I really didn’t want to like “The Kids Are All Right.” I should be a huge supporter of it. A mainstream film about a lesbian couple, with the gorgeous Julianne Moore playing a bohemian femme? Sign me up. Yet something felt off about it. It felt almost too cookie cutter, too normal, too wonderful. Hollywood couldn’t get this kind of film right without some major issues. Maybe it’s some of that queer protectiveness, always needing to have our guards up, always needing to be ready with the critique. Daisy Hernandez gives a great review touching on some of the race issues with the film at Colorlines, but surely there must be some problems with how sexuality is presented as well, yes? However, I wanted to see it myself before passing any major judgments.

(Warning: some spoilers. Skip ‘til I tell you to read again if you want to be surprised).

The Kids was good. Really good. It was incredibly entertaining, well cast, and funny (awkward as hell, but funny). Because I was on-guard going into the film, naturally I found some problems with it. In what appears to be a women-focused film, the plot still centers around a man. The movie’s tagline especially gets under my skin: “Nic and Jules had the perfect family, until they met the man who made it all possible.” Ick. (Here’s an article on the Hathor Legacy explaining why the film “had” to be like this.)

Also, in a film about a gay couple, there are still more revealing and steamy sex scenes between a man and a woman than there are between the main couple. Yes, part of the plot is that Nic and Jules are going through a kind of mid-life lull in their sex life, but seeing what appears to be a lesbian woman boringly going down on her wife and then getting all freaky and alive again with her kids' biological father isn’t exactly what I’d like mainstream America to see of queer women’s sex lives.

Yet as I sat down to write this article, one I thought would be mainly a critique of the film, I couldn’t help thinking that I was falling into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had hesitations about the movie, thus I searched for the problems I already assumed were there, and ta-da! I found them. Time for my oh-so-objective critique. So I thought about the movie more. I read interviews of director Lisa Cholodenko describing her thoughts while writing and creating the film. I considered what changes I would have liked to have seen done to the overall message. And while I still stand by the issues I described above, I realized they weren’t big enough to merit a negative critique. Overall, I really loved the movie.

One of the reasons I loved it was I feel it’s honest. Very honest. Honest like lesbians-watching-gay-male-porn honest. Honest like Jules eloquently and legitimately explaining to her son why some lesbians like to watch gay male porn honest. Believable conversations, realistic issues, and genuine outcomes. Do I have a problem with one of the moms sleeping with a man and feeling relief from the change? Yes. As a pansexual, do I understand and relate to it? Hell yeah. Do I want Jules and Nic to have marital problems, fight, and portray a strained relationship? Not necessarily. Is it accurate to the realities of life? Of course. Do I like the fact that the straight guy gets dumped on his ass and left to fend for himself at the end? Ok yes I do very much like that. Major props to Cholodenko for not going all L-Word on us and having the girl end up with the guy at the end of the film.

(No more spoilers! Come back!)

In a sense The Kids Are All Right mirrors a point theycallmevroom brought up a little while ago of not wanting their personal story to be the narrative of the trans community. Is this the narrative queer women want of their community? At first I thought not; there are one too many sexuality complexities for a mainstream audience to handle. But when I looked at my life more, looked at my friends lives, looked at lives I looked up to, they’re all complex. This film isn’t trying to fit into any box, it isn’t even necessarily catering to any particular audience. It is just portraying a believable story, which is more than most movies can boast. And yes, there are huge race and class issues at play here and they should have been better handled in the film. Even if it is “real-life” to ignore or sugar-coat race and class structures, it is racist and classist to do so and there’s already enough of that in the world – we don’t need it to be glamorized on-screen and an alternative, positive example of dealing with these issues would be nice to see.

My first instinct when I saw the mainstream doing something LGBT was to criticize it. Maybe I’ve just been disappointed one too many times by the HRC, who knows. But there’s enough internal criticism, battling, and discontent going on for now. Let’s just sit back and revel in an honest and successful effort for a little while.

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