment, they stayed up most of the night, drinking and doing lines of cocaine on the coffee table. During their high, Glen goes on rants about life and marriage.

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After the night is over, they talk in bed on Sunday morning. Glen helps Russell work through his fear of being publicly gay, and even pretends to be Russell’s father in order to have Russell “come out”. After their morning talk, they go their separate ways. Russell attends his friend’s daughter’s birthday party. During the party, Russell confronts his friend Jamie and tells him that he is gay, to which Jamie has a positive and welcoming reaction. Jamie also encourages Russell to go after Glen, even offering to drive him to the train station. Russell agrees and they race to the train station. Russell finds Glen and the rejoice in each other’s company. They kiss at the station, IN PUBLIC, and a few people in the background shout out obscenities. This is important because this is the first step for Russell being out in public. After the kiss, Glen gives Russell a present and they part ways. Later on, Russell opens the package Glen had given him, only to find that the package has a recorder in it. The film ends with Russell pressing play and listening to Glen’s interview of Russell from Saturday morning.

Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Brokeback mountain. Dir. Ang Lee. Perf. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Focus Features, 2006. DVD.

Weekend. Dir. Andrew Haigh . Perf. Tom Cullen and Chris New. Netflix. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

SildUK. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Boys Don’t Cry in Nebraska

Nebraskans are perceived as uneducated dirty hicks with vexatious accents in Kimberly Pierce’s film Boys Don’t Cry.  Then again, maybe that’s the only excuse Pierce can possibly give for raping and killing another human for being who they wanted to be. Boys Don’t Cry is a film that is not for the faint- hearted. The film about Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) , a man who transitioned and was trying to find somewhere to fit in. At the beginning of the film, Brandon is living in Lincoln, trying to get by. He goes out and dates a woman and by the end of the night, escapes being beat up by men. His cousin Lonny (Matt McGrath) let Brandon stay in his trailer, but his character doesn’t seem very happy about their living arrangement. Lonny criticizes Brandon for the way he dresses and constantly questions Brandon’s gender identity, which seems to not faze Brandon at all. According to Brenda Cooper, author of Boys Don’t Cry and Female Masculinity: Reclaiming a Life & Dismantling the Politics of Normative Heterosexuality, “…the story of Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry offers media critics the opportunity to explore such struggles by considering how film depictions of female masculinity may work to subvert heteromasculinity’s privileged position,” (Cooper, 48). This film does a good job of exploring female masculinity and inviting the audience to broaden their set ideas for gender roles along with sexual identity.

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One night, Brandon goes out to a bar and meets Candace (Lecy Goranson) along with her friends John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tommy Nissen (Brendan Sexton III).  A bar fight is started once Brandon saves Candace from being hit on by an old guy. The whole bar gets into a fight and Candace, John, Tommy, and Brandon run out and hide from the cops. They manage to get away from the cops and decide to go home to finish the party. Brandon agrees to go with them, all the way to Falls City, Nebraska (which is roughly a two hour drive).

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The next scene is when Brandon wakes up in Candace’s house, and has no idea where he is. Brandon calls Lonny and let’s him know that he found some cool people that have accepted Brandon as a friend. While Brandon was on the phone, he asks Candace where they are and he finds out that he is in Falls City. Brandon plans on going back to Lincoln, but his new friends introduce him to Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny), and she makes him want to stay. When Brandon meets Lana at a bar in Falls City, he watches in awe as she sings karaoke. According to Judith Halberstam, author of In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, the audience’s emotions are triggered in order to achieve an understanding of the reality transgender people face, “Boys Don’t Cry relies on the successful solicitation of affect- whether it be revulsion, sympathy, or empathy- in order to give mainstream viewers access to a transgender gaze,” (Halberstam, 77).

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This film definitely pulls at a few heart strings, for many reasons. As Brandon gets to know Lana, he begins to like her. Despite John being protective of Lana, Brandon and Lana  begin to see each other. Brandon provides Lana with respect and cared for Lana as a person. When they finally have sex, there is no questioning of gender; Lana knows Brandon is a man, despite Lana seeing Brandon’s cleavage while Brandon was on top of her.

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There is no questioning until John and Tommy start going through Brandon’s things and the items found in his bag reveal that Brandon was once a woman named Teena Brandon. Being the white trash that they were, John and Tommy can’t comprehend  the overload of information and fill with rage due to Brandon’s “lies”. Knowing about Brandon’s past, John and Tommy decided to wait at Lana’s house for Brandon to arrive. Shortly after Brandon got there, John and Tommy took him to the bathroom and took his clothes off to reveal Brandon’s breasts and vagina. They force Lana to look at Brandon’s vagina and continue to harass Brandon. According to Judith Halbertsam, author of Female Masculinity,  dominance plays an important role in masculinity,”…female masculinities are framed as the rejected scraps of dominant masculinity in order that male masculinity may appear to be the real thing,” (Halberstam 1). John and Tommy felt threatened by Brandon’s masculinity (feminine to them, because Brandon was a woman in their minds). Once Brandon left the comfort of Lana’s home, John and Tommy kidnapped him and took him to a deserted area of town. John and Tommy took turns beating Brandon and raping him, to the point that Brandon lost all hope of fighting back. Once they were done, they took Brandon back and dropped him off, warning him not to tell anyone what happened. Brandon told Lana and Lana took him to the hospital, where Brandon decided to press charges against John and Tommy. After being released from the hospital, he goes to Candace’s place to ask for shelter and a place to hide. She feels so bad about Brandon getting raped that she agrees to let him hide in the shed. Later on, Brandon asks Lana to run away with him, and she agrees.  On December 21, 1993, Brandon Teena was shot and killed in Candace’s house by John and Tommy. In the film, Lana stays with him all night, weeping and holding him. After the scene ends, the film presents the audience with facts about what happened to John and Tommy. Boys Don’t Cry is a very intense and sad film, but an even sadder part of Brandon’s real life. This film is important because it helps inform the audience of things that exist outside of what society’s normativity standards, but it is a very hard film to watch.

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Works Cited

All GIFs were found on giphy.com

Cooper, Brenda. “Boys Don’t Cry and female masculinity: reclaiming a life & dismantling the politics of normative heterosexuality.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 19.1 (2002): 44-63. BlackBoard. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Halberstam, Judith. In a queer time and place: transgender bodies, subcultural lives. New York: New York U Press, 2005. BlackBoard. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Halberstam, Judith. Female masculinity. Durham: Duke U Press, 2006. BlackBoard. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.