SXSW 2023: “Bloody Hell” Is A Dope Teen Traumedy When It’s Not Making Nonbinary Folks Disposable

This review of Bloody Hell contains mild spoilers.

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Here’s the thing — this movie is pretty darn good, but GOTDAMN does it miss the mark on queerness.

The opening credits immediately got my attention, hues of pink and red on display while a song reminiscent of 50’s period propaganda plays. It kinda transported me to elementary school, where they separated the boys and girls to have a “very special recess”. The boys went to the playground while the girls were sent to the auditorium to watch a video about what a period was, how to use pads, and how we shouldn’t use tampons.

Like Lindy in the film, played by Maddie Ziegler, I didn’t have my period when everyone else did. I wasn’t as pressed by it as she is, but to be fair, I wasn’t at a place in my life where I had plans like she did. Lindy’s plan you ask? She is tryna fuck. She’s 16, she has a crush, she’s horny, and she is ready to have a big ol’ scoop o’ sex.

I know that this sounds weird but sex comedies with teenage girls at the forefront (Booksmart, Blockers, The To-do List) make me so happy. Since the 70s, most films about teen sex or sexuality have been centered on boys. Having solely that point of view adds to the narrative that girls are supposed to only be ready for sex when someone else — in most films, it’s a boy — is. That can just lead to things like confusion and guilt. If girls are only seeing boys masturbating, talking to their friends about sex, or being sexual in any way but don’t see girls doing the same, it could suck. I’ve said it before, but film has often been a medium that people turn to to learn or get validated. Bloody Hell presents the opportunity for both of those to happen.

Lindy’s plan to have sex gets upended when she is diagnosed with MRKH, a rare disorder that can include your vagina being undeformed. With an underformed canal and opening, penetration could be incredibly difficult and painful for her, and the disorder is also why she hasn’t gotten her period yet.

During her diagnosis scene, we see just how many doctors skipped bedside manner classes in med school. It was so real every single time, that could be because the director Molly McGlynn was probably here before. The film is semi-autobiographical and it’s really reflected in those scenes. She’s not listened to, she’s talked over, she’s spoken to in the most dismissive way by (presumably) cishet white male doctors, and OMG WHEN WILL THEY STOP BEING TRASH!

IT’S SHITTY WHEN DOCTORS DO NOT LISTEN! It’s even shittier when you’re a teen girl. You don’t know what’s going on, it’s your body and so maybe you don’t want your parents in the room with you, and it’s just — a fucking lot. I had my body poked and prodded as a teen too. I was diagnosed with PCOS, Fibroids, Ovarian Cysts and more during high school. I wasn’t ready to get to fucking yet but it still sucked. A bunch of dude docs never fully explained anything to me or my mother, but we took nearly every recommendation of meds, surgery, and enrolling in studies out of fear. I was (wrongly) told on more than one occasion that I wouldn’t be able to have kids, tortured my body with unnecessary meds, and was so stressed about things that were years away from being a reality to me when I should not have been. The film does a fantastic job of capturing those emotions, and showing how taxing that process can be on a young girl.

While it beautifully nails some things, others didn’t land so well for me, especially the queerness. It made me so angry. Before we get into that though, some other queer connections in the film include Janelle Monae as an Executive Producer, and Emily Hampshire plays Lindy’s mum, and is also in like ONE MILLION things at SXSW this year. Okay, back to the nonsense.

There is a queer and non-binary character Jax, played by Ki Griffin, who in my opinion gets wildly used. Before Lindy got her diagnosis, she didn’t see them, but after it, she latches onto them. When she is experiencing these sad or painful moments, it’s like “Enby babe to the rescue” and I hated every moment of it, it got very Magical Negro and eyedonutlikedat. It felt very “Straight girl is sad and connects with the queer person who has their knows about tough moments so now she feels better.”

We see Lindy using boys for sexual exploration without attachment, but using Jax for all the emotional stuff she needs to release or learn. I know she is supposed to be exploring sex and sexuality after she gets this new information but, when the romantic arc with a queer person comes after a failed exploration with a cishet dude, it hits in a different way — a bad and unfair one.

Now, Lindy could very well be having these intimate conversations with the boys while she’s fucking around with them but we as an audience don’t SEE them happening. We only see her do this with Jax, so I’m forced to fill in the blanks and that’s why I land on them feeling disposable to her. There is even a moment in the film where Jax pretty much verbally acknowledges that they know Lindy is using them and will soon disappear.

This is a queer character who has resolved themselves to be nothing more than a straight girls’ exploration, IRL Reddit thread, and trauma dumping ground. It’s not just all on Lindy, a bit of this is on Jax as well. Many a queer person I know have bragged about dating, solely going after, or making themselves deeply emotionally available to women who are ultimately straight. They then are confused when they repeatedly get their hearts broken…make it make sense.

So while Bloody Hell nails quite a bit, the queerness in the film just wasn’t one of them. I want more for us in real life and in film. As my partner constantly says when we are watching things with queerness or Blackness — “Why do niggas have to suffer in movies too?”

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Shelli Nicole

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 18 articles for us.

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