Spoilers follow for both Avengers: Endgame and the independent lesbian drama Tell It To The Bees—two very gay films that I watched this weekend.
Combined box office: $2 billion and $5.99 (Tell It To The Bees currently has a domestic box office tally of $0, but it cost $5.99 to rent from iTunes, which was actually more than my matinee ticket for Avengers, so take that, Disney).
I know everyone is dying to know what happens in Tell It To The Bees, so follow me to 1950s Scotland, where all skies are grey, all children are deathly pale, and any expression of joy is punished with a smack across the face.
A insisted that we watch Tell It To The Bees. I did not want to watch it as lesbian dramas always bum me out, especially when the trailer is 99% furtive glances and disapproving stares, but I was overruled.
Anna Paquin plays a shy doctor who returns to her small hometown where everyone whispers behind her back and openly questions her ability to properly do doctor things. She befriends a sensitive young boy who takes an interest in her beekeeping hobby, and she tells him that bees are good at keeping secrets.
Since this is the 1950s and also Scotland, the bees are the only safe outlet for a sensitive young boy’s troubles. He confides in these insects, who are really quite busy and have enough to deal with, that his mother is depressed, his father has abandoned them to shack up with his floozy girlfriend, and he and his mom are about to be evicted. His mom works in some kind of hell factory with no unions or regulations and not even her sweet Rosie the Riveter get-up can prevent her from losing a limb.
(There is a very tense scene where Hot Mom has to stick her hand in this chomper machine of death and I yelled, “Don’t lose your fingers! You’ll need them later!”)
Well, the bees must want to help, because the sensitive young boy brings his hot mom over to meet the bees and the doctor and very muted sparks fly!
The mom is wearing mismatched shoes when she first meets Anna Paquin. A shouted, “That’s a clue! That means she’s bi!” I said, “I thought it meant she was depressed.”
This is the LGBT movie watching experience in a nutshell.
Soon the hot mom and the boy move in with Doctor Anna to be her housekeeper and assistant beekeeper, respectively. Everyone is happy even though they’re still in Scotland, and there are several long furtive gazes through cracked doorways between Hot Mom and Doctor Anna, which culminates in a very tame love scene that bothered both A and I because the characters had only exchanged a handful of words and there was no chemistry between them.
“Why do they even like each other?” said A. “What is their connection based on?”
“The mom doesn’t even like the bees,” I said.
But this is set in the 1950s and the one rule of any LGBT film is that the characters can’t be happy, so the townspeople make life hell for nice Doctor Anna—who only wants to help their children not die of preventable diseases!—Hot Mom’s ex-husband takes the sensitive little boy away, everything is awful, and it never stops raining.
Fortunately the bees manage to save Hot Mom from being raped by her ex-husband (seriously! they swarm into the house and sting him!) at THE EXACT SAME TIME that Doctor Anna wins the town’s respect by saving a teenage girl who is bleeding to death after her family pinned her down and forced her to have a coat hanger abortion, performed by some scowling washerwoman who doesn’t know how to wash her hands. The girl is secretly married to a black guy, that was their reason.
This is why I hate movies set in the 1950s. Also, a hearty fuck off to anyone who wants to take us back there.
Yet, even though the bees have given their lives to help these ungrateful humans (if they sting, they die!), and it seems like everything is finally going to work out, oh no, says all movies, lesbians don’t get to have a happy ending.
The sensitive little boy is packing his suitcase, while Hot Mom and Doctor Anna are discussing their plans for the future—Hot Mom and the kid are going ahead to a place with actual sun, where people eat fruit instead of drinking themselves to death, and Doctor Anna says, “After I take care of everything here, I’ll be along.”
“She should’ve said, ‘I’ll BEE along,'” said A.
Then the little boy goes out to the beehives to say good-bye, and reveals to Doctor Anna that he knows she’s not coming with them, but he won’t tell his mom. She cries the strong silent tears of every lesbian protagonist I’ve ever seen in a movie, and then they all go to the train station, and Hot Mom says, “You’ll be along soon?” and Doctor Anna tearfully nods, but they clearly both know it’s not going to happen, all while A and I are yelling at the TV, “JUST GET ON THE GODDAMN TRAIN! THERE IS NOTHING FOR YOU IN THIS TOWN. THE BEES WILL BE FINE!”
And a melancholy narrator informs us that the lovers never saw each other again, but Doctor Anna took good care of all the awful people in this miserable town, and we end on a shot of the bees buzzing in their hive, as if to say, “We told her to go!”
A and I sat on the couch, stunned that we had been duped by yet another tragic LGBT film. “Why did she have to stay?” cried A. “There are other doctors in the world that could help that town. There are only so many lesbians!”
I even looked up the book the movie is based on, and found out that at the end of novel, they do end up together and live out their lives in Italy! ITALY!
Why can’t we ever get a happy ending?
The movies are full of them, they can’t throw us just one?
When Jessie and I rolled into Avengers: Endgame the next day, my expectations were low. I just didn’t want it to disappoint Mrs. Tiggywinkle. She’s been waiting a whole year!
I should explain. Mrs. Tiggywinkle was one of my favorite characters from Beatrix Potter’s stories, and when Jessie and I went to see Black Panther over a year ago and the little merch stand at the theater was selling stuff for that horrendous CGI version of Peter Rabbit, I had to rescue her from a lifetime of inhaling fumes from the popcorn machine.
As it turns out, she’s a bit of a Marvel fan. Endgame was her fourth movie with us, after Black Panther, Infinity War, and Captain Marvel. In fact, when I got to the theater, Jessie’s first question was “Did you bring her?”
Mrs. Tiggywinkle rode in my bag on top of two cans of contraband Diet Coke and a pack of cranberry-orange muffins. I’m not going into a three hour movie without supplies.
My expectations were exceeded the moment I saw our savior, Sweet Space Lesbian Jesus, emerge from the pitiless hell void of space to save us all. I actually gasped when I saw her haircut. “Is this happening?” I said, frantically nudging Jessie. “This is happening. A gay superhero is going to save the day.”
But she doesn’t get to really get to be gay or, really save the day. And her girlfriend (sorry, “best friend”) and their child AND HER CAT are nowhere to be seen. Sure, there is one LGBT™ character that is being hyped by the powers that be, but this character is on screen for maybe fifteen seconds, has no relevance to the plot, does not get a name, and can and will be easily cut out for Chinese distribution.
It’s not good enough. Tell It To The Bees is not good enough either. Furtive gazes between cardboard cutouts are not good enough. It doesn’t matter if we get one line of dialogue or fifty, if we’re not depicted as real people with real hopes and dreams and fears and triumphs.
Marvel has made us cry for a talking raccoon and a sentient plant that says three words. Creating an LGBT character that the world can cheer for should not be that hard.