Lately, I’ve been finding myself mourning my teen years. I was a lost, lonely, sad, deeply depressed and deeply in denial lesbian when I was a teenager in the 1980s and early 90s, and those years nearly did me in. My home life was a nightmare. I had an abusive, alcoholic, drug addicted, pathological lying mother who attacked in always unimaginable ways without reason, so I always had to stay on guard 24 hours a day/7 days a week to defend myself from the various and random attacks that would come at anytime, anywhere, for any reason. I had no friends at school because we had just moved, and by that time, I was so depressed, I could barely get out of the house to go to school anyway, much less have the energy to make friends. And I also figured why bother making friends since my mother was always sabotaging any friendships I had anyway, so why get yet another friend, only to have my mother make sure we never got to talk or spend time together. I was already a super duper film buff by then, so the one thing I found to turn to, the one thing that was my friend, the only confidant I had when I was a teenager, basically the only thing in my life to keep me company back then was my little 13 inch color TV that my parents (or really my dad) got me for my 14th birthday for my bedroom. Once I had a TV in my bedroom, I never left, except to go to school, and to practice for my high school golf team (so yes that stereotype about lesbians is true), which I soon quit because, once again, my mother just made having any kind of a social life with actual people who I actually got to spend time with a living hell, so away to my bedroom and to my 13 inch color TV, I escaped…
Thanks to Google, I found the TV I had as a teenager. Kind of apropos for me that it has two lovely ladies on it dressing (or perhaps undressing?) each other. Oh my! No wonder I never left my bedroom as a teenager. 😉
When I would turn on this little 13 inch color TV, I would always find myself searching for anything that was gay, but I had no idea why I was searching for anything that was gay and I certainly wasn’t going to allow my brain to go around asking myself questions about why exactly I was looking for something gay on my TV. I had enough problems in my fucked up life, so why add searching my brain for the answer that I already knew, just so I could add to the stress in my life that I already wasn’t handling. What I would find that was kind of gay on my TV was usually subtext characters or storylines (usually in really old movies because Hollywood for all its hatred of us gays, sure did love putting subtext lesbian and gay characters in movies during the 1940s and 50s), or tomboy-type characters that were pretty popular during the 80s, (so that was at least lucky for very tomboy-me, although they always turned out to be heterosexual), or characters just calling other characters “faggot” because characters in 80s movies sure did love calling other characters “faggot” A LOT, but hey, it was at least something gay, so I took what I could get.
There was one thing on my TV when I was a teenager about gay people that certainly didn’t hide the fact that it was about us and that was the AIDS crisis. AIDS was everywhere on my TV when I was a teenager, so I got a firsthand look at how much society, the government, the world-at-large HATED us gays. I got to watch us die by first the hundreds, then the thousands, then the millions. I got to see what were once beautiful, strong, healthy gay men; wither away into basically skeletons. I watched gay men and women marching in the streets, protesting for the government to do something, anything to save us, but mostly I watched as no one listened because no one cared because we were all a bunch of faggots and dykes who deserved death. So in other words, my little 13 inch color TV showed me that being gay was probably the worst possible thing you could be, so since my life was already feeling like the worst possible life I could be living, why add the knowledge that I was a lesbian on top of that very tall and very deep pile of sadness of mine. Where were the movies and images on my little 13 inch color TV when I was a teenager to show me that being gay was okay? They just were never there.
These were basically the only images of out homosexuals on my TV when I was a teenager – gay men protesting and dying because of AIDS. Everyone else was in the closet or a subtext character or a tomboy who was always miraculously straight at the end or just plain ole being called a “faggot”. No wonder I didn’t want to know that I was gay when I was a teenager. Life was already bad enough and my TV proved how even more awful it could be if I knew I was one of those people too.
So, when I turned on the film Miles recently, I was just expecting to watch a cute comedy about a gay teenager trying to play on the girls’ volleyball team in order to win a scholarship for film school because his high school didn’t have a boys’ team. I certainly wasn’t expecting to make such a strong connection to the film and especially to the character of Miles that would send me into a bit of a depression about teenage-me never having a movie like Miles to keep me company. So much so that I wasn’t even able to write this review for several days, because every time I tried to sit down and write about this wonderful gem of a movie, I found myself so sad and so angry that I never had anything like this on my little 13 inch color TV when I so desperately, desperately needed images like this when I was a teenage lesbian deeply in denial simply because I was so scared of being so hated just for being me.
Miles is the teenager I could have been because Miles reminded me so much of teenage-me, but the me if I had a mother who gave a damn about me and if I had the guts to KNOW who I was, instead of hiding from myself, my mother and the world because I was so tired of being hated on, that being alone with just my TV was the only safe place for me. Miles is a tall, skinny, gay, teenage, film nerd who works at a movie theater, and has movie posters all over his bedroom walls, and dreams of being a film director one day. That was basically me as a teenager, except I was a lesbian. I worked at a movie theater when I was a teenager to pay for my college education until I won a writing scholarship, and my bedroom walls were covered in movie posters, and I had dreams of being a movie storyteller one day too, except I wanted to write about movies. So all I could think as I watched this quite touching, beautiful, thought-provoking film was, “Oh God, where was this movie when I was a teenager and needed it the most?”
Recently, we have been getting movies about gay and lesbian teenagers. Geography Club, G.B.F. and now Miles are all movies about LGBTQ teens and although I’m so happy that the youth of today have these films to turn to, I can’t help but mourn for the youth of the past who never had these images, who turned on their TVs and wished and hoped for someone like them to be on the screen, but those wishes and hopes almost never came true, and when they did, well…the images we got were images that inspired anything but hope.
I had tons of movie posters on my bedroom wall as a teenager (and I still have them all over the walls of my apartment today), everything from Rear Window to Gone With The Wind to Rebel Without A Cause. But I can’t help but wish I would have had these movie posters on my bedroom wall instead, because I needed these movies so badly when I was a teenager looking for help and hope and understanding.
But just because teenage-me didn’t have these movies, doesn’t mean that 45 year old me can’t now watch them to help heal my past and make amends with a time that nearly killed me. Turning on Miles reminded me of how sad and lonely I was, and if only I had a film like Miles when I was a teenager, then maybe I would have had the guts to have some kind of life outside my bedroom and my little 13 inch color TV, because Miles would have been there to cheer me on. But as I get older, I’m beginning to see that life isn’t just full of sadness and pain, but full of magic too, because wishes can come true if you keep working hard enough to make them happen, because I do have these movies now to turn to when sad, lonely, teenage lesbian-me pops up and decides to take over middle age-me and pull me down that rabbit hole into teenage hell, once again. I can now just say, “Fuck you!” to the pain, sadness and loneliness instead, because I have Miles to turn on, so I can cheer for me and him as he says “Fuck you!” to the world and keeps on playing girls volleyball so he can make his dreams of being a film director come true.
And guess what, Miles’s dreams did come true. He did become a kick ass movie director, because Miles is based on writer, director Nathan Adloff’s own life. And my dreams came true too, because I am writing about movies now, even though it took me until my late 30s to even start doing it, still, I never let that dream go (thanks to my wife’s help and insistence that I not give up the dream), and now in my mid-40s, I got filmmakers from all over the world contacting me and inviting me to film festivals to watch their movies and write about them. So wouldn’t teenage-me be so happy with adult-me now?! 🙂 And even better, this former sad, lonely, repressed teenage, movie loving lesbian who longed to see herself on the TV, actually got to meet Nathan recently at the best damn film festival out there, Pride of the Ocean. And the only reason why our two paths crossed was because we both got invited to the festival (and because we didn’t give up on our dreams), so how magical is that? I didn’t get a chance to watch Miles until I returned from the film festival, but even before I saw the movie, I kept thinking that Nathan reminded me so much of me, but I couldn’t figure out why until I saw the film, and then it all made perfect sense why Nathan felt so familiar and so easy to be around right away, which basically never happens to me with people.
Now let me repeat what I just wrote so you can see that life can be full of sunshine too – Little, sad, lost, repressed, abused, lonely, longed-to-be-a-part-of-the-film-world-teenage-me did eventually see her dreams come true and not only am I writing about movies, but I actually met the writer and director of Miles, a film that has touched my soul and helped me to heal my broken teenage lesbian heart. To be honest, that has always been the ultimate dream for me. To meet the people who make the films that I have loved to watch and write about my whole life, and to thank them personally for all their hard work and beautiful art. So, to keep making that dream come true, I just want to say thank you Nathan for making such a beautiful, touching, hilarious, painfully honest film about being a gay teenager. Your film has given little teenage lesbian me hope that future generations will never have to suffer the loneliness and isolation one can feel about simply being who they are – a member of the LGBTQ family.
Miles is currently streaming on Netflix and how kick ass is that because basically everyone has a subscription these days. 🙂
P.S.: I only have one complaint about this movie – where is Molly Shannon’s Oscar? Dammit, this woman can act and thank you film Gods for putting her in such great roles lately. Mary Katherine Gallagher was a great character that always had me laughing and laughing, but where Molly really shines is as a dramatic actress. Who knew? Probably her. Well, now we all know too. 🙂