Editors' Note: Guest blogger Amy Andre, MA, MBA, is a writer, lecturer, and the co-author of Bisexual Health, a book published by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. A biracial, bisexual, African American Jew, she lives in San Francisco with her partner, a filmmaker. With a master's degree in sexuality studies and a business degree in nonprofit management, Amy does consulting for LGBT community organizations.
I've noticed a lot of LGBT content in unlikely places in the media lately. Earlier this week, Lindsay Lohan was a guest judge on Project Runway, and she was, to my knowledge, the first out female judge they've had on the show. She commented that one of the dresses looked "sexy" on the model wearing it, and I realized she's probably been the only judge ever on the show who actually has sex with women and is therefore speaking from a very personal perspective. (I think the other judges, who are straight women and gay men, are qualified to describe dresses as sexy, which they often do; the difference is that they don't desire women, and are therefore just using the term somewhat benignly, based on what they think is culturally sexy, but not necessarily what they themselves consider sexy.) It was a hot moment, and I was delighted to see Lindsay Lohan on the show, to interject that woman-desiring-woman viewpoint.
Then this weekend I watched two movies, District 9 and The Time Traveler's Wife, and both had queer content, some subtle and some overt. My journalist friend Mike Szymanski wrote an article about these films, but it seems like not a lot of people agree with his reading of them as being bisexual. I definitely saw District 9 as a bi movie, though.
The main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, is bi in the sense of being both human and alien (the film was filled with stunning commentary on cultural anxiety about racial mixing and about mixed-race individuals). He's also bi in the sense of being bisexual; his two main relationships are with his wife and a male alien, and he has deep allegiances to both.
Both movies had a bit of cross-dressing, too; one featured a male-bodied alien wearing a hot pink bra and standing to pee in front of a group of humans, while the other showed the time traveler in a really cute little sheer blouse. In both cases, the character are chastised for their behavior. The bra-wearing alien is yelled at for peeing in public; the time traveler is harassed in an alley and then beats up a harasser, calling him a "homophobe" (not a word heard often in films made for a straight audience!). More accurately, the harasser is being transphobic, but it'll be a while, I think, before we hear that word in a mainstream film.
All the aliens in District 9 seem to be male, and they use assisted technology to reproduce. That's pretty gay! So, of course, I loved it.
Something odd about both movies was the relationship of the main character to his father-in-law; this must be a new theme in films, or just one I hadn't noticed before. In the case of the time traveler, he doesn't tell his wife about his interaction with her father; in District 9, Wikus does tell his wife some news about her father. The layers of revealing are complex, as are the ways that the pairs of men (father-in-law and son-in-law) relate to one another vis-a-vis their daughters/wives.
On a side note, Mike has a bi interpretation of The Time Traveler's Wife, while I saw it as being more about a pedophile (his first encounter with his future wife occurs when he's about 40 and she's a very young girl, alone in a field having a picnic. He shows up naked in the bushes near her blanket. He continues to travel through time to visit her during her childhood, always arriving naked) and the girl/woman who grows up to marry him.
District 9 is being described (not as much by Mike as by others) as a commentary on apartheid, primarily because it's set in South Africa. But I see it as more of a commentary of the US cultural landscape and current fears and fascinations around mixed-race people and mixed power. After all, our President, a person often called "the leader of the free world," is biracial, and the response to his power has been, thus far, quite mixed.