Condescending Gold Star Award: Love Is All You Need

Last night I watched a short film called “Love Is All You Need?”. That link will take you to the film if you feel like spending 20 minutes acquainting yourself, but this needs to run with a massive trigger warning: the film is full of slurs and shows graphic images of bullying, violence, and suicide. If those might trigger you, I think it’s better to sit this one out than to have a seriously day-ruining experience because of a mediocre movie.

The basic premise of the film is to flip the societal script. Our current world is heteronormative and full of homophobia. The world of the film is homonormative (I guess? Is that a word?) and full of heterophobia. In the film, heterosexual individuals are the targets of hatred and bullying which emerge from society’s systematic othering. The film is attempting to show hetero people how it feels to live with the kind of violence that is inflicted on queer people every day. It’s been received positively and has won lots of awards. Unfortunately, this movie is a problematic disaster hiding under a façade of good intentions. Congratulations, “Love Is All You Need?”, you’ve just been awarded a Condescending Gold Star!

You Tried Gold Star

First and most glaringly, this film features a blatant erasure of identity.  The film gives no space, voice, visibility, or even acknowledgement of anyone other than cisgender gay people and cisgender straight people. The entire community of trans* folks, as well as people who identify as bi, pan, or asexual are completely absent. This erasure of identity is a form of violence, and is extremely problematic in a film that is allegedly advocating for social justice. On top of all of that, there are no people of color in this film. (Help! I’m drowning in a sea of white people!) Oh, wait! There is one person of color… a black man who beats up a white girl. Your star is being amended.

No You Didn't Star

One of Ashley’s moms is aggressive and disinterested while the other is passive and compassionate. These obvious male/female role assignments are clearly a heteronormative representation. I don’t know what the filmmakers were trying to do there but it was disappointing to see queer parenting presented in such a heteronormative manner. Emphasizing our sameness is not equivalent to celebrating our difference. Just like the idea of being colorblind, this approach ignores very real struggles. It results in more identity erasure.

This was further emphasized by another of the film’s galling missteps: the bizarre portrayal of gender role reversal. In the film’s world, acting is for boys and playing football is for girls. Of course I support boys in the arts and girls in sports, but the film showed a reversal not a mingling. That is completely inappropriate in a film about sexual orientation. It seems like these filmmakers don’t understand that sexual orientation and gender identity operate independently of each other. This film effectively reinforced the harmful and idiotic stereotype that all lesbian women are butch and all gay men are femme. The film’s website argues “this film is not about ‘genderizing’ or ‘stereotyping’ but I really can’t see how perpetuating the masculinization of lesbian women and the feminization of gay men is helpful in any way.

In fact, very little in this film is helpful. It speaks to a group of hetero folks who probably already vaguely identify as allies. These hetero ‘allies’ should be learning about microaggressions and legal inequities, and how they can use their privilege to change those things. I have a feeling that were a violent homophobe to watch this film, they would leave feeling more justified in their hatred. Because homophobic individuals are already operating in an illogical framework, they’re going to use the film as a justification for eradicating homosexuality in order to prevent the perceived end result of the gay rights movement- heterophobia. I can already hear the deranged chorus, “If we don’t stop the gays, look at what they’ll do to us!”

The real kicker comes at the very end of the film when a slide appears saying, “This film is dedicated to every child who has ever felt such darkness due to others’ hatred and misunderstanding. Always know that love is meant to be within and you should never feel wrong or alone by being who you are…Unique” which is a seriously minimalizing and hurtful message. They may as well have said, “Oh, you precious gay kids. Sure, you live in a violent world where people literally try to kill you because of who you are, but it doesn’t even matter if you just love yourself!!”

Tried and Failed Star

“Love Is All You Need?” is an unfortunate example of the problematic ally relationship. Too often, allies come into a movement and silence the group they’re allegedly advocating for. I don’t agree with the rhetorical approach of this film; I think it’s a blatant straight appropriation of a queer movement. Straight people should not gain sympathy or decide to become an activist as a result of the issues being made all about them. Everything is already about straight people!

I do think this film could work. But it needs to be made by queer folks. If we’re really going to be allies, we need to stop taking control of movements that are not ours. We need to have more public discussions, and I appreciate this film’s attempt to do that. I think the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place… but there reaches a point when love is not all you need. As allies, what we need to do is to shut up and stop trying to take control of movements that do not belong to us.

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