On the Right: ’Kids Are All Right’ Is ’Anti-Family’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 16, 2010

The kids in director Lisa Cholodenko's new film may be "All Right," but America's political right thinks it's all wrong.

The New York Post's Andrea Peyser went after the movie in a July 15 article that dismissed the move as an example of "sick lives" being glamorized by Tinseltown.

"Hollywood is having a teaching moment--this time in the bedroom, where, if you're straight, chances are you've been doing it wrong," Peyser wrote, going on to compare The Kids Are All Right to Forrest Gump and Brokeback Mountain, and calling it a "self-righteously moralistic movie" that depicts males as "corrupt, amoral horndogs."

The article raised the alarm over the so-called "Gay Agenda," quoting one mother who declared, "The movie industry is doing its best to undermine the American family," while another claimed that Hollywood was "setting the new norm" through "propaganda films."

"This brazen attempt at trend-setting comes as national polls show Americans oppose gay marriage, half of us strongly," wrote Peyser, going on to note that the poll showed "fully two-thirds favored civil unions," before going on to attack gay parents with the assertion that, "Folks are happy with gays living together. But bringing children into the equation is a deal-breaker."

Peyser went on to recount that in the movie, a sperm donor father, Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo) is contacted by his two children, a teenaged boy and his half-sister, who he didn't know about. His sperm--provided by the sperm bank to which he'd sold it-- had been used by a long-time lesbian couple, Nic and Jules (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore). When Paul is drawn into the family by the teens, he and Jules enter into a torrid affair.

"Oddly, straight sex brings the only hot and natural relief to this movie's stifling awkwardness," Peyser wrote. "But, for reasons never explained, Jules dumps Paul and animalistic sex, and resumes being emotionally abused by Nic."

Peyser went on to quote a therapist who saw fit to preface her response with the phrase, "I'm not anti-gay." Added the therapist, "But I don't think you can compensate for the male-female role model."

While many critics have praised the film (in the interests of full disclosure, this reporter must count himself among them), others have disagreed, basing their less than enthusiastic reviews on the film's artistic merits rather than on social criteria. Indeed, as film critic John Podhoretz noted in his July 19 review at the Weekly Standard, the movie "is entirely devoid of explicit social commentary. There are no speeches about the difficulties of living a gay life; the kids of the title are not forced to defend their two moms against the harsh words of classmates; the characters do not feel or act oppressed."

However, Podhoretz opined, The Kids Are All Right serves up a simple and uninspired observation: "Gay relationships can be just as tiresome as straight relationships, if not more so." Podhoretz characterized the film as a "not particularly funny summer comedy," and went on to note that despite the characters' ambiguities and contradictions, "all of this self-consciously stark honesty about life's disappointments fits uncomfortably with the Sandlerian plot line."

All Nuance Aside...

Such nuances were not addressed in Dan Gifford's review of the movie, which appeared at Big Hollywood. Titled " 'The Kids Are All Right' Tells Us We Don't Need Fathers," Gifford's review set to establish the critic's "bona fides" by referencing his great-aunt, Del Martin, whom Gifford credited with being the "founder of the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-rights movement."

The review sought to categorize the lesbian characters in terms of "husband" and "wife," and dismissed the movie as "essentially selling a lite version of the leftist utopian political fantasy of not needing men and rejecting male patriarchy." The film review went on to discuss a study in Journal of Pediatrics that claimed that the children of lesbian parents fared better than their peers from heterosexual households, citing accusations that the study had been "funded by several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy groups," and throwing out the claim that "the political left dominates all media, even the scientific media," and quipping, "So, maybe the kids aren't all right."

Comments left by readers at the Big Hollywood review pointed to "inner city" neighborhoods as proof that children without fathers did not fare as well in the world, with several postings denouncing same-sex parents as "selfish": for undertaking the rigors and sacrifices of child-rearing without a member of the opposite sex on hand to provide a strong role model.

At right-wing chat site Free Republic.com, where gay news is frequently posted and discussed at length, the film was decried as "More libtard Gay junk," "a really stupid movie," "garbage," and "immoral trash." Commentators claimed to have "gagged" and "[d]amned near threw up" just at having seen the film's preview trailers.

Others saw in the film a précis of America's political and social problems. "Hollyweird is a cesspool and the American people have had enough. November is coming," wrote one commentator.

"Hollywood has certainly tried to depict 'normal' American families as repressed, alcohol/drug using, incestuous, suicidal groups," posted another. "The ones who attend church are always hiding 'sin' and the ones who seem 'odd' are really the supportive, intelligent ones doing better than their suburban neighbors."

Other postings derided contemporary filmmakers in general as "amoral Marxists" and compared them to "terrorists."

One "Freeper" took exception to Peyser's article, demanding, "I wanna know what the devil the reviewer had against 'Forrest Gump?' The morals of Gump were CLEARLY superior to the piece of garbage this column describes--'Gump' didn't HAVE to be 'self-righteous' or 'moralistic' to SEE that!"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.