Editors' Note:Guest blogger Leone Kraus is the voice behind the LGBT social media blog krausnotes.com. From volunteering, to lobbying, and now blogging, Leone has continuously played an active role in the fight for LGBT equality for the past 16 years. Leone is currently obtaining her Master's degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from New York University.
After seeing "The Kids Are All Right," I walked out of the movie theater feeling disheartened and annoyed. Not because the film's acting was bad, it was actually fantastic compared to other gay films I've seen, but because I felt the movie did little to educate the masses about the state of LGBT equality. I find it frustrating, as an LGBT activist, to see so many prominent figures in the community doing little to leverage their voices to educate society on issues pertaining to equality.
The LGBT community faces far more discrimination than just the legal right to marry, which wasn't even noted in the film. It's great that there are same-sex couples that consider themselves married without the actual legal documents, but given the star power and broad reach of this film, it could have benefited the movement had it been briefly noted in the script.
Why "The Kids Are All Right" Leaves Me Disappointed
Lisa Cholodenko, one of the writers and director of The Kids Are All Right, had the opportunity to throw in a variety of compelling statistics or real life LGBT discrimination scenarios into the script, but opted not to. I understand a majority of moviegoers see films to escape their reality and this type of script adjustment may have prevented them from attending. However, aren't we sheltering them from the character's reality when we purposefully omit certain key details because we're trying to attract a large audience? For instance, there is NO WAY that the characters, Nic and Jules, could have ever, as a lesbian couple, raised two kids and not experienced any hardships that same-sex couples face when raising children.
I wonder whether Nic was independently wealthy prior to becoming a doctor, because she would have had to be, in order to have three dependents, student loans, and none of the federal financial benefits of marriage. They also, more than likely, would have faced some sort of discrimination when they enrolled their kids into school, even (or especially) in California. Or at the very least, maybe the staff at Target would have looked at them disparagingly.
By portraying the couple as they were in the film, it does give off the positive message to society that we are normal and can have healthy families, but we are also delivering the message that we have equal rights and that the LGBT equality fight isn't necessary. The movie shows that individuals of the LGBT community can live happily and successfully raise children, all without any of the legal protections that are provided to straight people. In that way, the film does a disservice to the LGBT community by allowing people to believe we have equal rights when in fact we don't.
My main complaint is that the film does nothing to encourage moviegoers to educate themselves about the state of LGBT policy in their communities. It offers no "call-to-action." A huge opportunity was missed in the LGBT community's quest for equal rights despite the movie's effort to integrate "modern families" into society.
How "The Kids Are All Right" Enhanced Its Social Media Presence
Since this blog specializes in social media and not politics, the rest of the post will analyze the social media strategy of The Kids Are All Right.
I saw the film just a week after it was released. Shortly before going to the film, I did take a look at its Facebook Fan Page. At the time, the Fan Page had just over 2,000 fans. A couple weeks later, it's up to over 10,000!
The movie uses both a movie web blog site, www.family-is.com and a Facebook Fan Page to create a rich environment for fans of the film and supporters of "modern families" to share their enjoyment of the film, to engage in dialogue with one another, and to answer the question, "What does family mean to you?"
The Facebook Wall provides a platform to update fans about movie theater screenings, cast and crew interviews, and fun facts about the cast. Looking through the Fan Page, it appears to be well maintained and monitored. Fresh content that encourages dialogue is continuously posted and negative comments towards the film are more than likely omitted since none are ever visible on the page.
The most intriguing and useful tabs on the Fan Page are "Family Is" and "Fan Photos," which both share content with the web blog site. The Family Is section allows people to share photos, links, videos, audio, and text defining what family means to them. Because this is in the Facebook platform, readers are allowed to comment and Like the posts, allowing for two-way online dialogue to occur.
The Family Is tab also connects you to the web blog site where you can access movie reviews, purchase movie tickets, view "modern family" fan photos, access movie clips, interviews, and participate in their contest. I wonder if mine will make it in - probably not. Not many people are as jazzed about social media as I am.
The Fan Photos tab consists of a variety of photos from different Pride events in different cities. During the Pride season, Focus Features set up a number of "The Kids Are All Right" street teams. Each team went out to major cities such as Houston, San Francisco, New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and a variety of others. Photos taken of 'modern families' holding signs describing in their words what family means to them. I encourage you to check it out!
The Kids Are All Right may not have delivered the LGBT equality message that I had hoped it would, but the "modern family" messaging was spot on. The film attempted to bring LGBT families into the mainstream via a comedic portrayal, but lessened its impact by catering to stereotypes and omitting key details within storylines. While these mainstream films, along with others such as "Brokeback Mountain", and the tearjerker, "Boys Don't Cry" are needed to educate the masses about the oppression we face in LGBT community, The Kids Are All Right could have done it better.