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Watch: “Show Me Love”(1998)
Please write a blog post responding to the following prompt. Must include the scene from the film and have your own analysis. 1. Address the depiction of conformity, heteronormativity and gender roles in Moodysson’s “Show Me Love.”
A classmate’s posts as example,(not reference, you may not copy it)
1. Address the depiction of conformity, heteronormativity and gender roles in Moodysson’s “Show Me Love.”
Lukas Moodysson’s romantic comedy film “Show Me Love”, otherwise known in Sweden as “Fucking Åmål”, challenges societal ideologies such as gender conformity, heteronormativity, and sex-assigned roles. Moodysson achieves this difficult feat by illustrating the small conservative hometown of Åmål as a traditional social standard that needs to be challenged and uprooted. This can best be understood through Professor Patrick Wen’s lecture where he discusses how Åmål serves as a “realistic backdrop of provincial heteronormative attitudes” and “incubator for bourgeois social norms and small-mindedness”. By first introducing us to the social and gender oppression that Åmål creates, this allows the audience to question the problematic nature of upholding such narrow-minded, conservative values in our own societies.
To begin, it is important to discuss how Moodysson portrays Åmål and his interpretation of how an oppressive town’s values are enacted. When we are first introduced to the protagonist Elin when she is leaving the house to go to school, we are also introduced to Johan fixing a motorcycle before she comes out. This typical portrayal of a male interested in mechanics and being handy with physical things around a household quickly establishes the customary, gender-conforming environment in which the film takes part. Moodysson builds upon this foundation by demonstrating the restrictive gender roles and norms that these teenagers are often subjected to.
For example, Elin and Jessica’s mother disapprovingly berates Elin for dressing in provocative clothing and forbades Elin from leaving the house after witnessing her outfit before she had a chance to put on a skirt. Afterward, the screen moves to the next scene where the audience sees numerous boys freely roaming around naked in the locker room without any punishment or beratement. The proximity of these scenes allows for the juxtaposition of how societal norms for men and women. The notion that women experience more restrictive boundaries in terms of their physical and sexual freedom is demonstrated very clearly by Moodysson. These traditional, orthodox gender roles within Åmål are carried throughout the entire film as we can see that teenage boys are depicted to like playing hockey, while girls enjoy putting on makeup.
In addition, everyone in the high school conforms to these traditional gender roles, even Elin who is one of the film’s leading protagonists. Only Agnes, the other female leading protagonist, is seen to be breaking these social norms and challenging the status quo of what it means to be a girl. From the very start, Agnes with her short bob cut, baggy clothing, and tomboy look represents a non-conformative version of a teenage female. On the other hand, Elin is the exact opposite as she manifests as a feminine, overtly sexual female that loves makeup. The over-sexualization of her in scenes shows how utterly wrong and backward these notions of gender roles are, especially considering that she is still an underage teenager.
By making Agnes and Elin total opposites in gender conformity, the director is able to demonstrate how Agnes represents an outlet of change for Elin. To further elaborate on this, Agnes has accepted her homosexuality and romantic attraction to Elin from the very start of the film when she types out her love confession. However, Elin remains in the dark initially about her sexuality. It seems that Elin has always believed herself to be heterosexual because that is the sexual orientation in which others around her, especially her cliquey group of friends and sister, have taken on for themselves. Even when she acknowledges that she felt an emotional and romantic sensation kissing Agnes, she attempts to disregard her feelings and engages in psychological “reaction formation” mechanisms of coping. Reaction formation is the process in which one acts exactly opposite to one’s societally deemed “unacceptable” impulses to avoid guilt. Elin employs this defense mechanism as she actively pursues and dates a traditional masculine, athletic boy Johan only to realize that she is not happy conforming to heteronormative expectations of a male-female relationship. She returns to Agnes to pursue a different, forbidden relationship dynamic. This breaking out of her traditional gender role and sexual orientation can be best understood through Professor Wen’s quote, “The relationship with Agnes functions as a liberation from the intense social pressure to conform to patriarchal notions of gender roles, toxic masculinity, and general bourgeois malaise.” To conclude, Moodysson makes Agnes and Elin’s characters as oppressed teenage girls coming to terms with their sexuality very relatable, allowing the audience to easily empathize with them. This favorable portrayal of the female lovers causes viewers to root for the success of their individual character developments and their non-conformative love. Agnes and Elin’s simple, easy love is greatly contrasted with the complicated, restrictive rules within the small town of Åmål forbidding their attachment. By carefully portraying Åmål in an unfavorable light and these naive characters in an innocent, lighthearted light, Moodysson seems to make a statement that notions of gender and sexual heteronormativity must be critically examined and contested in order to permit the inclusion of more non-conformative relationships.