I came across this bit of news the other night, and it snagged my interest. The short film “Love is All You Need?”, which is about a world where homosexuality is the social norm and heterosexual people are persecuted, is going to be adapted into a feature-length film.
I don’t know how I feel about this.
I’ve seen the short film (it’s embedded in the article linked above for anyone who has twenty minutes and wants to watch it), and it’s a decent story about a young girl who gets bullied at school because she’s attracted to boys. Eventually she’s beaten by her classmates and goes home where she commits suicide.
It’s very bleak.
Anyhow, the subject works well enough in a short film, although it’s still quite ham-fisted. Every beat of a typical bullying story that you can think of is present: parents who don’t understand what’s happening, social pressure to fit in, weird looks from peers when you express even a slight difference from what’s considered normal, it’s all there. The only difference is that gay people enjoy cultural hegemony and straight people are outcasts (to the film’s credit, there’s some decent set-up establishing that the film’s world is parallel with our own, even including the traditional disapproval of non-normative sexuality by established religions).
The point I’m trying to get at is that this is not a subtle film. It beats you over the head for twenty minutes that it is horrible to be targeted by peers for your differences. This is a fantastic thing if you want to use the story for didactic purposes, but as a piece of standalone fiction, I can’t say I find it very impressive.
Of course, there are still pitfalls that might pop up when trying to use this film to make a larger point. I happen to believe that gay people are fully deserving of the same dignity and rights that straight people enjoy, so I quickly see the point of “Love is All You Need?” and agree with it. Someone else might watch the film and think, “It’s horrible that that straight girl is being treated that way!” but fail to make the connection that this is supposed to be an exercise in developing empathy for the people who really are treated that way (as Rachael’s slush pile can attest, many people who imagine this same premise see it firstly as a warning of the coming persecution of straight people).
And I think that’s what I’m worried about with this becoming a feature-length film. Perhaps I’m just being exceptionally pessimistic on this point, but I suspect that there will be a significant number of people who read this story’s premise as one of coming disaster for straight people rather than as a call for empathy with gay people.
I really hope that’s not the case, but like I said, on this particular issue I’m feeling pessimistic.