The Kids Are All Right is the largest release ever for a mainstream film about lesbians and is on track to become one of the highest performing indie films of 2010. In three weekends of limited release, the film has grossed nearly $5 million and the audience will likely grow as the film expands this weekend.
In the film, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a longtime couple that began a family through donor insemination, each mother bearing a child. As teenagers, the couple's children decide to track down their donor (Mark Ruffalo) without telling their mothers. The film deals with how the family copes once the donor enters their lives.
With so few lesbian representations, it is natural that many are invested in the film and monitoring it closely. While it frustrates some, others celebrate it. We think it's important to acknowledge the feedback from the various voices within our community.
Lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right offers much needed visibility to lesbian families.
At the film's release, GLAAD released a Resource Guide for media and anyone interested in understanding the issues inherent in the film – lesbian parenting, donor insemination and representations of LGBT families in media. Our purpose was to educate the mainstream about how to talk about those issues.
Around the country, people are discussing whether this film is about love and stability and forgiveness or whether they can forgive director Lisa Cholodenko for the brief portrayal of lesbian sexuality in favor of racier scenes between Moore and Ruffalo.
AfterEllen's glowing review compares the film to Brokeback Mountain in its ability to leave audiences with a message of understanding and suggests the film's themes about the fragility of marriage and why people cheat make the characters relatable. Mombian, a site dedicated to lesbian moms, focuses on the refreshing portrayal of middle aged moms with teenage kids who "have already 'turned out'—and they are indeed all right." At SheWired.com, Kathy Wolfe of Wolfe Media, a company that has distributed lesbian films for over 25 years, applauds the film for its "entertaining yet ultimately politically powerful message of putting a lesbian family front and center."
Yet, counter perspectives range from disappointment to anger. Also on SheWired.com, writer Jill Bennett is fed up with Hollywood films about lesbians who, for whatever dramatic reason, always sleep with a man, a pattern not repeated in films about gay men. The thoughtful analysis of longtime activist and former GLAAD Executive Director Joan Garry's Huffington Post piece brings forward the boundary issues involved in sleeping with your children's sperm donor and the high probability for collateral emotional damage to the children. The post has generated numerous comments, many of them also mixed in response.
The most vociferous reaction comes from the site, Lesbian Mafia. On the site's podcast, in their online review and on their Twitter page, Lesbian Mafia editors and Twitter followers express anger over the film's representation of female sexuality as dull and uninteresting. They find it offensive that Moore's character is labeled a lesbian as sleeping with a man disqualifies her from the lesbian label. Several who object to the film also feel betrayed by what they see is the overall messaging that lesbians somehow need men.
Cholodenko speaks honestly about her motivations for the film. In an early article about the film, she told Salon.com, "I think sexuality at times can be separate from [sexual orientation], and you can have sexual response to opposite genders or same genders. I just don't see them as inextricably linked. For me personally -- there are people who see sexual identity as bound forever, and that there's no continuum at all. I find that thinking, and the critique that comes from that, really dated. So that bothers me. I feel like the lack of open-mindedness to that idea is really square and dated. So that's where I'm coming from."
Within our community, opinions on media representations will not always be congruous, nor should they, but this film and films like it spark important dialogue in our community – and in America in general. GLAAD is bringing attention to these divergent opinions to foster dialogue.
The Kids Are All Right is a fictional representation of one family and there are thousands of other stories to tell. We'd like to hear the stories of your families so we can continue to do the work we do every day, asking media to represent the full spectrum of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender experience and not rely on any one story to define our community.
We'd also like to hear your opinions on the film. Take our poll, and join the discussion in the comments.