The way in which entertainment depicts characters' sexuality has come a long way in recent years. Sometimes movies and TV don't exactly get it right, but in the case of one new film, the way it shows what it's like to grow up gay is pretty admirable, according to one of its stars. During a recent panel at SXSW, Beanie Feldstein opened up about her own sexuality and explained why the queer representation in Booksmart was so important to her on a personal level, as Page Six reported.
In Booksmart, Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Feldstein (who plays Molly) and Kaitlyn Dever (Amy) are two overachieving high school friends with a desire to finally let loose before graduation. Dever's character identifies as gay, but during a panel at SXSW, Feldstein and screenwriter Katie Silberman reportedly discussed why it was important that Amy's sexuality was such a low-key part of her overall identity in the film.
“[For] our friends who identify as queer ... It’s never the first thing you would mention about them in real life," Silberman told the crowd, according to Page Six. "[Amy's sexuality] was one of [her] many qualities," she continued. "It obviously infuses your life but it’s not the defining quality of your life when you’re with your best friend and there are so many other things going on."
Feldstein then added her own, personal perspective to Silberman's comments, revealing why the way the film portrays Amy's experience growing up as a gay teen was so incredibly important.
The 25-year-old star explained,
"It was completely meaningful for me to watch the film. My partner is a woman. There’s a love scene between two girls and they’re fumbling with their sneakers and they can’t get their jeans off. All of those moments, they make me tear up because representation is really important. Also, Kaitlyn’s character is not the only gay character in the film. So there you go, what an incredible thing our film is doing. I think if I could have seen our film earlier, I would have found myself a bit sooner."
While Booksmart has yet to hit theaters — that'll happen on May 24 — some critics who've already seen a screener of the film have been praising its female-led depiction of sexuality. Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "Instead of reinforcing the same tired values that male directors have been peddling for years — where boys obsess about losing their virginity, freely objectifying the girls in their class — Booksmart matter-of-factly introduces one of its leads as a lesbian while presenting a view of female sexuality in which men are incidental."
Lindsey Romain of Nerdist commented on the film's novel portrayal of sexuality as well, writing, "Wilde [and Silberman] breathes new life into old tropes; Amy, for instance, is an out lesbian who crushes on her androgynous female classmate Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and later gets one of the only queer sex scenes that springs to mind in a mainstream teen comedy."
So far, it seems like Booksmart has succeeded in providing a refreshing take on queer representation in entertainment. Here's hoping that other films will learn from this coming-of-age comedy, and continue to normalize all sexual identities on-screen.