Every single review for Steven Soderbergh's new thriller 'Side Effects' has praised the film for three things: Soderbergh's knack for building suspense, great performances by the four lead actors (Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum), and the pulse-pounding impact of the final twenty minutes that reveal a surprise twist in the plot.
Every single review has also been tight-lipped about this 'surprise' because they don't want to "spoil the movie" for those who haven't seen it yet. While I agree with the first two assessments in these reviews,I am going to reveal the surprise as a public service favor and call for action to LGBT audiences, particularly bisexuals.
The 'surprise' plot twist in the final act is that Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is bisexual.
I am not saying that every LGBT character in every film should be a sympathetic character. I am objecting to four things:The way in which 'Side Effects' reveals the sexuality of this character, as some sort of a shameful secret, adds to the negative stereotypes in which most LGBT characters are portrayed in films. Furthermore, Siebert is a one-dimensional character with no redeeming qualities. Showing her falling for a much younger woman - a client of hers, no less - adds to the misconception that LGBT people are pedophiles and cannot be trusted in certain professions like teaching or counseling.
The film gives no reason or explanation for why the character of Siebert had to be a bisexual woman. I can imagine the studio pitch where some exec suggests changing Victor Siebert (maybe Clive Owen was considered for that part) to Victoria Siebert. "Wouldn't it be more interesting if it was a female therapist being seduced by another woman?" One reviewer even used the word "titillating". Our sexual orientation - one that we have reconciled with after agonizing inner turmoil and at the risk of societal rejection - is a source of titillation for Hollywood.
When I was a young activist, I remember activists with placards and leaflets to protest movie theaters screening 'Basic Instinct'. Twenty years later, we have 'Side Effects', an equally, if not more, disturbing mainstream movie selling biphobia as intrigue and suspense.
Are we going to remain silent? Are we going to support this movie with our queer dollars? Online social media has taken the place of placards and leaflets. Activism is much easier these days, and much more powerful. I implore you to do your part. Spread the word.
Anil Vora reviews from the perspective of a queer man and a person of color. It helps him cut through a lot of bulls**t that movies try to spoon feed their audience. He has reviewed movies for Bi Magazine, GayRadio.com and written a blog. He is also an actor, playwright, and a lifelong fan and expert on Bollywood films.
Source: Bi Magazine: The "Side Effects" of Hollywood Biphobia