The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right
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we choose them thinking they will be better. Yet they often turn out to be the same and quite violently so. One could say that the family in The Kids are All Right is most queer when it is porous to Paul’s presence; the lines of affiliation arising and dissipating, an assemblage of alliances uncertain and open to changes, unexpected, convivial encounters and sudden, random intimacies. Daughter Joni prepares to hate Paul but finds herself curiously charmed upon meeting him. Meanwhile, the son, Laser’s eagerness is dampened by confronting a heretofore unknown masculinity. His potentially self-undermining disdain towards Paul is most effectively communicated in a scene when he accusingly asks his biological father, “Why did you donate sperm?”
Nic's resistance to Paul eases as they share a cringe-worthy Joni Mitchell duet (the song in question is, not insignificantly, “All I Want”*—a devastating song about romantic ruin as addition) at a dinner just moments before Jules’ and Paul’s betrayal becomes evident to Nic.
What ensues is nothing less than a classic re-emboldening of the couple form in the face of triangulation, but this time, homonationalist style. Jules tosses the phone--as if flinging a technological phallus—when Paul calls to exhort his passion for her, yelling “I’m a DYKE!” before hanging up. And in this sense The Kids are All Right admirably departs from what KT has dubbed the “dick intervenes-genre” by discarding the notion that hetero-sex will always turn a good dyke to a steady diet of cock once and for all. She was, in the end, fucking him not because of some latent heterosexual desire or need to exit her relationship, but because of an awakened, reproductive narcissism: she sees her kids in Paul's face, her family, her inner circle. He is biology, pure matter, as is his penis, the source of the sperm that fathered her children. He reflects back to her the possibilities and achievements deferred by her reproductive choices.
4. Yours, mine, ours?
As Nic refuses Paul entry into the house, she yells, "You're an interloper. This is my family. If you want a family, get your own." (Incidentally, Nic never refers to "our family" even when she’s speaking to Jules). Despite her anger at "moms," Joni is similarly unable to see Paul as anything but a threat to her admittedly imperfect but still precious family unit. Laser’s already-disaffected stance is,