Gender and Sexual Identity in Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

When I first watched Blue is the Warmest Color (French), I was astounded by this unique love story and the superb performances by Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. This story has so much passion in it, and it comes from the writing, the actors, and the direction of Abdellatif Kechiche. As we know, same-sex marriage became legal in France last year, so this film is important to the gay and lesbian community in France. And of course, it means something to the LGTBQ community around the world. However, this film is even more than a tribute to that community. There are themes of gender and being comfortable with yourself, which are not only important to the LGTBQ community, but to everyone.

From the very start of the movie Adele’s friends are talking about sex. It is clear that there is peer pressure to be sleeping with someone… of the opposite sex. The conversation is actually very vulgar, and there does not seem to be any sign of any of Adele’s friends wanting an actual relationship. Adele is obviously different from them; she is more reserved. The behavior of her peers clearly takes a toll on her and makes her feel abnormal, like she is supposed to be feeling the way they do. This is something that teenagers deal with all the time: peer pressure to be sexually active. It is interesting to see her friends pressure her to sleep with a guy and then become disgusted at the possibility of her being attracted to a girl. The contrast is drastic; they literally go from pushing her onto a guy to screaming at her in front of everyone about being a lesbian and screaming “you’ll never get my pussy.” Teenagers have strange rules about what they think their social world should be like, which makes it so much harder for people who feel they do not fit in.

Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos fall in love in Blue is the Warmest Color.

The next incident with Adele’s friends is when they attack her about Emma meeting her at school. They immediately call Emma a dyke and then call Adele a lesbian for hanging out with her. Here is the gender theme, where people assume that just because a girl does not dress completely feminine that they are a lesbian and use the negative word “dyke.” Not only is that a stereotype, but it is a negative one. All of Adele’s supposed friends harassed her just because she walked away with someone that looked like what they thought a lesbian looked like. Society might have become more accepting of gays and lesbians, but it stills acts very harshly toward people who do not stick to male-female gender roles or do not dress the way their sex is “supposed to” dress.

Another important point in the movie is when Adele ends up sleeping with a man that she works with. It leads up to this when a coworker brings up that she never goes out with them and we find out she makes excuses that she has to be with her family. It is implied that she has not told them she is with a woman because she is embarrassed. Even though years have passed in the film, Adele is still ashamed to be a lesbian. This can be connected back to Adele’s school years when her friends bullied her. Because of how her school friends made her feel, she has such a hard time being able to accept herself. In real life, there are gays and lesbians that are made to feel that they don’t belong. What happens to Adele and Emma makes you want no one else to feel embarrassed about who they love.

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Adele’s peers affect how she feels about herself and her relationship with Emma. It is hard not to think that if her friends were not the way they were that Adele and Emma’s relationship could have been saved. Even in a place where gay marriage is legal, people are still judgmental to those who are different from them. It is interesting that these teenagers are obsessed with sex but will not accept a friend who is attracted to someone of the same sex. To add to that, they judge Emma for her appearance. If gender is a performance, why does it at all relate to the sex of a person, and why is it negative is a girl does not appear “girly” or if a man does not appear masculine? This is not the first time that question has been asked, but this film does remind you of ridiculous stereotypes. Even though society connects them, sex and gender are not the same thing. Gender should be expressed however a person feels represents them and makes them feel happy with themselves, and it is not just black and white or boy or girl. Finally, it is heartbreaking to see a beautiful relationship end because they feel ashamed to be with a person of the same sex.

No one should be ashamed of who they are in love with, and that is the message that this movie sends. Truthful love stories are hard to come by these days, but Blue Is the Warmest Color has done it. Though the film is a bit sexually graphic at times, but Exarchopoulos and Seydoux bring so much passion to their characters that it is impossible not to see that love between a same-sex couple and a straight couple is just the same. The heartbreak, drama, fights, and love are no different. This movie is honest and moving, and it does justice to the current issues at hand. Blue is the Warmest Color is a reminder that love does not have a sex or gender, everyone should accept it.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Studied English Literature and Film at the University of Central Florida. Love talking about movies with fellow movie lovers :)
Edited by Kristin Ronzi.

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27 Comments

  1. Francis Cummings
    0

    I thought the script had a lot of “fat”; in both unnecessary scenes, and a lot of scenes going on longer then they needed to. It was as though the filmmaker couldn’t bear the thought of taking a needed scapel to his work

    I also thought some of the conversations between the characters were rather tedious slogs to witness. And I thought some of the movie’s early scenes were clumsy, or forced. And I also thought that for a movie, that apparently takes place over the course of a number of years, the movie conveys very little sense of that length of time passing. If it wasn’t for the fact that Adele goes from high school student, to teacher, I could have easily thought this story takes places over the course of just a few months.

    But despite all that, I thought the movie was successfully carried by the performances/characters. Particularly “Adele” who I thought was very well acted. She brought me into the story, and made me care, despite the flaws of the script. I didn’t find Emma to be quite as compelling a character, but she was solid enough. I also thought the movie was carried by the overall
    Adele/Emma relationship, and the overall story that was being told, and an undercurrent of raw emotion that ran through the film.

    • samcel

      I can see what you mean by the sense of time passing, I must admit I was momentarily confused during the film. But I didn’t feel that it was that big of a concern to take away from the movie. Anyway, Thanks for replying!

  2. Nickolas
    0

    I really liked the film however I didn’t like the way it essentially skipped over several difficult aspects. We’re watching the film, Adele has just had a fight with her school friends and a very awkward meal with her parents and then suddenly she and Emma are living together and she’s teaching children. We never see or here from her parents or old school friends again.

    Now I can understand not mentioning her school friends but I’m a little annoyed that it never explains (As far as I can recall) if she told her parents. We know, given her exchanges with the teacher, that she is still very insecure and hasn’t revealed that she’s in a lesbian relationship which leads me to assume that she may not have told her parents but then she’s living with Emma so do they know?

    Essentially it doesn’t matter if she told her parents/school friends or not, I was just disappointed that neither were concluded. I’m happy for films to leave things open to interpretation but I didn’t feel that it worked here, it felt a bit sudden. Unless I missed something.

    • I believe there was a scene cut from the 3hr version of the film, where Adèle and Emma are “outed” and are thrown out of the house by Adèle’s parents. This scene might be included in the soon to be released 3hr40min directors cut of the film, and might help explain further the absence of Adele’s parent in the 2nd half of the film.

    • samcel

      I hadn’t thought much about how we never see her tell her parents, but you have a good point because that would be an important scene. However, I think the fact that that scene isn’t shown makes sense for the story. I would definitely believe it if Adele just avoided the conversation completely and pretended to live on her own.

  3. CriticalOtaku

    I personally haven’t seen it so I can’t really comment on how great it is, but I can certainly appreciate when films are made to portray certain aspects of life or relationships that deviate from traditional societal norms. People generally avoid subjects dealing with issues that don’t appeal to a WIDE audience, but by continuing to create films like this, I think it leads to a growing awareness which, even if it doesn’t reach complete acceptance, at least it may influence people not to impose their own values on others simply because they may not feel comfortable about it. Also, if you’re into works that explore same-sex relationships, “A Single Man” is an excellent film worth checking out; it stars Colin Firth and came out in 2009 I believe.

    • samcel

      I agree completely. I really enjoyed this film because I felt so invested in the relationship even though it is different from what I know. I’m not a lesbian, and sure, the sex scenes were uncomfortable (haha), but I just really felt this want for Adele and Emma to be together. And thanks for the movie suggestion! I’ll have to check it out!

  4. I am so tired of hollywood, (or France in this case) making these Gay and Lesbian movies or even Straight movies with explicit sex scenes and trying to make everybody believe it’s art. I don’t care if you’re gay, lesbian or straight, I’m cool with it, but (especially with lesbian movies) it seems like these directers seem to get their rocks off by making these movies. It is not art, it’s porn, plain and simple. If there was a true story here, then you wouldn’t have needed to add this explicit sex scene. These two actresses think they made a peice of art and a beautiful picture, but they’re too blind and naive to realize that they have been had by the director and/or screen writer and told that they had just made a beautiful scene of passion that showed the very depths of love the characters have for each other, and it just goes right to these actresses emotional core and they think they’re filming a love story, when they’re doing nothing more than doing a porn shoot. It’s sad really. If you want to make a movie about falling in love, Gay, Lesbian or Straight, tell the story, the magic is in the story, even if there is a love scene, it doesn’t need to be explicit and graphic, that ruins the flow of the story and has no purpose other than for the director and a small crew on a closed set get to watch these actors fake sex over and over again. even (sk)cinemax sex movies are simulated sex, and it’s called soft core porn, so what’s the difference. there’s not one besides better film quality. These film makers think they’re clever, but some of us have caught on to your game. If you want to see women get it on, then there’s plenty of adult sites that will give you all you want, but don’t try and say it’s art, because it’s not.

    • Roselee Abraham
      0

      This is not the 50’s. Actual porn–much stronger than this–is legal and abundant even in the puritanical stronghold of America, nay, especially in the puritanical stronghold of American.

      If you want to make porn, why spend 100-1,000 times the budget of your average porn film to make a 3 hour subtitled film with maybe 15 minutes of sex scattered throughout? Why spend $9 to see such a film in the theater when you can stay home with a laptop, some vasoline, and your right hand?

      If anything, I think filmmakers MAY be disguising art as porn–not the reverse–because they get free publicity/controversy from 10 million idiots like this, whereas if they just made a straight art films they’d be ignored.

      It’s very rare these days that a honest-to-god pornographic filmmaker tries to make an art film, but why would even THAT be a worse crime than churning out totally commercial porn. If you’re offended by “porn”, why not protest the multi-billion dollar American porn industry and companies like the Hilton hotel chain that underwrites a lot of it? Why worry about French art films, one way or another? But I would bet, more often than not, the people who are up in arms about movies like this are secretly the biggest consumers of actual porn. Puritanism and hypocrisy always go hand in hand. . .

      • samcel

        You make some excellent points. I really didn’t see this film as pornography. And you’re right, if the filmmaker wanted to make a porn, he would have made an ACTUAL porn and would not have wasted his money. But hey, what can you do? Some people just really disagree with those kind of scenes.

    • samcel

      I can understand why you would be uncomfortable with such scenes, and I can’t blame you for it. It’s a fair opinion. I suppose I just didn’t see it as porn though. I mean… I’ve never watched poon before, so maybe I wouldn’t know, but I feel like porn would be more “gross.”. Perhaps that’s a naïve or understated way to put it, but I think that the actors did a good job portraying “love-making” rather than “f*cking” if that makes sense. But that’s just my opinion, and like I said, I don’t blame you for not enjoying the scenes.

  5. Elaina Chastain

    I haven’t seen this film yet, but I can tell you understand some of the meat and potatoes of what the film is all about. I look forward to watching the film and discovering the ideas that you highlighted. Good article!

  6. ShayS

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I do love how you address the issue with stereotypes. Although I am not gay, I don’t believe that people should be judged because of their personal choice. It is sad that we live in a society that is intolerant of a person’s choice to be homosexual. Overall, I love the article.

  7. I’ve been wanting to see this film for a while after reading reviews on it, it’s so important that various art forms come attached with a message, a desire to evoke thought and leave us not only questioning our societal situation but the lengths of our own personal will and desire.

  8. Ryan Westhoff

    I liked your article a lot. I would like to see more of an analysis of Adele’s character. I really thought it was interesting how the director choose to leave Adele’s sexuality more ambiguous. I’m still thinking about how Emma and Adele understand their own and each other’s sexuality. Emma is obviously a lesbian through and through, but how does she view Adele in terms of her sexuality or identity.

    Regarding the controversy, the sex scene was a bit much but it didn’t hurt my overall experience of the film. I do think less of the director though that he spent ten days filming the sex scenes. That’s just absurd.

  9. Dee J

    I liked your article, I have long waited for a film of this nature to be analyzed in such a way. I like watching films like this and then thinking about what I had heard before watching it and then coming to my own conclusion afterwards. People were buzzing about this film at Sundance and that it was one to look out for. I finally watched it and it was like one of those films where there was so much intensity both graphically and content wise that I just sat there for a moment. When I say graphic I obviously mean sexually graphic, where I had to pause during the sex scenes because it was just too over the top to watch it all in one take and not take a break in between. I didn’t want to look away or skip it because I feel that if you are going to watch a film you must watch it in its entirety no matter what. The love story was astounding, it was deep and meaningful and very beautifully acted from beginning to end. The storyline was conveyed very well and you could truly see the idea behind these characters. I think it was about exploration and finding ones self, which was the one thing that bugged me about the character of Adele. It was like she had no feeling, no reaction to anything, she just did whatever and she was okay with it but at the same time you could see it in her face that she was not happy. I think this all had a lot to do with coming to terms with her sexuality on the outside, to the rest of the world. I wish we could have seen her flourish and be happy, find herself, find what she was missing in her life. On that note I did somewhat like that there wasn’t a resolution, that it was just the way it was and that was enough!

    • samcel

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I also felt very strongly about this film. You have a point about Adele’s character; I really wish that she was able to accept herself so that her relationship could have been saved. I do think that she had reactions and feelings, they were just negative feelings because she is self conscious and hasn’t fully accepted herself yet. As for the ending, I was so sad they didn’t end up together! However, it was a realistic end and, as you said, that was just the way it was.

  10. Alice Bishop

    One thing that particularly struck me was when her friends were harassing her and one girl says something like “Do I stand this close to you when I talk to you?!” There is something so sad about the way they undermine her closeness with Emma and suggest that being within close proximity of someone is some sort of abnormality.

    I adore this film, it is such a realistic and touching character study, and it is subtle moments like this that really make it something special.

    • samcel

      That part struck me as well! I also felt like when the idea formulated in their heads that Adele might be a lesbian, that suddenly everything she ever did became exaggerated in their memories just to reinforce that she is a lesbian and that she had been hitting on them in the past. And thanks for reading!!

  11. I was entranced with this film, although quite uncomfortable in places of explicit sexual contact. In reported interviews with the actresses it seems they were too. But it is a strong coming of age story, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. First love is a powerful thing. It causes us to become potentially unhinged, anxious, excited, charmed, and devastated. Sometimes in a single day. I have been curious as to how the film was received by French audiences?

  12. I have very mixed feelings about this movie. In a lot of ways it’s a very real, very beautiful love story. But the sex scenes were a bit gratuitous. In several interviews after the film was released, the actresses admitted that they would never work with this director again because of the way he exploited them throughout the filming process. Long, impossible hours, and making them do things that they were not comfortable with, like hitting, slapping, spitting on each other, and even licking snot off of each other’s faces while filming some of the crying scenes. He made them re-shoot the sex scenes time after time because he wasn’t satisfied with the footage.

    Knowing all of this kind of changed the movie for me, which is unfortunate, because these actresses’ performances were phenomenal.

    • samcel

      I actually didn’t know any of that. I heard that they were uncomfortable but that’s really extreme. That does upset me a bit because the movie is so great but actors should never be made to do things they are that uncomfortable with. You’re right, that does change the movie a little which is such a shame because I was so amazed by their performances. Actually, when you think about it, the fact that they still performed so well despite a crazy director says a lot abut them.

      • alexandrea14
        0

        I too did not realize how far the director took it with the actresses for those scenes. It is normal for some people to have a really intense sex drive and do those “dirty” things to each other (licking snot, OK that’s just gross ) so I can understand why he wanted to implement those acts. It is very obvious the two have a strong, crazy sexual pull to each other, even from the first encounter. Sad to say it because I wouldn’t change the main characters, but the director could have found women willing to do those dirty things that he really wanted in the film. I think what they used as far as scene wise was absolutely perfect. It still portrayed the two as very deep, all in,’freaky’ lovers who make love wholeheartedly, DO exist in our world. As for the sex scene, totally soft porn, but why not show that side of life that is very true and important for everyone. It would be nice if we could all have a little more passion like this or at least feel comfortable with the reality that this is reality. I think being able to “let go” during the most beautiful moment a human can experience with another human being is beyond words.

  13. Natalie
    0

    Sorry for such a late post. This is my second time watching the film, and I must say, it was great experience each time. I had been looking for film analysis and reviews because I’m fascinated by different POVS- however, most seemed to talk about the sex scenes and how they weren’t needed.

    Admittedly, even as a bisexual woman who has indeed had sex with other women, upon first viewing, I was astounded and my face turned red at how vivid they were. I do not think that took away from the movie,if anything the sex scenes enhanced, because I could see just how intense Emma and Adele’s relationship was in the beginning. It brought a sense of nostalgia to me, since my first was seemingly just as intense.

    I loved the subtle, yet constant reminders of the class differences. Adele is what I would consider as “small town”. Family dinner every night with cheap (but wholesome) chicken and potatoes or pasta, all watching the tv while not speaking. Small group of friends with very homogeneous interests. Where in contrast- we have Emma: worldly, educated (not calling Adele uneducated, but she is still in secondary school at movie’s start), cultured…her family dinner consists of raw oysters, white wine, surrounded by art, and varied subjects are discussed. Emma’s group of friends are all accomplished in their own rights with their own interests.

    My least favorite part of the movie, but it was needed, was Adele’s friends. I could barely stomach how they treated her. The topic of opposition could have been anything, why she liked the color blue while everybody else liked orange, and the manner in which things were done was utter ridiculous, especially given the topics (or topic, I should say) that were discussed among them.

  14. Samantha Brandbergh

    I’ve never seen the film, but I think it’s great that France made this film that can relate to a large demographic, even though at first glance it may only be beneficial to LGBT. I think it’s great that there’s more and more movies being made about these topics, not just outside the US, but inside, as well with the movie “The Normal Heart” that released recently.

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