Love makes a family.
We chant it at our rallies. We plaster it on our bumpers. It’s as true as four words strung together can be.
But love is easy.
Marriage is hard.
For a marriage to work it takes love, first and foremost. But it also takes commitment, responsibility, communication, trust, compassion, forgiveness. Lose any and any marriage can become vulnerable – gay, straight, whathaveyou.
I expected to laugh at “The Kids Are All Right.” And I did, a lot, at its sharp elbows and keen observations. I did not expect to cry as much as I did at “The Kids Are All Right.” But I did, a lot. It wasn’t the jagged sobs that come with pulled heartstrings. But real tears that come with the realization of something broken that you want badly to be fixed.
After hearing so much about the film, my expectation were high while my mood was anxious. Anyone who has seen the trailer knows my trepidation. [Spoiler Alert: Key plot points follow.]
You see, this is a movie about a marriage, a lesbian marriage. Nic and Jules (the amazing, amazing duo of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) have been together for two decades and have two teenage kids. But it is also a movie about a lesbian marriage where one of the partners cheats with a man.
That will make some people very mad, and understandably so. It’s an infuriating cliché. The lesbian who leaves her partner for a man. The lesbian who was really just going through a phase. The lesbian who secretly craves dick.
Yet you know what, it’s not about any of that here. Those portrayals come from a place of deep-seated homophobia. A belief that lesbianism doesn’t really exist, that all a gay lady needs is a good man. That is not where the infidelity in “The Kids Are All Right” comes from. This is not to say that because director Lisa Cholodenko is lesbian means she is automatically immune from these criticisms. But this is most definitely not a movie that thinks lesbians are make believe.
What makes a gay movie, or any gay representation, good is honestly. The movies that show us as undeniably human. Still to be seen as such is no small feat sometimes considering there are those who think we are too unworthy to even share space on the planet with them. Those who think our every existence is an abomination.
These people are wrong, of course. They could not be more wrong.
But it is also wrong to think that only the most angelic portrayals of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will change their minds. Really, almost nothing will change those people's minds – small and hate-filled as they are.
But there are plenty of other minds that can be changed: the people who think we’re icky, the people who aren’t sure about us teaching their kids, the people who casually vote down our right to love legally until death do us part.
Portrayal of a couple like Nic and Jules, trying their best to love each other until death do them part, is what makes a difference. At once so recognizable yet so new, they are a couple you could know. You might know. You’d want to know.
Seeing their problems play out, you feel for them intrinsically. You cry for them, with them. You laugh with them, at them. You even roll your eyes at them with their kids. Oh, Momses!
What Ilene Chaiken will never understand is that we don’t want our gay characters to be perfect. We want them to be real. We want to feel, as different as their lives may be, that we can relate. We want them to be true.
The truth is what makes “The Kids Are All Right” not only a good gay movie, but a good movie period. The truth is what makes you care about this family, and hope that they will truly be all right.
[NOTE: Read my full review of “The Kids Are All Right” on AfterEllen today. Yes, I have even more to say. You just can’t shut me up. I’m almost insufferable.]