Queer(?) Cinema

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I place great emphasis on the cast having queer identities in a film labeled "queer." If taken at face value (that the girls are heterosexual) then I don't see anything that would make this film queer. In fact, the film would have been little more than a waste of our time. However, I don't believe that it is possible to watch this film and not detect the queerness within the context of the girls' relationship. The love these two hold for one another is something that transcends friendship. It tells a tale of heartbreak and passion that is simply not demonstrable in two school yard friends who are truly just friends. The heterosexual cover feels forced and fake.
I find it very difficult to compare and contrast this film to Female Trouble. The two are distinguishably different. It is possible that the fan base behind Waters' film has grown in part due to his queerness, but that feels like little more than an excuse for the failure of Heavenly Creatures ("I can't help it is people don't like my movie. It's because I'm not gay!"). Is it not also possible that the queer fan base is larger because Female Trouble is simply a better movie? Or because it has a better message behind the film? Where Heavenly Creatures shouts, "don't let two women get too close because it always ends in trouble," Female Trouble shouts, "what is expected of you isn't always the best decision on an individual level." One must analyze how each of these messages is translated to a queer viewer. Where one is saying lesbian relationships are always negative, the other is saying that normativity can be negative and sometimes rejection of expected sexuality is a more positive experience.

5 Comments

I really like how you talk about the "forced" and "fake" heterosexual cover and the intensity of their relationship. I wonder how you feel when Juliet says there was never any sexual relationship? Did that make you feel like the film was less queer. You didn't really focus on the sex, but the love felt between the girls, which I thought was nice.
I also really agree with what you say about different messages. With these movies, it really is like comparing apples and oranges, so it's difficult. Gread points.

I agree that it's almost impossible to compare Heavenly Creatures with Female Trouble. The two films are so completely different and the messages are very different. I'm not sure if the message of Heavenly Creatures is quite as simple as "don't let tow women get too close.." As you said, the transcendence of their friendship is full of love, and I believe that Peter Jackson wanted to show the audience beauty--not warn them of lesbian relationships. The lack of Heavenly Creatures success could be blamed on the fact that it was not intended specifically for a queer audience, as most John Waters' films are. It seems that the lack of queerness in Heavenly Creatures' audience is more to blame than Peter Jackson's heterosexuality.

"If taken at face value (that the girls are heterosexual) then I don't see anything that would make this film queer."

I would disagree with this statement because if that is the case, then it would have to be applied to Female Trouble as well. Although the director is queer, none of the actors are queer and none of the characters are queer either.

The depiction is of two girls in love. Whether or not they are queer in real life doesn't take away from the fact that they are queer in the movie. IMO :)

I actually did not see Heavenly Creatures from the perspective of saying lesbian relationships are bad. In fact, I found it to be saying something quite opposite. The trouble that manifests in these girls is manifested in clear psychosis, fatally mixed with the conservative mind-set of the older generation, especially in terms of female expression. Furthermore, I don't feel that the two characters in Heavenly Creatures could necessarily be labeled as lesbians or even "trying" to be lesbians. I think Peter Jackson portrayed a lot of the beauty as these two girls' sexuality developed.

I found your view of Heavenly Creatures very interesting. I think that as far as face value that it the two leads did not detract but that the overall plot of the movie was contrived and I agree forced feeling at parts. I also, even though Female Trouble literally gave me a migraine, I would argue that its ability to pull in a fan base because of its intensity and "anything goes" approach to film and unlimited possibilities kept me awake and fully alert in which I couldn't take my eyes off of; however, I was dozing in and out of Heavenly Creatures...

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This page contains a single entry by Kelsey P. published on March 5, 2012 8:20 AM.

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