Gender and Sexuality in Colette (2018)



Colette (2018) is a movie based on the life of a French author and woman of letters who went by the same name in her lifetime. I watched the movie because I'm a die-hard Kiera Knightley fan (from Pride and Prejudice (2005) to Atonement (2007) and way more). But while watching the movie, I realized there was way more to it than Kiera.

First, it shows a troubling representation of the appreciation given to women who worked in 19th and 20th century Europe, particularly France. Willy, Colette's husband, practically caged her and forced her to pen down one after another best-selling novel, all to be published under his name. When probed about whether the credit could ever be given to the real author, Colette, the question was always dodged, implying that fame and fortune could only ever be valid in the hands of men.

But more importantly, the movie, and Colette's life itself, remained inspiring. Not only did the character and the real Colette manage to escape the shackles of a monogamous and unsatisfying, heteronormative marriage, she was also able to engage in the arts to her heart's pleasure and gain acclaim for herself. The movie represents Colette's multiple affairs with men, women, and trans-masculine-identifying people, showing that sexual promiscuity could be practiced by women too. The exploration of sexuality from a female perspective, and the breaking away from gender norms that Colette championed in her life, and which Kiera modeled through her role in the film, have been highly inspiring. In particular, Colette's affair with Missy and her subsequent theatre performance at the Moulin Rouge, as presented in the movie, was my personal favorite development in the movie (especially the morally outrageous kiss on stage).



All in all, I really think it's an amazing movie championing queer visibility, women empowerment, and an acceptance of diverging sexualities. I do think if there's one thing lacking here, it's a representation of race. All too often, we see queer movies with leading characters that are predominantly white, and sadly, despite how much I love Kiera and this movie, the same holds true here. I do think any media piece attempting to champion queer visibility should do so from a more intersectional lens, especially from a race lens, because of the contributions of the BIPOC communities to the LGBTQIA+ movement, and that's missing from Colette. But despite that, I still think it's a pretty cool movie and one that everyone should watch at least once.

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