Cate Blanchett clarifies sexuality comments and the conversation continues

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Carol premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this weekend and during a press conference, star Cate Blanchett clarified that she was taken out of context in the Variety article that ran a quote from her saying she had many relationships with women. 

“From memory, the conversation ran: ‘Have you had relationships with women?’ And I said: ‘Yes, many times. Do you mean have I had sexual relationships with women? Then the answer is no.’ But that obviously didn’t make it. But in 2015, the point should be: who cares? Call me old fashioned but I thought one’s job as an actor was not to present one’s boring, small, microscopic universe but to make a psychological connection to another character’s experiences. My own life is of no interest to anyone else. Or maybe it is. But I certainly have no interest in putting my own thoughts and opinions out there.”

68th Festival de Cannes 2015 (Ph.Daniele Venturelli)

The Variety interviewer, Ramin Setoodeh, tweeted that she was accurately quoted. Nonetheless, it seems Cate is not queer, which is disappointing to all of us who were so happy to have another successful, gorgeous, talented woman on our team. And as a public figure on the international scale she is, of course people are going to want to know about her and her thoughts and opinions, just like we watch movies to see into characters’ lives. 

“[Carol’s] sexuality is a private affair,” Cate said of her role in Todd Haynes’ highly anticipated film. “What often happens these days is if your are homosexual you have to talk about it constantly, the only thing, before your work. We’re living in a deeply conservative time.”

Considering Carol is set in 1950s, a woman’s sexuality would more likely be a private affair because most LGBT people knew it was safer to stay in the closet. And considering Carol is married to a man and having an affair with a younger woman, that would certainly be the case. Cate has a point that there are times someone’s sexual identity is talked about more than their work, but, to be fair, the “deeply conservative time” we are living in needs people to create conversations about equality and acceptance for it to become a part of the zeitgeist. If Ellen DeGeneres and Melissa Etheridge and Billie Jean King would have kept their sexuality private, we would be living in radically different times—a time like the one Carol lived in, when LGBT people had to hide in fear of losing everything: jobs, family, friends, lovers and freedom.

"Carol" Photocall - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Cate also has an interesting take on women’s sexual identities at the time: “Carol was not a card-carrying member of any sexual persuasion. That’s also important to remember: those labels, those groups, the comfort of them, didn’t exist then. The resultant isolation was very important.”

Although The Price of Salt (the Patricia Highsmith novel Carol is based on) did not use any kind of labels like lesbian, bisexual or queer, the 1950s did have butch/femme bars and the beginnings of The Mattachine Society which helped to strengthen the community and start discussions on homosexuality that were otherwise ignored before then. 

Carol’s out screenwriter Phyllis Nagy said that the fact we can even have a movie like Carol premiering at Cannes with stars like Cate and Rooney Mara signals that “nothing has changed and everything has changed.”

“It starts the kinds of discussion we need to have about this issue,” Phyllis said. “We do not we politicise the material by just allowing people to live their lives honestly. [Gay people] are expected to make it an issue front and centre in our lives. But actually when you live your life, your identity is front and centre–but it’s something we’re not often treated to seeing in films.”

Phyllis Nagy, Rooney Mara, director Todd Haynes, Cate Blanchett, producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Wooley and Christine Vachon"Carol" Photocall - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

A review from The Guardian notes:

Haynes’s drama shows the corsetry, and the mystery, and the way in which gay people could in fact in the 1950s negotiate their lives with dignity.

Vanity Fair writes:

Carol is less a movie about a particular relationship than it is a broader testament to the nobility of coming out, the struggle and dignity and value in it. Obviously “coming out” means something different now than it did in 1953, but given its setting, the film can be seen as a hushed but adamant appreciation of all the people who, in defiance of their times, chose to live true lives, accepting the potential consequences as the cost of, quite simply, freedom. The pioneers of the past settled new territory for future generations, in ways both profound and mundane. Carol is, I think, a quiet, serious accounting of their bravery—and thus shies away from melodrama.

"Carol" Photocall - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

 

We don’t yet live in a post-gay dreamworld where our queer identities are as accepted as heterosexual ones. While that’s what we’re all hoping for—that our relationships are as uninteresting to people as what we ate for breakfast—the way to get there is to keep the dialogue going. When the world thought Cate Blanchett was coming out in a “coy” way this week from Variety’s interview, all kinds of conversations were spawned on labels, queerness and sexuality. Even though it appears Cate isn’t the one who should be the focus of such talks, it’s no less important to keep them going. Movies like Carol will only help the cause by reminding us of how far we’ve come.

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