Comment: Cate Blanchett's 'lesbian movie' Carol is much more than that

Cate Blanchett Source: Reuters

Same-sex relationships are not here to be fetishized or to be used as clickbait.

Have you all been enjoying the fun aboard the Cate Blanchett Sexuality roller coaster?

The ride began after Variety magazine quoted Blanchett saying she had been in relationships with women ‘many times’ during a recent interview about her upcoming movie Carol.

This had same-sex attracted women around the world celebrating as they desperately searched the deepest annals of the internet for proof that she had dated Gillian Anderson at some point in the past.

But ultimately, it came to a tragic end (like so many of the movies featuring women who love other women do) when Blanchett claimed that the quote had been heavily edited, and that she had never had a sexual relationship with a woman. 

When Blanchett first revealed her ‘big secret’, a lot of the language used in articles lacked the sense of gravitas or considerate phrasing that might usually be applied when a celebrity comes out.

Expressions like ‘Blanchett admits lesbian affairs’ and ‘hints at flings with women’ were flung about. This is likely due to the fact that Blanchett is now married to a man, and the idea of a bisexual or woman with fluid sexuality is still thought of as something provocative instead of a legitimate identity that involves valid relationships.

But using sexuality as a story to invite clicks hasn’t just been restricted to Blanchett’s personal life. In almost every news headline about Carol being well-received at Cannes, the movie is referred to as ‘Cate Blanchett’s lesbian movie’, a ‘lesbian drama’, or ‘lesbian romance’. 

As someone who identifies as a lesbian, I find this quite perplexing. I don’t see news headlines about the latest Hugh Grant movie describing it as ‘Hugh Grant’s heterosexual movie’ or ‘a bumbling Englishmen’s straighty drama’. 

0:00

Carol is a movie based on a semi-autobiographical book about the lives of real, human women. Does it involve a story about two women having a relationship? Yes. Is it exciting and great to see movies where non-heterosexual stories are told? Of course. Will I see this movie the second it comes out? Definitely. Does it give me a weird feeling when headline after headline compartmentalises a movie down to the fact that two women have a relationship? Absolutely.

There seems to be no valid reason for headlines to describe this movie in this one particular way. 

This isn’t criticising articles that detail the plot of the movie; of course the relationship between the women is integral to the film and should be discussed.

It is simply asking why and how a movie dealing with complex situations and identities has to be condensed to this one particular word for so many headlines.  There are plenty of other words that can be created using the alphabet. Why not go with something akin to ‘Cate Blanchett’s 1950’s drama’ for example?

I think we all know why.

It’s because using the word lesbian in this way is titillating. And that is the cause of the discomfort. Stories about women who have relationships with other women should not be told in order to grab headlines, or to titillate. We are not here to be fetishized or to be used as clickbait. 

This kind of language contributes to the idea that our relationships are not ordinary; that they aren’t as real or worth as much as everyone else’s. But when our hearts break, they break just like yours. And when the time comes, I will go to the cinema, I will buy popcorn, I will eat it, and I will watch the movie Carol.

I won’t lesbian-go-to-the-cinema, lesbian-buy-popcorn, lesbian-eat-it, and lesbian-watch the lesbian movie Carol.

Rebecca Shaw is a Brisbane-based writer and host of the fortnightly comedy podcast Bring a Plate.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch