Hetero-Free TV 3 – Scraping the Bottom (Of the Barrel)

Now, before anyone gets too excited about this article’s title, know it refers exclusively to the fact that I – author of the heterophobe’s guide to TV – am beginning to run out of titles for suitable film reviews to write, and not to anything else. Frankly, if you were thinking of any other meanings I would kindly ask you, dear reader, to get your mind out of the gutter. This is not that kind of article (probably).

In any case, with this slightly shorter film selection I bring you four titles that are guaranteed to keep your mind’s contents pure and your stomach’s contents safely inside your stomach, and which will hopefully be a beacon of moral uprightness in a sea of otherwise stormy relativism. Where other films might force you and your family to come face-to-face with questionable implications concerning the mingling of opposite sexes’ private bits – all while continuing to force heteronormative ideology down your throat like it’s rotten fish oil – know that these films below are safe for both you and your loved ones. Yes, they have gore and violence (they’re still 21st century films, after all), but so long as they don’t involve heterosexuals I can’t really say I mind those too much anyways.

The Favourite (Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)

Gerelateerde afbeelding

Set in a court in 18th century Britain in the midst of its war with the French, this costume comedy was a welcome surprise. It boasts an incredible cast, with actors like Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill, Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Emma Stone as Abigail and Nicholas Hoult playing Robert Harley – all delivering incredible performances. The plot plays as subtly as it does captivatingly; and features a collection of lesbian romance tensions that are even more surprising when none of them die at the end.

The film follows the events of Sarah Churchill and her impoverished cousin, Abigail, as they vie for Queen Anne’s favour in the climb to power. And that too is the central theme of this film: power and powerlessness – as each of these three women play on the knife’s edge that is their court’s political games. To Abigail, ambitious and witty, power is as near as the constant threat of complete vulnerability is, always lurking at the edge of her schemes, whilst Sarah’s endless dances of diplomacy and persuasion need only a single wrong step to collapse in on themselves.

Queen Anne proved a fascinating character in particular, both loathsome and pitiful, compassionate and selfish. Few characters have ever encompassed the immense sense of duality that humans possess as succesfully as Olivia Colman does in this role. Throughout the film I was thrown back and forth between all possible emotions of her, from grief and sympathy to disgust and anger. Even in light of her previously excellent performances on projects such as Broadchurch (2013) or Flowers (2016).

Impeccable writing and acting aside, the costume design (seriously, every single one of Lady Marlborough’s dresses is a work of art) and setting of the film is chosen with an equally careful eye, with meaningfully lingering shots of marble floors, elaborate tapestries, paintings and decadent feasts (also, duck races?). The carefully made-up nobility in the castle is contrasted sharply with their simplicity of appearance as soon as they step outside its walls, and the colours and light spill from the scenes of this film as if it were breathing with life itself. In short, this film is amazing, and the fact that it is gay is more than just an additional bonus. Honestly though, rabbits will never be the same to you after this film – just a heads-up.

  • Heterophobia Rating©:
  • The Straights: There’s too many, but aside from a really angry handjob we’re not really confronted with it too much. Thank goodness!
  • The Gays: if you thought you’d seen every lesbian-love-triangle scenario possible think again. Watching Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz fighting over Colman is a new one we all deserve to see.

Final Rating: 9/10

Star Trek Discovery (2017-)

I’ve never been a huge Star Trek fan, mostly out of lack of incentive, but when I heard news of a gay couple in this tv-series I was on it faster than a moth to a lightbulb, and much in the same way it took Jodie Whittaker to introduce me to the wondrous world of Doctor Who, so did the marriage of Lieutenant Commander Stamets and Dr. Culber pull me head-over-heels into Star Trek’s marvellously layered universe – parallel dimensions included.

And trust me when I say that Star Trek Discovery has quite a few things going for it: it has Commander Saru (and Kelpiens in general, who are apparently as sentient as they are a sought-after dish to alien species left, right and centre); it has Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) as our brilliant species-bridging protagonist; all the campiness of the original Star Trek but the CGI budget of a Netflix series, which makes from a promising duo, to say the least. Most notably, however, it has a plot which – despite involving more made-up space science jargon than I ever thought I could handle – actually carries itself quite well, with witty writing, clever jokes and surprisingly heart-warming messages elevating its capable cast even further.

It also has some very graphic torture scenes, Lieutenant Commander Stamets looking invariably torn between sadness and constipation, the incredible character that is Georgiou, played impeccably by Michelle Yeoh, and a whole bunch of quasi-made-up fungus facts which you can probably impress your friends with if they’ve never had a basic biology class in their lives. And, as if that wasn’t enough, in season 2 Captain Pike (Anson Mount) shows up as a main character, making it truly impossible for me to ever look away from the screen whenever his smouldering eyes are on there. I swear to God, Captain Christopher Pike, I would sell my soul to become your USS Discovery trophy husband. Or a kidney. Or whatever. Literally whatever. Call me.

  • Heterophobia Rating©:
  • The Straights: Look, despite my best opinions of this series I cannot deny its hetersexual presence is overwhelming. However, I’m willing to overlook the straight ‘marriage’ central to the protagonists of this series – that of Ambassador Sarek and his ‘wife’ Amanda – because, while undoubtedly heterosexual, at least its inter-spiecist.
  • The Gays: if you can get past Stamet’s super constipated expressions and Georgiou’s general evilness (trust me, you’ll understand later), you’ll be fine as far as homosexual presence is concerned.

Final Rating: 9/10 (Currently, it’s the series I look forward to watching all week)

Handmaiden (Directed by
Park Chan-wook)

A film adaptation of the book Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, the setting of Handmaiden is altered from its original British Victorian environment into Japanese-ruled colonial Korea. Its main characters are pickpocket and wannabe-handmaiden Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri), demure and severely-traumatized Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) and a bunch of villains under the names Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) and Lady Hideko’s Uncle: Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong).

In short, Count Fujiwara is a conman attempting to gain the fortune of Lady Hideko by tricking her into her marrying him, declaring her insane and locking her away in an asylum. To get into Lady Hideko’s good graces he enlists the help of Sook-Hee, a pickpocket in a family of criminals who becomes a handmaiden to the Lady in order to encourage her to respond to Count Fujiwara’s advances. Predictably, while the plan starts off successfully, soon things start to go real south real fast.

The film features a plot complexly layered and as unexpectedly twisted as a mountain pass, costume design so delicate and detailed it blows you away, and a layering of themes that revolve closely around power and powerlessness, intimacy and sexual exploitation, tied together perfectly in its closing scene. It features a raunchy library of historical sadomasochism – guarded closely by Kouzuki, a lot of creepy old men you would usually find only on the darkest recesses of dating apps, and a ton of sexual advances possessing all the subtlety, grace and egalitarianism of a 3AM drunk tinder text. Also, tentacle porn?

Suffice it to say Kouzuki is into some weird-ass stuff, and also really into his niece in ways that are not as platonic as they ought to be – trust me, he’ll will not be winning any uncle-of-the-year medals anytime soon.

Aside from winning a 71st British Academy Film Award, a 95% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes and amongst many others, a Cannes Film Festival Vulcan Award, it was also easily the best film I saw in 2017, so go watch it ASAP, if you haven’t already.

  • Heterophobia Rating©:
  • The Straights: All of the men are pretty heterosexual in this film, which is fine because they’re not really the focus of the narrative anyway. Then again, for supposed heterosexuals there sure are a lot of cigarettes being smoked. Very subtle, Fujiwara – Freud would be proud.
  • The Gays: Neither Lady Hideko nor Sook-hee are straight by any standard of the word. The sex scenes are, however, quite explicit, which can be argued to be either really sexist or really empowering. Personally, I found the final scene of this film to answer any questions regarding its view on female objectification quite thoroughly, or at least give it the benefit of the doubt.

Final Rating: 8,5/10

Giant Little Ones (Directed by Keith Behrman)

While the plot of this film closely resembles that of Geography Club (2013), in the sense that its leads have a similar relationship, Giant Little Ones pulls off the premise a lot better than its predecessor, with a stronger lead and better writing. It does, however, sway slightly with its performances in the first half hour of the film, which starts off smooth, cool and somewhat distant. If you ride this through, however, you’ll soon find that once its shell peels away, Giant Little Ones reveals a story that’s surprisingly heartfelt and intimate. Complex experiences are revealed gradually, vulnerably and yet – and this is the part I perhaps enjoyed most – without magically spinning into a perfect sunset scenario after everyone’s had their respective pretty-cry montages. Also, there’s a lot of very pale swimming pool hunks – take that as you will.

Franky (Josh Wiggins), the film’s protagonist, works through several relationship conflicts throughout the hour-and-half of screen time. The first of these is with his parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello), recently divorced and in a stalemate that is as precarious and vulnerable as it is honest. The depiction of their inability to transfigurate a short-term resolution out of thin air is not just surprisingly accurate for a film that started off as coolly as this one did, but is also immensely refreshing. Secondly, and perhaps more centrally, is Franky’s conflict with his peers, both those at his school and swimming team, as with his close friends. Spiralling quickly from argument to conflict and then something different entirely, this film had me on the edge of my seat during most of its second half. In short, between the sensitive portrayal of issues which looked at first to be well outside its grasp, as well as its more than solid writing, Giant Little Ones actually makes a mark on this list.

  • Heterophobia Rating©:
  • The Straights: There are way too many straight relationships in this film, though perhaps some lee-way may be given in its defence seeing as it was never technically the intent of this film to tell a gay love story. Whether or not that is a sin in and of itself is another story entirely.
  • The Gays: Labels in this film seem to be even scarier than the threat of violence, and while the word ‘gay’ is brought up explicitly, there still feels to be a certain silent taboo about it. Perhaps this may be a consequence of a theme that seems to explore sexual fluidity and the taboos surrounding it – not a black-and-white gay/straight binary – but it’s not like the word ‘bisexual’ was ever explicitly mentioned either. It raises questions, to say the least.

Final Rating: 7/10

And with these films this third article for the heterophobic viewer also draws to a close. Hopefully, it will be of some solace in a society where heterosexual propaganda like Aquaman scores 100 million dollars in its opening weekend and we get yet another ‘Prince and the Pauper’ reboot that we never asked for (The Princess Switch, 2018), which even Vanessa Hudgens cannot save. But, I suppose, at least we still have Schitt’s Creek, Will & Grace and a new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Perhaps there’s some hope for us yet. Honestly though, Captain Pike: call me. I’m waiting by the phone.

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