If you’ve seen The Kids Are All Right, you need to read this ugly Andrea Peyser piece which appeared in the N.Y. Post‘s online edition on 7.15. She basically feels that Mark Ruffalo‘s “sperm donor” character, who’s a little on the impulsive and immature side, deserves more respect and understanding than director-writer Lisa Cholodenko shows him over the course of the film. And that the film itself is basically Hollywood lefty gay propaganda that won’t play in the heartland.
Peyser seems down with Ruffalo’s character because he’s straight, and she appears to dislike or at least disapprove of the gay-mom characters, played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore , because gay people shouldn’t be raising and screwing up their kids (i.e., influencing their attitudes about gay people). Nice.
Peyser feels it’s an insult to Ruffalo’s biological sovereignty for him to be referred to as the “sperm donor” instead of biological father. I can see her point, but biological co-authorship matters only if the father (or the mother) lives up to the demands of parenthood in a steady, compassionate, straight-arrow way. I would have personally liked the movie a bit more if Ruffalo hadn’t been tossed onto the compost heap at the end, but guys are dogs, let’s face it, and this seemed like a half-reasonable way to go.
Peyser is clearly irked that Cholodenko favors the domestic gay relationship over Moore briefly knocking boots with Ruffalo’s resturateur. Which is basically true, Cholodenko being gay herself and all that entails. (Would Peyser knock a film from a straight male director that doesn’t seem to treat a gay or bisexual character with full respect and fairness? Kinda doubt it.) But Chololdenko is also a good director doing the best work of her career thus far. For dramatic and/or moralistic purposes (or both), Cholodenko is supporting a committed parenting relationship over an impulsive affair — what’s so twisted about that?
What matters is that Cholodenko sells us on the compassion, foibles, vulnerabilities and all-around normalcy of Bening-Moore. They’re a caring, quirky, struggling couple trying to do the right thing by their kids. I see what Peyser’s beef is — she wants a restoration of a primarily straight culture in which gay people live in the recesses and don’t raise kids. She’s entitled to feel this way, of course. If she wants to argue against treating everyone fairly or decently regardless of sexual orientation, let her. But what a pathetic way to look at things.
If I had two kids that I couldn’t raise for whatever reason (illness, jail, impending death by gangsters) and I had to choose between their being adopted by a decent gay couple like Bening-Moore or a bigot like Peyser, I’d definitely go with the dykes.