The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

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The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

we choose them thinking they will be better. Yet they often turn out to be the same and quite violently so. One could say that the family in The Kids are All Right is most queer when it is porous to Paul’s presence; the lines of affiliation arising and dissipating, an assemblage of alliances uncertain and open to changes, unexpected, convivial encounters and sudden, random intimacies. Daughter Joni prepares to hate Paul but finds herself curiously charmed upon meeting him. Meanwhile, the son, Laser’s eagerness is dampened by confronting a heretofore unknown masculinity.  His potentially self-undermining disdain towards Paul is most effectively communicated in a scene when he accusingly asks his biological father, “Why did you donate sperm?”

Nic's resistance to Paul eases as they share a cringe-worthy Joni Mitchell duet (the song in question is, not insignificantly, “All I Want”*—a devastating song about romantic ruin as addition) at a dinner just moments before Jules’ and Paul’s betrayal becomes evident to Nic.

What ensues is nothing less than a classic re-emboldening of the couple form in the face of triangulation, but this time, homonationalist style. Jules tosses the phone--as if flinging a technological phallus—when Paul calls to exhort his passion for her, yelling “I’m a DYKE!” before hanging up. And in this sense The Kids are All Right admirably departs from what KT has dubbed the “dick intervenes-genre” by discarding the notion that hetero-sex will always turn a good dyke to a steady diet of cock once and for all.  She was, in the end, fucking him not because of some latent heterosexual desire or need to exit her relationship, but because of an awakened, reproductive narcissism: she sees her kids in Paul's face, her family, her inner circle. He is biology, pure matter, as is his penis, the source of the sperm that fathered her children. He reflects back to her the possibilities and achievements deferred by her reproductive choices. 

4. Yours, mine, ours?

As Nic refuses Paul entry into the house, she yells, "You're an interloper. This is my family. If you want a family, get your own." (Incidentally, Nic never refers to "our family" even when she’s speaking to Jules). Despite her anger at "moms," Joni is similarly unable to see Paul as anything but a threat to her admittedly imperfect but still precious family unit.  Laser’s already-disaffected stance is,

Comments [5]

Fillyjonk's picture

It's nice to see a sensible,

It's nice to see a sensible, thoughtful analysis of this movie...

I thought the backlash the film faced was incredibly over-zealous- regardless of one's opinion of the story or political subtext, it was still an intelligent and interesting drama. It's unjustifiable for the gay community to react with untempered hatred to something with these sorts of basic credentials. We need MORE mainstream queer films which are textured, subtle and multilayered- so please God, let's not shout them down on the rare occasions that they come along!

Robin Rigby's picture

A balanced review. If

A balanced review. If somewhat too dense for me to proces in my current, mildly drunken state. 

I decided to screen this film as part of my lesbian film group last year. We did it in conjunction with Family Matters, the gay parenting group at the LGBT center. I wanted to screen it particularly because of the mixed (and quite vocal) reactions it had received. Personally, I found it occasionally humorous, sometimes uncomfortable, and very flawed on a story level- one that has nothing to do with it's lesbian content. 

FYI, I liked Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon, I am not a fan of High Art

Joanne Robertson's picture


a thoughtful, balanced analysis of this film.  What a relief.

The collective lost their faculties over this movie.  What annoyed me during this time was how many lesbian sheeple proudly declared they hadn't seen the film, but hated it, and had no intention of seeing it, because a few prominent lesbians (some of whom also hadn't yet seen it) had flamed about the storyline.

Some declared they will boycott Cholodenko's future work.  It was a typical "throw the baby out with the bathwater" response, not unlike with Chaiken & her L Word brand.

Marcie Bianco's picture

true that, JR -- lesbians

true that, JR -- lesbians really do eat their own. ... so mean ... why is that?

Joanne Robertson's picture

Well, it's easy

to take everything personally - this may have something to do with swimming in such an incestuous little fishbowl... even online.

In terms of how we hold 'our' writers/directors to such a high standard, we just have to get over this notion that everything they put out there is representing us as a "community".  An impossible standard, since they're usually writing about individuals - flawed characters, or filming real life flawed humans for reality tv. 

I no longer hand-wring about how heteros are perceiving this or that in a storyline.  It's very freeing lol