A fierce, feminist heist film with a smart script, stellar cast, and some seriously scrumptious eye candy. These are just a few of the things Ocean’s 8 is. But in case you missed it, one of the things this film is not is a lesbian movie. This part-prequel, part-reboot of the Ocean’s trilogy gave us our dream team, and it was a blast to watch Anne Hathaway lean into the role of a smug superstar, subtly clapping back at all of her haters. Rihanna’s air of casual condescendence and general coolness as Nine Ball was smooth and sexy. This movie was fun as well, but there was no girl on girl action to be found. For some reason though, the internet is acting like the lesbian community was just blessed with the ultimate form of representation.
No one is saying Ocean’s 8 has to feature any lesbians, although with a cast of eight badass women, the chances are high at least one of them loves the ladies, and who’s to say one of them doesn’t? Cate Blanchett’s Lou rocks menswear better than any straight woman possibly could and gives off an even gayer vibe than Carol herself. Also, the entire online world is shipping Lou and Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean. But the fact remains that there is absolutely no lesbian storyline explored on the screen. Just because we really want it, doesn’t mean it’s there.
Instead of just wanting though, lots of fans, shippers, or simply just click baiters are staking claim to Ocean’s 8 as a lesbian movie. One particular article from Vulture that’s garnered lots of clicks even features “Ocean’s 8 is a lesbian movie” in it’s URL link. The actual title of the essay is “Which Ocean’s 8 Member Has the Most Powerful Lesbian Energy?” This piece contains one brief sentence staying that the film doesn’t actually have any girl on girl action in it, so if you miss that, you’d be well on your way to assuming there are actual lesbians in Ocean’s 8. In fact, the last two sentence of this list are “Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8 is a lesbian. This is canon.” No. It’s. Not.
A blogger’s review of Ocean’s 8 states that it’s a lesbian movie “in its heart, where it counts”. Sorry friends, it doesn’t count unless it’s in front of your eyeballs. The review from Autostraddle gives a rundown of speculative lesbian fantasies prefaced with the fact that they’re what she sees “just beneath the surface”. I don’t want to daydream about the possibility of Lou and Debbie kissing in my dreams, I want to be able to replay the actual scene and know that it actually happened. It’s not enough for there to be implications that a character is gay, it’s not enough to claim it after the fact either.
When Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok was released, Tessa Thompson and director Taika Waititi divulged that a cut scene revealed the character of Valkyrie was bisexual and that the actress played her as such. Intentions or statements made after the movie don’t change the fact that neither mention nor portrayal of Valkyrie’s sexual orientation were actually in the film, meaning the representation didn’t exist. However, Ocean’s 8 didn’t even have a cut scene or a verbal confirmation during the film’s release that any of the characters are in fact lesbian or bisexual. In fact, they’ve actually confirmed to Digital Spy that Lou and Debbie are not lovers. Cate Blanchett said, “I think Lou has quite a lot of masculine energy. Doesn’t mean that they’re a couple.”
So why does it matter that so many people are touting Ocean’s 8 as a lesbian movie? Because it sets the bar lower for representation. Lesbian representation is not just slick menswear, innuendo, a character with no featured romantic interest at all, or even Sandra Bullock feeding Cate Blanchett in the middle of a restaurant. Lesbian representation is the presence of actual lesbians, which this film does not have.
We’re selling ourselves short by celebrating films for having nonexistent lesbian content, no matter how badly we wish it was there, see it off in a distance, or read it between the lines and the winks. When we brag out a film’s nonexistent lesbian qualities, we’re acquiescing to queer bait, which, in turn, will be all we get. We want real representation, so we should be acting like that’s what lesbians deserve with real expectations. Cheers to Ocean’s 8 for its array of powerhouse woman and fun, popcorn appeal, but let’s stop giving it kudos for being a lesbian movie, okay?