During the Oscars-viewing party at my friend’s house this Sunday, in order to survive commercial breaks (god, remember those?), we played that American classic, Who Would You Sleep With at The Oscars. The party had been a rowdy mix of gays and straights, but by this point we were in the weedy middle bits, and the bulk of the lesbian contingent had gone home to spoon their cats and prepare their overnight oats. So when Martha pulled the next response out of the bowl, it was obvious whose it was.
“It says…‘Rachel Weisz, duhhhhhh’!”
Everyone immediately pointed to me and Erika, the last lesbians left. We both raised our hands to claim it, and then laughed – we had both written “duhhhhhh” at the end of our answer.
Because, Rachel Weisz, duhhhhhh.
I think we’re all agreed that Rachel Weisz is the most exhilarating thing to happen to lesbian cinema in the past two years. Like everyone else, I watched Disobedience and The Favourite without blinking, and my contacts dried out, and I had to make a replacement order with 1-800-Contacts before my annual rebate kicked in. Rachel Weisz is fucking up my contact lens schedule and losing me money! Rachel Weisz is also a luminous goddess of mythic proportion and her cheekbones make me want to lie on the floor and think about God. Rachel Weisz wearing an 18th century men’s riding frock is the most beautiful thing I have seen since, uh, Rachel Weisz wore a 21st century overcoat and spit in Rachel McAdams’ mouth. She is a treasure.
Rachel Weisz has also gifted us with two more bastions of queer film. And she’s done so with incredible integrity, from plumbing the well of lesbian literature to inform her work, to vamping for gay rights with the delightful Olivia Colman at the BAFTA awards. She is an ally in the most exquisite sense of the word: she is working hard to tell great stories about queer women. I beamed seeing her at the Oscars on Sunday, wearing an actual croptop of actual red latex because that’s the kind of badass, freshly-minted gay icon she is. Whenever the camera panned to her and her Favourite costars, I felt full to bursting with joy.
Because, Rachel Weisz, duhhhhhh.
But then – there’s fucking James Bond, aka her husband Daniel Craig, with his crystal blue eyes and his torso of real rock. And there’s Olivia Colman, gushing charmingly over her Best Actress win, thanking her own husband. And there’s waife-like Emma Stone canoodling with her boyfriend who is, like, who even is he.
It kind of felt like that time I was vibing with this amazing girl at a writing workshop until she told me her boyfriend had just proposed.
Or the time those women in my improv class I was sure were a couple actually just owned a yoga studio together.
Or the time Queen Latifah grand marshaled Long Beach Pride but was quick to note that she herself was not gay.
Or all the other tiny heartbreaks we all know so acutely. It can be a lonely business, this being gay.
So sure, Rachel Weisz is a gay icon. And sure, Michelle over here at the party knows she’s *probably not* going to sleep with Mahershala Ali, even though they both happen to be straight. It just stings a little to know that, were I to someday fall (read, throw myself) across Rachel Weisz’s path while she was dressed in jodhpurs and a frock coat, those cheekbones splicing electron shells from their nuclei as she walked, and ask her if she wanted to grab a Malbec, she would probably smile that heavenly smile (with just enough lip curl to remind you that she’s British and thus smarter than you), and tell me thank you so much, but unfortunately she isn’t gay.
I don’t want to crush over celebrities I can’t have – even if I still can’t have them! I want a celebrity to turn down my invitation for Malbec not because she’s straight, but because the lack of symmetry in my eyebrows would only heighten the symmetry of hers and it would be too awkward to keep seeing each other! I want her to turn me down because of my endless questions about craft services! I want her to break up with me because I keep thinking her agent is her assistant and forgetting which one I can beg to pick me up at the airport! I’m totally fine never getting to kiss a celebrity. I just want to content myself knowing she’s kissing the lady she actually wants to kiss. And maybe watching her do it on live television at the Oscars.
Things are improving, it must be said. Sarah Paulson worried for her career after kissing Cherry Jones on camera at the Tony Awards in 2005, but she has managed to slay magnificently as an out bisexual actress. And even if the gay characters in this year’s Best Picture nominees were played by straight actors – and Bohemian Rhapsody should have been titled If Only Freddy Had Stayed with That Nice Blonde Girl – there were still two Best Picture films with real queer subjects. Of course, they lost to Green Book, which was yet another meditation on America’s favorite subject, Feeling Better About Racism, so we’re definitely not there yet. The Academy is pathetically loyal to stories of the status quo, and quick to ignore those who question that loyalty. Those of us not in America’s mainstream are fighting for visibility every day; the Academy Awards feel like a crucible of that visibility. So while I applaud Rachel Weisz for everything from her talent to her bravery to her incredible ability to make mouth-spitting sexy, watching her carry the mantle of gay icon at the Oscars on Sunday made me feel a bit lonely. I want to see more gay icons that are, well, gay.
So, all you bona fide queer actors out there, keep hustling. Keep waiting those tables and going to those auditions and taking straight role after straight role because, even with the amazing contribution of Rachel Weisz and the many others out there working so hard, there are STILL not enough damn stories about us. And bona fide queer writers, let’s keep writing stories to put them in. Let’s do our damndest, as casting directors and costumers and camera grips and craft service people, to put more queer people at the heart of more queer stories.
I am so excited, someday, to see an Amazonian queen of panty-dropping proportion stride out of her limo onto the Oscars red carpet, swathed in latex, nominated for a film made by queer people about queer people, smile heavenly at the cameras, and kiss her damned wife.
Because true, authentic, queer love – duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Rachel Garbus is a writer, performer, teacher, and who knows what all else in Brooklyn, NY, formerly of Atlanta. She does live comedy, writes essays, and is woefully inept with all plants. Follow her at @goodgraciousrachel.