How “Blue is the Warmest Color” Kind of, Sort of, Almost Breaks the Mold
Hollywood thinks it’s super progressive and edgy these days. Seriously, it’s like, “hey, let’s put Jared Leto in some lipstick and we’ll be totally helping represent the LGBT community, cuz we’re like… such awesome people.” I will give mainstream media some credit. With the advent of Orange is the New Black, Glee and uh… I guess a couple of other movies/tv shows that think they’re successfully portraying lesbians, we are getting somewhere (albeit really freakin’ slowly). But truth be told, I still think even gay men are more commonly featured in today’s media (HBO just came out with a killer new show called Looking which follows the lives of a group of gay friends in San Francisco, making the L Word days nothing but a long lost memory.)
So, if the American’s are sucking at showing the world what it’s really like to be a lesbian, maybe the French could do it right? I’d heard a lot about Blue is the Warmest Color— a Sundance flick that’s received a good bit of attention considering it’s both foreign and gay. Last night, I finally checked it out for myself.
The movie opens in a high school French lit class, where you’re forced to read a subtitled version of a bunch of teenagers reading aloud from some romance novel. It’s painful, to say the least, and you’ll find yourself wondering how you could possibly sit through 2:59 of this Baz Luhrmann-Romeo and Juliet-esque dribble. But if you can get past the first ten minutes, you’ll get to the actual movie. We now get to know Adele– an adorable, angsty 17 year old closet case whose bitchy group of friends preasure her into having sex with this dude, and then slut shame her when she does. Of course, being the young future-dykling that she is, Adele doesn’t really enjoy her roll in the hay with this guy, and instead has her token gay friend take her to a girl bar. While there, she meets Emma– a blue-haired art major with a girlfriend– who immediately chats her up. On the one hand, I was totally icked out by the fact that Adele was clearly underaged… I don’t care that this is France and children can go to bars… it’s gross. On the other hand, I found myself really, really wanting Emma to take Adele home and show her the ways of the lesbo world.
Adele and Emma begin spending time together, talking about art and philosphy and wine and other such sophisticated things that all 17-20 year olds love to discuss. And after a very long, excruciatingly tense moment where the two just stare lustfully at each other, they finally kiss. And we all cheer for Adele’s newly found dyke-ism, and thank Emma for dragging her out of the closet. By the way, there is never any mention of Emma’s girlfriend of two years after this… But my guess is she did was any 20 year old lesbian would do and told her she had to go find herself.
Now we get to the real story– the pain and excitement of first love… sorta. But what really impressed me and made me say “I have to write a post about this” was the sex. Gasp. I know, how taboo. But seriously, one of the most infuriating things about mainstream lesbian media is the way the sexual relationships are represented (or worse, not represented). “Blue is the Warmest Color” has the longest, most beautiful female love scene I’ve ever watched. Unlike most shows/movies, we aren’t teased with a kiss and a fade to black. If anything, the first love scene between Adele and Emma goes on TOO long, leaving you feeling like a voyeur encroaching on a couple’s most intimate moments. It’s a little creepy. But what makes it creepy is that it’s realistic. These aren’t two straight girls (well, they may be… but I’d doubt that) who are acting out their porn-laden ideas of what gay sex is. This is vulnerable and beautiful– something I’ve never said about any sex scene before, ever. I was blown away not only by the accuracy of the emotions that were portrayed by these two women, but also by how unafraid the French were to “go there.” For YEARS we’ve been totally okay showing Tom Cruise getting fucked on a train by a hooker. But I can all but promise you if this movie were Americanized, there would be a right winged uproar like you wouldn’t believe. Good for you, France, for not being afraid to show a little boob.
And that leads me to my major beef with nearly EVERY PIECE OF LESBIAN MEDIA THAT’S BEEN MAINSTREAMED!!! (Yes, caps very much intended). Why do we have to always send the lesbian heroine back to a man in the end?? In Orange is the New Black, as we left it, Piper just can’t bear to leave her fiance, and ditches her sexy, passionate and heartfelt romance with Alex for heterosexual normalcy. There’s also Kissing Jessica Stein, the Kids are Alright (so Juliane Moore’s character doesn’t end up with Mark Ruffalo but she does sleep with him), Imagine Me and You, and about a billion others. My question is a rhetorical one — we do it because it’s a way to make a “controversial” romance more acceptable… because apparently its still 1980 and it would totally cause hell fire and damnation if the lesbian didn’t crave back hair and beer bellies in the end.
“Blue” seriously flirts with this premise, to the point where I nearly shut it off with about 20 minutes left. *Spoiler alert* The demise of Adele and Emma’s relationship comes from Adele sleeping with her male coworker. *Groan. Listen. I have no issue with bisexuality, pansexuality, whateversexuality. Label yourself anything you want, or nothing at all– I couldn’t give two shits. But can we please, just once… ONCE… have a movie or TV show where the lady-loving-lead doesn’t go back to guys? I watched through gritted teeth while the really lame attempt at sexual tension built between Adele and her snooze-worthy collegue, until they finally kissed. And I almost threw my laptop across the room (but not really, because it was Jill’s laptop and she would have been really, really upset… obviously). For real, Adele? Not you too! Not you!!!
Luckily, I kept watching… although I’m not sure why. Just as I was about to write “Blue” off as another failed attempt at a dyke relationship, Adele and Emma break up, and Adele is heartbroken. She doesn’t go running into the arms of one of the many annoying dudes in the film. Instead, she remains single (and downright hot in those little teacher-glasses), still pining over the loss of Emma. But “Blue” doesn’t completely dismiss the temptation to make the femmie leading lady a convert. There always seems to be some guy or another trying to get in Adele’s pants, and Adele always seems just a little too okay with the idea. That’s why I can only give “Blue” the title of “almost” breaking the mold that Hollywood has made for lesbian films. They just couldn’t go through with it without some awkward hetero sexual tension in the background.
In the end, Emma and Adele (sadly) don’t end up together. The teenager in you wants them to. But the adult in you knows that, realistically, there’s no way your first gay relationship (as a teenager nonetheless) is going to pan out long term. And your cynical, grown up self applauds the film makers for being true to that reality. But brace yourself for the last five minutes… because a whole lot of NOTHING is about to happen. Seriously. Those French writers sure know how to make us go “wtf?” The movie literally ends with Adele walking down the street, being chased after by one of her male suiters. There’s absolutely no resolution– unless you count some kind of internal conflict about her feelings for Emma and her adulterous ways. Still… I kind of liked it… And at least she didn’t go sleep with this stalker (which, I admit, I thought she would).
All in all, I’d say I had a good ride with Adele and Emma. “Blue” was a shining example of first love– both the growth and the destruction of which felt relatively organic. But this movie should have ended like… five times. At 2:59 , you’ll begin to wonder if you’re going to sit here until young Adele is nursing home bound. And then, as mentioned above, when it ends… it doesn’t really end. But maybe that’s the point? Maybe the depth of the nothingness here is just too deep for my American brain?
Watch this. If nothing else, you’ll have a chance to reminisce about your first heartbreak (awwww). Or watch some hot naked girls. And hey, you’ll feel smart, because you have to read the subtitles the whole time, right?