Sapphic Cinema: “It’s in the Water”


In the previous two installments of Sapphic Cinema, we’ve covered Imagine Me & You and Claire of the Moon, two films that represent the high and low watermarks, respectively, of our canon. This week we turn to 1998’s It’s in the Water, a movie that, by all rights, deserves to be exiled to the same circle of hell as Claire and company, but whose heart elevates it far above some of its more polished contemporaries. If lesbian movies were children at a dance recital, It’s in the Water would be the kid who just sits down on stage and plays with her tutu. No, it is not “good,” but it is sort of precious.


So the title song—also called “It’s in the Water,” words and music by Your Mom’s Friend Nancy—is a pretty good preparation for the film as a whole, as it gleefully burns through every water metaphor in the English language and introduces us to the small Southern town of Azalea Springs. Most importantly, we meet this lady, who will be our guide to this land of moonlight and magnolias.


This is Alex, a startlingly beautiful and genteel woman, whose presence is the primary saving grace of this movie. (She is played by Keri Jo Chapman, who acts SO HARD, unlike some people we will be discussing shortly.)

Alex is the treasured daughter of moneyed, country club. Her mother—who apparently watched the entire Mink Stole oeuvre and found it entirely too subtle and—understatedis a bitch even by lesbian coming-out movie standards, and is constantly harping on about how her daughter’s shoes aren’t femme enough. Her father is one of those dads who is a raging misogynist, except when it comes to his baby girl, who is perfect. (Whatever else this movie gets wrong, it gets rich southern family dynamics on the fucking nose.)

They employ a WISE OLD BLACK LADY to work in their home, cooking, making folksy observations, and assuring all the white people that they are “getting too skinny.” It is excruciating.


Lest you think that racial stereotypes are this movie’s only sin, it also does wrong by our gay brothers.


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