Guest Blogger

'The Kids Are All Right' Missed the LGBT Mark: The Modern Family Through Social Media

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 04, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Marriage Equality
Tags: Leone Kraus, LGBT community, Modern Family, social media

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Leone Kraus is the voice behind the LGBT social media blog krausnotes.com. From volunteering, to lobbying, and now blogging, Leone-Kraus.jpgLeone has continuously played an active role in the fight for LGBT equality for the past 16 years. Leone is currently obtaining her Master's degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from New York University.

After seeing "The Kids Are All Right," I walked out of the movie theater feeling disheartened and annoyed. Not because the film's acting was bad, it was actually fantastic compared to other gay films I've seen, but because I felt the movie did little to educate the masses about the state of LGBT equality. I find it frustrating, as an LGBT activist, to see so many prominent figures in the community doing little to leverage their voices to educate society on issues pertaining to equality.

The LGBT community faces far more discrimination than just the legal right to marry, which wasn't even noted in the film. It's great that there are same-sex couples that consider themselves married without the actual legal documents, but given the star power and broad reach of this film, it could have benefited the movement had it been briefly noted in the script.

Why "The Kids Are All Right" Leaves Me Disappointed

Lisa Cholodenko, one of the writers and director of The Kids Are All Right, had the opportunity to throw in a variety of compelling statistics or real life LGBT discrimination scenarios into the script, but opted not to. I understand a majority of moviegoers see films to escape their reality and this type of script adjustment may have prevented them from attending. However, aren't we sheltering them from the character's reality when we purposefully omit certain key details because we're trying to attract a large audience? For instance, there is NO WAY that the characters, Nic and Jules, could have ever, as a lesbian couple, raised two kids and not experienced any hardships that same-sex couples face when raising children.

I wonder whether Nic was independently wealthy prior to becoming a doctor, because she would have had to be, in order to have three dependents, student loans, and none of the federal financial benefits of marriage. They also, more than likely, would have faced some sort of discrimination when they enrolled their kids into school, even (or especially) in California. Or at the very least, maybe the staff at Target would have looked at them disparagingly.

By portraying the couple as they were in the film, it does give off the positive message to society that we are normal and can have healthy families, but we are also delivering the message that we have equal rights and that the LGBT equality fight isn't necessary. The movie shows that individuals of the LGBT community can live happily and successfully raise children, all without any of the legal protections that are provided to straight people. In that way, the film does a disservice to the LGBT community by allowing people to believe we have equal rights when in fact we don't.

My main complaint is that the film does nothing to encourage moviegoers to educate themselves about the state of LGBT policy in their communities. It offers no "call-to-action." A huge opportunity was missed in the LGBT community's quest for equal rights despite the movie's effort to integrate "modern families" into society.

How "The Kids Are All Right" Enhanced Its Social Media Presence

Since this blog specializes in social media and not politics, the rest of the post will analyze the social media strategy of The Kids Are All Right.

I saw the film just a week after it was released. Shortly before going to the film, I did take a look at its Facebook Fan Page. At the time, the Fan Page had just over 2,000 fans. A couple weeks later, it's up to over 10,000!

The movie uses both a movie web blog site, www.family-is.com and a Facebook Fan Page to create a rich environment for fans of the film and supporters of "modern families" to share their enjoyment of the film, to engage in dialogue with one another, and to answer the question, "What does family mean to you?"

The Kids Are All Right Movie Site

The Facebook Wall provides a platform to update fans about movie theater screenings, cast and crew interviews, and fun facts about the cast. Looking through the Fan Page, it appears to be well maintained and monitored. Fresh content that encourages dialogue is continuously posted and negative comments towards the film are more than likely omitted since none are ever visible on the page.

The Kids Are All Right Facebook Fan Page

The most intriguing and useful tabs on the Fan Page are "Family Is" and "Fan Photos," which both share content with the web blog site. The Family Is section allows people to share photos, links, videos, audio, and text defining what family means to them. Because this is in the Facebook platform, readers are allowed to comment and Like the posts, allowing for two-way online dialogue to occur.

The Family Is tab also connects you to the web blog site where you can access movie reviews, purchase movie tickets, view "modern family" fan photos, access movie clips, interviews, and participate in their contest. I wonder if mine will make it in - probably not. Not many people are as jazzed about social media as I am.

The Fan Photos tab consists of a variety of photos from different Pride events in different cities. During the Pride season, Focus Features set up a number of "The Kids Are All Right" street teams. Each team went out to major cities such as Houston, San Francisco, New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and a variety of others. Photos taken of 'modern families' holding signs describing in their words what family means to them. I encourage you to check it out!

Closing Time

The Kids Are All Right may not have delivered the LGBT equality message that I had hoped it would, but the "modern family" messaging was spot on. The film attempted to bring LGBT families into the mainstream via a comedic portrayal, but lessened its impact by catering to stereotypes and omitting key details within storylines. While these mainstream films, along with others such as "Brokeback Mountain", and the tearjerker, "Boys Don't Cry" are needed to educate the masses about the oppression we face in LGBT community, The Kids Are All Right could have done it better.

Take a look at the trailer.


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JonathonEdwards | August 4, 2010 12:15 PM

It was a movie. Step out of your activist bubble once in a while and live a little. Geez.

Thanks for taking the time to comment on the post. When the LGBTQ community has equal rights, I will gladly jump out of my bubble. Until then, I'm standing up for our community!

For the record, I do enjoy movies!

Regan DuCasse | August 4, 2010 3:54 PM

Jonathan, lighten up. Movies are reference points for most people when discussing social issues. They have a powerful influence on the masses, otherwise nobody would bother.

And movies DO distort what are the most important points of reality. Considering the RARITY of gay and lesbian portrayals by big name actors in the mainstream, every minute of reality DOES count.

Think, for example how the movie "Precious", written by a black social worker, didn't get made until 15 years after the book's first printing. A great deal of the public saw it, and patted themselves on the back for advancing a film with a dominant black cast.
However, the last time that happened, the subject matter was also about monstrous, abusive black men and their not so pretty, unglamorous daughters they incestuously abused. I'm talking about "The Color Purple" also based on a book written by a black woman.
Tyler Perry has become his own movie mogul, but at what expense? The image of black people is not helped by him either.
And by now, I would think he's got the power to shift by now. But will he?

If Hollywood does anything, it will exacerbate stereotypes, rather than eliminate them. And once again, the white knight (think Atticus Finch), will still be at the forefront of what people see as good box office at the expense of gay...or black lives.
Gregory Peck was considered heroic, not only for his portrayal, but his support of racial equality back in the day.

I can't recall if Jake Gyllenhal or his BBM co star stumped for gay rights along with their promotion of the film, but let's just say, it was considered groundbreaking that such a story was told at all by major actors and director.

Big fucking whoop about TKAA. I'm sure some artistic compromises had to be made to get the thing done at all. After all, it's been a LONG time since the creator's last project.

Leone has a point. Gay people have to own their own stories and be the arbiters of the quality of them, NOT the Hollywood cash machine.
It's hard to stay true to them, and every opportunity is difficult to obtain to whatever degree.
One can't get all giddy about it, any more than I could about Precious and the subtext of it.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Regan. Absolutely, you are spot on with my point. I have a hard time settling for this type of mainstream storytelling. We in the LGBT community should be communicating when we can about our oppression. Sure, once we have full federal equal rights, lets make films that cater to stereotypes and draws in the masses. Until then, I ask members of our community to stop and think about what they are doing and is there anything, albeit small or big, that they could do to help educate the masses and propel the movement forward.

Thanks for your review and commentary ;-)

I'm a twentysomething black queer male, who is also a wannabe filmmaker. I wanted to really immerse into this film, but I couldn't. I supported it opening weekend, love the actors, and am glad the film is getting press and decent box office numbers, but like you, I'm underwhelmed, and feel that there were a lot of missed opportunities to really elevate the situations and character development.

Something just felt a little too hollow, a little too safe for me. I kept wondering where the community/extended family around the main characters were (no other gay families/parents that played a role in their lives? Why not?) Where they married in the state and then had it "repealed"? What did their health care plan look like? (really, I wanna know!!) And I'm sorry, but I still can't jive with the whole "lesbian who has an affair with a man" thing. Not cute. Not believable. Not entertaining.

Not every film has to be a hard hitting "ripped from the headlines" drama, but even in a "light" comedy, they could've dug deeper with the character motivations. It's nice to know that I'm not the only homo with reservations about this film.

Thanks for taking the time to comment jbyrd130. The movie was incredibly safe and felt very uncomfortable because it was designed to be so. The commenter before you, Regan, brought up some very good points in their comment. One was that they questioned how many artistic compromises were made for the film to be made. This leaves me to wonder if the movie was what Lisa really wanted or if she was forced to present the story this way. I applaud you now for any time you may find yourself having to stand up for your own artistic credibility :)

As for the straight subplot etc, yes that felt slightly over the top, at least in a film like this. I don't want to cater to anyone’s ideas that homosexuals are just choosing to be gay, which this straight subplot in many ways supported this idea.

As noted previously, this film hurt because we do not have equal rights. When the LGBT community has equal rights, then we can have films that cater to whatever stereotypes people see fit. I think its possible that the lesbian community, and the LGBT community at large would have better received the film, had this been the case.

Thanks for guest posting, Leone! I haven't seen the movie yet, but Kate Clinton also gave it a failing grade - so you're in good company!

Lee Sonoflaw | August 5, 2010 10:36 AM

I go to the movie theater to be entertained. NOT to be educated or preached at. I get bombarded constantly every day by "education". Commercials, blogs, news, opinion, opinion disguised as news. Every right wing-nut out there preaches at me how wrong I am/we are.

Society needs to know that we are ordinary people, that live ordinary lives with everyday relationships. We cry a little and we laugh some and spend most of our time just getting thru life one day at a time. Our lives are not just about the “issues”.

HORRAY for “The Kids Are All Right”. I smiled on my way out of the theater.

Wait, I'm confused now. You say:

Every right wing-nut out there preaches at me how wrong I am/we are. Society needs to know that we are ordinary people, that live ordinary lives with everyday relationships.

But you don't mind a movie that ignores our "everyday relationships" in favor of having a man come in and sleep with a lesbian and repeats the mantra of "well, he's the father..."?

How does that go together with the framing you put out there?

I'm so tired of everyone saying this film isn't realistic. I know a LOT of lesbian couples, and there are several incidents of one or both of the women sleeping with a man. To ignore that this sometimes happens, and that female sexuality is a little more fluid than male sexuality, isn't being terribly honest.

I'd rather celebrate a film that is honest about relationships, and sex than expect filmmakers put out some propaganda film pushing our queer agenda. We don't like it when the other side does it to us... so why are we tearing down what I feel is an honest look at gay relationships.

But then again, me and my partner have been together for 20 years, maybe that's why we see so much of ourselves in these characters. I'd be interested to know if some of the people who are saying that these relationships aren't real, are actually in a position to relate to the characters in the film and their position.

This is how straight people see us, I think. Like, middle class white lesbians with kids are like middle class white straight people with kids, except they're two women.

It's interesting to compare your reaction to the film, Leone, to the arguments of those who say that gay people are just like straight people, except for the single difference of being attracted to a person of the same sex.

I think we're different from straight people in a lot of ways other than our sexual attraction.

What bothered me the most was that the het sex was depicted as a really hot time, while the one lesbian sex scene in the film was about as exciting as mud. I've seen this sort of thing in too many films.

My review is at: http://springbyker.wordpress.com/