I finally got around to watching The Kids are Alright last night. Anyone not up to speed, google it, watch it or be prepared for spoilers.
Basic premise is a family with 2 kids and lesbians mums. The teenage son wants to find their sperm donor so they look him up and contact him. He starts hanging out with the family, commences an affair with one of the mums, is discovered and then – thank god – is summarily rejected by the whole family.
Til last night, I had boycotted it. Finally, there was a lesbian mums film, and it had to be about the fucking sperm donor? And worst: about fucking the sperm donor.
Now, someone told me it was autobiographical when they heard my cry of “That would NEVER happen”, but my complaint stands, because, despite it happening in this instance, it is not indicative of most lesbian families.
You know who lesbians often cheat with? Other women. You know how much time I devote each year to thinking about my sperm donor? Maybe 25 minutes, when Louise gets a birthday card from him and updates me on his life and I think, well gee I’m glad he gave my mums that sperm.
In all my years of Lesbian Mothers with Children meetings and Rainbow Babies, The Kids are Alright is not a story I have heard. Curiosity about sperm donors: yes. Contacting them for information: sometimes. Lesbian mums having mad hot affairs with them: not so much.
The Kids are Alright is well written, with full characters and a bright script. I’d see it again just to see Annette Bening tell the sperm donor that she needs his advice “like I need a dick in my ass.” It would have been ok – good even – if I had already seen five or fifty films about a variety of lesbian families, with a variety of stories. But WHY does the First Lesbian Mothers Film have to be about the god damned sperm?
And… it gets worse: the sex between the two women is dull, hidden, mechanical and lacking passion. When Julianne Moore fucks the sperm donor, it is naked, graphic, passionate, varied, aggressive, penetrative and – apparently – better.
But perhaps the absolute worst thing about The Kids are Alright is how much it affected me. Perhaps it’s that an hour after watching it I found myself in tears, halfway through brushing my teeth, sobbing because I had just seen my family on screen for the first time in 27 years. Sobbing for the parts of my family I have lost, and the parts we have fiercely held on to – having fought so hard. I watched a lesbian family with teenage children struggle with issues I recognised. I saw lesbian parents battle through infidelity. I saw the subtle differences that occur when 2 women parent together; differences I can’t list here without hideous generalisation, but marked differences that fellow children of lesbians mothers would have seen too. Moments and lines and feelings we have seen and said and felt.
I am 27 and I have never seen my family fictionalised, never had narratives that reflected my own, never had movies or novels or television shows that legitimised my experiences, allowed me to laugh at them, or gave me the catharsis I got last night.
The Kids are Alright made me very sad and very angry: angry because they got it so wrong, and angry because they got it so right.