The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

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The Ugly Truth About Why the Kids are All Right

in the end, unflappable. The full-family-lockdown against the very biological matter that made this family possible in the first place is complete. The kids are more than just all right: they fulfill their function perfectly, normatively. They complete the frayed lesbian coupling and provide it an alibi by acting in self-protection, justifying their parent’s choices. This homonationalist family self-defense is a bio-racial formation with dense social ramifications.

In fact, hardly the heteronormative conquerer or a symbol of the power of heteronormativity, Paul is a clumsy version of heterosexual masculinity. Let's say it out loud: he’s a doofus, and not-so-bright. Unlike the wholesome white family of which he seeks to become a part, he is of the earth, of mere matter, of bios; he is semen and smells “ripe.” He is an outsider, a foreigner, an interloper, someone who needs to "get his own family," as if family is something we can purchase, acquire, own. In the case of Nic and Jules, it is. They bought his sperm and “own” the kids legally.

Yet, despite the queer potential of Paul’s status as an interloper and his disposability (which could, in certain readings, ally him with the racial others in this film), his white, masculine, creative class privilege rescues him. His lack of education and rough-trade skills are converted from liabilities into cultural capital. This positioning actually functions as a foil for Jules’ own quashed, hippie-dippy ambitions to be, at once, a free spirit and a success—a someone (with a difference), rather than a nobody. White masculinity is what has enabled Paul, someone who is (on paper at least), pretty much a loser, to become a success amongst the hipster locavores on L.A.’s eastside: the same gentrifying hordes oblivious of their taste culture’s impact on the shape of the neighborhood. 

We believe that in the end Cholodenko makes it clear through Paul’s interruption that she is not endorsing Nic and Jules’ particular version of the lesbian family, but simply exposing its instability. The trope of the interloper is neither intrusive nor residual, but rather supplementary—indeed foundational—to the capacity of the homonationalist family to reconsolidate and securitize its boundaries. 

Cholodenko thus does not sanction, but instead offers a stinging critique of the racialized, gendered, classed, and sexualized costs of excluding others in the name of "my family."  In finalizing Paul’s status as

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