My Feminist Problems with “Call Me By Your Name” (Newsletter No. 7)
That the film tries to have it both/all the ways,
The female characters are treated as pawns. For gratuitous beauty, sex, and compassion for the mens’ “journeys.” Three of the main male characters are queer. And yet they see women in as myopically a self-serving light as patriarchal straight males do. As emotional mothers, nurses, maids. A never-questioning and empathetic puppy dog.
Meanwhile, nudity and/or sex scenes between the two male protagonists are not shown. Who are we satisfying? A self-congratulatory straight audience? Also…they don’t HAVE to be gay actors…but the fact that they slide perfectly into mainstream ideals of masculinity…
Nearly hard-to-believe unbelievably understanding parents, socially-progressive I suppose, yet ignorance towards the possible power imbalance of a relationship between a 17 and a 24 year old? And yet, even in this dreamland utopia of understanding, the movie wants the pathos of a tragedy as well, so the plot point of an inevitable impossibility of a forever life is shoved in there to make a watcher feel like they love a painfully sophisticated film.
After all is said and done, this is an Ancient Greek classic. All this fetishizing of maleness in form and intellect, a “passionate” love affair amongst academic pretension. Which isn’t an absolute awful idea on it’s own, but why bother including female characters at all if they’re just a clueless mother, girlfriend, and maid? Why not just cast some robots? The movie is idyllic-ly anachronistic enough.
Turns out, a male gay movie can just as badly fail the Bechdel test as a straight one. Which isn’t so surprising now that I type it aloud.