Help Me Understand Why Cannes Winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a Triumph for Lesbians

by | May 27, 2013 | i rant, lgbtq | 7 comments

I was a late bloomer. I was a tree-climbing, pet-menagerie-loving, book-devouring tomboy my entire childhood. At 14 years old I still had not reached puberty, and I had begun to wonder if something might be physically wrong with me, since most of my girl-friends had been bona fide sanitary-pad-carrying “women” for many years.

When “womanhood” did finally strike me at 15, it hit with a vengeance. I went from stick-thin to hourglass in a matter of weeks, and I had stretchmarks on my new C-cup breasts to show for it.

I struggled a bit with the transition. The sudden attention. And, as I became increasingly attracted to boys, and they to me, I began to discover that my new womanly parts were some sort of an asset.

Still a virgin and halfway to 16, I met a 21-year-old man who shared a house with his brother in my cousin’s neighborhood. He was gorgeous. He was intelligent. He was chivalrous. He was single.

We got to know each other over neighborhood spades and domino games and we traded flirtations, though we both knew he was too old for me.

It was a sweet fall for me. Uninitiated virgin meets worldly, independent, philosophical  man-friend. After a first  kiss, we decided to be “a couple,” though I made it clear to him that I did not intend to “lose my virginity” until my wedding night. It was the stuff of Disney movies.

We “went steady” for a few months. He picked me up on his motorcycle and took me on mountain hikes and picnics. He wrote me romantic letters and professed his love for me.

He may have really loved me. Or, he may have been grooming me for sex. Arousal is a powerful force, and a body will want what it wants.

But, I was still a child. And, he knew it.

The brief love affair ended in his car one night in my driveway. We were kissing (and suffering from the arousal of it all) and he suddenly stopped and said. “I really care about you, but I can’t do this. I respect you. I respect that you’re not ready to have sex, but I’m a man, and I do want to have sex. I don’t want to hurt you in any way, but I can’t do this.”

And, that was the end of that. I cried for a couple of weeks then moved on to a relationship with a boy my age.

Now, let’s imagine for a moment an alternate universe in which that conversation ended instead with the passionate sexual consummation of our “young love.” Let’s pretend that our subsequent increasingly explicit and adventurous sexual cavorting was captured on camera and displayed to the public as the artistic exploration of an adult man initiating a 15-year-old girl into the physical expression of their “forbidden” love. That, legally, would not be considered art. That would be considered child pornography and my man-friend would have likely been arrested and would now be a registered sex offender.

I suspect a major motion picture about said grown man seducing a child that contains lengthy and pornographic sex scenes would never make it to pre-production, let alone be lauded as artistic.

Which brings me to my admittedly sight-unseen judgments about “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

Here is the description of the film: 15-year-old, Adèle has no doubt : a girl must date boys. Her life is turned upside down when she meets Emma, a blue haired young woman who allows her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and an adult. (They left out the part about how Emma is a sexually experienced graduate student in her twenties.)

In the many reviews of this film I have seen online, no one is discussing the age gap between these characters.

Brokeback Mountain was a monumental film about two consenting adults that won accolades for its courage and sensitivity, but had one of those characters been a 15-year-old boy, would that film have been made?

When it comes to sexual exploitation, should it matter that the one doing the exploiting doesn’t have a penis? Does Adele need to be 14 for us to view Emma as a molester? Thirteen?  When adult men do this to young boys, a cry for their prosecution is loud and immediate.

Being a woman and a mother of women, and having been a 15-year-old myself, it’s impossible for me to appreciate or applaud a film in which an adult seduces a child–and that seduction is offered up in graphic detail for voyeuristic mass consumption.

Being a woman it is difficult for me to trust the motives of a male film maker whose 3-hour movie contains long segments of what has been described by reviewers as “extremely graphic” and “absolutely not simulated” lesbian sex. (His red carpet walk with the teen women who starred in the film gave me the creeps.)

Not being a lesbian, I ‘m wondering why this film is being discussed all over the Internet (mostly by men) as a “triumph” for lesbians of which to be “proud.”

Please know that I am not being facetious or sarcastic when I ask for help understanding why those applauding this film do not feel compelled to protect the world’s Adeles from the sexual advances of “loving” adults, regardless of whether the adults are male or female, straight or LGBTQ.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I have not seen Blue is the Warmest Color and do not want to after reading the reviews. I did not read 50 Shades of Grey for the same reason–because, though it is likely to be titillating, my personal preference is to not be “entertained” by the sexual exploitation of innocents  (and I don’t want those images in my head forever). This has admittedly influenced my opinions about this movie. I welcome other points of view.


  1. Ela

    Kathleen, I love your writing, it just flows!
    I believe whether it is a twenty year old man OR woman they should *absolutely* know better.
    My first bf was 21, I was 15, and it was a year of experience I could have really done without.
    I think perhaps women are seen as more “innocent” and thus less believable or acceptable as predators and abusers.
    The plain simple fact is that the older person in the relationship has years more experience and knowledge than there more vulnerable, often new to love, person.
    I do have a friend who was 15 when she met her twenty year old boyfriend, now husband, and they have been together 10 years.
    So it can get a little confusing.
    I don’t know, I just know it wasn’t right for me, and looking back I can see how naïve and pliable I was.

    • Kathleen Cross

      Thank you Ela 🙂
      Yes, it blurs the lines when we hear of adult/child sexual relationships that lasted (Elvis Presley and Priscilla [she was 14] Mary Kay Laterneu & Vili [he was 13], but there are millions more children who are introduced to sex by an adult for whom the emotional and psychological injuries are ever-lasting. So, I’m glad the age of consent laws are there to protect them!

      I look back and realize how lucky I was that young man had a conscience. He could have easily manipulated or intimidated me into an act I wasn’t ready for. I honor him for dumping me 🙂

  2. Matias

    One rule should be for everybody, especially if it is put in place to protect innocents.
    That is my opinion, and it is final.
    I am sure the actresses were deserving of their awards, but the movie as a whole…not so much.

  3. Elan

    This blog post is a great read. I had not seen or heard of this movie until reading your blog, actually the blog made me want to read the reviews. After reading your thoughts however, I am not interested in seeing the movie at all. I concur with your sentiments for all the right reasons. Surely, if this had been a gender role reversed the movie would probably not make it to the screen let alone get the kind of accolades it is receiving. Thanks for enlightening us all! Elan

    • Kathleen Cross

      Thank you 🙂

  4. Treysea

    of course this theme has been explored both heterosexually and homosexually in cinema. One such movie “The Lover”, 1992. While ethical qualms with themes involving minors and sex are to be expected, it goes without saying that real life is stranger than art. In other words, no matter how many racey books and movies are ignored or boycotted, somewhere, some folks are really living it, regardless of ethical issues.

    • Kathleen Cross

      That is so true, Treysea. I think as a woman and mother of 4 daughters, it is not the film’s existence, as much as the accolades it has received that bothers me most. It’s like a vote of confidence that a filmmaker’s “art” is “groundbreaking” and it makes me fearful exactly what ground that is.



  1. Kathleen Cross (@novelistkc) - Help me understand why Cannes Winner #BlueisTheWarmestColor is source of #GayPride What if Brokeback lover was 15?
  2. Kathleen Cross (@novelistkc) - RT @KolaBoof I feel that's child molestation...I really do. RE: Blue Is the Warmest Color but it's Europe @novelistkc

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