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coming out on film


I’ve been spending a lot of times watching movies lately and by coincidence, two movies that I’ve watched in the past few weeks – Goodbye Mother and Happiest Season – have had eerily similar premises. They both revolve around two concepts – coming home and coming out - despite being from wildly different parts of the world. Goodbye Mother, directed by Trinh Dinh Le Minh, is a Vietnamese film, while Happiest Season, directed by Clea DuVall, is American. In both films, one half of a gay couple brings their partner to their family home, where they are closeted. The partner then, to keep up with the lie, must also pretend to be heterosexual to protect their boyfriend or girlfriend. In the films, the characters are outed and while there may be some complications and struggles, both end on positive notes.

最近よく映画を観ているんだけど、ここ数週間で、2つのよく似た作品に出会った。『グッバイ・マザー(邦題:こんなにも君が好きで -goodbye mother-)』と『ハピエスト・シーズン(邦題:ハピエスト・ホリデー 私たちのカミングアウト)』だ。この2つの映画は、制作された場所は全く違うけれど、どちらも「帰省」と「カミングアウト」という2つのテーマを中心に展開する。『グッバイ・マザー』はベトナム映画で、監督はチン・ディン・レ・ミン、『ハピエスト・シーズン』はアメリカ映画で、監督はクレア・デュヴァル。あらすじは、 両作品ともに、ゲイカップルの独りがパートナーとともに実家を訪れるというもの。パートナーは、主人公を守るために異性愛者のふりをしたり、登場人物はゲイであることをアウティング*され、様々な葛藤や困難に直面するけれど、やがて物語はポジティブな結末を迎える。

* アウティング = 人のSOGI(性自認、性的指向)を、本人の了承を得ずに他の人に暴露すること。

But despite the relatability of this theme, both movies are coming out stories at their core. On Twitter and Letterboxd, a movie review website, I have seen some people complain about Happiest Season calling the themes of the film “overdone” and “tired.” It has been compared to recent movies like Moonlight and Love, Simon as well as older movies like My Own Private Idaho and But I'm a Cheerleader (starring Happiest Season's director, DuVall) that similarly feature coming out stories with a variety of different tones from parodic to dramatic. Conversely, I have not seen much criticism of Goodbye Mother in that same vein. I think the lack of criticism comes from the appreciation of Goodbye Mother as an LGBTQ+ film that comes from a part of the world that is considered by some to be less liberal than the US, where Happiest Season is from. It seems that because of the perception of the West as accepting and other countries like Vietnam as not accepting of LGBTQ+ people, Goodbye Mother is being valued for being an unconventional perspective - as a film that tells the story of specifically non-white LGBTQ+ characters in a non-Western country - whereas the Happiest Season is not. However, I think that both movies should be valued as coming out films simply because there is nothing “tired” about coming out. While it may be easy for some people to do so, many people around the world, even in seemingly accepting Western countries, still struggle with it and there is so much variation in coming out stories that I don’t think they can yet be considered “overdone.”

両作品ともに、共感しやすいテーマを扱いながら、カミングアウトについての物語を軸としている。ツイッターや映画レビューサイトのLetterboxdでは、『ハピエスト・シーズン』のテーマについて「ありきたり」「見飽きた」「使い古されたもの」と批判する声がみられた。この映画は、パロディーからドラマチックなものまであらゆるトーンを用いて「カミングアウト」をテーマとした様々な映画と比較される。例えば『ムーンライト』や『Love, サイモン 17歳の告白』といった最近の映画や、『マイ・プライベート・アイダホ』や『Go!Go!チアーズ』(『ハピエスト・シーズン』の監督も出演している)といったひと昔前の映画。しかし『ハピエスト・シーズン』とは反対に、『グッバイ・マザー』を批判する声はあまり聞いたことがない。きっとこの理由として、アメリカで制作された『ハピエスト・シーズン』と比べて、『グッバイ・マザー』はLGBTQ+に対して理解が進んでいなさそうな国で作られたということがあるからだと思う。欧米がLGBTQ+の人々を受け入れているというイメージや、ベトナムのような他の国はそうでないとするイメージがあるからこそ、欧米以外の国で白人ではないLGBTQ+の登場人物の物語を描いた『グッバイ・マザー』は珍しい観点とされ、評価される。それに対して、『ハピエスト・シーズン』はこの「欧米の白人のLGBTQ+主人公」の型にはまっているという点がマイナスとして評価されているようだ。でも、個人的にはどちらの映画も、カミングアウトを扱った作品として評価されるべきだと考える。なぜなら、カミングアウトが「使い古された」テーマであるはずがないから。カミングアウトについて悩む人は世界中にたくさんいるし、一見受け入れられているようにみえる欧米の国でも、未だに苦しんでいる人はたくさんいる。カミングアウトと一言に言っても色々な形があるから、「ありきたり」ということはないとも思う。

The movies have had me thinking about my own coming out story, if you can really call it that. I don’t typically consider myself to be “closeted.” I can be a very private person but among friends, I talk freely about my sexuality. Even with people who are not friends, I don’t hide it. In my mind, making a formal declaration of sexuality is a confirmation that being straight is ‘normal’ and I don’t live with that assumption. Instead, I live with the assumption that I don’t have to formally announce anything about myself to people. If it comes up, then it comes up and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There have only been two times that I’ve felt that I had to come out formally. The first time I came out was to a close friend of mine. They came out to me and so I came out to them as bisexual. It was meant to be a reassurance and an acknowledgement. The formality of it was more for them than it was for me.


The second time that I came out was to another close friend. The two of us had met through a few mutual friends – one of them being someone that I was in a strange relationship with - somewhere between being friends with benefits and dating. I didn’t want our friends to know what was going on in case they bothered us about the state of our relationship, which we avoided talking about. We were very affectionate in public, even in front of our friends - holding hands wherever we went and sitting on each others’ laps - and there was no doubt in my mind that it was only that we were both women that many of our friends didn’t suspect anything. Much later, when that person was out of my life, I was sitting with my friend at dinner and I knew that I needed to come out to her. I had hesitated to tell her throughout our two-year friendship because I knew she would have her suspicions about me and the mutual friend, and didn’t want her to ask. That relationship hadn’t ended well but I didn’t want the complications of my relationship to change my friend’s perception of her in any way or for my friend to feel like she had to choose sides. But, she was a good friend and I owed her honesty. I didn’t think it would be a big deal but when it came to the moment, I felt nervous without explanation. It wasn’t that I thought she’d be homophobic because I knew she was a woman with progressive views. But despite that, in putting off having a serious conversation with the person I was involved with, I had inadvertently hidden something important about myself. I hated the feeling – like there was something stuck in my throat that I just couldn’t cough up. My friend was wonderful after I told her and I always knew that she would be, but it didn’t change the nervousness I felt before or the relief I felt afterward.


Watching the characters in Goodbye Mother and the Happiest Season being forced into hiding their sexuality reminded me a lot of that conversation that I had with my friend. I was lucky in that I knew that she would react positively but many people approach these situations with fear that their loved ones may be homophobic. They struggle with ignorant friends and family, self-hatred, conservative societies, and denial in being something other than what is understood to be normal so they closet themselves. I don’t struggle with any of those things but I still felt scared to come out. I think that I was scared that my friend would feel betrayed that I had been dishonest with her and I thought that coming out to her would make it seem as if I was hiding a part of myself that was abnormal or worth hiding, which is not true. In a world where LGBTQ+ people hide their gender and sexuality for much more serious reasons than I did, my fears don’t carry much weight. Many people are scared of much worse.


I think that people who are “tired” of coming out stories in the media subscribe to the understanding of the world as being more accepting of LGBTQ+ people. This may be true in many ways but for many LGBTQ+ people, that is not the reality that they experience. The coming out process is not something that is easy and even now, people find themselves in bad situations after coming out. They may be rejected by their friends and family, kicked out and left homeless, fired from jobs, or be put in physical harm. Goodbye Mother was not called overdone because it is a film made in Vietnam, where 20 percent of LGBTQ+ people reported being beaten by a family member when they came out. The Happiest Season is called overdone because the characters are upper class white people living in America even though an American study reported that most parents of LGBTQ+ individuals have difficulties when their children come out.


There are thousands of movies produced each year worldwide and a small (but growing!) handful of them are LGBTQ+ focused. I don’t think there are enough coming out stories on film for anyone to call them “tired.” Watching Goodbye Mother and the Happiest Season reminded me of sitting across from my friend over dinner, going quiet for a moment then coming out to her. They reminded me of the way that she accepted it so openly and supportively. I think coming out stories are only “overdone” to people that have the privilege of calling them that. I think I will always find beauty in watching someone become brave enough to share something that they once hid from people.


Images by Caitlyn

Japanese Translated by Mia, Hikari and Kiara

Edited by Kiara

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