Review: “Elena Undone”

I am a queer person, and I use the word queer as an umbrella term for for non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people. If you dislike the term "queer", you may not want to read this post.

Finding movies with LGBT+ characters is difficult. Finding movies that focus on LGBT+ people is even harder. Finding movies on LGBT+ people that isn't about AIDS or social condemnation or being rejected by family or any of the other depressing tropes that seem to come with queer narratives is damn near impossible. Most queer stories end unhappily, like Blue Is The Warmest Color, and most of the time in horrible tragedy, like Brokeback Mountain.

But as I was perusing the gay side of Netflix one day, I chanced upon a movie called Elena Undone, a lesbian romance between a pastor's wife and a free-spirited writer. It sounded like a cookie cutter lesbian romance (shy, innocent straight woman falls for mysterious, seductive lesbian and cheats on her neglectful husband with her), but I was bored, so I thought "what the hell" and hit play…and I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, as I predicted, it pretty much follows the standard formula for lesbian romance films, but I still enjoyed the movie. In this instance, the plot felt less like a tired old tread and more like a cozy blanket to wrap myself up in. Warm, soft, and familiar.

It's an indie film, and its format is unusual. Tyler, a mutual friend of Elena (the pastor's wife) and Peyton (the writer) narrates the film through his sparse cut scenes. Tyler is a "love guru" and believes in the idea of soulmates. Elena and Peyton's actual story is interwoven with clips from Tyler's informative video about finding one's soulmate, and therefore serves as a narrator of sorts for the evolving romance between the two women. It's an interesting idea, and works surprisingly well.

And then of course there's the electric chemistry between the two female leads. Both actresses exude affection, intimacy, and desire when they're onscreen together. Their making out/love-making scenes are luxurious and pulsing with heat. I haven't seen two lead characters with such a magnetic attraction since…well, since I watched the third season of Hannibal.

But the best part is, the women get a happy ending. They have their issues, as real people in real relationships do, but in the end, they find each other again and realize that they were meant to be together. It's a poignant yet simple ending.

The movie isn't perfect (the pastor character and the homophobic church member are a little flat), but it's a movie I'd gladly watch again. I'm a romantic at heart, and I've always loved the idea of soulmates, so I was glad to have found a real movie about two women were perfectly made for each other. If you can get past the dumb title, I recommend this film as an effective feel good story for when you're blue.

Oh, and for all you Supernatural fans out there, Peyton is played by Traci Dinwiddie, who was Pamela Barnes, the psychic who had her eyes burned out from trying to see Castiel. ~TRL

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Willow Rosenberg and Bisexual Erasure

This has been a topic that’s come up over and over again in discussion, but it was this video that inspired me, a bisexual woman, to give my own input on the matter.

Buffy was a ground breaking show for its time period. I absolutely love Joss Whedon, regardless of how he likes to emotionally abuse me by killing characters I dearly love. Buffy ran from ’97 to ’03, a time before explicitly queer characters, and more than that, same-sex relationships, were deemed acceptable to show on basic cable. Nowadays, it’s a bit more tolerated, though we do have some kinks to yet work out, but in Buffy‘s time, attitudes toward queerness weren’t the most positive.

The secondary female lead of the series, Willow Rosenberg, played by the amazingly talented Allison Hannigan, is a character that starts off exclusively liking men, namely Oz and Xander (Willow even admits to having had a crush on Giles at one point). Then, after Willow and Oz break up due to Seth Green wanting to leave the show, Willow enters a relationship with another witch from her Wicca group at UC Sunnydale, Tara. Their relationship wasn’t explicitly announced as romantic at first, until Willow finally says out loud that Tara is her girlfriend. But even before that, Wil and Tara have moments of tenderness, like Tara claiming that she is “yours [Willow’s]”. Faith is the first character to pick up on their relationship, as Willow has trouble coming out to her friends at first, and states, in mild surprise, “Willow’s not driving stick anymore”. But, I’m off track here.

The main debate about Willow is, is she a lesbian, or bisexual?

Willow herself claims that she’s gay. A lot of people get pissed about that terminology and complain that Willow isn’t a lesbian, but bisexual, because she has been attracted to men in the past. But many lesbians have had romantic or sexual encounters with men in the past before they discover their true nature. Cynthia Nixon, star of Sex and the City, for example, had been married to a man for years and had had three children with him before realizing she was a lesbian. To be human is to change with time.

Also the term “gay”, while the literal definition is homosexual, has become an umbrella term for anyone who isn’t straight-this includes homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals…etc. Maybe bisexuality just wasn’t as much of a recognized identity back then for Whedon to decide to label her as such. I’m not saying that being bi wasn’t a thing back then; Roman emperors Nero and Calculus were historically bisexual, for God’s sake. Maybe Whedon thought that the idea was just too confusing for an audience of the late 20th century to handle. Human nature tends to want to categorize things neatly. Many people have issues with the concept of being attracted to both genders, and tend to believe that bisexuals are either homosexual and won’t come completely out of the closet, or actually straight, but using the label for attention.

But I tend to go by what an individual labels themself as. For example, my last relationship was with a non-binary person. I consider myself open to anyone of any gender – male, female, non-binary, transgender, or none of the above. Some people have tried to tell me that I should call myself pansexual instead of bisexual, but the fact is, the decision of what to deem myself is up to me and me alone. I choose to consider myself bisexual, simply because I feel most relatable to that word.

But Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character, therefore, she belongs to anyone who enjoys Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So how you interpret her sexuality is up to you, the viewer. Is she homosexual? Is she bisexual? It depends a lot on your personal definition of those words. It’s one of Buffy‘s most important reoccurring themes: choice. You make the choice to assume your destiny, to leave a loved one for their own well being, to sacrifice your own happiness, or sometimes even your own life, for the greater good. You didn’t expect that element to actually affect you as an audience member, did you. ~TRL