- Leigh Gonzales
The Feminerd Files & Emily Goss: The Power of Positive Representation
*SPOILER ALERT! This review includes spoilers for the films “Snapshots” and “Painting Anna”*
This month we have the pleasure of interviewing actress Emily Goss on our podcast channel, and this is a companion blog entry to that interview. We wanted to give her as much time as possible to speak on our podcast episode so this is my personal take on her films, “Snapshots” and “Painting Anna,” and why I found them so profound and inspirational.
Ok, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and I’ve been in quarantine for months now. Due to this I have been watching an alarming amount of TV, but enjoying seeing lots of great series and films. It was June and Pride Month and I included a subscription to Tello Films in my various donations to queer organizations I wanted to support. I knew they were a big contributor to ClexaCon, which we are BIG fans of! They had been advertising their new film, “Season of Love,” a queer female version of a Hallmark Christmas movie for months (relax, there’s no spoilers for this one) and I had been meaning to watch it, but had been putting it off. I’m not typically a Christmas rom-com or Hallmark fan probably due to years of working retail during the holidays ruining the season for me. *Insert “Bah Humbug! here* However, it had Dominique Provost-Chalkley from Wynonna Earp in it, so how bad could it be? Welp, to my surprise it was charming and will be added to my list of holiday favorites alongside “Scrooged,” “Christmas Vacation,” and “Anna and the Apocalypse.”
I was particularly impressed with the cast, especially Emily Goss’ performance as Iris. I decided to Google her and see what else she has been in and I was astounded that her IMDB profile had pages of roles she’s played! I looked into a few titles on her list that sounded interesting and found them available to watch for free online. Perfect, weekend plans acquired (or whatever day it is in quarantine).
First up was a film called, “Snapshots.” The film is based on a true story and begins with three generations of women gathering at their family lake house for a weekend. There’s Rose, a widow in her 80’s who has lived at the lake house since her 20’s. There’s Rose’s adopted daughter, Patty, also a widow in her 50’s and a conservative. Lastly, there’s Allison, Patty’s daughter, a liberal woman in her late 20’s/early 30’s. Allison gets along better with her grandmother than her mother. She brings her an old camera she found in some of her grandmother’s boxes from storage. There was an old roll of film inside it already so Allison decides to surprise her grandmother by getting it developed for her. And so begins the emotional rollercoaster of this film…the photos are of a woman from Rose’s past named Louise (Emily Goss). Louise is a free spirited, poetry-quoting artist and more modern in her ways than most women of the time. They met near the lake house in 1960 while Rose is fishing and right from the start of their first encounter, there’s something different about Louise. Rose describes her as “bold,” and that truly is the best word for her character. As subtle as it was at first, being a queer woman myself, it became clear that Louise was flirting with Rose. Although both women are married and love their husbands, Joe and Zee, there’s an undeniable connection between them. Not long after, Louise flat out admits that she is indeed flirting with her. Whoa. I thought for sure Rose would be appalled, but she surprisingly was intrigued. One of my favorite lines is Louise’s response, “Don’t worry, I’m not a man. I only go where I’m invited.” Then while helping Rose cook the fish she caught for dinner in the kitchen, Louise daringly kisses Rose. Once again, Rose doesn’t pull away. WHOA! Louise tells Rose that if she teaches her how to fish, she’ll teach her how to be “bold.” Oh my…
Some time passes and both women grow closer and even their husbands become friends. At one point there’s a big storm that shuts down the roads so their husbands can’t get home right away. Both women get soaked from the rain and run inside to dry off and get warm. Louise starts to remove her clothing to put on dry ones and catches Rose staring at her. Louise makes her move and kisses the back of Rose’s neck. Rose’s initial response is, “Stop.” Louise immediately does and apologizes. Rose asks why Louise kissed her in the first place and Louise simply replies, “Because I wanted to and you wanted me to.” At first Rose denies it, but then admits she’s confused about how she’s feeling. Louise says in all seriousness that she won’t kiss her ever again. “Do you promise?” replies Rose. Louise nods, but smirks and says “No.” It’s a small moment, but it’s a shining example of Emily Goss’ gift at comedic timing and then being able to quickly switch gears to being serious. She leans in close to Rose and asks, “Do you want me to stop?” Rose says, “Yes,” and Louise immediately steps back and pauses. The reason I wanted to go through these scenes in depth is because I truly appreciated Louise’s approach with Rose. Yes, she openly flirts with her, but she’s always paying attention to Rose’s responses. She never pushes her into something Rose doesn’t want to do. She respects her boundaries (while toeing the line) and always asks for her consent before going further. I cannot begin to tell you how important that is to see done well in a film. The fact that it happens between two women is also important. Just because no men are involved doesn’t make consent any less relevant.
Next comes the love scene which I’m usually hesitant and critical of in media because it’s not often portrayed well, especially between women. It’s either quite obvious that neither of the actresses has ever been intimate with a woman before or it’s entirely too graphic and unrealistic (example: Blue is the Warmest Color). One of my favorite panels at ClexaCon was about realistic sex scenes between women in media and one of the panelists, a director herself, said, “You can always tell the difference when a sex scene is written and filmed by a queer woman and when it’s not.” That is so true. This film, however, had a beautiful love scene. It was gentle and intimate which is exactly how it needed to be. Once again, Louise pauses to make sure Rose is comfortable with proceeding. No words needed, just looks exchanged between them. I’m impressed with the amount of care taken in this film. Thus marks the start of their relationship and affair with one another. There’s a truly lovely montage of their relationship together and you can’t help but feel the love between them. They’re so sweet together.
Meanwhile, the film bounces back and forth between the past and the present. In the present Rose’s granddaughter, Allison, is having problems with her relationship with a man named Mark. She finds out that she is pregnant and is unsure whether she wants to have the baby or not and even whether she wants to be with Mark or not. Her mother, Patty, is unsupportive and critical of her throughout this process which only makes things worse. Tensions between the three women increase until Allison finally opens up and admits that she’s been having an affair with another woman. Her mother is unsurprisingly disapproving of this. Rose, however, is not. Eventually in order to break the tension, Rose makes her confession--- Louise was the love of her life and she was too scared to choose to be with her at the time. Louise couldn’t take lying to her husband anymore about the affair and she couldn’t stand watching Rose go back to her husband all the time. She wanted them to run away and be together. Rose won’t leave her husband and insists that she can’t have a child with Louise. She begs Louise to stay, but she can’t anymore. (My description of this scene doesn’t at all do it justice. It’s heartbreaking.) They part ways for over a year until Rose gets a call from Louise’s husband saying that she is dying of cancer and is in a coma. Rose immediately rushes to Louise’s side and I assume that she stays there until Louise passes. She was only 33 years old. Rose lives the rest of her life with her husband and adopted daughter, but still grieves for Louise everyday. This confession is shocking to her daughter and granddaughter. By the end of the film, Rose’s daughter accepts that both her mother and her own daughter are queer. The last frame is a snapshot of Rose, Patty, Allison and her partner holding their baby in a smiling family photo. Even though Rose didn’t get to have this life with Louise, she gets to see her granddaughter have it with her partner.
Oh. My. Gaaaaaawd! The online synopsis and trailer did not prepare me at all for this film. This film #$@&%*! wrecked me for days afterwards. I’m talking full on sobbing when there’s a pandemic with a tissue and toilet paper shortage! I am an avid film buff and there are only a handful of films that move me so much that I buy it online while the credits are still rolling and that as soon as it’s over, I choose to watch it again immediately. This is one of those films and has earned a place in my top 5 queer favorites. (My others are “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Tell it to the Bees,” “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” and “Big Eden.”)
I did wonder why this film hit me as hard as it did and then I remembered why. As you probably already know if you’ve listened to our podcast or seen our panel at Denver Pop Culture Con, we are not just pop culture/queer media Feminerds. We’re also choir nerds. In fact, The Feminerd Files would not even exist if it weren’t for a queer chorus that we all met in. In 2016 (when we first formed the idea for The Feminerd Files) we attended the GALA Choruses international festival. We were part of over 6,000 participants from gay and lesbian choirs all over the world. We got to see countless performances that were so moving, but one performance in particular stood out for me. It was a song that was based on a true story between two women named Glenda and Lauree. Their story is almost identical to Rose’s and Louise’s story. Seeing “Snapshots” was like seeing their song visually performed and just like I did in that audience, I wept during this film because the story was just as moving and heartbreaking. Both of these experiences will stay with me and that speaks to how powerful they are. Therefore, if you haven’t seen “Snapshots” yet, I implore you to do so. I will also share with you that song I got to experience at GALA 2016 that I’ll never forget.
No matter how heartbreaking these kinds of stories are, there’s something beautiful about being moved emotionally by them. Those are the kinds of stories I treasure most.
Ok, onto our final film review of “Painting Anna” featuring Emily Goss. It’s a “docu-drama” which is part documentary with real people’s life stories and part scripted drama with actors, which I thought was an interesting concept. This film is less emotional than “Snapshots,” but still struck a chord in me. It focuses on a young woman of 24, Anna (Emily Goss), who has been working in a corporate field for a few years and is unhappy with her career choice. Her dad also has worked in the same field for most of his life and it is obvious that he has expected her to do the same. She wants his approval and to make him proud, but she also wants to do something more meaningful with her life. She is an artist and she loves to paint. It’s all she wants to do. However, her dad thinks it’s just a hobby and not a realistic/reliable way to make a living. One day she makes the difficult decision to quit her job and paint full time. This requires her to downsize her life immensely, including moving to a cheaper apartment and selling most of her belongings. She moves into a community artist loft and is driven to prove she can make it as an artist. She definitely has the talent, passion and discipline, but she’s still seeking her inspiration and style. It’s daunting, but she doesn’t give up. She seeks the assistance of some fellow artists from the lofts and eventually finds her “spark.” However, there are many challenges she faces throughout this film.
This film really hit home for me because I am also an artist. I got a degree in art education (with an emphasis in painting) because my parents were worried I’d never make a living as an independent artist and needed something like teaching to fall back on for financial security. I did as they expected and have been teaching elementary art for the last 15 years now. I’m content with my job, but I definitely stopped making my own art for many years. My dream was to be a comic artist and to make my own graphic novel. It has been what I wanted to be since I was a little kid and read my first comic book. It is also the thing that intimidates me most. A year ago I went through a difficult break-up and did a lot of personal reflection of my life. I decided to find my passion for making my own art again. Since then, I have consistently created my own work on a regular basis and any opportunity that came my way to submit my work to be a part of I made a promise to myself to follow through on. I also have had to find my inspiration and style. I also have struggled with accidents and ruined pieces. I also have had to insist to my family that this isn’t merely a hobby for me even though they still don’t really understand. Good lord, this film hit me hard in the gut and is also a film that will stick with me. It has inspired me. I still am a teacher, but I carve out time in my life with intention of creating my own art. I made the decision to stop being afraid of the end product and if it’s “successful” or not. Now when I make art I simply focus on the idea and enjoy the process regardless of what comes out of it. To my surprise, I like my art so much better when I care less about the final presentation. Sometimes I stare at a finished piece in bewilderment that my own hands made it. I also took the leap and started making my own comics. I still need practice in that medium, but I’m proud to say that I have had 4 of my comic submissions accepted into anthologies and published into books. I’ve actually sold pieces of my art! Before recently I never sold my art because I had a fear of rejection and seeing it at a thrift store or garage sale for a quarter.
Anna’s experience really resonated with me. What I also appreciated about this film is that it wasn’t only limited to a certain type of artist. It’s about all artists and creative mediums including actors, musicians, writers, etc. We all struggle with these obstacles. Our art isn’t a hobby for us, it’s a passion that we feel everyday. It’s what makes us happy and our lives full. It isn’t about the money or success. It’s part of who we are. This film illustrates that concept beautifully and accurately. It’s one that I’ll watch again and again whenever I start to doubt myself and so should you if you need some creative encouragement!
“If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing… then you are a writer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke “Letters to a Young Poet”
In conclusion, I want to take a moment to share my appreciation of Emily Goss as an actress. I felt that both of these films benefited from her being in them and most likely wouldn’t have been as well done without her contribution. I hadn’t heard of her before watching these few films, but it didn’t take long before I recognized how talented she is as an actress. I have no doubt that she will continue to excel at her career in film, TV, and theatre. In particular, I appreciate the certain roles she seeks out. Each of them are so unique and compelling. I also appreciate how many of the roles she chooses to play are queer and positively represented, especially positive bisexual representation. Those roles are few and far between and those stories need to be told. I’m glad that “Season of Love” got a lot of viewership by the queer community and that she will be a highlighted guest at the next ClexaCon. The queer community at ClexaCon are loyal fans and will continue to support her career like we’ve done with many other actresses who represent our community. Please support the people in this industry that support us like Emily Goss. REPRESENTATION MATTERS!
On a final note, awhile ago she made a trailer for a book called “Stilettos and Steel” by Jeri Estes. I haven’t read it yet, but I will say that after watching the minute and a half trailer she stars in I definitely want to see this become a movie someday soon. TAKE MY MONEY! Seriously, check it out and somebody make a kickstarter or something so this gets funded please!