The vast gap between how the US and Europe think about teens & sex

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Eighth Grade is a highly-acclaimed coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old American girl enduring the trials and tribulations of modern adolescence. But while teenagers in the US might well relate to the movie’s heroine, they won’t be able to see the movie in theaters—unless they’re at least 17 or accompanied by a parent or guardian. That’s because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an R rating for “language and some sexual material.”

There aren’t many other ratings to compare that against. The movie has only been shown overseas in two countries–the United Kingdom and Canada. But in Canada, Eighth Grade was given a 14A rating, meaning that everyone older than 14 can see it without an adult. Meanwhile, the movie played at the London Sundance film festival, but hasn’t yet been released for commercial viewing in the UK. The British equivalent of the MPAA, the British Board of Film Classification, hasn’t yet rated Eighth Grade, but it’s a good bet that, when it does, the movie will be rated more leniently.

Scene from the Swedish teen film The Ketchup Effect

The discrepancy in Eighth Grade’s Canada and US ratings is symbolic of the difference between the US and the rest of the world, according to the movie’s director Bo Burnham. “There seems to be a strange double-standard between sexuality and violence,” he tells Quartz. “It’s a little weird how much violence you can have in a PG-13 movie.” That’s because, as Charles Bramesco argues in a recent piece for Vox, movie ratings reflect what a culture deems acceptable content for children. And the US and Europe are on very different pages about what they view as child-appropriate.

Read on…

Good Job, Good Girls

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Izzy Stannard as Sadie in Good Girls

NBC‘s new comedy Good Girls (also available on Netflix) is about three women who, in the midst of financial emergencies, decide to rob a supermarket. The show has its central characters being unwittingly pulled into an even bigger criminal operation. The writing is smart and sharp, funny and a bit dark, and the chemistry between the leads is amazing.

As we are introduced to the characters, we learn that their primary incentive for the crime is supporting their family, more specifically, their children. Annie is the youngest of the trio. She is a single mother, though her ex-husband is very much in the picture, and the primary caregiver to Sadie, her 11-year-old daughter that has begun exploring their gender identity.

And, this might be the most exciting part, Sadie is portrayed by an actor that actually is non-binary himself. A refreshing decision in today’s TV business.

The FostersShamelessBillions, and Madam Secretary are among the shows currently featuring adult non-binary characters. What is unique about Good Girls‘ take, however, is that Sadie, at 11, is still figuring themselves out, and hasn’t expressed whether they identifies as female, male, or otherwise.

While a large part of the show highlights the struggles of everyday life for the main characters, that Sadie is non-binary or potentially trans is not one of Annie’s problems. The fact that Sadie is wearing boy’s clothes or has short hair is irrelevant, and Annie’s dedication to her child is such that she doesn’t miss a beat in completely shutting down her ex-husband’s suggestion to enroll Sadie in Catholic school, or that Sadie should be in therapy, as if there is anything about them that needs to be fixed.

Though Annie is portrayed as being the least responsible one of the Good Girls, it’s refreshing to see her become resourceful when it comes to her child. She enlists a dangerous criminal to go to Sadie’s school in order to scare the living daylights out of her bullies for pulling Sadie’s pants down, where he promptly breaks one of the kids’ fingers (like I said, it’s a little dark). Most of her money goes to hiring an attorney to help with maintaining full custody.

It would have been so easy for Good Girls to have taken the lazy route by making Annie’s dilemma that her kid is being difficult and won’t just put on a dress to make things easier for everyone. Instead, Annie’s distress comes from seeing Sadie navigate childhood, which is often times more cruel than adulthood. Her greatest struggle is making sure she’s doing all the right things to bring up Sadie in a safe space that will allow them to be strong and confident.

If the writers continue their approach in season 2, Sadie’s journey promises to be a satisfying one. Seeing a child who is non-binary on network television not have a completely miserable home life is the future. Let’s have more of that, more happy home life, more of Annie bringing Sadie to expensive stores and having her fitted for awesome suits. More of the Super Mom all kids deserve, when she’s not partaking in clumsy criminal activity.

 

Good Manners

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There is the family you are born into, and the family you make; lovers who stay with you a long time, and ones whose time with you is brief, but make a lasting impact. What then is the nature of love and devotion? Can we love both the person and the monster inside? In  Good Manners, a magic-realist fairy tale, love and devotion, class division, and the monster inside us all are deftly explored.

Clara  is a lonely nurse living in poor conditions who takes a job as a nanny and housekeeper to the equally lonely Ana , a wealthy white woman soon expecting her first child. Clara moves in, and the two women quickly form a strange but powerful bond that moves beyond friendship. As Clara learns the truth behind Ana’s unexpected pregnancy, she finds she must take on a far greater burden than she had originally intended, with devastating consequences.

The film begins as almost an erotic love story and particular view of class struggle: Clara, a black woman, is looked down on by her counterparts, even though she is a native Brazilian; her taciturn nature and verbal economy make her a mystery, perhaps even to herself; in contrast, Ana is little but verbose, constantly moving whether in exercise and dance, to the point of sleepwalking. Ana’s home, and her view of the city, is given as a kind of fairy tale, one that should be filled with the handsome prince and the princess (Ana in the tower); but this princess has been deserted by her family and left to her fate, and it is Clara instead who must come to her rescue.

After a fast labour and childbirth that ends in Ana’s dramatic and bloody death, and birth to a child that is more than just a baby, Clara must again come to the rescue. She takes the infant, whom she names Joel away, from the fairy-tale city of pink skyscrapers and cold, emotionless surroundings, to the poor streets of her home. Clara might be poor, but her home and heart are filled with love that she focuses on Joel, and the importance of raising a good son. A few people bat their eyes at the black mother and her white son; but despite their working class conditions, Joel grows up healthy and happy. Well, somewhat healthy; his strange persona requires Clara’s constant protection, and attempts to stop his more dangerous, innate nature that she hopes he will never become aware of.

Read on…

Will Albus Dumbledore be gay on the big Screen after all?

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In January, David Yates, director of the Harry Potter spinoff sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, said his film will “not explicitly” show the homosexuality of Albus Dumbledore, the crossover character from the original Harry Potter book series who appears as his younger self. News that the upcoming film wouldn’t definitely make Dumbledore gay made some queer fans very upset.

But now Jude Law, the actor playing Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts, has hinted that future films might reveal Dumbledore’s sexuality. Of course, considering there’s five more films left in the Fantastic Beasts series, it’s unclear when this Jude Law gay prediction might ever prove true.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Law says, “As with humans, your sexuality doesn’t necessarily define you; he’s multifaceted.” He continues, “What you’ve got to remember is this is only the second Fantastic Beasts film in a series, and what’s brilliant about J.K. Rowling’s writing is how she reveals her characters, peels them to the heart over time.”

Law adds, “You’re just getting to know Albus in this film, and there’s obviously a lot more to come. We learn a little about his past in the beginning of this film, and characters and their relationships will unfold naturally, which I’m excited to reveal. But we’re not going to reveal everything all at once.” Law adds that his film’s character doesn’t even have any scenes with Grindelwald, the evil wizard who we know Dumbledore eventually develops feelings for.

In October 2007, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, revealed she had long envisioned Dumbledore as gay. According to Rowling, Dumbledore — headmaster of the series’ wizarding school, Hogwarts — hadn’t been explicitly gay in the books because his love for his wizarding associate Grindelwald ended so tragically. Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a duel to stop him from becoming a magical Hitler, basically.

Since his one romantic attraction had ended tragically, Rowling claims, Dumbledore lived a solitary life for the rest of his days, free of any outward romantic or sexual attractions.

Queer fans have long felt divided about Rowling’s claim. While some were happy to have a major character in a massively popular fantasy book series be gay, others claim Rowling “queer-baited” queer fans by claiming Dumbledore is gay without providing anything explicit to back that up.

After all, is it really queer representation if a character is never actually shown to be queer, only said to be so offhandedly by his or her creator? Especially considering that Rowling pulled the same stunt on several other characters, making them bi-curious, black and otherwise diverse after the fact.

Boy Erased

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Gay conversion “therapy” in America has become a poignant cultural touch point in the era of Mike Pence. The practice is, alarmingly, still legal in 41 US states.

Following the release of Desiree Akhvan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post early next month, Focus Features is readying Joel Edgerton’s gripping conversion drama Boy Erased, based on Garrard Conley’s Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family.

The film stars Lucas Hedges as the teenage son of a Baptist pastor in small town Arkansas, who is sent off to a conversion therapy camp by his straight-laced parents, played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. Crowe and Kidman aren’t the only two big-name Aussies to appear alongside Hedges — Boy Erased also features popstar du jour Troye Sivan as a silvery-haired fellow queer at Lucas’s camp. “Play the part,” Sivan instructs Hedges in the first official trailer, flexing a very passable Arkansas accent.

Conley, who is working with Edgerton on Boy Erased, wrote in a blog post last year that he’d be “working hard to populate the world of Love in Action [the conversion camp] with predominantly queer actors.” While Hedges isn’t gay, Boy Erased won’t be his major gay moment on screen. He also appeared in Lady Bird as the titular character’s all-American first boyfriend Danny.

Boy Erased hits cinemas on November 2, 2018.

Prora

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Prora, on the Baltic Sea. Mysterious, endless. In this deserted former Nazi holiday camp, German and French teenagers Jan and Matthieu embark on an adventure that confronts their identities and puts their friendship at risk.

A journey of self-exploration, an odyssey of male adolescence, Prora is a tender story about love and friendship.

Submitted by Adam

The Top 10 Queer Films of the Decade by Rotten Tomatoes

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This Pride Month, the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes is celebrating the queer community by curating a list of top 10 LGBTQ films since 2010 by their Tomatometer score. The diverse lists celebrate some of the best storytelling about the queer community, from Academy Award winners to less well-known foreign language projects too.

Rotten Tomatoes has sway in the entertainment industry. In fact, movie studios have begun to fear Rotten Tomatoes. The website assigns a “fresh” or “rotten” score based on published critic reviews and audience ratings. A fresh score can encourage more people to see a new film, but a rotten score can effectively kill its opening weekend at the box office.

Top Queer Films of the Decade

1. God’s Own Country (2017)

A British version of BrokebackGod’s Own Country tells the story of two farmhands — one a migrant worker, the other an angry introvert — who fall in love.

2. Moonlight (2016)

The 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Moonlight profiles a boy coming to terms with his own sexual identity in the black community of drug-torn Miami in the ’80s.

3. BPM (2017)

BPM poignantly follows a group of AIDS activists in the early 90s as they overcome obstacles to create the Paris chapter of ACT UP.

4. Tangerine (2015)

Filmed entirely on an iPhone with only a budget of $100,000, Tangerine follows a trans sex worker and her best friend as they embark on a rampage to find her ex-boyfriend and his new lover.

5. Tomboy (2011)

A French film from 2011, Tomboy is about 10-year-old Laure who moves during the summer holiday to a new neighbourhood and begins to experiment with her gender identity.

6. Call Me By Your Name (2016)

Not quite the Award-winner it was promised to be, Call Me By Your Name showcases young, queer love in front of the beautiful and scenic Italian countryside.

7. Behind The Candelabra (2013)

Liberace takes much-younger Scott Thorson as a lover, but the relationship deteriorates in this HBO biopic of the world-famous pianist.

8. Carol (2015)

Set in early 1950s New York City, Carol tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce.

9. Pariah (2011)

Written and directed by Dee Rees, Pariah follows an African-American teenager as they juggle conflicting identities, desperately searching for their own sexual expression.

10. A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica) (2018)

This Chilean drama about a trans women won big at the Academy Awards last year, sweeping the top prize for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Kid Like Jake

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Loving parents Alex (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons) are faced with the daunting task of applying to private kindergartens in New York City for their 4-year-old, Jake.

Competing in this cutthroat environment means focusing on what is most unique about a child, forcing Alex and Greg to consider Jake’s love of dresses, fairy tales, and princesses. These qualities never seemed unusual before, but when Jake begins to act out in preschool, Alex and Greg—suddenly at odds—must find a way to support Jake’s identity without losing each other in the process.

Alex Strangelove

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Next month, Netflix is premiering Alex Strangelove, a new teen sex comedy with a gay lead character directed by Craig Johnson, the writer/director behind True Adolescents starring Mark Duplass and Skeleton Twins starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.

Alex Strangelove is about Alex Truelove, a straight-laced and driven high school senior with a wonderful girlfriend and a bright future ahead of him. After his buddies discover that he and his girlfriend, Claire, haven’t had sex yet,

Alex becomes obsessed with losing his virginity. But things get complicated when he meets Elliot, a handsome and charming gay kid from the other side town, who unwittingly sends Alex into a sexual identity panic. What results is a hilarious and moving exploration of love, sex and friendship in modern high school.