Aubrey Plaza revealed to The Independent that Hollywood finds the concept of romcoms featuring same-sex couples “confusing.” Aubrey, who is bisexual, played April Ludgate on the mockumentary Parks and Recreation, a role created for her specifically after “the casting director told creator Mike Schur she’d just encountered the weirdest girl [she’d] ever met.”
Despite Aubrey’s memorable acting style, she’s known for her weird, awkward and hilarious talk show appearances. “I think it’s hilarious that people know me from my talk show appearances and not my actual work,” she said. “I just think that they’re silly, and the format makes me uncomfortable on so many levels, so my way of dealing with it is to just play into that. But I think there is an element of me unconsciously giving people what they want. You’re weird on talk shows and then people expect that again and then you get caught in this trap. It’s funny because I’m very nervous before I go on. I don’t have this elaborate performance ready; I’m literally just trying to be normal. But I can’t do it.”
Despite admitting she’s “always made a spectacle of [herself] in public,” and “[she’s] always humiliated [herself] in large groups of people,” she has been taking on more versatile roles, including the same-sex Christmas romcom Happiest Season. Happiest Season, which was “the first major-studio Christmas romcom to center a same-sex couple…was a coming-out caper with moments of real emotional darkness.” Aubrey played Riley, Abby (Kristen Stewart)’s high-school girlfriend.
Aubrey the Advocate
Aubrey is in a relationship with Jeff Baena, the director of The Little Hours, and she’s no stranger to advocating for more same-sex romcoms on the big screen. She said “a movie like this should have come out so long ago.” Despite her sarcastic, sardonic demeanour, Aubrey has been putting forth the idea of more lighthearted same-sex love stories to Hollywood for years. “Not to toot my own horn but I was calling my agency years ago and going, ‘You know, what you should do is take a romcom script and just… make it two women. Don’t make it about them being gay or coming out or anything, just a love story with two women.’”
Unfortunately, such a simple — yet exciting — idea that makes so much sense just didn’t go down well. Their response? “Haha, arghhh, I don’t know!” and “Well, imagine the poster and how confusing it would be for people.” Aubrey wasn’t backwards in coming forwards, responding to the suggestion that same-sex romcoms were “confusing” with “Are you out of your fucking mind?!” She claims the industry is “completely ignorant,” saying “it is so about time for those stories to be told in a mainstream way.”
Over-simplifying, baiting, and burying the gays.
I suppose the question is this: do same-sex couples have to suffer for their sexual orientation in order for the industry to put their love stories on the big screen? Stories need some sort of conflict, sure, but why can’t same-sex love stories involve similar conflicts to straight couples? Yes, same-sex couples have more representation in books and film than ever before, but we’re still ‘the other’. It’s not enough to normalize same-sex relationships on screen, the heteronormative industry simplifies the diversity of our stories, baits us — which is included in the music industry — and really likes to kill us off.
One of my favorite romantic comedies, Love Actually, originally had a lesbian storyline cut from it. The Christmas romcom could have been the predecessor to Happiest Season, but went “nah, better not.” The love story involved “a headmistress and her terminally ill lesbian partner Geraldine, who was played by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Harry Potter actress Frances de la Tour, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.” While the storyline was going to involve Geraldine dying (typical!) it would have fit in with the film’s theme of “complicated tales of love.”
The couple share a glass of wine and ask each other about their days, laughing over Emma Thompson’s character’s son’s Christmas wish: to see everybody’s farts. The headmistress, who’s known to be a strict ball-buster at work, is juxtaposed with Geraldine’s lightheartedness. The headmistress refers to Geraldine as “my love” and, as she leaves the room to make them some fancy sausages, Geraldine says “get in that kitchen, my domestic goddess!” The couple fall asleep together while Geraldine coughs, indicating her decline in health.
Emma Thompson’s character addresses the school after Geraldine’s death, saying “before we finish, I’d just like to say to our headmistress, on behalf of all the parents, that we think it’s very brave for her to be here today, in light of her recent loss. Geraldine was a wonderful and wicked woman, and sorrow is particularly hard at Christmas.”
Director Richard Curtis was “really sorry” to cut the lesbian scenes from Love Actually. But, as Aubrey Plaza points out, this is not an isolated incident. She has revealed the way in which the industry is particularly homophobic, asserting that same-sex romantic comedies are “confusing” to the viewers. The only way to make same-sex love less confusing to the general public is to represent their diversity. More well-known actors need to stand up, like Aubrey Plaza has been doing, demanding that same-sex couples be normalized so that, one day, a poster with two women in love will be a common occurrence.