“Anyone but You” Was a Hetero Hit — Why Does It Take Place at a Lesbian Wedding?

The plot of the 2023 heterosexual hit Anyone but You would not exist without dykes.

Halle (Hadley Robinson) and Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) are getting married at a lavish destination wedding in Australia and it’s this wedding that inadvertently reunites lead characters, Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell). To secure some harmony at the wedding (since Bea and Ben’s confrontations keep causing trouble), Claudia and Halle try to reunite the pair, a plan that inspires Bea and Ben to pose as “the perfect couple.” Although the ensuing Much Ado About Nothing-inspired plot is understandably focused on Bea and Ben, various tasks to prepare for Halle and Claudia’s wedding inform the locations of characters and key emotional beats. This romantic ceremony’s presence in Anyone but You is impossible to ignore.

Equally difficult to disregard? The wedding between two ladies in Anyone but You is an extremely heterosexual affair. One would think that depicting a wedding ceremony between two gals would be impossible to mess up. Alas, by the time director Will Gluck gets to Claudia and Halle saying, “I do”, the whole wedding somehow looks straighter than an Imagine Dragons fan guesting on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Now, let’s make one thing clear: this critique of“straightness” is not a suggestion that you have to be shouting your sexuality or gender identity from the rooftops to be “valid” as a queer person. As Key & Peele astutely noted years ago, “a gay wedding is just like a straight wedding” (Although having people throw skittles instead of rice isn’t a bad idea for a fun flourish.) The problem with the wedding between Claudia and Halle isn’t that these two characters “aren’t the right kind of lesbians.” The issue is that Anyone but You underplays their queerness at every turn. These are a pair of comfortably out queer women who don’t dance to famous lesbian anthems and have nary a queer pal in sight to celebrate. Unless some Y: The Last Man-style plague wiped out all the queers in this universe, it seems inconceivable that lesbians getting married wouldn’t have other gay people around as close confidantes.

The problems with Anyone but You’s depiction of this incredibly heterosexual lesbian wedding begin long before anyone is throwing rice into the air or a band cues up “Here Comes the Bride.” Much of the movie focuses on Claudia and Halle getting ready for their big day in a lavish Australian getaway with a handful of people assisting in the preparations. This group isn’t restricted to closest relatives. It keeps ballooning to include various ex-lovers and romantic rivals for Bea and Ben, like Margaret (Charlee Fraser) and Jonathan (Darren Barnet). Not added to the group? Any other queer people. All these new players are straighter than the cast of a God’s Not Dead movie and unnervingly outnumber the two queer folks at the center.

This detail goes completely unnoticed by either the characters or the film as a larger text. The ratio of straight to gay folks in the proceedings just keeps on expanding in favor of the straights. Speaking from personal experience, queer people often have to deal with being the only gay person in a room. But if we’re putting together a big social event, we’re going to invite other queer people! The social events we control can FINALLY allow queer individuals to be the norm and not the exception. Anyone but You ignores this concept in favor of a wedding between two women where all the preparations are handled by the straightest people you could imagine. Claudia and Halle are isolated at an event that should be about celebrating them, not making them feel like anomalies.

Meanwhile, as the big wedding day approaches, it becomes kind of weird that a movie so horny (with more than one on-screen penis and a lot of straight women ogling) would also be so chaste in depicting any kind of physical attraction between Claudia and Halle. The pair kiss once fully clothed in their bed before the wedding gets underway and otherwise their interactions are as romantic as hetero “gal pals.” I’m not asking for Bound, but Claudia and Halle are so physically detached from one another that it’s easy to forget they’re the ones getting married. This chaste approach extends to the missed opportunity of depicting a rowdy uber-queer bachelorette party for either Claudia or Halle. Such an event would likely take viewers to queer-centric locales and this movie is clearly wary of traipsing into that territory.

Finally, it’s time for the wedding ceremony itself. This event is a thoroughly generic affair devoid of any other openly queer folks or queer aesthetics even among random guests. In the real world, queer folks tend to revel in their queerness and/or personal interests when it comes to these big romantic celebrations. After all, queer individuals are inherently subverting societal norms by just existing…why should a wedding between a queer couple adhere to “normalcy”? Claudia and Halle’s wedding, alas, is so heterosexual that it could have been lifted from any number of run-of-the-mill Lifetime movies.

The paint-by-numbers nature of this ceremony doesn’t wrap one up in intoxicating romance, but rather leaves one wondering larger questions. Mainly, do Claudia and Halley have any queer friends that can rally for them on their special day? What are their interests, beyond Claudia being obsessed with rules, instructions, and planning? Anyone but You isn’t about these spouses-to-be but brief glimpses into their personal lives and friendships would lend much-needed texture to their relationship and to the film. Instead, Anyone but You reduces Claudia and Halle to token background queers who exist only to motivate straight romance.

It’s a strange depiction of matrimonial celebration that’s, unfortunately, not so strange in the history of Hollywood. Mainstream cinematic depictions of queer people have often focused on gays living in isolation. These LGBTQIA+ figures (whether they’re lead, supporting, or background characters) often exist in a world exclusively dominated by straight people, with no connections to a larger queer community.

Those types of queer folks exist in the real world, but, on-screen, the nuances of these experiences are ignored. Anyone but You could’ve reflected those nuances in many conceptually exciting ways, like one member of our gay duo being more connected to the queer community than the other. That could’ve brought Claudia and Halle closer to reality while instilling more specific personality traits into their rapport. Instead, Anyone but You glides right past these opportunities for character development and authenticity in favor of quietly erasing all reflections of queerness beyond the brides-to-be.

Now, of course, Anyone but You is a frothy rom-com confection. One might argue it doesn’t need to adhere to standards of reality — after all, many great rom-coms from masters like Nora Ephron and Frank Capra have flourishes divorcing them from “real-world behavior.” While that’s true, it’s still peculiar that Anyone but You’s “idealistic” vision of a lesbian wedding largely centers straight perspectives. This wedding isn’t a utopian extravaganza where young queer folks of all genders get to rub shoulders with cishet folks in perfect harmony. It’s a bubbly depiction of queerness that largely strips away the queerness or any reminders of the greater community Claudia and Halle inhabit. (Except for some Pride flags showing up in downtown Australian shops in the third act.) It’s escapism for straight folks, who can pat themselves on the back for inclusivity without having to be reminded of a queer community that doesn’t revolve around them.

Intentionally or not — given that one of the film’s writers, Ilana Wolpert, is queer, it’s almost certainly not — Anyone but You’s incredibly heterosexual lesbian wedding purports the idea that an “idealistic” matrimonial union between two queer people is one where all the edges of queerness get sanded off. There are no gay characters being “in your face” about their sexuality; no best friends who simply exist inhabiting identities that defy the gender binary. The elements of ordinary queer existence for many viewers are starkly absent from Anyone but You. This whole ceremony inevitably feels like an extension of the Matt Rogers sketch “A Straight Gay Teen,” where, in a parody of films like Love, Simon, a gay man reassures straight folks that he doesn’t do “filthy” stuff like kinky sex or challenge the status quo in provocative ways. He’s a good gay guy who won’t ruffle any feathers…just like the lesbian wedding in Anyone but You!

This reliance on depicting gays in a straight-laced, not abrasive fashion is unfortunately common in Hollywood. This is an industry that purports to be progressive but tries to avoid alienating homophobic viewers at every turn. Just look at this anecdote from Nimona director Nick Bruno, in which he recalls that former Disney CCO Alan Horn’s first comment on Nimona (which was originally set up at the Mouse House) was “can we talk about the gay stuff?” The heterosexual lesbian wedding in Anyone but You isn’t just a microcosm of Hollywood’s past, but it’s present. “Straight gay teens” and traditional weddings where two women happen to kiss are all Hollywood has time for. Anything more aggressive, messy, or realistic from queer folks on-screen is bound to lose the studio some dollars.

Thus, Claudia and Halle are the centerpiece of a thoroughly forgettable lesbian wedding devoid of any exciting or realistic queer flourishes. But the problems with this aren’t limited to issues of LGBTQIA+ representation. It also reveals the generic nature of Anyone but You, a groggy daze of a rom-com. The entire movie has the basic beats of classic films in this genre but fails to liven them up with a distinct personality or a sense of comic timing. Even the dialogue has a tin-eared quality divorced from either reality or the enjoyably zippy witticisms that can exist in the heightened world of rom-coms.

There’s such an odd undercurrent of being divorced from tangible reality throughout Anyone but You…perhaps it was inevitable that Claudia and Halle’s wedding would feel like a simulacrum of queerness rather than the real deal. While emblematic of Anyone but You’s deeper flaws, this wedding ceremony still reflects troubling trends in how mainstream Hollywood films want LGBTQIA+ people to appear on-screen.

You can be gay…just don’t be in anyone’s face about it. Even when you’re getting married.


Anyone but You is now available to rent

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Lisa Laman

Lisa Laman is a life-long movie fan, writer, and Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic located both on the autism spectrum and in Texas. Given that her first word was "Disney", Lisa Laman was "doomed" from the start to be a film geek! In addition to writing feature columns and reviews for Collider, her byline has been seen in outlets like Polygon, The Mary Sue, Fangoria, The Spool, and ScarleTeen. She has also presented original essays related to the world of cinema at multiple academic conferences, been a featured guest on a BBC podcast, and interviewed artists ranging from Anna Kerrigan to Mark Wahlberg. When she isn’t writing, Lisa loves karaoke, chips & queso, and rambling about Carly Rae Jepsen with friends.

Lisa has written 3 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Brutal. Loved it. I think straight romcoms and romance novels have clocked on that the Gay Best Friend is a tired homophobic trope, but a lot of them have just replaced it with the Lesbian Best Friend (who is EITHER freespirited and sassy OR straightlaced and highpowered, depending on the personality of the protagonist) and no one ever fucking mentions it. I have seen it so many times.

  2. Loved this article!

    “This reliance on depicting gays in a straight-laced, not abrasive fashion is unfortunately common in Hollywood” is too true, I’m so bored of it. Give me more messy queers!

  3. I actually felt seen by the wedding party makeup of this cast compared to my own lesbian wedding. It was a painful and long journey to get the attendance of many of the straight people in the party- but they made it. Each one of them a win; the increasing number of straight people in our party a testament to people who chose love over dogma. Our wedding had every silly wedding tradition- we wanted a regular wedding and it was not valuable to us to act otherwise- something else this movie depicts more accurately to our life than many other queer wedding depictions.
    No judgement to people who find validating to break with tradition or have many close queer friends in their party, of course!! I was just happy to see a lesbian wedding that looked like mine.

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