Jill Bennett: “‘Lesbian’ Has Become Code For ‘Waiting for the Right Man'”

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT:

The Kids Are All Right has finally opened in limited release and it’s A-list cast, stellar reviews and box office success are quickly solidifying the film as our very own Brokeback Mountain.  Guys, even Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard (our resident movie critics) loved it – and they hate everything! The consensus seems to be that while the lesbian-sleeps-with-a-man plot  has been exhausted ad nauseam, it’s worth “overlooking” because the film itself isn’t about sexuality or a woman leaving her partner for a man, but rather a story about marriage and family and what may happen when the foundation of those two entities is disrupted by an intruder. Yes, The Kids Are All Right operates on a higher plane than The L Word and Queer as Folk (even Chasing Amy), but deep down it still hurts, and lesbian bloggers seem to be content in letting it slide.

Out lesbian actress Jill Bennett has written an op-ed piece expressing her frustration and disappointment with Hollywood’s encouragement of this storyline when we’re already so under-represented in mainstream media. Bennett clearly states that she has not yet seen the film (though she expects to love it anyway), but is simply voicing a concern for the message the “lesbian sleeps with a man” stereotype sends to the hetero public who take these repeated images for what they’re worth. You see, it’s not about this one movie (which is extremely well done), but the sum of the parts.

“From all accounts, it’s good…really good, Oscar buzz good. And according to IndieWire, has had the best specialty debut of 2010 in the box office. I will see it, and perhaps I’ll love it – I expect to. Cholodenko is a skilled director, and I’ve always loved Julianne Moore. I can still like the movie but be disappointed that it went down that particular road, as almost all of them seem to do.

…I am just so sick and tired of this sub-plot popping up in every project that has a significant lesbian storyline in it that I just don’t care to keep an open mind. Cholodenko has stated in interviews that she isn’t here to please the lesbian audiences and doesn’t care about the fallout. Granted, we are not an easy lot to satisfy…furthermore, no filmmaker is bound to do anything but tell a good story (which she apparently did).

I guess my problem is that we just seem to be reinforcing the idea that men and thus the mainstream, just cannot possibly identify or be interested in a lesbian story unless it involves them sexually in some way. When we present this idea in media over and over again, it sends a message.

… I for one would really appreciate a mainstream story line that didn’t include one half of a long term lesbian partnership straying for a man. It happened first in Queer As Folk, then again on The L Word, and now this…the three projects with significant lesbian storylines that arguably have had the most mainstream appeal in the last decade.

I’m a 34 year woman who has been out for almost 15 years. Based on our mainstream media representation, the lesbian community experiences a mass exodus of dykes leaving their lovers for the almighty cock on a regular basis. I haven’t seen or experienced it one time. To be clear, I’m not talking about bisexual women here, I’m talking dyed in the wool lesbians. Women who identify as lesbian. I know it happens, just not nearly as much as it is represented – that’s all I’m sayin’.

The bigger issue is what it does to the minds of heterosexual men.  “Lesbian” has become code word for *waiting for the right man to show them what they’re missing*. I’m sorry that I have to get political around this, but it’s just annoying. And it seems that we are no closer to mainstream inclusion when every mainstream project comes with the asterisk *must show lesbian joyfully fucking a man.

And by the way, how many gay boy movies EVER show this storyline in reverse? Hmmm…can’t seem to think of one. It really is a man’s world, isn’t it?”

Bennett (who co-produces and stars in the lesbian web-series We Have to Stop Now) goes on to challenge Hollywood to make the next “mythical lesbian Brokeback Mountain” without this stereotype OR death, rape, child abuse or a coming out story. That’s the sound of Ilene Chaiken closing up shop. If you have seen The Kids Are All Right, please let us know how you felt about the overall message of the film! Kathy Wolfe, who is the expert in all such things, thinks it’s a Lesbian Brokeback. Read Jill’s complete article.

GLEE:

Looks like it’s open season on the Britney Spears catalog with her music to be featured on Glee next season. The episode will feature Brittany of “did you know dolphins are just gay sharks” fame. Also a bunch of Glee people are interviewed by Outside the Box. (@tvguide)

LINDSAY LOHAN:

This is why we stay away from slandering Lindsay Lohan — because this is how bad it gets when that kind of discourse is accepted as commonplace. (foxnews via @gawker) Also Lindsay thinks that maybe her dad should hook up with Joan Rivers. (@jezebel)

MELISSA ETHERIDGE / TAMMY LYNN MICHAELS:

Why is Tammy OK with contributing to the public dissolution of her marriage? Tammy has updated her blog with a new post titled “ulcers to gallbladder to pancreas to liver and then…?”.

gotta get a job
with barf bag in hand?
and leave my twins with who?
and with what babysitting money?

this too shall pass
cuz i believe in miracles
and
miracles look like rainbows.

oh. and we have to be out of our rental in 45 days.
man, i love a challenge.

(@hollywoodfarmgirl)

JEWEL:

Check out this funny vid featuring a heavily disguised Jewel crashing a karaoke bar and singing her own songs to a completely fooled audience. “Who Will Save Your Soul” was totally my jam in 1995!

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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 267 articles for us.

26 Comments

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    i saw that clip of joan’s response to sam’s response and on e! (don’t judge me) and i can’t believe people have such hate for random strangers. like it fucking boggles my mind, this world is a mind fuck.

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    “Cholodenko has stated in interviews that she isn’t here to please the lesbian audiences and doesn’t care about the fallout.”

    See, now. I took Cholodenko’s initial statement to mean that, as a lesbian, she is well-aware of what makes good entertainment for our demographic. Because of this, she was interested in paying special attention to making the material also resonate with a heterosexual moviegoers–not that she was dismissing us queers entirely.

    Just throwing that out there. I’ve yet to see the film, and will reserve judgment until I do. : )

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      Jill totally summed up every thought and feeling I’ve had about “The Kids Are Alright.” I haven’t seen it yet, but the whole man thing has kind of put me off, even though it’s Mark Ruffalo.

      I also think Jill makes an excellent point with her last paragraph, “And by the way, how many gay boy movies EVER show this storyline in reverse? Hmmm…can’t seem to think of one. It really is a man’s world, isn’t it?” – can anyone think of any?

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        There is a danish movie “en kort, en lang” (the english title is Shake it) But I guess it isn’t a hollywood-film. It’s about a gay man who gets confused about his sexuality and it’s actually really well done.
        You can read about it here:
        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0273719/
        The director is a woman who says it’s about her fantasy to be with one of her gay friends, but the film shows the reality of it. It is a very touching movie as fare as I remember.
        But I totally agree that I am sick of the lesbian sleeping with a man and enjoying it thing. Because if you identify as a lesbian you sort of know deep down that you don’t. Most lesbos who tries sleeping with a dude… Well, ok it can be very awkward. Something is missing!!

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    Caveat: This is not related to The Kids Are All Right.

    That said:

    THE F’ING GAS LITE!! I used to go to there!! Best karaoke bar on the westside of LA, bar none.

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    Again, it’s not about this one individual movie. It’s that the three most commercially successful pieces of entertainment featuring lesbians (The L Word, Queer as Folk and The Kids Are All Right) use this stereotype. Yes, it happens to serve the story in The Kids Are All Right and the message of the film is that this man does not belong in their lives but it’s the fact that it’s even there, at all.

    The problem is that we’re featured so little in mainstream media so the projected ratio of how often this happens is totally skewed.

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    Awesome: “Based on our mainstream media representation, the lesbian community experiences a mass exodus of dykes leaving their lovers for the almighty cock on a regular basis.”

    Maybe this whole Lesbians Misrepresented on Film thing has to do with the proliferation of the media crying LESBIAN each time some woman who happens to be in some frame of the public eye starts sleeping with another woman. Maybe not even sleeping with her, but giving a public impression that something’s goin’ on besides friendly cuddling. It just fucking takes away from women who have had to struggle to A) accept their lesbian identity, fluid as it may be, and B) maintain it in cases of pressure and/or lack of confidence.

    I really don’t know why it’s so fucking unrealistic for a woman to be portrayed in a relationship with another woman, and for that relationship to be enough with the penetration (hah, gross) of a man’s input. Maybe it’s scary to the Greater World that there really are women who just want women. Like, forever.

    How that’s [a woman wanting a woman forevs] unsexy, however… that I do not understand.

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      Why a woman wanting a woman forever is “unsexy”: It’s threatening to straight men that there are *GASP* actual women out there who DON’T require dick to be satisfied. Suddenly this part of their anatomy that they’ve been taught is the end-all, be-all, God’s gift to humanity (i.e. WOMEN), is not as all-powerful as they once thought. I really do think that the anti-lesbian brand of homophobery projected on us by straight dudes is an outlet for this alarming insecurity that our existence instills in them.

      That being said, I think the scene where Julianne Moore hangs up on Ruffalo in disgust is spot-on and so funny. She’s trying to get a word in while he talks over her and babbles on about how they should run away together, take HER kids, etc. all nonsense. She finally goes “I’M GAY” (i.e. “I was just using you for mediocre sex, I don’t wsnt to Be with you, you idiot”) and throws the phone. I can certainly relate to her frustration, because even though I haven’t slept with a guy since I came out 5 years ago (and don’t plan to ever again), they can be mighty dense sometimes.

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    “a story about marriage and family and what may happen when the foundation of those two entities is disrupted by an intruder”

    Wait, when a female intruder disrupts a hetero marriage and brings the wife into a new happy lesbian relationship, isn’t that known as a “triumphant coming-out story”?

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      Lol, I was just thinking that! Maybe those are the same ones who later in the relationship run back to man again? Ok in Brokeback Mountain don’t the two dudes get married and pop babies? They both seem to genuinely enjoy their wives until well their homoness pops up again!
      I’m just sayin’…

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    umm yeah, i can think of a “gay boy movie that shows “kids are alright” storyline in reverse…i can’t think of the title, but the one with jennifer anniston and Paul Rudd, where paul rudd is gay and he sleeps with J. Anniston…so yeah that’s reverse..tho i think they don’t get together.

    so HAH, there you go Jill!

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    I did see, “The Kids Are All Right,” and think it’s absolutely brilliant and is EXACTLY the kind of movie America needs to see and IS seeing (it’s about time we had a main stream theatrical hit). There is indeed a bigger picture here surrounding this movie; that gay marriages ARE marriages and face the same challenges that hetro marriages do and can provide a loving home for children just as hetro marriages do. If you see the film, Julianne Moore’s character didn’t just sleep with Ruffalo because he was a man. She slept with him because she needed “to feel appreciated.” Moore’s character was in such a personal crisis, she would have slept with a house plant if it would have just listened to her. I don’t think it’s as black or white as this character simply sleeping with a guy. And by the way, she doesn’t leave Annette for the Mark. The lesbians do, in fact, stay together…and the audience is rooting for that.

    Cholendenko has turned down major studio deals (and major $$$) to continue to making indie films – indie films with lesbians (High Art) or bi sexual women (Laurel Canyon) as the main characters. Now, she has made a film that puts gay marriage in an incredibly positive light and will get Oscar Buzz about the same time the mid term elections will be coming around. We need to do nothing but support this woman as a community because she has been instrumental in representing us in main stream film…I can’t think of another director who has done so in such a masterful way.

    BTW – in “Stage Beauty” Billy Crudup plays a gay drag queen who falls in love with Claire Danes.

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      I’m a bit late in this conversation, but I just saw this. The reality is the vast majority of people HAVE NOT and WILL NOT see this movie. More people saw Anette Benning, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo promoting this movie on Letterman, Leno, Live with Regis and Kelly, The View, Good Morning America, etc. than will actually see the movie. And the way the movie was promoted and explained is that it’s a movie about a lesbian couple who has a donor, they want to meet the donor and one of the women has an affair with him. That’s it. There’s no nuance or context for the VAST MAJORITY of people who have heard about the movie but will probably never see it. Whether or not you think that’s a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion. But the point Jill Bennett made has nothing to do with people who have seen the movie and she also did not have to see the movie to come to the conclusion that she did.

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    I think before you can make any conclusions about any film, you absolutely need to go see it first.

    The promotional material and appearances I’ve seen surrounding “Kids” has been that the movie is about this particular family’s story and about the challenges of marriage – not simply that some lesbian jumped ship for a minute to have an affair with a guy.

    I understand the over all point that Jill is making, but I don’t think the frustration with our representation in the media should be directed at this specific film at all.

    I mean, if we’re going to throw stones for the SOLE reason Julian Moore’s character had an affair with a male, then what about when Tina on “L Word,” spent an entire season shacking up with a guy…where was the hue and cry there? Or how about Max’s character having sex with Alan Cummings? Nothing. It amazes that this film has been attacked since it’s release by some lesbians and yet we have no problem with the image “The Real L Word” has painted of our community. Why Showtime hasn’t been boycotted by lesbians for that garbage, I’ll never know. I’d rather the characters in Cholendenko’s movie be a representation of us than the whack-jobs on that show.

    You’re probably right; a certain majority of people won’t see this film in the mid west the way they saw “Iron Man 2″, but that’s the plight of an indie film (just look at Brad Pitt’s “The Assassination of Jesse James”). However, in every major city in the US it’s done VERY well. It’s already made a profit of over 9 million and that’s before it’s re release in the winter for the Oscar season. That’s by far considered an indie break out hit.

    I’d be interested to read a blog by Jill after she’s seen the movie to see if her perspective around this particular film has changed or why it hasn’t.

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      It’s not going to change because as I said, her point is not about the affair within the context of the film. Her opinion is not about the film. She probably will love the film. Her opinion is about the frequency which lesbians in film and television end up sleeping with men. Of course The L Word is included. She’s railed against The L Word as have many others. And again, the number of people who heard the storyline for this movie not only outweighs the people who have seen The L Word, it also outweighs the people who will see the movie. The description I gave is EXACTLY the description I heard Julianne Moore give in numerous interviews.

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    About the movie-
    ‘If its Dicks its All Right!!’

    It repeats the same ‘lesbophobic’ shits under the tag of ‘gay movie’-

    1)”SEE!SHE JUST NEEDED THE RIGHT MAN!(not a right butch who arranges a right donor,creates a right lesbo family with all right kids and a left femme partner who suddenly goes down on the same donor who was absent and invisible all these right years & cheats the right butch to win all the right reviews & if another right lebso objects to it, then they say:”Uh.. right wing lesbians!”)

    2)”LESBIANS CAN BE CONVERTED. ESPECIALLY THE ‘FEMME’ ONES.INFACT THEY ARE WAITING FOR YOU TO SHOW ‘EM HOW TO DO IT!”

    3)”WHEN SHE WILL BE BORED,CONFUSED AND SAD, SHE’LL LOOK FOR A DICK AND NOT A HOT CHICK”(Melissa Etheridge,Martina Navratilova? who are they?what are you talking about?)

    4)”ALL DYKES SECRETLY DREAM OF A DICK & NOT OF DILDO”(as they watch only man-on-man porns & not woman-on-woman.Coz chick-on-chick is unsexy..umm.why can’t i think like that??may be am Not all right!!)

    5)”THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A ‘LESBIAN’. TWO WOMEN ONLY GO DOWN ON EACHOTHER FOR THE SAKE OF STRAIGHT GUY’S ENTERTAINMENT & EDUCATION”

    6)”LESBIANS GET BORED AFTER A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP AND SEEK SOLACE IN THE MAN FINALLY”

    7)”HEALTHY LESBIANS DON’T BRING OSCARS.ITS THE DYSFUNCTIONAL,TROUBLED,CONFUSED,SORRY,UGLY AND HETERONORMATIVE LESBIAN THAT BRINGS HOME THE TROPHY”(a troubled pseudo lesbian ballerina,a dick sucking dyke..wow! Hollywood never changes)

    8)SARAH PALIN AND JOHN MACCAIN ARE RIGHT-WE ARE ALL DYSFUNCTIONAL.
    and-
    BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH….

    sucks this movie had to come when we are on the war front with stuffs like DADT,marriage equality rights,gay bashing leading to teen suicides & all.

    Sorry but i couldn’t find this flick ‘cool’.There are some real issues.They aren’t Cock V/s Clams.Its just that i think its not easy,logical or natural for anybody to suddenly do something which was ‘uncomfortable’, and ‘against their nature’ nearly half their lives!

    It would be okay if i were a Bi.But am not a Bi.Am a homosexual.If am not happy with one woman then i seek out another.The ocean’s full of ‘em.But i just can’t go down on a man.Nothing against them. Its just my nature.Its just that i don’t feel comfortable or connected to them the way i feel with women.It would be a disaster even if i try coz i only have a doctorate in gaynizing and am zero about heterosexual mode.

    There was a flick called WHAT MAKES A FAMILY, which focussed on a lesbian’s struggle to win the costody of her dead partner’s kid.Great movie based on real life incident.Good for visibility as it was all about the thing that same sex can be good parents too.Why i didn’t see it in the Oscar nomination???oh yeh,it didnt have any ‘lez- trying-heterosex-realizing-what-she-missed-all-these-years’ scene,simply lesbos struggling for acceptance;Soo not all right..just sayin…

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