Welcome back to the Watchlist. Where I finally watch the messy sock drawer that is my Netflix Watchlist, because if I don’t watch it then Who Watches The Netflix Watchlist?
This week is Pariah. The quiet, powerful coming out story of Alike.
It opens with a strip club. Alike is dressed in a polo watching the women with timid joy. Laura, her friend, is anything but timid as she asks people for more bills to throw on stage. This is the garden of Eden, where there is abundance and freedom from expectations of others.
On her way home Alike must transform. The opposite of Cinderella, she puts on her more feminine shirt, and puts in her earrings, and makes herself into the person her mother expects. Alike’s home life is fractured. Her mother is pining for her distant husband, while trying to create the life of a Good Housekeeping woman. As the camera zooms from various over the shoulder shot, tension is built up around the dinner table. The pot is simmering. The next day Alike’s mom shows her co-worker a blouse she bought for Alike. The co-worker thinks it’s for Alike’s sister. At school Alike overhears some girls at school talking about “the gay chick” and one of them says “if I was gay I would talk to her.” Everyone can see Alike. The truth just hasn’t been spoken.
Alike visits Laura at the restaurant she works at, and they talk about the girl Alike is gonna hit up. Since Laura is pining after Laura, she buys her the strap-on she requested. They’re going to the club and Alike is finally going to hit up girls there. These deeper steps into her own sexuality, and the idiosyncrasies it requires gives her the confidence to read her writing in her English class. Which leads to her getting noticed by another Bina. Bina invites her to a party and tells her to “come as you are.” Alike is falling fast. While Laura is working on getting her GED, and accepting that Alike isn’t going to date her.
This story eventually dives into the broken marriage of Alike’s parents, Laura’s fractured relationship with her mom because of her sexuality, and the heart-break of falling for someone that doesn’t share the same acceptance of their sexuality as you do. This comes to a head after Bina and Alike have sex and Bina tells Alike that she isn’t “Gay, gay.” Destroyed, Alike goes home and sleeps till she is woken up by her parents fighting. She enters the fray and her mother begins to yell “tell your father you’re gay.” Alike is afraid but ready, and she shouts “I’m gay. I’m a dyke.” As she deftly turns her mothers slur into power, her mother beats her to the ground.
Alike is kicked out and living with Laura. Alike’s father tries to reconcile with her, and Alike tries to reconcile with her mother. Her mother, like Laura’s mom, refuses to see her child as she is. Alike finds solace from this in her writing, and she is accepted into a writing program in a different city. Her father drives her to the bus stop, and her friends see her off. As that montage plays she reads the poem that is the summary of her story.
This movie is the history behind this poem. This movie is necessary viewing.
Article Submitted by Kevin Cucolo