Guest Blogger

Dinner for Schmucks: A Bisexual Film about Female Orgasm

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 09, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Amy Andre, bisexual film, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell

Editors' Note: Featured from CNN to Cosmo for her expertise in bisexuality and LGBT rights, guest blogger Amy Andre is the Executive Director of San Francisco Pride and co-author of Bisexual Health. With a master's degree in sexuality studies, she has written dozens of articles and essays about pop culture, bisexual identity, and movies.

bswpic.jpgWhen I saw The Kids Are All Right, I lamented the fact that the only character who could be interpreted as bisexual (Julianne Moore's Jules, who is married to a woman and has an affair with a man) is portrayed as a bi stereotype: a cheater. She's a near home-wrecker and ultimately the only one among the movie's trio of adults behaving badly who has to atone (in the form of a sappy apology to her homo-nuclear family).

But I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, the bisexual characters in director Lisa Cholodenko's films are inappropriately sexually voracious (a la Frances McDormand in Laurel Canyon pursuing her son's girlfriend) and/or cheating (both Radha Mitchell and Ally Sheedy in High Art) and/or dead from an overdose (again, Ally Sheedy in High Art). It's sad that a lesbian director's previously best-known work is about a bisexual who cheats on her girlfriend and then dies. I'd rather see someone make a movie about a bisexual who lives with integrity - and lives.

It's ironic, then, that it took a straight man to show me just that. Steve Carell's turn as bisexual Barry in Dinner for Schmucks was more than just comic genius. It was a study in a man's clueless devotion to a woman's orgasm and another man's happiness. In the film, Carell's character is in love with his ex-wife - and, in my opinion, with his new best friend (played by Paul Rudd).

I saw the movie only by chance. My partner wanted to see it because she thought it looked hilarious. As a filmmaker herself, she has good taste, so I tagged along. We were both pleasantly shocked by its poignancy, feminist sex-positivity, and, yes, queerness.

The plot centers around Barry, a hapless cuckold who works at the IRS, where his boss, Therman, is the man who stole his wife. In a bizarre scene, Therman tries to get Barry to give him permission to "eat his pudding" in exchange for doing a favor for Barry's new friend/ paramour Tim. Barry resists, and later we find out that "pudding" is not a snack in the IRS kitchen but actually "Pudding", an affectionate nickname that Barry gave his ex-wife and which Therman continues to use to refer to her.

Barry refuses to give Therman permission to eat Pudding. But Pudding's sexual pleasure is the root of the conflict between Therman and Barry. At the titular Dinner, Therman reveals that Pudding left Barry for him because Barry couldn't find her clitoris. As the dinner guests roar with laughter, Barry innocently and woefully explains that he thought she might have "left it in her purse." Cue more laughter. But Carell plays the part of this socially awkward, lonely man so skillfully and empathetically that I felt sorry for him and didn't have to suspend my disbelief to buy that someone might not know where a clitoris is - or even what it is.

But Therman does know where it is, and wants to eat that Pudding. With Tim increasingly desperate for Barry's help in locating Tim's runaway bride-to-be, and Therman being the only one who might know where she ran to, Barry makes the ultimate sacrifice for Tim and tells Therman, "you can eat my Pudding."

Sacrifice is love. And love is a sacrifice. Barry gives up the girl, to help the boy get the his own girl. What a bisexual trooper! Barry and Tim never have sex - although they are invited to have group sex with bisexual artist Kieran and his two female lovers, also bisexual - but their devotion to each other and to the women in their lives is a bisexual love story if I've ever seen one. In the end, Barry even goes on Tim's honeymoon, hiding under the bed while Tim and his bride consummate (or, in Barry's words, "curate") their marriage. Barry is once again the cuckold (after all, his love object is having sex with someone else), but this time, there's a spirit of compersion, too.

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It seems tragic that bisexuals are always depicted as depraved. I for one get sick of it. It just kind of is a repeat of Dog Day Afternoon over and over.

I want to see that movie now. The Kids Are Alright, though, well, I haven't read much that made me want to see that movie.

Me too. It's not a movie I thought I'd get into, but Amy's review has convinced me to give it a shot.

BoyAboutOaktown | August 10, 2010 2:17 PM

I'd rather be depicted as a pervert than a sociopath. For bisexual people, that's a real step up. It's like halfway to human.

Maybe Barry (and Tim) should have accepted the offer to have group sex with Kieran and his girlfriends --- apparently, he needs some experienced fellow males to teach him how to find the little sugar plums hiding in all that pudding.

(But you know how men are --- no matter how lost they get, they are too stubborn to ask for directions.)

Ooops! I didn't mean to be sexist! ... I should have said, "... apparently, he needs some experienced fellow males and/or some lesbian-savvy bisexual women to teach him how to find the little sugar plums ..."

If there is anyone who can find a clitoris, I would expect it to be someone who has one.

Wow! As a bisexual woman, it's nice to know that there are movies out there that challenge the stereotype. I am also tired of all bisexual people being portrayed as cheaters, home-wreckers, and nympho-maniacs. Thank you for this review. I think I'll go see this film now!

*scampers off*

I neglect to see how Barry is bisexual. I mean, in the movie Barry shows nothing more than platonic love for Tim. Even in the end, Barry starts a relationship with Darla, the role-play prone nymphomaniacal one-night stand of Tim's past.

It is a comedy with a clueless "schmuck". That doesn't make him bisexual, it just makes him the focal point of the movie's humor.

In "The Kids Are All Right," it didn't seem to me that Julianne Moore's character could be interpreted as bisexual -- she says several times, when questioned, and when defining her sexuality, that she is gay. Just because she has sex with a man, and seems to enjoy it (she doesn't love him -- it's a physical thing) doesn't mean she is bisexual.

Also, Ally Sheedy's character in "High Art" is a lesbian. There are no male lovers in her life. Radha Mitchell's character, however, may be up for bisexual grab. It is unclear, though. She may also be straight. Or gay and just discovering it.

Usually the agenda of artists, i.e. film makers, is not to create the perfect and true identity representation for the benefit of other people who identify in that way, but to create the most perfect and truthful artistry.