Tuesday, June 16, 2020

B is for...Body Parts

In honor of it being Pride Month, each week I'm going to do a short write up about a movie with some sort of LGBTQ+ representation. This week, I'm writing about the horror film masquerading as an indie drama May, directed and written by (and also humorously co-starring) Lucky McKee.

Who is May?

May revolves around May Dove Canady (Angela Bettis): May is a young woman working at a pet hospital whom has been an outcast for her entire life due to having a lazy eye that required her to wear an eye patch throughout her youth. Now armed with contact lenses and a slowly burgeoning sense of confidence, May tries to form connections with other people in her life, including mechanic/filmmaker Adam (Jeremy Sisto) and co-worker Polly (Anna Faris). When her attempts at forming connections with Adam and Polly don't go as May planned, she becomes distraught and eventually hatches a plot based off of advice her mother gave her as a child: If you can't find a friend, make one. Which May intends to do...with body parts from the people she's trying to connect to.

What's so queer about May?

The queer content of May is mostly through the titular character: May is bisexual and, as the plot summary states, she has two primary love interests in the film in the form of Adam and Polly. May's bisexuality is explored through her attempts to connect with both, and one could also argue that the loneliness and isolation that May deals with can also be tied into her sexuality. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community often struggle with feelings of loneliness and depression for a variety of reasons associated with their sexuality throughout their life. I couldn't find an exact statistic, but one article from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that somewhere between around forty five percent of people in the LGBTQ+ community struggle with depression and anxiety. While the film explicitly shows us May struggling with her visual impairment, is it really a stretch to suggest she might have been ostracized by her peers for being bi as well?

The depression and anxiety of May

In addition to May, we also two more queer characters in the form of lesbians Polly and Polly's hookup Ambrosia. Polly's homosexuality is explored, albeit not in...the best of lights (see more on that below) and Ambrosia is a minor character and, unfortunately, doesn't get much to do besides be Polly's fling and someone who susses out May isn't good news.

Is this good queer representation?

I suppose the answer is Yes and No.

Let's begin with the negative aspects: While I enjoy the character of Polly, the character is constantly trying to put the moves onto May. Like every single scene she shows up, she's trying to get a certain something out of May. Admittedly, a few of instances are actually pretty funny, which I'm attributing to McKee's decision to cast Anna Faris as Polly. If there's anything to know about me, it's that I've always found Faris to be an underrated comedic genius and she definitely brings her humorous sensibilities to the role of Polly. What could be a one-dimensional predatory lesbian character in other hands comes across as a campy and funny character with Faris taking the reigns. It's hard not to laugh when she asks May, "Do you like pussy?" and immediately backpedals to "Cats! Do you like pussycats? God, you're a nasty little thing." However, that doesn't change the fact that the character still embodies the stereotype of the oversexed queer person. The other aspect besides Faris's performance that saves Polly from completely problematic is that she gets to deliver the film's ultimate message: When May is measuring Polly's neck during the final act of the film as preparations for her ultimate plan, she notices a mole on on Polly's finger. While May is displeased by the mole, Polly makes a comment about how her grandma said, "It's imperfections that make you special." Something that ends up becoming the film's moral.

Anna Faris as Polly in May

In addition to the messy nature of Polly's character, Ambrosia doesn't fare much better. She's ultimately in the film for two purposes: One, to be an obstacle to push apart May and Polly and two, to be another body in the body count May racks up at the end. With the rise in backlash to the "Bury Your Gays" trope in the media, that second purpose really stands out as not aging well. She also doesn't have much of a personality outside of being the only character that knows May is up to no good, having legs that are literally nice enough for May to steal and looking like Character Actress Missi Pyle. For what it's worth, Nichole Hiltz does her best with this role and at least it gives us this memorable sight gag.

May's got (Ambrosia's) legs

As for the titular character herself? I think the handling of her bisexuality is actually the best handled queer aspect of the film. Her attempts to connect with Adam and Polly are treated with equal seriousness, and the inevitable love scene between May and Polly is not as tasteless as it could be. Especially considering the film McKee would later go on to make with friend and fellow filmmaker Chris Sivertson, All Cheerleaders Die, which (and I apologize to any fans of that movie reading this) is very Male Gaze-y and, in my opinion, exploitative and mediocre compared to May. Plus, if you choose to read the film the way I do, it is a film that actually explores the impact of the consequences of the depression and anxiety that some LGBTQ+ people go through, expressed through May. While I highly doubt the vast majority of these people end up going on killing sprees like May ultimately does, the mental illnesses and effects thereof that LGBTQ+ community members go through should not be ignored.

May Dove Canady: Bicon for the ages

Next Week: The series gets a blast from the past as we move from the B to the T with Brian De Palma's problematic film Dressed to Kill.

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