Imagine there were hardly any movies that show a love story you can relate to. Regardless of the genre. Whether it is a drama about a great love, like The English Patient and Breathe, or a classic like Gone with the Wind, and Pride and Prejudice. A romantic comedy, a coming of age story – actually, any movie about love or romance. Imagine no movie about love was about how love is for you. Or every role in a love story was played by an unknown actor – some good and some not – but never one of your favourite well-known actors.
Let me take it even further. Imagine all love stories were about gay people and their stories. Never a single love story or date movie or romcom, about straight people in love. And if there is one, the church tries to get it banned and fundamental activists picket against it or start Facebook groups about how evil this film is. Or everyone is talking about the straight love scene but never the brilliant acting, or the script writing or whatever else. While for you, it is simply a story about two people in love.
Can you imagine it? That is how it is for gay people. I started by talking about movies, but it goes so much deeper. We are taught and conditioned from the moment we are born, that love is for heterosexual people. We (lgbtqi people) grow up with no role models for relationships, only the forced role fulfillment we see under straight people. Almost no beautiful love stories to dream about like any normal teenager. No media that states that the way you love is something normal. There are plenty to tell you you are wrong though. Abnormal, sinful, wrong, you name it. If you don’t fit into the “normal” box, you have to find your own way, and don’t you dare make a mistake!
Now I can almost hear a bunch of straight people mumbling that they don’t even like love stories. Chick-flicks. Great. Then don’t watch them. Just recognise that you are privileged to have the option that you could if you wanted to, and you would have thousands of titles to choose from, with all your favourite actors in them. Be aware that if you wanted to take your date to a romantic movie, there would most probably be one showing at a cinema near you.
Speaking of it, let’s think of the word chick-flick! That word belongs in a museum for patriarchy. You know, something from the time when everything to do with how women saw the world, reacted to it and responded with so-called soft emotion, was wrong. In other words, the last few thousand years. Because women are over-emotional, and we can’t have that! All that love and romance and softness and nurturing are really sick things – so bad for society! Yes, I am sarcastic.
Only hyper-masculine emotion, in any quantity, is acceptable. The emotions men have when they declare wars, create gods to control people, kill for sports or honour, oppress women and treat them like lesser human beings. Still sarcastic. Even the movies about those things are categorised in positive-sounding genres like action, historical period pieces, drama, and war. Yup, patriarchal society can make war sound more positive and honourable than love. When it is something that speaks to women, and all the gods forbid – teenage girls – it has to be demeaned and belittled.
Yes, it is all changing. Slowly, and by that I mean, much too slowly. It all started with Brokeback Mountain, and there are gay films and books these days. One of those, the one that prompted me to start writing about it, is Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. What a love story! Maybe it got to me because it is very close to home for me, but it is not just that. It is Rachel Weisz, to begin with. One of my favourite actors. It was wonderfully acted, and the script was written with respect and sensitivity regarding more than just the gay thing.
And there is this love scene that is simply beautiful. Yes, i am going to talk about it, for a reason. First there is a kiss, and then later a realistic love scene between two women, the way women would do it, instead of the way men want women to do it in movies. The most amazing thing though, was that neither of the women turn straight in the end, the way it normally happens in American movies.
So yes, finally there are two or three gay themed movies per year, but just when I started feeling more hopeful about seeing more of it in future, my bubble burst. I was chatting to a friend who is an award-winning author in SA, and she mentioned that her last book didn’t sell well.
“Everybody wants to hear a lesbian story, but not a fuck would they actually buy it.” It is true for books, and maybe a little less true for movies, but still true. What we can’t get away from though – at the risk of stating the obvious – is the fact that artistic media still mirrors society. A society where women and the LGBTQI community (among others) figuratively walk a few steps behind the big, strong, sword-wielding straight men. Phallic symbolism a hundred percent intended… Killing is taken more seriously than loving. Killing is drama and action, love is just fluff that women like, so it has to be something less worthy.
Just look at the list of the top 100 movies of the last 20 years. Not that many love stories there – and I am by no means suggesting that the movies there are not good; they are! I am just saying there are many love stories that are also good. Love stories, straight gay and everything in-between, that also belong on lists like that. I want to see them there! We still have a long way to go…
I started watching Sex and the City this week. Not for the series itself but because I wanted to watch New York. I have a love affair with New York. My heart was broken in New York. I have a need to return to New York to heal this brokenness, but until I make it there… I watch Sex and the City.
So as you probably know, the series is about four New York women struggling with all things to do with sex and relationships and occasionally friendships. It’s a bit retro. There are scenes with the twin towers and all four of them are straight. If it was more contemporary, at least one of them would be a gay woman. Ironically, one of the actresses is a gay woman. Why am I going on and on about this? Oh yes…
I have a mixed bunch of friends here in Cape Town, a city where you’re not supposed to be able to make friends at all. I have tons. So do my friends. And just like the four women from Sex in the City, when life gets tough I reach for my besties, and when I do they always carry me across those stormy waters. And that journey is always accompanied by a particular wine. It’s a ritual. A different ritual with every friend.
My oldest friend in Cape Town is a school friend who I met when I was about 13 years old. We were hooligans as teenagers and nothing has changed. Except now she knows that I’m gay and I know she doesn’t give a damn that I am. That closet door has been in splinters for a long, long time now. So once a week we get together at the Wild Fig near Observatory for girl talk. We always order their house Shiraz and chilli poppers. The house Shiraz apparently is from an estate in Paarl which is one of the black owned wine farms in the area. Why does that matter? It doesn’t. Except perhaps to break the stereotypical notion that wine making is exclusively in the white domain. It’s not. And who cares anyway. The point is – this wine has become the centre point for hours of sharing about family, lovers, work and growing as well as dying dreams. There is a certain comfort that I feel when I think of the Wild Fig house Shiraz. It has become part of our friendship ritual. Without it, my life would be less. (Cue the violins please). I’m labouring the point here, but the wine… and the chilli poppers… they represent part of the glue of my life that keeps me sane.
And just up the road from the Wild Fig and my home is another group of crazy friends. They live in this huge house in Rosebank owned by the most generous person I’ve ever met. Pretty much once a week we get together for a dinner party, which inevitably ends up being an evening of fierce debates and wild dancing. The first time I was invited for dinner and ended up dancing on her dining room table, I felt the need the next day to message the host and apologise for being such a hooligan. What a laugh. I didn’t realise that that is just an average Friday night for them. Now this friend has good taste in everything…friends especially! But also, in food and wine. She can whip up a gourmet meal for twenty people without breaking a sweat. I often find myself staring at the spread and saying, “I’ll never invite anyone to my place for dinner, ever!”
She only drinks one wine though. She has settled on the Haute Cabriere pinot noir and nothing else will do. It’s a truly awesome wine, described as reflecting the feel of a forest floor and with hints of tobacco and truffle. I enjoy a pinot noir in summer, but it’s not for everyone. One party goer bluntly said she didn’t care for it, and when I asked her what wines she preferred, she very confidently said “I don’t have a favourite wine. I either like the wine when I taste it, or I don’t”. We will be good friends! Because, with at least 5000 wines in the Western Cape alone, it seems a shame to limit oneself to just one. How did I come to that figure? Well, upwards of four-hundred and fifty wine farms with possibly more than five wines per farm and then the different vintages. It’s a lot of different wines! Five thousand adventures just waiting to be experienced.
Occasionally someone will bring another wine, but it sits in the cupboard forever. I play around with the Haute Cabriere when I’m there. I’m irreverent like that. She has one of those aerators that are all the rage now. I just love the sound the wine makes as it pours through the aerator. I tend to pour more than I should because of that sound. Uber makes money off me because of that sound. It’s a wonderful gurgling of promise. I love it! And when new people come to dinner I pour them Haute Cabriere through the aerator. They all have the same confused expression when I do and they all ask why I’m doing it. I explain about the aerating of the wine to soften the tannins and how it foregoes the need to let the wine breathe, but actually for me it’s just to hear that gurgling, ssshhhhlurping sound as it swirls through the vortex and into the glass. Evil I know. Especially since one is not supposed to aerate a pinot noir. But wine is an adventure and we make the adventure up as we go along. The joy of wine is not always just in the tasting.
Analize is a different wine friend. With her anything goes! We have tasted wine that she used for cooking and I simply threw down the drain. That’s rare though. Even the dodgiest of wines have something about them that is interesting. And that’s the fun of our wine blog adventure. For us we’re always looking for that wine that will make us go “oh my God!”. And on those days when the wine isn’t all that, we make sure that we’re having fun in some outlandish, and often slightly illegal way.