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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Destiel Subtext in Season 11

**This post is a bit cynical.**

Hey guys, it’s time I talked about a fandom I haven’t brought up in depth for a while: Supernatural. The past season has been…evocative, to say the least.

The question on everyone’s mind is: are the writers foreshadowing Destiel to become canon? Destiel, if you don’t know, is the romantic pairing of main character Dean Winchester and his best friend, Angel of the Lord, Castiel. There have been in-canon references to the pairing, even going so far as to say the ship name in season 10’s fifth episode, “Fan Fiction” (apt). The actors themselves are supportive of the fandom’s zeal for the pairing; even actor Misha Collins (who plays Castiel) himself is an active shipper of Destiel. But it’s been made clear by the writers and directors time and time again that Dean and Cas will never be together romantically on the show.

So why all the foreshadowing then, SPN staff???

One could argue that Destiel has been forming since season 4, episode 1, “Lazarus Rising” (Castiel’s first appearance), but while Destiel has been nothing more than fan speculation and “cheap gay jokes”, it seems that since last season, Destiel has been treated with more reverence, and even some of the subtext seems to be pointing toward that Dean and Cas being together is endgame.

Let’s go to the sixteenth episode of season 10, “Paint It Black”. While in a confessional booth, Dean claims, “There’s things, there’s people, feelings that I want to experience differently than I have before, or maybe even for the first time.” Which, playing devil’s advocate, could just be referring to how Dean’s always desired a normal, non-hunter life. But he has experienced that, when Sam died in season 5 and Dean went to live with Lisa and Ben. So it wouldn’t be for the first time. Plus, it’s just a really strange thing to bring up in the moment, like it’s some big, deep dark secret. But it’s not. We know Dean wishes he had a normal life. So it’s got to be something else. (Like Dean admitting he’s queer and in love with Cas.)

Then there’s Amara. When she kisses Dean, Dean feels that they have a spiritual connection, but he says it himself, it’s not love. It’s whatever magical blood tie the Mark of Cain has bound them together with. The Qareen comes to Dean in Amara’s form in episode 11×13, “Love Hurts”, as Dean’s “deepest desire”, but Dean doesn’t want her, he wants to kill her. In 11×11, “Into The Mystic”, Mildred senses that Dean is pining for someone. You’re supposed to think it’s Amara, but if Dean doesn’t love her, then why would he be pining for her? Simple: he’s not.

You might be saying right now, “but how could Dean be in love with Cas? Dean’s straight!” If you want further proof of Dean’s attraction to men, let’s look at how Dean reacts to Dr. Sexy and Gunner Lawless, Dean’s favorite wrestler. Dean’s fangirling and Sam’s crush on the female round caller are direct parallels.

And speaking of parallels, in 11×17, “Red Meat”, the married couple, Michelle and Corbin, are mirrors for Dean and Castiel (Supernatural, like Sherlock, loves to use mirroring, but the difference is that Supernatural is lot more obvious and heavy handed with the parallels). Corbin has been infected by a werewolf, Cas was possessed by Lucifer. Corbin (or the inner wolf) strangled Sam, Lucifer is constantly strangling and assaulting Sam. Michelle, all the while, keeps insisting that Corbin truly is a good man, and that she loves him. Dean wants desperately to save Cas and expel Lucifer from him. So Michelle and Corbin are Dean and Cas, and they’re a married couple. Interesting.

And speaking of married couples

This past episode of SPN featured Sam and Dean teaming up with a gay hunter couple, and boy oh boy, do these guys remind me of Dean and Cas. Jesse is an vengeful hunter who lost a member of his family when he was young to supernatural causes and has devoted his life to hunting, but is deep down a big softie. Cesar is Jesse’s close friend; he’s supportive, badass, soft-spoken, and dedicated to helping Jesse find peace. Dean seems very interested in what domestic life with another hunter is like, and is eager to help them achieve their happy ending. It reminds me of how Sam is constantly asking Dean if he’d like to settle down someday, with someone like them, a hunter, someone who knows the life. That’s not Amara. (Sam is such Destiel trash. And look at that Jesse’s brother, the one who died, was supportive of Jesse being gay.)

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Dean stays up all hours, researching a way to defeat Amara, all to save Cas. Now that Cas is in danger, the rest of the world has taken a backseat in Dean’s eyes. So yeah. The Destiel game has gone 0 to 100 this season real quick.

But I’m doubtful that the SPN execs have plans to actually make Dean and Cas canon. They’ll most likely just throw in some Mary Sue lady hunter to be “the love of Dean’s life”, because that’s just the way Supernatural goes. It’s a heteronormative, queerbaiting mess that jumped the shark in season 5 and should’ve ended there. The only reason I continue to watch is because I love the characters too much.

If the writers are planning to turn Dean and Castiel into an explicit couple, then that’s great, keep up this…whatever it is. It’s a beautiful setup. If not, it needs to stop right now, because it’s queerbaiting, it’s disgusting, and it’s dismissive of a large portion of its devoted fanbase.

The Greenhouse Scene: A Dissection

Even here, Mind Palace!John (as always, a metaphor for Sherlock’s heart) is self aware and is breaking the scene to have a real heart to with heart with Sherlock…even if he’s only in Sherlock’s mind.

Holmes: “Get down for heavens’ sakes!” = Sherlock telling his feelings/heart to stay hidden/protected

Watson: “Sorry. Cramp.” = Heartache

“Is the lamp still burning?” “Yes…there goes Sir Eustace, and Lady Carmichael. The house sleeps.” = The lamp is the possibly the ‘torch’ Sherlock carries for John, the significance of John waiting till the clients (which here represent people who have the potential to judge Sherlock and his feelings – there’s significance that the Ricoletti case takes place in a historically homophobic time) are out of the scene so John can confront Sherlock about his feelings

Watson: “Good God, this is the longest night of my life.” = Why are you waiting to be honest about your feelings, to love John openly?

Watson: “It’s rare for us to sit together like this.” = You’re always avoiding thinking about your feelings.

Holmes: “I should hope so. Murder on the knees.” Because it’s painful, that why. (Freudian subtext aside)

“Man to man” = more homosexual subtext (notably, Sherlock has nothing to say to this, just shifts uncomfortably)

W: “A remarkable woman, Lady Carmichael…You liked her. ‘A woman of rare perception’.” = The Carmichaels, believe or not, are actually a parallel of Sherlock and John themselves. Sherlock identifies with Eustace, or rather, sees him as a mirror showing all his bad qualities (a misanthropic character, hiding secrets, weak), and all the things he finds admirable in Lady Carmichael are the same traits he loves about John. “Your wife sees worlds where no one else sees anything of value whatsoever.”=”John loves and sees worth in me whereas the rest of the world thinks I’m a cold heartless freak.”

“She’s far too good for him.” “You think so?” “No. You think so.” = Sherlock doesn’t see himself as worthy of John’s affection.

“Marriage is not a subject on which I dwell.” “Why not?” = Sherlock’s unspoken response is that he doesn’t perceive himself as worthy of anyone’s love, least of all, John. Besides, John is supposedly straight (even though this is never stated explicitly-John pointedly never claims to be heterosexual, just “not gay”), and married and expecting a child now, so what’s the point of dwelling on it?

Watson having waited till Holmes was “asleep” to look at the photo of Irene Adler = “A Scandal In Belgravia” was the first time Sherlock was forced to face his own romantic tendencies in his dalliance with Irene Adler. While Sherlock isn’t in love with her, she does represent his repressed desire for companionship and intimacy. Sherlock’s “heart” (John) hasn’t stopped thinking of this since, but because Sherlock insists on burying his head in the intellectual sandbox, those parts of him have never had the opportunity to come to light…until now. Sherlock is now trapped in his own psyche, with a physical manifestation of his feelings to question if he is as emotionally cold as he claims to be. Irene’s photo also serves as a reminder that emotion is trait found on the losing side (Sherlock’s words, roughly), as Irene lost to Sherlock in ASiB because she ended up falling for him.

W: “From absolutely no opposition whatsoever, I am your closest friend.” = YOU CARE ABOUT JOHN.

H: “I concede it.” = Yes, of course I care about John, because he’s my friend. Not because I’m in love with him.

W: “I am currently attempting to have a perfectly normal conversation with you.” = I think we both know there’s more to it than that.

“Why you need to be alone?” “If you are referring to romantic entanglement, Watson, which I rather fear you are, as I have often explained before, all emotion is abhorrent to me.”  = This is where ACD!Holmes differs from BBC!Sherlock. Doyle’s Holmes was not emotionless. He could be jovial, witty, pleasant, even sweet at times. He just didn’t experience romantic love. BBC!Sherlock, on the other hand, tries his damnedest to not care about anything; to be the cold, hard, calculating machine that his older brother (or some figure from his past-possibly Redbeard? Not the dog, I mean.) has conditioned him to be. It’s almost as if he’s overcompensating for the immense emotions he actually does feel. Methinks the detective protests too much.

“It is the grit in the sensitive instrument. The crack in the-” “The crack in the lens. Yes.” “Well there you are. You see, I’ve said it all before.” “No, I wrote all that. You’re quoting yourself from The Strand magazine.” “Well, exactly.” “No, those are my words, not yours! That is the version of you that I present to the public: the brain without a heart, the calculating machine. I write all of that, Holmes, and the readers lap it up, but I do not believe it.” = You’ve spent so much time convincing everyone that you’re heartless you’ve gone and convinced yourself as well.

Then comes the whole “you must have…impulses” speech, which I don’t think I need to decode for you. But notice, Watson (a projection of Sherlock’s mind) never uses specific gender pronouns. If Watson was referring to ladyfolk, he would have said so. He can’t just come out and say “men”, because dropping a bombshell like that to the audience would be senseless. And maybe Holmes isn’t monosexual. Maybe he’s pan, or bi. But he ain’t straight, that’s for damn sure.

(An argument could be made for asexual, as Sherlock Holmes is usually portrayed as, but there’s so much evidence that Cumberbatch!Sherlock experiences sexual attraction that it’s hard for me to imagine that he is so, in this portrayal. Refer back to my overcompensation theory above. My personal opinion is panromantic demisexual with a preference for men, but never mind.)

Then Sherlock says the whole, “No one made me, I made me” line, then hallucinates the sound of Redbeard (this time I do mean the dog). And frankly, I have no idea what to make of that. The only thing I can think of that maybe, something tragic happened to Sherlock’s dog (presumably his only friend) that made young William decide to just stop loving. But he can’t. And it’s tragic.

Then the ghost shows up, and it’s back to the case. Keep in mind that this has all happened in Sherlock’s head while he’s trying to figure out how Moriarty could’ve survived TRF. Why the hell is Sherlock, in the middle of this, suddenly having this conversation about love and sex with himself? Does it serve any purpose in solving the riddle? No. No, it does not. It’s purely Sherlock, talking to himself about his repressed feelings for John.

The conversation may be over, but John/Sherlock’s heart does get its final say. “You’re human, I know that! You must be.” Accompanied by John striking a match and lighting a candle (again, fire is a metaphor for Sherlock’s feelings for John). In context, Watson is speaking to the ghost of Emilia Ricoletti, but remember, everything that’s happening in this Victorian reality directly relates back to either the Moriarty dilemma, or Sherlock himself. In this case, it’s probably both. But definitely leaning more toward Sherlock. ~TRL

Sherlock Holmes Is Queercoded

I just had to share this post about Code Words For “Gay” In Classic Films. Don’t several of them sound like the famous detective we all know and love? “Eccentric”? “Limber”? “Wears a hat of someone else’s choosing”?

Subtext

“Avowed bachelor”?

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“Has a silk bathrobe”?

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And I know I’m using BBC Sherlock as the specific example, but even in the original ACD fiction, the signs are there. Go, read it. You’ll see.

But yeah. Confirmed queer.

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