Here's what Booksmart gets right about LGBT representation
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“Dude, scissoring is not a thing.” One of the first conversations we hear between Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) in Olivia Wilde’s debut feature Booksmart is about lesbian sex. The two best friends are eating lunch outside their high school cafeteria in the Californian sunshine, on their last day of senior year. There’s no announcement or corny exposition; Amy is just a teenager with a crush, and that crush happens to be on a girl.
Image courtesy of Entertainment OneAmy has a storyline that differs from other lesbian characters in mainstream teen movies. Her story is not focussed on coming out – she has already been out for two years – and her sexuality is never a punchline. The film also doesn’t ‘bury its gays’ – that is, it doesn’t indulge in cheap tragedy, as so many movies about young LGBT people tend to do. Moreover, lesbianism is never fetishised; Amy and Hope’s (attempted) sex scene is awkward, funny, and not at all sexy. It is not filmed for the male gaze. In a recent Buzzfeed article, Olivia Wilde said she wanted to treat Amy’s sexuality as “a non-issue.” “It was really meaningful for me to watch the film,” said Beanie Feldstein, of Lady Bird fame, after its premiere at SXSW Film Festival, because “my partner’s a woman.” She spoke of how moved she was during Amy’s sex scene with classmate Hope (Diana Silvers): “Representation is really important. I think if I could have seen our film earlier, I think I maybe would have found myself a bit sooner.” This was the first time Feldstein had publically mentioned her sexuality, and like Amy in the movie it’s been largely treated as a non-issue by the press and the public. It’s refreshing. What seems to have particularly appealed to Feldstein is the believability. Dever said, “In hookup scenes that I’ve seen in movies, they make it look, like, pretty seamless and easy, and, like sexy and cool. But it really isn’t. We wanted to keep in all of those awkward moments that you have when you’re hooking up with someone for the first time.”
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