The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

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The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

an interloper, Cholodenko exposes family for being what postcolonial and transnational feminist thinkers have described it for at least half a century: a unit of national security, a formation of hierarchical unequals that naturalizes the exclusions and border patrolling of nationhood.

5. To shore up the family, either gay or straight, people of color become collateral damage.

Paul’s disposability contrasts sharply with the dismissal of the three people of color in the film. Jules fires the gardener because she wants to get her fuck on in secret (“protect the family”) with little regard for what it will mean to the gardener economically. Rather than being read as solely an abject caricature of flexible, Chicano migratory labor, we note that the gardener must be expelled because he has too much power to expose the homonationalist family for the unstable entity that it is. Paul dumps Tanya, his African-American hostess/fuck-buddy because he needs to “start thinking about having a family.” In this scene, Tanya figures as the antithesis of family; she is literally not “family material,” because her biological matter and her racial embodiment ensure she is unable to compete with the lure of the white homonationalist family unit. Joni can’t bring herself to express her tingles for her South Asian boy pal, Jai, until she sees another white girl try to mack on him at a party. But it’s also at that moment that Jai becomes used as the figure with whom Joni acts out against “moms.” She could’ve kissed any boy and driven home drunk, but we find it striking that casting choice was made to have her love interest be a boy of color (and presumably, one of equal economic privilege). 

6. Yes, Hollywood is still butch-phobic.

But a lot of queers seem to be femme-on-femme phobic. Or whatever-on-whatever phobic. Or we-don't-know-what on we don't-know-what-phobic. To read Nic and Jules within a failed butch-femme configuration is to reassert the centrality of their whiteness, and to uphold the standards of masculinity and femininity that adhere to whiteness and its particular aesthetics of gender presentation. Butch-femme is of course a multiply racialized gender formation with varied histories, but it is often in service, if not indebted to, whiteness. Perhaps Cholodenko shirked from a certain responsibility to redress a lack of variety in butch representation, but in the



Comments [5]

Fillyjonk's picture

It's nice to see a sensible,

It's nice to see a sensible, thoughtful analysis of this movie...

I thought the backlash the film faced was incredibly over-zealous- regardless of one's opinion of the story or political subtext, it was still an intelligent and interesting drama. It's unjustifiable for the gay community to react with untempered hatred to something with these sorts of basic credentials. We need MORE mainstream queer films which are textured, subtle and multilayered- so please God, let's not shout them down on the rare occasions that they come along!

Robin Rigby's picture

A balanced review. If

A balanced review. If somewhat too dense for me to proces in my current, mildly drunken state. 

I decided to screen this film as part of my lesbian film group last year. We did it in conjunction with Family Matters, the gay parenting group at the LGBT center. I wanted to screen it particularly because of the mixed (and quite vocal) reactions it had received. Personally, I found it occasionally humorous, sometimes uncomfortable, and very flawed on a story level- one that has nothing to do with it's lesbian content. 

FYI, I liked Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon, I am not a fan of High Art

Joanne Robertson's picture

Finally

a thoughtful, balanced analysis of this film.  What a relief.

The collective lost their faculties over this movie.  What annoyed me during this time was how many lesbian sheeple proudly declared they hadn't seen the film, but hated it, and had no intention of seeing it, because a few prominent lesbians (some of whom also hadn't yet seen it) had flamed about the storyline.

Some declared they will boycott Cholodenko's future work.  It was a typical "throw the baby out with the bathwater" response, not unlike with Chaiken & her L Word brand.

Marcie Bianco's picture

true that, JR -- lesbians

true that, JR -- lesbians really do eat their own. ... so mean ... why is that?

Joanne Robertson's picture

Well, it's easy

to take everything personally - this may have something to do with swimming in such an incestuous little fishbowl... even online.

In terms of how we hold 'our' writers/directors to such a high standard, we just have to get over this notion that everything they put out there is representing us as a "community".  An impossible standard, since they're usually writing about individuals - flawed characters, or filming real life flawed humans for reality tv. 

I no longer hand-wring about how heteros are perceiving this or that in a storyline.  It's very freeing lol