I have not been as diligent about this blog as I wanted to be when I started it (at Helene’s dreamy request). At first it was because I didn’t have a computer. I lived by using an iPod Touch and squatting computers that belonged to other people—my mom, my brother, my friends, my friends’ moms and even once some dude in Barnes & Noble.
Three weeks ago, I bought a computer. Now I have a new excuse not to write: Netflix.
If you are wondering where I am right now and what I am doing, I am probably on my bed watching Netflix.
It’s become a problem. Sometimes when I am out with friends or on an OkCupid date, it occurs to me that I would rather be at home watching Netflix. I compensate by making even more plans and even more OkCupid dates, so that no one will know that I would rather be at home watching Netflix.
I can’t help it. There is a button that you can press that says “Gay & Lesbian” and bam: You have every movie you ever wanted to see except when you were in the closet.
It’s hard to explain exactly why I love these movies so much. It’s partially erotic, I guess (the girls are usually pretty). Partially didactic (so that’s how ladies do it). But mostly when I am watching movies like Desert Hearts or Kyss Mig, I have this very peaceful feeling. It’s as if I live in a world where it’s completely okay for women to love women.( Which I do, right?) Or maybe it’s the joy of doing something completely private and secret.
My secret life used to be my gay life. Now that’s out in the open and I miss having secrets. I miss having something that was completely personal and didn’t have anything to do with a community or politics. I don’t even like talking about these movies with other gay women, not even with my girlfriends. I’ll laugh about them, share title and then watch encourage her to watch it separately. These movies are a part of my sexual and intellectual life that is somehow separate from my public, physical and actual life as a lesbian woman.
Is it just fantasy? Is this how straight girls feel when they watch straight romantic comedies? The men in in the movies don’t resemble the real men in their lives. Germaine Greer would probably say that we are being lulled with a fantasy so as to avoid facing the problems of reality. Maybe. The safest kind of sexual fantasy is fantasizing not only about being with someone else but being someone else. Someone wrote eloquently about this in an analysis of James Salter’s A Sport and A Pastime.
Or, if we were to get less political and more psychological, maybe I am looking for a kind of acceptance from the world or a model for how to be in the world. But then wouldn’t I be more interested in finding real-life lesbians so that I could figure out how to be like them. You know like Eleanor Roosevelt or Gertrude Stein or some other broad lady in practical shoes. I never even found myself an older girlfriend or friend to teach me the ways. The only real lesbians I have ever fixated on have been Virginia Woolf and Nathalie Barney, both in a distant, literary way. No, I never wanted to have a lesbian model to follow. (Incidentally, I live an extremely typical sort of Sapphic life which you could accurately categorize with a number of stereotypes.)
I love these movies for something else. They are all variations on a single theme. The first season of The L Word is a lovely example. There is a straight girl who is going through some sort of change involving marriage—engagement, the ceremony, divorce, etc… Then there is the gay girl who is beautiful and vaguely androgynous. There is seduction, hesitation, temporary separation and a final joyous reunion. There are some important exceptions, namely Bound, where both are gay (but one starts off with a man!) and some of the earlier films such as Lost & Delirious, where instead of a joyous reunion, one girl kills herself by jumping into a well of loneliness. Sniff.
Up until recently, (say 2005) these movies were poorly done. The plots were formulaic, the dialogue made me cringe. But I still loved to watch them.
On aime entrendre raconteur les histoires d’un lointain passe, pourvu qu’elles soient bonnes et belles, plus encore que les nouveautes.
These stories are like fairy tales not only in their distance in both space and time, but in that they are always sort of the same story. Even if the stories themselves are linear, there is a circularity to how we tell them. Once we finish one, there is another one, just like it but different.
This desire for the same kind of story explains why the vague conversion fantasy persists despite the reality, in most of the world. that gay women can live openly.
But in telling the story again and again, the story seems to take on another kind of meaning. It’s this constant re-making of a lesbian world—where things change and change, but they stay the same. There’s something about having to leave men behind—as nice as they are. But I don’t want to get too far from the point, which is the movies themselves, which I love watching. I like settling in and knowing exactly what will happen—memorizing the details of a scene, watching how well the women act, think about whether or not they are gay. I cannot believe how well some of these women fake orgasms. They do aftershocks and everything. I’m so impressed.
On that note, what do you think I am going to do now?
10 Movies and something I like about each one
1) Kiss Myg –I love how grumpy the brunette looks for the first half of the movie. It starts out with the music and the lighting of a psychological thriller and ends in Barcelona. The music is excellently done. At one point, a character tries to lie to cover up the affair and completely sucks at it.
2) Desert Hearts –I got drunk over Christmas break when I was 17 and bought this on Pay-Per-View. I recorded it on a VHS and watched it over and over again. When I lost the tape the tape, I had nightmares about my brother finding it and knowing my secret. Kay is the young cavalier who seduces the older (and hotter?) professor. Gia Carangi styled herself and her clothes after her. In fact, for a long time, Kay was the only positive, cinematic representation of an openly lesbian woman in America (who wasn’t also a vampire).
3) Jack & Diane –The lead brunette looks exactly like the first girl I ever fell for. Coincidence? There is no such thing. Justin Bieber’s haircut is the inspirational center of a vortex of lesbian haircuts.
4) Nino Pez –The narrative is so confusing that when you finally do see some boobs and the lead turns into a bad-ass gangster killer, it’s a real relief.
5) World Unseen –This movie is part of a duet written by the same woman and with the same two leads. Despite the dialogue in either this or I can’t Think Straight, Shamim Sarif is a good writer. I love the idea that to make drama about two women getting together, she had to pair up two Indians in Apartheid South Africa. I’m sure it was tough. It’s quite beautiful.
6) Imagine Me & You -This movie is completely silly. The characters are al adorable and British. My secret reason for watching Game of Thrones is that Lena Heady is in it and I love Lena Heady.
7) Amour des Femme -It’s French and one of the actresses used to be a porn star. I like that the whole thing is sort of badly lit and dreary. This one you’ll have to watch online.
8) Bound -Famously, the director hired a lesbian sex coach for the love scene. The love scene itself is surprising because it’s the girly one being the aggressor.
9) Room in Rome –It’s Baroque and fantastic. Everything is a fetish in this movie: one is Russian, one Spanish, they’re in Rome with Frescos, amazing waxing jobs and an insane musical score. Constant nudity. I give it a 10.
10) Elena Undone –The Gay one is so hot. It’s like some one knew all the ingredients to a good movie and used too much off all of them: nutty supporting cast, testimonials from real couples, destiny, mean church-ladies. When it came out, it featured the longest kiss yet recorded on film. It is a good kiss. Whenever we cut the hot gay one, she is lying in her pool reading Curve Magazine. Love it.
I just realized I forgot Fingersmith, a seminal movie for both me personally and the entire universe (obvi). It’s a BBC mini-mini-series in three parts. I won’t tell you what happens. See the movie first then read the book. The entire thing turns into this kind of parody of lame movies and their acting; but it still maintains a touching story. Both leads are excellent–perhaps the straight-haired one is excellenter.