January 3rd, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
I’ve been watching the HBO production of My Brilliant Friend. I love it. I think the acting is great, the direction is great, the recreation of the past is great, the tension is constant. Everything about this is great. But I saw this Lesbian review on Jezebel, and I laughed because it seems so true. The two women are often in these situations, staring at one another, close together, bonded by some deed or secret, and its possible to imagine their relationship existing along some other dimension.
Watching this series, I felt a mixture of bewilderment and exhaustion. If true friendships consume this much energy, then I have spent my entire life friendless. I’ve always assumed being gay required a fleeter foot along a trickier path than the one the heterosexuals walk, but how do the straights summon the energy to have so many relationships that are so fundamentally unsatisfying? Every turn of the narrative seemed to reflect upon the story’s unspoken gay tragedy. Elena’s inability to manifest an original thought hampers her studies, and it is also what prevents her from making out with her hot friend. Lila’s mind is more acute to unforeseen possibilities, but the village communist is only able to teach her about the mafia and the black markets, and unfortunately there’s no one in town who can do the same with lesbianism.
These characters spin around each other, allegedly smart, yet also so dumb. Without a helpful homosexual guide like Audre Lorde around to inform these two schemers that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, their plans to escape the patriarchal hold of their hometown are as elaborate as they are futile. Elena toils through years of schooling, Lila plots an elaborate shoe empire, and no one tells them that the fastest way to get permanently exiled from a backwards village is to just go ahead and do something gay. You’ll be in the big city in no time.
…What I don’t do is start relationships because my most captivating, most beloved, most confusing friend got asked out first. When I’m at the beach, I enjoy the beach. I do not write letters every dang day from my beautiful seaside vacation to impress my hot friend at home. I’m not carrying the memory of said friend’s impromptu book reviews so that one day I might parrot her thoughts in an essay and feel as though I were channeling her soul through my words. That’s plagiarism, Elena, and it’s also too much.
In general, my reaction to My Brilliant Friend from beginning to end, was damn, these gals have really let this thing get out of hand. Edging is a reliable way to intensify an orgasm, but 50 years without even making out with the person who haunts all your waking thoughts is taking the game too far. There’s something perverse about this whole brilliant friendship that I find disquieting. Elena and Lila shape each other like marble, cutting and chipping away at the parts of their personalities that are unformed and imperfect. They seek out each other’s meanness more often than they seek each other’s comfort.
…Call me old-fashioned, but if we’re never going to fuck, my threshold for the amount of pain I can endure on behalf of companionship is relatively low. In a prospective partner, I welcome all attempts to disturb my sense of well-being. In a friend, I’m a bit ashamed to say, it’s a dealbreaker.
There is also this comment, which is wonderful:
As someone whose Kindle is full of almost nothing but f-f romances, every episode of this series after the first was basically me going, “Oh, I know this part! This is where they sleep in bed together platonically and then wake up wrapped in each other’s arms, only to realize…” Nope. “Oh! This is where they lock eyes with each other for just a moment too long, only to simultaneous rea-…” Nope. “This is where—” Nope. Still nope.
My Brilliant Friend has every setup from every queer romance I’ve ever fed my eyes, but none of the actual pay-offs. It’s a bunch of angst with no catharsis, which does not work for me. I performed a self-check to see if there was some deficiency or other shortcoming that caused me to scrunch my face up at something so beloved by other women, and the results of said check were inconclusive. Was I projecting? Who knows. Regardless, by the time I reached episode 5 I found myself driven to reread Lily R. Mason’s Taking the Long Way just to get some relief, and that book is 823 pages of two women being in love with one another. I needed that much help, thank you very much.
My Brilliant Friend has wonderful acting, great direction, excellent cinematography and tremendous production values. It also exists entirely outside of my reality in a way that makes Game of Thrones seem plausible. Which, yeah. And, I mean, to be clear, I have straight female friends with whom I will never have a romance. I have queer female friends and non-binary friends with whom I will never have a romance. Those are relatable situations. I get those. Neither of those are what I, a lesbian raised on subtext in film and television, saw in My Brilliant Friend. That sub raised its periscope and broke the surface, only to pretend it was buoy or a clown fish or something that could make this analogy work.