phone call


I miss my phone call!

A lot of what Chris says about Y Tu Mama Tambien is less a critique of the film than it is a rant against adolescent males. It's kinda like me and opera ... I just close myself off to it, assuming I'll hate it, and because I have no real knowledge of the subject, I assume all operas are the same ... they're just "operas" which I don't like. But in the back of my mind, I know that Wagner is different from Mozart, and that some operas are better than others. I don't really CARE, but I know it's true.

American Pie is probably the best film of its type. That doesn't mean Chris wants to see it, any more than I'm dying to see that opera about the Rings. But like me with opera, some folks can't even imagine that there IS such a thing as a good film about adolescent males, or that there are degrees of quality in the genre. It's like saying "I don't like Olivia Records because all their music is the same and I don't care about dykes with guitars." In each of these cases, we miss a lot of good art because of our biases, whether it be towards adolescent males, opera, folkie music, or whatever.

Chris notes that all the two boys care about is their dicks. This is not the case. I know the dregs of the adolescent male genre works in this fashion ... she didn't make up the stereotype out of thin air ... what I think she's missing in this film is 1) they DO care about more than their dicks, but they think their dicks are all they are supposed to care about, which is different, and 2) the MOVIE cares about more than their dicks, and allows the viewer to have a more aware, complex response to the boys' lives than they sometimes do themselves. I think Chris is mistaking honest representation of adolescent male sexuality for wholehearted approval of same. The boys in the film lead lives far more stunted than necessary, in part because all they care about is their dicks. To the extent their lives are richer than the stereotypical adolescent male, it's because they are trying to see beyond their dicks. The same could be said for the movie, which is richer than the usual movie about adolescent males because it sees beyond the stereotype.

Next she notes that they have really bad sex, and then questions the actual eroticism of those scenes. First, on occasion they have good sex, and those scenes are erotic ... that what looks to be their best sex comes when they are jerking off in tandem while thinking about Salma Hayek is evidence of where their problem lies, of course, but that's why such scenes are in the movie, so we can see the problem even as they enjoy themselves. The viewer can compare the boys' skill and enjoyment during the mutual masturbation scene to their mostly useless flailing about during sex with women, and learn something about them as characters. The movie isn't asking you to like them for this, it is asking you to know their characters a little better. The film is NOT a triumphant paean to adolescent dicks, although for some it would appear that the very presence of the dicks is all you need to know to condemn the film for a celebratory pose it never actually adopts. Certainly, no one watching this movie would think "man, those guys are cool, look how crappy they are at having sex with women!"

As is standard for the "adolescent male having sex" genre, a more mature woman comes along to guide them into adult sexuality. But again, in Y Tu Mama Tambien, the stock plot thread becomes something entirely different. In an ordinary film in the genre, young guys learn how hot real women are, and grow up to be adult men who like hot real women. (This is not the plot of American Pie, BTW, which is one reason among many it's better than the norm for the genre.) In this movie, though, the woman guides the two boys into the spot that she ascertains they have belonged all along: consummating their friendship and, yes, love, through sex. I haven't seen every adolescent male sex movie, so maybe I just missed the others, but as far as I know, this is one of the only movies in the genre that recognizes in an overt fashion what gets buried in the run of the mill pictures: these guys love each other, they need to fuck. With each other. And they do. And it's beautiful. And erotic. And good.

And then, because the movie is doing all that it can to be honest to the characters it has presented, it rejects the happy ending where the two boys climb out of the closet and live happily ever after as gay men. That there are many happy gay men in the world should go without saying ... that it is good to have movies which celebrate happy gay men is also obvious ... that every movie should therefore end happily with well-adjusted gay men because that's the kind of feel-good moment we need more of in our popular culture is not as obvious, at least not to me. The discomfort the two boys/men feel towards each other in the film's coda is painfully honest, and not the least bit anti-gay. The two are miserable ... they know what they had, what they could have had, what they can't have because they are too locked into the mentality of straightness. They are not miserable in a Well of Loneliness manner, miserable because they are gay. On the contrary, they are miserable because they can't find their way to be gay. They are miserable, you might say, because they are straight. And the film is ultimately sad, because the audience understands this, knows that the greatness of the relationship between these two characters must fail because those characters are locked into self-destructive patterns.

In all of this, Y Tu Mama Tambien travels far beyond the norms for the genre. It takes the characters and the audience to places they haven't been in the past; it treats adolescent boys with a startling honesty that is NOT celebratory but is nonetheless understanding (it doesn't praise them for having dicks, but neither does it hate them for their appendages); it turns the eternal male buddy subtext of homoeroticism into the foregrounded explicit text of male homosexuality; and without condemning homosexuality, it shows how standard social notions about male relationships betray the true feelings of men who in a freer world might be able to come together literally and figuratively. If anyone thinks this means Y Tu Mama Tambien is "just another movie about boys and their dicks," I can only guess they haven't seen many such movies.


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