• credit: 20th Century Studios
    movie reviews

    Die Hard (1988) ****

    Dear Rory,

    I finally came up with a pitch for reviewing our favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard.

    Like I totally agree, there’s no point trying to give a traditional review to Die Hard. I don’t think I can come up with a better way to explain it than you did. Whatever interesting 1980s class commentary might happen irt blue collar figures versus the globalist corporate entity is super-numbed by the fact that cops don’t belong in the labor movement ever, at all, period. And I don’t think we’re at the point where we’re ready to tackle The Die Hard Problem (movies and TV making Black actors the face of the justice system to avoid engaging with the racial dynamics of our carceral system). That takes away a whole lotta more-substantial commentary on the flick. Maybe when I start watching 80s action movies?

    Anyhoodles, yes, the copaganda is way beyond the scope of this review, so I was thinking I should just treat it like it’s any other holiday romcom.

    I know what you’re thinking. People are bored of arguing about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

    But are they bored of talking about Die Hard as a Christmas Romcom?

    The argument here isn’t, “Is it a Christmas romcom?” but rather, “Who’s the romantic pairing?” Right? I think that’s the argument for our review.

    Let me take a whack the pros and cons of each potential romantic hero for our central heroine, John McClane. (Obv he’d be the heroine; he’s kind of a manic pixie copboy who likes to frolic barefoot through the park broken glass.)

    Holly Gennaro: This is the second most obvious romantic hero for John. Holly’s his ex, and a lot of people love ex reunion stories. There are cute kids involved. Bringing a family back together is such a nice hopeful visual for the ending. Plus, Holly has to realize that John being a *massive* pain in the ass is endearing when it’s aimed at a villain, which is romantic character growth if I’ve ever heard it. Also, Bonnie Bedelia is sooo smokin.

    Sgt. Al Powell: The physically distant but emotionally intimate relationship between Al and John is reminiscent of classics like You’ve Got Mail, Serendipity, Your Place Or Mine, and The Holiday. They love each other long before they’ve ever locked eyes. John and Al are smooching atop the thin blue line. It’s romantic?

    Hans Gruber: My personal favorite and the most obvious pairing. As with Rock Hudson and Doris Day, we love seeing a couple with spicy chemistry. Entire romcoms are built on a couple arguing with each other. Nobody argues like Hans and John. The way they lob quips back and forth between each other is basically foreplay. Their playful banter once they finally meet blows the top off the building. Plus, dreamy Alan Rickman has a history being Austen heroes, so he’s got the chops to sweep a giggling John off his bloody feet.

    What do you think? People are going to love it if I write a review like this, right? I really think I’ve stumbled onto something genius here.

    Hope you’re having a great time six feet away from me, which I could know if I spoke to you instead of sending this email.

    Love, Sara

    (image credit: 20th Century Studios)

  • movie reviews

    The Proposal (2009) *

    I go into movies daring myself to like them, at least when I’m on a themed watch. I think it’s more work and more interesting to find reasons to like something that you ordinarily might not. The Proposal came out in 2009, a year when I was going to see basically every movie in the theater out of boredom, so I already watched and disliked this one. But 2009 was “early days” and my story literacy was much lower.

    If you asked me for a review of The Proposal in 2009, I would have said something like, “Everything is super sexist surrounding Sandra Bullock’s character and the end doesn’t resolve stuff right.”

    I expected to have a much more complicated reaction to this movie now. And my review is certainly wordier and more-informed.

    But basically, everything is super sexist and the end doesn’t resolve stuff right.

    In The Proposal, Sandra Bullock is a Canadian about to get deported from the United States despite her work visa because she fucked around and found out. She insists Canadians aren’t the type we’re trying to get out of the country. I think she actually said that immigration enforcement is only there for terrorists, which is the way women like Sandra Bullock in 2009 says “not white people.” ICE is a monstrosity that terrorizes loads of people and Bullock’s character is fine with that but it’s not supposed to terrorize her. She dismisses all the people out in the immigration waiting room as like gardeners and stuff. Sandra Bullock’s character is massively racist.

    Anyway, Bullock isn’t disliked at work because of her racism, but because she’s cold and work-driven and doesn’t fuck around with the feelings of people around her. This is another autism-coded Sandra Bullock character, like in Miss Congeniality, and yeah it all comes across super sexist. Her assistant, Ryan Reynolds, extremely insecure and defensive in his masculinity, runs around saying absurdly sexist things about this woman, and fostering an environment where everyone at work hates the powerful boss-lady.

    I think we’re supposed to feel bad for him that this racist woman involves a sexist guy for fraud. Bullock leverages her power bribe Reynolds into faking an immigration marriage with her. And now we’re off to the cute part of the movie? Where they fall in love? Presumably? I want them to both kill each other.

    It turns out Reynolds is ALSO RICH. We only care about rich people in this movie. I note this because class is a major element in romcoms! You often see cross-class romances because the fantasy of economic security gets a lot of people real horny, understandably. Bullock’s “While You Were Sleeping” is notable for being about people who feel like they could be your neighbors. Here, the wealth of Bullock and Reynolds’s characters is not part of a fantasy, but simply a fact that relieves Bullock’s character because she won’t have to bother putting up with poor people stuff, like a studio apartment.

    I will resist a full synopsis. I don’t think The Proposal is worth my effort.

    However, you should know that it turns out Ryan Reynolds is a “Kennedy of Alaska,” and his character actually has Tlingit descent via his grandmother, Betty White, who spends a while chanting and doing drums in the forest wearing regalia reminiscent of First Nations. This provides an opportunity for the racist character played by Sandra Bullock to have a “charming” dance scene and butt-shake to Lil John and the East Side Boyz. This movie is the whitest thing I’ve seen in a while.

    Bear in mind when I say “the whitest thing,” I’m talking about the structures of whiteness, the things that Whiteness as a Caste in America loves. The power plays. The wealth. Colonization. Dismissal of nonwhite people as human beings.  The movie itself holds narrative approval for racist attitudes without challenging them, which is enough.

    There’s also a character played by Oscar Nuñez, who seems to be a family employee? of the Alaskan Kennedys. He’s named Ramone and stands in dubious positions of subservience. He’s a waiter at one point and a stripper at another. One nonwhite guy to serve them all? That’s not weird. His presence reminds me of the way Mickey Rooney was called upon to play a racist caricature for “comic relief” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s almost like Bullock’s remarks being dismissive of nonwhite people is held by the person who wrote the screenplay and is thus incapable of writing a nonwhite character who is fully human rather than a leering caricature of servitude.

    Regardless, I don’t think cutting the racist remarks from Bullock’s character, the Tlingit art used without context, etc would have saved the screenplay.

    This screenplay is just kind of crap.

    It’s barely a romcom, for one thing. It’s a romcom the way people who don’t understand romances write romance. It’s a movie where two attractive people realize the other person is actually a human, and because straight people don’t really need to know their partners in a meaningful way, they decide to be together at that point. They show us enough interaction between Reynolds and Bullock to justify a physical attraction, and even a friendlier work environment, but they barely have enough involvement for me to believe they’ll be long-term friends.

    Neither of them markedly changes over the course of the movie. The plot changes *only* how they view one another, which takes us from bickering and drenched in toxicity to…respecting one another to do less sexual harassment (he likes grabbing her ass while she tells him not to do that).

    Bullock arrives at the “grand gesture” from Reynolds and neither of them have changed! At all! Love didn’t change anything. Nothing healed.

    This movie shallowly touches upon the beats of a romcom without understanding why the machinery works. Even tropes I ordinarily enjoy, like the heroine falling in love with the hero’s family, and the mere presence of Betty White, did not stop me from hating The Proposal all over again.

    Romance should feel seismic and inevitable, and this just felt cynical, horrible, and shallow. Also racist.

    So of course I looked up the writer. In addition to Kurtzman and Orci making their era-appropriate uncredited contributions, this is mostly written by Peter Chiarelli, “a former creative executive at MGM who decided to use his downtime after the company was bought by Sony to do some writing.”

    That is exactly the kind of person who seems like they’d have written this movie. Full insult. I’d hate to see what was in his screenplay before Kurtzman and Orci got to it.


    Turns out my 2009 impression of The Proposal was more than adequate. Including this movie in a watch of greater romcoms is a waste of time, and I walked away hating everything a little more instead of feeling hope.

    (It’s a little funny revisiting this because I’ve hated Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock since the late 00s and I couldn’t remember why. Now I remember. They suit the project well. Full insult.)

    (I didn’t post a banner image on this article because I looked it up and Disney owns The Proposal, and I’m not going to argue fair use for editorial purposes on a negative review with Disney.)

  • image credit: Lionsgate
    movie reviews

    Much Ado About Nothing (1993) ****

    Hey, nonny nonny!

    Herein lay a review for another Shakespeare adaptation starring our good noble Denzel Washington, looking even hotter than he does in The Tragedy of Macbeth. My God, man. You’d think the purring voice alone would be all the hotness that could reside within a single man’s body. Then he’s running around the countryside, riding on a horse, bouncing around with his mantitties inside that vee neck, and I’m just like. My God. Lord Denzel. (Prince Denzel?)

    Credit: Lionsgate, by way of my cell phone snapping my computer screen. oh yes i did that.

    Bear in mind that I didn’t do any research to make sure I have details about the play or movie remotely correct, and I don’t care, so please don’t correct me.

    There are several plays by Shakespeare that I know very well. I performed a small part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a teen. I’ve written a lesbian vampires adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The Scottish Play is another favorite, and so is Taming of the Shrew. But Much Ado About Nothing is a blank for me. I’ve seen it performed live–once–when I was a kid–but that’s it.

    Anyway, as far as I can tell, this is Shakespeare’s Silly Bitches Play for Bitches Acting Silly. Literally, there is much ado about absolutely nothing, and we love every minute of it.

    Like there’s something about Emma Thompson arguing with a bearded guy. I don’t know, I couldn’t look at any man when she was on screen.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about Emma Thompson sometimes. She did this whole odd former-Yugoslavian accent thing for Last Christmas, which is my most recent exposure, and…I did not know what to think about that. Here, I realized I wasn’t enamored with her delivery either, but…

    Goodness. That smile. The way she just sort of flows everywhere in those gorgeous dresses, with her hair, and my lesbianness.

    wait oh my GOD is that KATE BECKINSALE?

    Image credit: Lionsgate

    I got all the way through the movie once without realizing who it was. I saw her name in the credits, then completely forgot she was meant to be there. I couldn’t pin the young actress’s look down. I’m bad at faces. I was like, “For one thing, it’s definitely NOT Mia Sara.”

    Since looking things up didn’t sound interesting, I just kept staring at this gorgeous young lady thinking, “Oh, she’s so pretty. I wonder what she’s doing these days? Is she still acting?”

    It’s KATE BECKINSALE, Sara! I just liked a more recent movie of hers! And I’m pretty sure I swore fealty to Selene the first time I ever watched Underworld!

    The number of times I have dreamed about this actress (as a character) drinking my blood is making me have such deep thoughts about the adorable young woman to blood drinking vampire milf pipeline. Like, if I had a nickel every time–

    Okay, so I’m reviewing a movie, right?

    Well, it’s a straightforward adaptation of the Shakespeare Silly Bitches Show, translated quite literally, with a sorta ambiguously historical setting and lots of Italians (?) speaking in English accents, or like Denzel Washington. If you don’t enjoy watching it, then you probably just don’t like watching Kenneth Branagh’s vacation videos. Obviously this whole thing was a ruse for hot talented people to giggle in a beautiful place wearing pretty dresses.

    Or wearing…not dresses.

    image credit: Lionsgate. nipple credit: Keanu Reeves.

    I didn’t find the movie especially interesting on most levels. It doesn’t have anything to add to the core play, as far as I can tell, except for the sheer vivacity of beautiful actors.

    So obviously it was a *great* movie and I highly recommend it completely on artistic merits.

  • essays,  movie reviews

    The John Experiment (2023) – Colors as a Visual Language

    I was invited to view The John Experiment by its co-creator and voice of IVY, Lux Karpov Kinrade. As one half of publishing and marriage duo Karpov Kinrade, Lux has a great many talents to her name: many books, a USA Today Bestselling author title, a romance game on the Dorian app, and an inclination toward illustration. Bear in mind this is only skimming the surface of this particular artist’s interests based on my rugged research (citation: “paying attention to Facebook for a few months”).

    We’ve been acquainted with one another for a while since we’re both SFF-loving indie authors of a similar “generation.” A similar interest in movies only recently came to my attention when Lux began posting about her film festival experiences and I started posting movie reviews. Turns out we’re both obsessives about a lotta similar things.

    So when she asked if I wanted to watch her movie, my tits got real jacked.

    To my pleasure, “The John Experiment” is a short film that invites interpretation–my favorite kind. I adore it when I get to watch something and then be Extremely Opinionated About What It Really Means. Hence, I decided to write an analysis of the film before asking Lux Karpov Kinrade anything about it in the style of my usual reviews.

    Spoilers for The John Experiment from this point onward. (All images credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade.)

    Be aware: STROBE WARNING. The John Experiment contains explicit on-screen death by suicide. Themes of death and possible implied child abuse.

    In a focused fifteen minutes of film, The John Experiment takes us from an apparent thought experiment (can hot-button tech like AI help us heal from grief?) into a metaphoric space of punishment (do you deserve to heal from grief?).

    credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade
    John is looking happier already!

    John is doing therapy in a sparse red room, like a studio apartment stripped of personality. He spends much of his time in bed. When he’s not in bed, he’s at his laptop at a small white table. The only method of physical interaction with the outside world is an unremarkable white cabinet. From this cabinet, John can retrieve his coffee or expel bodily waste. These things are cared for by IVY, an AI character voiced by Lux Karpov-Kinrade.

    Also, John seems to be trying to write an email to his wife, and it’s not going great.credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade

    Ostensibly, the purpose of John and disembodied IVY semi-coexisting is for IVY to help John overcome his grief. The email changes throughout the course of the film as John begins to accept his own role in a baby’s death. He stops blaming his wife as much.

    Eventually, John even admits he should have checked on the baby instead of watching football.

    If that was the point of IVY and the red room, I guess that would be the end of the movie, huh?

    credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade
    John does not feel better.

    Unfortunately John is still trapped. Initially it’s not clear whether he’s suffering from psychosis or not–is there really a baby crying?–and his distress rises as he should be healing.

    Maybe John isn’t telling the whole truth to himself, to his wife, or to the audience.

    The room isn’t getting smaller, but it’s getting “smaller” as he realizes how little control he has over the situation.

    The white cabinet permitting ingress and egress of Things to John’s room is not there for him, and exiting the room is simply not an option. John wants to go home to his wife.

    IVY says, “I’m sorry Hal, but I can’t do that,” or something to that effect. He signed a contract.

    credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade
    “Of course I didn’t read the EULA! Nobody reads the EULA!”

    The therapeutic room changes in increasingly distressing ways. John cannot access the internet to talk to his wife anymore. There’s a new picture in the room: a red circle upon a white field, bold and accusatory, and here to tell half of the story with its abstract form.

    Why is such a red circle so upsetting to John?

    Why is John’s room so red?

    Hey, let’s take a look back to his video chat with his wife, Ana, at the beginning of the movie.

    credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade
    One of the blue things in this film is the room Ana chats from. Also, Joe’s mug.

    These two were permitted one conversation, where Ana begged for John to get out of the program. She was bothered by how little he was allowed to take in, and even more so, how he doesn’t seem allowed “out.”

    Initially, John is not so terribly bothered being trapped in the red room.

    He still has comforting sources of blue refuge: video chat with his wife, his mug, the bedspread under which he is usually lying to do therapy, and parts of the painting. Anything signaling comfort is blue. Blue is hope and peace in Western color theory, and this applies to John’s world.

    But there is that damn red dot painting.credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade

    It’s like the redness of it all doesn’t want John to find refuge. It wants him to see that he is in the red place.

    The red dot upon white can be emblematic of so many things: The nipple a baby nurses upon, the roundness of a pregnant belly, the sphere of a newborn’s head. In Western culture, red is often hostile and angry. It is a bloody evocation of John’s sins.

    Because as we established, if this was a therapeutic environment, he would have probably already made enough progress to leave.

    credit to Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade
    The blue sweater, blue jeans, and blue bedspread are no longer comforting, but cold and deathly.

    If John is in Hell, communicating with Ana in Heaven, we could read deeper meaning into this than parental neglect. John’s fury over a crying baby could be the normal frustration of a sleepless parent, the pain of a grieving parent, or a sign that this man gets *real* angry when he hears a baby cry.

    Though the size of John’s grief could belong to anyone struggling, the heightened emotional state in the end, and Ana’s position in a “blue place,” suggest a family annihilation to me. That red dot is the bloody thumbprint of his legacy, and he will never reconcile his actions enough to exit that red room.


    The John Experiment is supported primarily by a compelling, human performance by Evan Gaustad as John. This movie was produced, directed and written by Lux Karpov Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov Kinrade. This was an Official Selection at the LA Sci Fi Film Festival.

    Lux assures me this film will be available for streaming once it leaves the festival circuit, so keep an eye out for future updates.

  • movie reviews

    Falling for Christmas (2021) ****

    The first time I watched Falling for Christmas, I was surprised to enjoy such a corny Lindsay Lohan Christmas comedy. Since I’ve spent this year watching a whole breadth of comedies, I’m not surprised anymore.

    Honestly? The setup is easy to dismiss if you are around Lohan’s age and kinda cringed away from the public nature of her meltdown. Plus, culture in the time when Lohan and I were young is notoriously mean. Most of us had to come on a journey to accept movies with sincere messages after growing up on the sarcasm and apologetic self-effacement of the 00s. And some of us particularly immature kids needed to realize public meltdowns deserve sympathy and privacy and a thousand opportunities to try again, not tabloid snark. (Sorry Lindsay. I wasn’t cool.)

    Sincere Christmas romance with Lindsay Lohan pings a lot of my primal “ugh, eye roll” nerves, is what I’m saying, so I guess Falling for Christmas had to sneak up on me in order to earn my love. That’s my fault, not yours, Hallmark-like romance genre.

    Yes, it’s corny, but let’s put that at the forefront: Holidays are a good time to tell corny stories about falling in love.

    Once you accept corny as a feature instead of a bug, there is nothing about Falling for Christmas left to dismiss. The more obvious special effects are funny. The performances are sometimes cartoonish but always earnest. There are some decent needle drops with songs I don’t recognize, but possess exactly the right amount of drama for the hero to gaze after the heroine with tears shimmering in his eyes.

    Even the hero won me over. This is one of the dearest romance heroes, and you know I hate boys. He’s a daddy, and a little bit of a Daddy, and he brings his GAZING INTENSELY gaze with the best of them.

    The part is appropriate for Lohan’s skills, warmly, and she does such a cute job transforming from bratty heiress to amnesiac flannel mommy.

    It’s got the trope I love where they fall in love with one another’s families (mostly Lohan falling for his family).

    Lohan’s ex goes into the wilderness and falls in love with a bear poacher. No, not a poacher who kills bears. A poacher who is a bear.

    Plus, there is a so-magical-he-almost-seems-scary leering Santa Claus disguised as a strangely intense old man, and I love this EVERY TIME.


    Basically this is exactly what you’d expect, and if you like the tropes, you’ll love this. It’s a good execution of well-trod small town holiday warmth and YEAH I’m probably just going to give it a higher rating every year I watch it, even though my inner sarcastic teenager thinks I’ve grown up *so lame*.

    (Image credit: Netflix)

  • movie reviews

    Last Christmas (2019) ***

    God, I am fighting with my urge to shit talk this movie right now. It’s lovely. It’s fine! It’s cute and Christmasy. Emilia Clarke radiates. Michelle Yeoh was showing her comedy chops before the world noticed her comedy chops. It has a nice message. It’s a romcom without wealth centered, which I always want.

    Don’t shit talk the movie, Sara. It’s so nice.


    Okay, first of all, I have seen Emilia Clarke play three (3) roles where men are fridged for her character development.

    On one hand, nice. Way to be. Writers don’t fridge men nearly enough for the sake of a woman’s development.

    On the other hand, two of these male characters weren’t played by white actors (Henry Golding here and Jason Momoa on Game of Thrones) and in the third (Me Before You) the hero’s disability is central to the story/identity.

    I can’t get excited about misandry when it’s all…weird.

    (Are you telling me I shouldn’t *ever* get excited about misandry? *Weird*.)

    I think it would balance out if Emilia Clarke fridged four perfectly healthy white guys for her character development. Hey casting directors, agent, whoever needs to make this happen—could she like, fridge Chalamet or something?


    Henry Golding shows up to look perfect and shiny and handsomely fix all of her problems. He is wisdom, he is grace, he is romantic but sexually nonthreatening. He’s been inside Emilia Clarke for a year and she didn’t have a clue until he appeared to deliver his Christmas message. “What if you DIDN’T drink our heart to death?”

    Is it a happily ever after if they’ll be together for as long as this transplant holds out?


    It’s really cute though! It ticks the boxes I want ticked for a romcom…almost completely.

    There is a strong message about hope.

    It’s also, critically, mostly about the woman (boys are gross).

    Love heals! Love wins!

    We have adorable secondary romance, there is suggestion of a better future for our heroine, the family is important.

    It’s just.


    I really don’t want anyone in the relationship to be dead. Okay???


    Is Ghost a romcom?

    Is an ending happy if we know the ghost gets what he wants and the woman moves on happily?

    There is a lot to be said in defense of grief as an element of both Christmas movies and romances. In a long life, we should all be so lucky as to lose a great many loves, and grief is an ongoing process that accumulates as the years accrue.

    Grief feels very much like love. It’s the hurting side of love—love that is lost and wandering.

    Not all horror movies scare us; sometimes they’re just exciting. Not all romcoms have to make everything better; love can be intermingled with sadness, and that is healing for a lot of people.

    I can say these things rationally, nodding along with myself as I type.

    “Yes, of course, there’s no reason why Henry Golding shouldn’t be dead in this romcom,” I say reasonably.

    And yet.


    I like what I like and what I don’t like is this. At least, not on the first watch. I can imagine why other people might like it, but my grudge for the concept is strong, and I just didn’t enjoy watching it.

    Part of the issue for me is probably the issue that attracted Emilia Clarke to the role. She’s got severe chronic health issues. A heroine with complicated medical trauma might be compelling for an actress who has had plenty her own.

    For me, it’s more repelling. The song “Last Christmas” goes from being a happy romp to a haunting story literally about organs. I’m sitting around wondering if the movie when the movie is going to dump hospital scenes on me so I feel awful. Maybe I should have watched the movie in my therapist’s office?


    Oh, but it’s so cute. I don’t think there’s anything *wrong* with it.

    I really need my romantic couple to survive, though. Or I need a lot more fantasy/goth type elements to make the dying bit hot instead of sad. I don’t know! This isn’t hot. I just feel sad.

    And personal preference isn’t any reason to shit talk a perfectly lovely movie.

    Don’t shit talk the nice movie, Sara. Just give it three stars and move on.

  • Art by Sara
    essays,  movie reviews

    Exploiting Pretty Queerness in Single All the Way

    First off, I just want to say, I love Single All the Way. I could sum it up by saying that it’s the most wholesome commercial for a gig work app featuring gay guys, and actually mean it in a nice way. (Sometimes commercials are great. Have you seen Long Long Man?)

    I review a movie for the first time mostly based on how much I like it. It’s hard to dislike Single All the Way. You must be a Grinch who is somehow immune to Jennifer Coolidge’s cleavage or something.

    Always, I narrow the scope of reviews because I could say a lot about most projects. The writing alone could gives room to discuss themes, subplots, craft, tropes; I also really love visual art and could talk a lot about that too. The music, the actors, the movie in its time-and-place… I usually just pick one to elaborate on, or I brush over a couple.

    But I’m someone who loves rewatching movies into the ground because it’s fun to think about all those things! Focusing on music cues and sound design on one watch can be so educational. Editing always deserves a close eye.  I’ll rewatch a movie until I run out of angles to think about it, basically.

    I just rewatched Single All the Way. My opinions from the first review hold strong: it’s genuinely wonderful.

    Yet there is something itchy like an ugly wool Christmas sweater if you look too long at Single All the Way, and that reaction is also worth exploring.


    Please note my rants get spicy because I’m a rowdy human, but if you love Single All the Way, I’m not saying anything about you by criticizing it. Taste is deeply personal. You know your relationship with any given project; you know you’re not being like a fascist or whatever by just enjoying guys in sweaters. I know this too.

    Also, almost no single movie is a cause of massive societal harm, but rather a small symptom of a greater culture, a single voice in a choir, or even a shard of a great shattered mirror that slices us to bloody shards even while showing us our own beauty. I will criticize movies for what they do while also respecting the difficulty of a complex art made by people just trying to work in a difficult world.

    Still, I think criticism is healthy, so I focus it upon the ideas that a project summons with its existence. I hope you’ll get rowdy with me about these ideas, and hold them with exactly the importance they deserve: very ephemeral ideas from some writer on the internet.

    Let’s have fun here, but let’s be super honest.


    Single All the Way is kind of a hellhole abomination and gay people have every right to loathe it.

    Where the hell was the funding for this? You can’t tell me that some CEO couldn’t gave farted out some cash for this project. Netflix is always using its money in stupid ways. Give all your stupid money to the gays, Netflix.

    Forcing us to watch a Task Rabbit commercial to get gay guys?

    Especially when gig work is so deeply exploitative? (I didn’t see recent articles about the app, but their history isn’t great, as you would expect.) (Salon)

    Is this where we remain as a society, where cute romances about gay guys can only get funding if they’re bland enough to be worthy of advertising some polished capitalist turd?

    Like yeah. (Associated Press)

    I guess we are still here. (New York Public Library)


    Being conventionally attractive and economically secure demands a variety of enrollments into cisheteronormative patriarchy that is hostile to the queer community. I apologize for being awkwardly multisyllabic. Please imagine that sentence roared in a monster-voice to help set the tone appropriately.

    Standards of beauty are strongly tied to culture. Conventional attractiveness is a combination of youth, time and money investment into beauty rituals, and myriad other transient privileges. “Good genetics” don’t really matter. Models look weird as heck! But in a nice way, obviously.

    This investment into being attractive is so expensive.

    A greater proportion of queer people are disabled than with those who are straight. (LGBTmap – link is a PDF) (HRC)

    A greater proportion of queer people are unhoused and have lower socioeconomic status. (APA – link is a PDF)

    Conventional beauty is work that a lot of queer people can’t perform, or aren’t willing to perform, and queer beauty is often fully rejected by straight people. A gender binary enforces rigid dimorphism based on assumed sex. Drag queens are conditionally accepted because we love clowns (Tumblr), but we are still extending generosity to people putting vigorous effort into looking great. This vigorous effort to appeal to narrow beauty standards can hurt. (CNBC)

    *Cost* of beauty isn’t the only connection to work. Meeting beauty standards is an important safety mechanism when ninety percent of trans workers reported harassment at work. (American Progress – link is a PDF)

    In capitalism, you are not enfranchised unless you are working and earning money. This has gotten even harder for marginalized groups, including queer people, since the beginning of COVID. (Rutgers) America tangos with fascism (Lawyers, Guns, & Money) so overt that even your elderly neighbor with the Hillary 2016 flag noticed, so we know that these precarious situations are at risk of worsening.

    It’s interesting to know that fascism loves beauty. (Open Democracy)


    The beauty of queerness is how it is a sprawling, eldritch thing, encompassing everything about the experience of Being a Human outside of the center stripe of societal convention. Queers can be pretty and rich, but oh, how many of us are? How many of us ooze? How many of us are covered in hair and bruises? How many live out of bank accounts with all red numbers? How many more aren’t getting nearly the medical care they need, and smile their beautiful smiles around broken teeth, batting triple rows of stick-on eyelashes and acting fabulous no matter how crappy they feel? How many queer people have just straight up fucking died because our world hates them so much?

    We don’t need to see this stuff when we’re in a Christmas movie mood, necessarily, but do we really have to watch *this* much sponcon to get the scraps they’ve tossed our way?


    Who exactly is benefiting from the representation in this movie?

    This is a big world, so it’s safe to say that a good number of queer people feel close to this experience…but not a big number.

    I think there are plenty of families (with or without queers) who like Christmas movies and enjoy having better representation on their screens, which has nonzero value.

    But mostly, the beneficiary is TaskRabbit and Netflix. (Vox)

    I’m sure TaskRabbit enjoys an aura of inclusivity among its target demographic. Given that one of the gay leads is actually taking on this gig work, one might wonder if this is more a recruitment ad than a sales pitch to consumers. “We know you’re broke,” they say. “Let us exploit your labor.”

    The genre is usually disinterested in the reality of socioeconomics (and fairly so), but it feels far more conspicuous when a vulnerable population is given such a glossy once-over for the benefit of a late-stage capitalist monstrosity. (Economic Policy Institute)


    Queers deserve access to escapist fantasies about love and hope, which is the point of the holiday romcom genre.

    And representation matters for so many reasons. A conservative state will not radically transform overnight, and in the meantime, queers deserve to see themselves in every situation, no matter how imperfect the reflection. The hope we feel when we watch this — for those of us who can get hope out of it — can help get through to the next fight in the generations-long work for progress.

    I especially like how representation in Single All The Way might help shift the Overton Window for nice-but-conservative old white ladies who will never watch, say, Queer as Folk (YouTube), but might watch a Hallmark-like movie and think, “Love is love and this is very cute.”

    But I’ve seen folks revolted by Single All the Way, and if you sit with that feeling a minute, it’s easy to see it in a totally different light.

    We can celebrate our cute representation but remain discontent and ungrateful. We can’t ever stop expecting better because it’s easy for the world to be dreadful, and honestly, we’re still a long way off from doing right by all our neighbors.

    Now where’s my fat disabled dyke romcom? If this exists, sincerely, please tell me yesterday, because I want to be wrong about missing this representation *so much*.