The Kids Are All Right: Anti-male and/or Anti-Lesbian?

November 26, 2010 — 6 Comments

*EDIT*

Gonna share this on the 2011 YAM Blogathon

Let’s see, I missed posting yesterday! Coding is such a mess~ Please, if you know anything about WordPress plugins, programing, and crazy coding talk – HELP ME!

Anyway, to clear my head from that problem, I was having a debate on whether or not The Kids Are All Right is anti-male or not. The participants? The Film Snob (snobbyfilmguy), Kevin Ketchum (KevinnK), Johnny Splash aka. filmcave, Benjamin Vargas aka. bensower, and MovieBungalow.

When the film first came out, a lot of the critics and bloggers were singing praise left and right. TKAAR is my flare, light drama with bits of comedy. Plus, it’s got Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, of course I was going to watch it. However, with positive feedback, there’s also the few that can’t help but feel disappointed… or outraged.

While reading IMDb (battle zone!!), and some comments on AfterEllen.com, you could find lesbians saying the film is “anti-lesbian” because no way Julianne Moore’s character would sleep with a man, saying that it makes it seem like lesbians can’t live without c*ck – their words not mine.

That’s like saying Imagine Me & You is “anti-heterosexual” because no way Piper Perabo’s character would go for a woman. Hmmmmmkay.

Let’s start with the basics. The Kids Are All Right is the story of a lesbian couple that’s going through a rough patch. Nic (Bening) is a doctor that’s spending more time tending to her patients, than her wife Jules (Moore) who’s a stay-at-home mom, whose string of career switches fill her with insecurities.

After years of marriage (ten?), they’ve got two kids, almost-18-year-old Joni (Wasikowska) mothered by Nic, and 15-year-old (16?) Laser (Hutcherson) mothered by Jules. They seem you’re average white upper-middle class family with no kids problems, no money issues. Since Joni is about to turn 18, her brother asks her to contact their sperm-donor father — Enters Paul (Ruffalo), and all hell breaks loose.

WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS~~~

Paul is like the cool dad. He works with his hands, he grows his vegetables and has an organic restaurant. He rides a bike, and he’s attractive to other women. Basically, he’s also problem free. Please, he’s the epitome of a care-free liberal. When he finally decides to meet his biological kids, he feels a bit nervous, but his personality makes him likable and cool to Joni and Laser.

Nic is the matriarch of the family, so she puts her foot down. She doesn’t even know the guy, but her kids convince her to have him over for family lunch. Finally, Paul and Jules meet. Everyone seems to like Paul, except for Nic – it’s her family and she’s feeling left out. Jules is also starting her new business venture with a landscaping business, and  Paul decides to get her the first gig.

With Nic working, and Jules working, their relationship is even more strained and Jules falls back on Paul, who despite his cool being — no strings attached kind of way — realizes that he’s an older man… he needs to settle down, but instead of falling for the woman who’s available and willing to start a life with him, he tells her straight that she’s not the one. Because, I actually think that despite him telling Jules that fooling around behind Nic’s back is wrong, he actually deluded himself into taking what’s already there.

It’s great of the script to get us to think that Paul could actually fall in love with Jules character, even though it might have been purely physical for her. We also never see him as the “bad character” because he’s never forcefully intruding. During the whole film, we never wish him the worst. However, at that point in the film where everything is falling down, and Paul tells Jules that they could be together… with the kids, that’s when he becomes the threat to Nic’s family unit, so when he knocks on the door and Nic tells him to stop trying to take over her family~ She might be hurtful, she doesn’t need to feel sympathy for him. Then, Paul’s gone.

Because he’s gone without being able to say anything, to have his outburst, we feel bad for him. We wish he had been able to voice his opinion, the fact that we didn’t think “wow, I’m glad he’s gone” is telling us that Paul is not bad.

The relationship between Nic and Jules takes a hit. The family gets angry at Jules, the kids feel it’s their fault for bringing Paul into their lives. It was like letting Paul play in their sand castle, and he decides to pour water on the weakest bit of that castle. Them dropping Joni off in college, and Laser seeing his moms beginning to hold hands as they drive off doesn’t mean they will live happily ever after. It was more like the family is going to try to fix that part of the sand castle that’s falling apart. The castle might have a better construction, or it might fall apart.

Once/if we get our sand castle back in shape, we might let Paul back to play with us.

It’s just complicated real life drama, messy. I’ll take this ending over a happily ever after, or a they divorced without even trying. In any case, if Moore’s character had decided to try with Paul — leaving the kids with Nic — the film would have seemed like the first part of the story.

4/5

So what say you? Is it really anti-male if we sympathize with Paul?

6 responses to The Kids Are All Right: Anti-male and/or Anti-Lesbian?

  1. First off, I have to say that Jules is not a lesbian. I believe she’s by. The fact that Nic didn’t wanna let him in to the family in the first place shows her insecurities toward men. I felt Jules really felt something for Paul and the fact she kinda tossed him aside was weird and wrong. All of this added together makes me believe this film is anti-male and anti-lesbian but mostly poorly written. But everyone has their opinions and in any case well written review.

  2. I think Jules is what she is and trying to classify her as one thing or another is sort of beside the point. She and Nic are the parents of these two kids, not because of biology necessarily, but because of love. That’s what makes a family, not genetics, and for me The Kids Are All Right is all about that.

    Paul is a wild card. Genetically, yes he’s the father, but that’s where it ends. Because there are natural cracks in the family dynamic, he’s allowed to slide in like the fun uncle who lets you sip his beer when mom and dad (or mom) aren’t around. But’s he’s not the parent.

    I have a lesbian friend who was really irritated that the screenplay put Jules and Paul together, but she also admitted that such things happen. My feeling is that physically a lot of people can go either way, but that doesn’t mean they’re emotionally capable of loving that person. Paul was an exotic and fun toy for a woman whose real sex life had gone stale and maybe she felt that by cheating with a man, it was somehow less cheating than if she’d cheated with another woman.

    As for Paul, I don’t believe he really loved Jules. He just liked having sex with her and her complete unavailability made her a safe bet for thinking he was in love. Deep deep down he knew nothing would come of it. He didn’t really want to be a husband or a parent. He could’ve done that with his previous girlfriend, a woman who by all appearances was terrific. He settled on Jules because she was ultimately a safe dead end.

    A lot of people have complained that this movie didn’t treat the Paul character very well, effectively shutting him out of the whole movie near the end, but those people are missing the point. This is not a movie about Paul. It’s a movie about this family with two mothers and two teenagers. Paul is a subplot designed to stir things up and to show ultimately that time and effort and mistakes and forgiveness and a whole lot of love are what families are all about, and not sperm and egg. It’s a big, past due slap in the face to all those assholes who insist that families are better when they’re made up of both sexes.

  3. I don't think I have anything to add to your input, Craig xD

    I think I'll make my dad watch it to see how he feels. xD

  4. Yeah I felt that it wasn’t as liberal of a movie as one would think. If Jules was committed to Nic and was a lesbian why would she cheat on her with Paul and not another woman? I don’t think this movie was anti-male. We definitely felt bad for Paul more than Jules. He didn’t ask for these people to come into his life. Nic had every right to throw Paul away like she did. He was a stranger. The vast majority of donors never meet their offspring let alone be brought into the family dynamic. I liked that the couple was able to move on and be willing to make it work. I don’t think the movie condoned the affair as Jules suffered the consequences of her actions and Paul did too.

  5. @snobbyfilmguy, She sleeps with Paul, but she identifies as gay. But I don’t think that’s an issue. Nic simply had a problem with Paul not because he’s a man, but because he’s a stranger.

    I didn’t see anything from Jules, she just wanted the attention, and Paul happened to be there.

  6. @Ben, I don’t think Jules really thought much about what she was. Paul just happened to be there when she felt unattended. I don’t know if Jules decided to sleep with him because she thought it would be less like cheating – you know like some people who say “if it’s just sex, it’s not cheating”?

    I think what was great is that we sort of sympathize a bit with the characters, so we’re all over the place. I definitely thought it was a sucky situation for Paul, but told myself that Nic had kin of a point when she told him to stay away. I actually even understood why Jules would cheat on Nic at that point…

    I think that’s why I liked the film…

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