Atomic Blonde Is Mediocre And Gay — And That’s GREAT
The script of the Video Essay below:
Dammit world, I just want more average gay movies.
Alright, so let’s talk about Atomic Blonde as a movie. I get exactly what they were going for, but honestly, they were vague as fuck. Every damn time they talked abut THE BIG TWIST, it was a WINK WINK, NUDGE NUDGE, kinda thing, and by the end, it was so confusing, but it didn’t matter anyway because it frankly goddamn resolved itself in its own badly-executed kind of way. The takeaway is, the Cold War’s over, and Lorraine, our protagonist, just wants it to end so she can go fuck off and be gay in her home country.
In a nutshell, it’s a spy action flick. You have all the cliches — the sleek, attractive protagonist who can overcome anything and everything with overwhelming ingenuity; there’s the cat-and-mouse tension; cheesy one-liners between the protag and her superiors; and the lover who, spoiler, gets killed.
But honestly, the cliche stuff was cliche, but… in a good way? Everything was super predictable, but… in a refreshing way. Not good; refreshing. Especially relative to any movie on rotation on your local cable stations. It’s nice to see lesbian sex on the screen and a confirmed bisexual lead character and a woman fighting like a woman who can kick my ass anyday all that.
But that’s enough of that review. I’ll give it a 6.5 out of 10.
And I want more of that.
Atomic Blonde got released in the context of a very heated debate online, in which people are upset over an even MORE gay piece of work called Dream Daddy. Now, I haven’t gotten to experience it in full yet, but the takeaway is, you’re a dad, and you date dads.
People have gotten very… aggressive, over the piece of work. But there’s only one thing about the game itself: an ending about one dad murdering all the others’ now-ex wives in order to make this perfect community or world or whatever of sexy dads, and your daughter’s actually been kidnapped and subbed out by a demon for a wee bit of time. And yeah, that does fall under the problematic trope of the predatory gay man trying to force sexuality or… whatever.
But otherwise… it’s kind of doofy. Dating sims with a fun premise but a dark secret ending are a fun gimmick indie world; just look at Hatoful Boyfriend.
And my take on that is, it doesn’t invalidate your romances with anyone else, or the fun you’re having. It doesn’t make the game bad. It’s just a dark way to explain a premise that, frankly, is pretty rare. Like, okay, there are gaybourhoods, but gayhborhoods where everyone’s already had kids and is exceedingly gay and-or bisexual and, frankly, male bisexuality is actually accepted? Shit’s NUTS.
The reason I bring Dream Daddy up is, that fans get pretty hung up over works that attempt to be progressive. They want it to be painstakingly perfect.
And you know what? We’re absolutely not going to get as much virtrol, on the other hand, about Atomic Blonde.
Now, maybe it’s because Atomic Blonde doesn’t claim progressivism as a tagline, but frankly, neither does Dream Daddy. It’s gay, but that’s it. And that’s what Atomic Blonde does too — it mentions it’s bisexual, but that’s not the prime feature, arguably less than Dream Daddy. Dream Daddy is a work of diverse queer media, but it doesn’t talk about it — it’s an indie game, and so people assume that “diverse queer indie media” has to be perfect in every way. And by the way, Dream Daddy does an EXCELLENT job of achieving a lot of diverse queer indie media goals.
Atomic Blonde is, on the other hand, again far from perfect. It’s a solid 6.5 out of 10. And it has some things that, in a usual context, is problematic, namely the “dead lesbian lover” thing. But in my opinion, what overrules that is the “dead spy lover” trope is the clear intent. And it’s not like the lover didn’t put up a fight, or was killed FOR being queer — it follows a flawed, but common, storyline of a spy’s lover being too important to live in the eyes of the villain. And yeah, you know what? She did have information. She was a spy. She was a target.
And yeah, we see lesbians lying around, having sex, hanging out naked, but we see that in a straight form in action flicks too, and superhero movies, and… so on.
And I think that’s okay. In fact, that’s necessary. Normalizing these concepts, those of the super-strong woman protagonist, or the bisexual lover, or the femme fatale spy, or dating a myriad of handsome fathers, doesn’t mean we have to PERFECT this normalization.
In fact, I think it’s the opposite: I think imperfect, but OKAY and FUN and DIGESTIBLE and ACCESSIBLE media is necessary.
What that does is break down this idea that diverse media is only okay if it’s no less than a 100-point-0–0 out of 100.
You know what? We tolerate, if not enjoy, bland media where everyone has the same casting and action scenes and cliches. There are eight goddamn Fast & Furious movies. We have two John Wicks. Chick flicks, war dramas, buddy cop movies, superhero movies. And horror movies — let’s not get started on that. Nobody’s making a fuss. (Some people are, and they’re doing an excellent job.)
Atomic Blonde will, sooner or later, join our Cable TV rotation of trite action movies. And, good. Because I want some bisexual girl in five years, flipping through channels, to feel like it’s okay to exist in her mediocre media. It means the only images about bisexuality or whatever won’t only exist in films that are centered around those identities and issues, which they often are when we hold queer and otherwise-diverse media up to such absurd standards. We severely limit our representation when we have such a difficult gate to pass.
So go see Atomic Blonde, because there’s a fight scene that lasts AT LEAST eight minutes, spans multiple rooms and floors, and is one continuous shot and I want to see more characters like that doing that.
And go see Girls’ Trip, by the way, not for the reasons above but because I hear it’s actually a really fun movie.