This year at Reelout I attended Eric Schaeffer’s Boy Meets Girl, which follows Ricki (Michelle Hendley), a transgender girl navigating her way through life and relationships while pursuing her dreams of fashion school. The film begins with Ricki pondering the idea of a relationship with a woman after stating that there are no eligible men left in town. The audience is simultaneously introduced to Robby (Michael Welch), Ricki’s childhood best friend. Throughout the course of the movie, Robby is shown to be an unconditional supporter and friend to Ricki. In walks the beautiful upper class Francessca (Alexandra Turshen) who is engaged to military man David (Michael Galante). Francessca and Ricki share an immediate connection, which eventually leads to the two of them exploring their sexual identities together. Roby is forced to address his feelings for Ricki as he watches her relationship with Francessca unfold.
Although Hendley is relatively new to the screen, which comes across in her delivery, her chemistry with seasoned Welch sets the stage for very genuine conversations about relationship labels and acceptance. Not only does the film explore issues of gender and sexuality, but also examines how social systems and classism impact Ricki. In one particularly poignant scene Ricky laments that she was “born in the wrong body and the wrong town”. Although the film only really shows us loving, supportive friends and family, there is an implication that growing up in a small town in Kentucky was not easy and that there is likely a strong preference towards heteronormativity in the community.
The film admirably juxtaposes Francessca and Ricki’s exploration of their sexuality in regards to both their physical bodies and class status. On the surface, both Ricki and Francessca identify as female and are exploring intimate relationships with another female. When compared to Francessca, is becomes clear how much more difficult it is for Ricki to navigate and label these new relationships as her body does not “match” with her gender. The film exemplifies gendered bodies being a mediated product of society, as discussed in lecture.
Overall, Schaeffer does an excellent job of seamlessly shifting the tone from heartfelt to comedic, in order to open the stage to discussing issues of sexuality and gender in a light hearted manner. Although the film does not address the intersectionality of race and gender, since all of the characters are white In its entirety, the film reflects gender and sexual orientation as existing on a spectrum. The film focuses on the relationships that exist simply between two “humans” as Ricki eloquently labels it, regardless of gender and biological sex. Although the script follows the standard romantic comedy storyline, it is almost to the film’s benefit as the viewer is given the opportunity to see that we are all faced with the same complexities of love and friendship even with fluid notions of gender.
I found that the notion of gender as a socially constructed product was perfectly illustrated in the scene following Ricki and Francessca’s sexual encounter. Ricki and Roby are in the car discussing what to label both Francessca and Ricki’s sexuality. Although the two women have experienced physiologically heterosexual intercourse, they both identify as woman. Roby and Ricki argue over whether labels of heterosexuality or homosexuality would apply in the circumstances as well as in parallel hypothetical sexual encounters. During this scene I also found myself attempting to categorize the nature of their sexual encounter and the characters’ sexual identity. I think that this authentic exchange between Ricki and Roby was meant to leave the audience with more questions than answers in an attempt to demonstrate the complexity of labels we attempt to apply in our society.
On particularly ironic component of my experience, was when I was redirected from the Reelout site to Ticketscene in order to purchase my ticket. It was very salient when I was asked to identify as a male or female on the Ticketscene website, a forced binary that I was acutely aware of. In all honesty, what was even more striking was that I even noticed. In terms of positionality, as a cisgendered woman I’ve never had to question these dichotomous gender labels since I “fit” into them. Even before attending the actual film, my perspectives and conscious awareness of the intersectionality of gender and society were changing as a result of attending Reelout.
Attending Reelout was certainly not something I would have done of my own volition. In theory, the whole concept seemed completely out of my comfort zone. In practice however, the experience of attending the festival was fantastic and completely in a zone of familiarity. I ended up choosing a heartfelt film with universal themes of understanding and acceptance that are relatable to any audience irrespective of gender and sexual orientation.