The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right
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in the end, unflappable. The full-family-lockdown against the very biological matter that made this family possible in the first place is complete. The kids are more than just all right: they fulfill their function perfectly, normatively. They complete the frayed lesbian coupling and provide it an alibi by acting in self-protection, justifying their parent’s choices. This homonationalist family self-defense is a bio-racial formation with dense social ramifications.
In fact, hardly the heteronormative conquerer or a symbol of the power of heteronormativity, Paul is a clumsy version of heterosexual masculinity. Let's say it out loud: he’s a doofus, and not-so-bright. Unlike the wholesome white family of which he seeks to become a part, he is of the earth, of mere matter, of bios; he is semen and smells “ripe.” He is an outsider, a foreigner, an interloper, someone who needs to "get his own family," as if family is something we can purchase, acquire, own. In the case of Nic and Jules, it is. They bought his sperm and “own” the kids legally.
Yet, despite the queer potential of Paul’s status as an interloper and his disposability (which could, in certain readings, ally him with the racial others in this film), his white, masculine, creative class privilege rescues him. His lack of education and rough-trade skills are converted from liabilities into cultural capital. This positioning actually functions as a foil for Jules’ own quashed, hippie-dippy ambitions to be, at once, a free spirit and a success—a someone (with a difference), rather than a nobody. White masculinity is what has enabled Paul, someone who is (on paper at least), pretty much a loser, to become a success amongst the hipster locavores on L.A.’s eastside: the same gentrifying hordes oblivious of their taste culture’s impact on the shape of the neighborhood.
We believe that in the end Cholodenko makes it clear through Paul’s interruption that she is not endorsing Nic and Jules’ particular version of the lesbian family, but simply exposing its instability. The trope of the interloper is neither intrusive nor residual, but rather supplementary—indeed foundational—to the capacity of the homonationalist family to reconsolidate and securitize its boundaries.
Cholodenko thus does not sanction, but instead offers a stinging critique of the racialized, gendered, classed, and sexualized costs of excluding others in the name of "my family." In finalizing Paul’s status as