better than chocolate
i really love this movie and i really, really hate this movie and i really, really, really love this movie and i really, really, really, really hate this movie. it’s complicated.
so like, ok. obviously the first thing i need to talk about even though she really, really wasn’t the focus of the movie is judy. seeing a queer trans woman who is portrayed as a genuinely positive influence in multiple people’s lives in a movie should be a pretty joyous occasion, but there were just so many factors mitigating what should have been an easy home run.
first of all, she was played by a cis guy. i know it’s obvious and i know it probably doesn’t require much commentary at this late hour but i’m just never going to fail to call that bullshit out and i’m not sorry.
also like, her introduction in the movie is her bursting into the bookstore and immediately yelling to everyone about her surgery and how her (unsupportive) parents are paying for it??? & just??? and she even fucking calls it “the surgery”??? which is like… literally what we call it when we’re making fun of the mentality that that’s all we are??? yes, if/when i’m able to get gender-affirming surgery, i’m gonna be pretty happy about it and i’m gonna tell people i’m pretty happy about it. but that’s… not what you’re saying when you introduce a character to the movie that way. you are saying “this is who she is, this is the entirety of who she is, this is the most important thing about her.” just in case the audience misses that, you have her say self-oppressing shit like calling herself “almost a woman” before her surgery. you do let her say “not really, not ever” when someone calls her a man, which is nice but also “i was born into a man’s body” which is not nice. (btw, before you come at me with “1999,” don’t fucking pretend movies/culture in general don’t still pull this bullshit today. fuck off with that. and transphobia was still transphobia in 1999.)
but, like… idk? she was still somehow mostly treated with respect by the actual events of the narrative? and she got a happy romantic ending? with another woman? in 19motherfucking99? and she got to sing a song called “i’m not a fucking drag queen” with lyrics to match. it felt kinda bitterly ironic with a cis guy playing her, but… it was honestly really powerful and confrontational and sweet all at the same time? so like… i have mixed feelings, ok? that’s the best i can do for you.
although for obvious reasons this is the part of the movie that’s the most personally off-putting for me, it is not the biggest problem with the movie? and it’s not especially close? the protagonist’s younger brother is just… put in situations he really shouldn’t be in? and when maggie questions this by pointing out he “isn’t even of consenting age” she gets flippantly told “he looks like he’s consenting”? and i’m sorry it’s just super, super gross? why the fuck is this even in the movie? what purpose is it serving?
but like… *big helpless shrug* i couldn’t find it in me to hate this movie? it’s very emotionally manipulative in the way that every romcom is, delivering maggie & kim’s reconciliation at the moment of maximum emotional impact… but that’s exactly what i’m watching these for?
so, ok, here’s a thing, though. although it’s not remotely explicit (maybe the unrated version is?), better than chocolate is a lot more about sex than it is about emotions. and considering a big part of my brand is being pretty damn open about what i’m into, you might think that works better for me, but no? it totally doesn’t? like, i’m not saying i minded it. it’s fine! but i’m watching these things for emotion porn, damn it. gimme my emotion porn. (which it did, to an extent, but like… gimme more!) this was gay enough and it was sexy enough, but… it coulda been cuter/sweeter! (the latter feels like a sin when the movie is literally called better than chocolate.)
but i’m a cheerleader
[this review is actually from last year but it fit so well with the others that i’m moving it here]
what the fuck how is this this good???
like, you’re seriously going to tell a satisfying lesbian love story and skewer “conversion therapy” at the same time?? and you’re going to do it in 1999??? and the most prominent colors in the movie are going to be super unsubtle, in-your-face “boy” blue and “girl” pink but it’s going to totally work???
and hell, you’re not going to make fun of the protagonist for being a cheerleader? her much more jaded-acting girlfriend is going to admit that she’s just jealous because she clearly really enjoys being a cheerleader and she’s never enjoyed something like that? and she ends up using her cheerleading to crash the ex-gay “graduation” ceremony and win her girlfriend back from those monsters?
i’m sorry to be so damn uncritical, but like, this is so, so, so not what I was expecting. i would’ve watched this years ago if i had known it was anything like this. hell, i would’ve watched it a decade ago. i know this is just me sort of enthusiastically flailing all over the place over this movie, but when you get right down to it that’s probably the most authentic reaction I can give you right now. i was not expecting this at all.
d.e.b.s. (2004, feature)
- there was a sadly since-deleted tweet that was floating around the nerdy lesbian scene a while back that went something like: “lady villain: i’m going to destroy you! reduce you to nothing! lesbian superhero: yeah! fuck me up! lady villain: what? lesbian superhero: what?” probably like half my friends sent to me with some variation of like “isn’t this your like biggest fantasy lmao??” and like… yeah ofc it is but damn, guys. way to just call me all the way out? anyway, similar things have come up before and one thing they always have in common is someone in the comments is just always gonna be like “isn’t that just the plot of d.e.b.s.???” which is to say i’ve known for a while that i needed to see this and it is entirely my brand. the whole general idea of a lady villain seducing a lesbian hero is just… very, very yes, please??? like, wow? but i just don’t feel it was quite as great as it coulda been here? at least, if you allow me to look at this in a very self-indulgent light. like. it isn’t very dom/subby at all when it blatantly feels like it should be? (sorry. i’m probably biased.) and also also i feel like there coulda been a bit more like… tension and temptation and, ultimately, surrender. and gloating, at least?
- if i were the protagonist i woulda been pretty upset about being kidnapped without any restraint whatsoever. and like. she bound and gagged everybody at the bank, so obviously she knows how!! just a sincere lack of effort.
- being consensually kidnapped and having a gloaty note left behind that says “i have the girl!” is entirely my brand. [a/n: not the correct gendered noun anymore, but it was at the time.]
- the romantic montage was great and my favorite parts were the part where they were sharing milkshakes and ofc the part where one of them gifted the other a pair of handcuffs, though again i would’ve liked to see them actually use them.
- don’t even talk to me about the low production values because i honestly don’t care?
- if a supervillain puts a heart-shaped bat signal type deal in the sky that says “[miles] be mine” yeah i’m gonna be theirs.
d.e.b.s. (2003, short)
“it’s just that i come to town, i capture you, we fuck, they rescue you, and then you’re gone and i don’t hear from you. it’s not easy for me either, you know? i mean i have to figure out all these nefarious plans just so i can get close to you.”
“look, i love you.”
“… really? because i didn’t know that.”
“well, now you do.”
i was fed the tip that this short is a whole lot more bdsmy (and explicit in general) than the feature version, and it turns out, yeah! i still argue there coulda been a whole lot more bdsm, especially when the scene turned from fake hostage situation to real consensual sexual encounter, but that’s just me being picky.
“you know we’re, um, terminating a crop of genetically engineered cyborgs in uganda next week. you could… come capture me again then.”
give me more fluffy gay romcoms without a side order of “every gay movie you ever saw in college” awkward sameyness and it turns out i’m pretty easy to please? just make it cute and sweet. i’m easy, ok?
although there are quite a few things about wil’s life i can’t relate to at all (she’s a chinese american, she’s a doctor working what seems like 8 days a week, her family is super involved in her life–or, you know, involved at all), there is something at the very core of her character that i just very, very strongly relate to. she is so damn easily discouraged. you see it in the hallway scene with vivian. she encounters the slightest resistance and she’s just like oh… ok… i’ll just… and gfdi i just want to hug her.
the part where wil’s friend is teasing her about vivian right after she first meets her (“you are so into her” “i am not into her.” “that was convincing” “shut up”) is entirely my brand.
the vending machine scene between wil and vivian is just unreasonably sweet and… honestly kinda a little hot? my favorite combination. wil’s anxious/shy body language and vivian’s confident, kinda more than a little forward approach were both lovely.
wil hiding behind her bowl and shoveling food into her face to avoid having to say anything while her mom tells her girlfriend “pretty girl like you must have lots of boys ask you out” was uncomfortably funny/sympathy-inducing. it’s a pretty common mood in the movie but that’s absolutely my favorite example.
several people ask wil “do you love her?”/”are you in love with her?” about vivian and it provides so much clarity without her having to say anything. wil asks her mom “do you love him?” (and at least one person asks wil “does she love him?”) about the guy she’s about to marry and it provides just as much clarity in the opposite direction.
the way the movie treats the closet is the way a lot of gay movies at the time treated the closet and like… it isn’t really fair to wil at all? like… the movie makes it seem really simple? like the decision to be out is framed as though it’s really just about whether or not you love your partner enough? i think coming out is pretty much always, always, always the right choice, but i also had it comparatively easy all… three? times i came out, so… yeah.
wil’s self-destructive desire to avoid conflict and not ever bother anyone almost loses her the love of her life and it’s just so fucking… much. the scene where they’re sitting on that park bench about as far away from each other as they possibly can be isn’t especially subtle but it’s effective as hell and i just want to hug everyone.
more fluffy queer girl stuff, please. thank you. i’m gay.
imagine me & you
i’ve been watching all these lesbian romcoms lately and i’m not saying they’ve all been perfect or anything but they’ve all been so… comfortable? and just… very much hitting the spots i need them to hit? when i first thought i was gay in college, i watched a bunch of gay romcoms and didn’t have this experience at all? and i’ve referenced this a bunch since then by saying that a lot of them felt very samey in ways i didn’t appreciate, but now i’m just wondering if the reason i had that experience was because i was looking for that part of myself reflected back to me and i just wasn’t getting it? because i was wrong about what exactly that part was? so, yeah. these are pretty uniformly hitting the spot for me and i’m not really interested in being critical of that, i’m just happy to be experiencing it. this one in particular had a few more pronounced problems than a lot of the other lesbian romcoms i’ve watched lately, but it was gay and it was sweet and lena headey was gay (and clearly a top) in it. i was satisfied.
there are plenty of things i could complain about in this movie. i saw them all clear as day just like i would with any other movie i watch. but they just didn’t have anything to do with my actual emotional excellence watching the film. i noticed them and shrugged them off without really trying to. because the movie hit all the spots i needed it to hit and made me feel all the things i wanted it to make me feel. i’ll forgive a lot for that.
and no, by the way. polyamory would not have solved everybody’s problems. i am polyamorous and i would love more depictions of polyamory and i understand if you need to feel bad for the guy in this but… she just wasn’t that into him.
so like, ok. it’s really, really hard for me to relate to people who have sex with someone and then don’t even know their name the next day? like. it’s just an extremely foreign concept to me, i cannot relate to it at all, but it happens all the time in movies/tv/etc? like, is this actually a normal thing that people experience this often and i’m the weird one??? (i mean, if a relative stranger had some rope and wanted to tie me up… i’m not sure i would have the willpower to say no? but i’d at least try to get their name before they gagged me; also, to avoid misrepresenting the movie: it’s not kinky at all i’m just speculating out loud about the closest i can imagine myself coming to the whole “sleeping with someone and not even knowing their name” thing; this is a really long parenthetical.)
anyway, regardless of my not being able to relate (and also just like… generally wondering if this is actually a thing that happens???) i’m not judgy about this, i don’t want to give you that impression. like. i’m clearly thirsty af at the drop of the hat, who am i to judge.
anyway. the relationship that develops between zaynab and alma is sweet as hell when it actually becomes a relationship. and like, they make out in lucha masks so how much can i really complain???
like, ok, obviously if i were writing this the making out in lucha masks things woulda been between two wrestlers. and they woulda been opponents. and they woulda tried to use each other’s mutual attraction to try to gain a competitive advantage… ahem. anyway. this wasn’t that, but what it was was pretty great.
it also has some quality teasing that i highly approve of. like, they’re at the grocery store and alma asks zaynab if she wants any mangos and zaynab, whose mother insists pakistani mangos are sweeter, says “no, the mexican ones aren’t as sweet” and alma, who is mexican, says “that’s not what you said last night” and i know that’s literally the most basic form of sexual boasting but i’m sorry cocky girls make me weak so that hella, hella worked for me.
i don’t want to give you the impression that this movie is all about sex though just because i’m thirsty af. it’s actually full of emotional depth and engaging characters and all that boring junk. ok, ok: that’s not boring, it’s actually what makes the movie so sweet and engaging and whatnot, but me writing about that stuff is boring af, right? you’re all here for dumb horny/emotionally needy gay [enby] stuff, right? because i have plenty of that. i promise.
i’m just gonna watch lesbian romcoms for the rest of my life thank you bye.
i knew i had to watch this movie after i heard that rachel weisz spits in rachel mcadams’ mouth in it on twitter. yeah, i was basically a combination of curious and horny. sue me. (but not like… actively horny? more like “lesbians never get to do anything remotely kinky in mainstream films and i just really need to see this even though it’s not really strictly my thing?” idk. sorry.)
so, yeah, this would basically be a totally missable prestige drama with some really great performances if it weren’t for all the gay stuff. (keep in mind, though, most prestige dramas are missable imo.) but like… i’m gay and weak, guys!!! i’m sorry!!! and like, for all the spitplay is clearly the most famous part, what really got me was right after that when esti was resting her head in ronit’s lap while ronit just strokes her hair gently, basically petting her. it’s just such a peaceful, intimate, tender moment. everything about their relationship is once they push past their initial mutual reluctance to rekindle it. i know i was always gonna be biased af going into this, but the movie was just so good at getting you to root for them to get together. i felt so many feelings. i cried a bunch more than once. i’m sorry. i’m weak and gay.
also also, there’s a bit where ronit takes esti’s wig off and strokes her hair and just… i usually wear a headscarf? [a/n: no longer the case since estrogen kinda fixed my hairline] not for religious reasons or anything, but like… i really like the idea of someone slipping it off like that and playing with my hair/petting me. it’s such a nice, intimate thing.
oh! i noticed a kinda cinephile thing? when ronit challenges esti for clinging to her job as a teacher but esti genuinely loves what she’s doing, eventually ronit says something like “you don’t want to be yourself?” and esti bursts out with “this is me!” until this point, we had been rather orthodoxly (pun intended, sorry) cutting or panning back and forth between whichever woman was speaking. but for the rest of this part of the conversation, regardless of who was speaking, we hold on esti. ronit’s responses come from off-camera and we just see the intensity of esti’s strength and sense of self.
but really, i liked this because i’m weak and dumb and gay and like crying over girls kissing. sorry not sorry.