Last month I went to a screening of Appropriate Behaviour held by the Reel Equality Film Club at The Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. The film is very unique in a number of ways. It’s written and directed by a woman (Desiree Akhavan). The lead character (Shirin) is a woman. In fact most of the main characters are women, whilst the male characters are sidelined in the way that female roles normally are. The men have few words to speak and play the bit parts of father, brother, person Shirin has sex with that one time etc. rather than being fully rounded characters in their own right.
It’s also a movie about a bisexual who happens to be Persian which makes the film even rarer. How wonderful it is to have a British movie where the main character is not white and gay/straight! Also whilst being an American-Iranian bisexual is certainly a major part of Shirin’s identity, I never felt that these things were all her character amounted to or were completely defined by.
Rarer still is the fact that this portrayal is bisexuality is a positive one: the main character doesn’t cheat on anyone!
She doesn’t kill anyone!
She isn’t hypersexual!
She’s a cool, complex, fully rounded character in her own right. She’s not a plot device for the main character’s story!
*more gasps of shock*
She doesn’t have a threesome!
Oh. Wait. Well she does. But it’s her first ever one and there is nothing wrong with showing a young women exploring something new sexually.
Shirin has recently broken up with her girlfriend when the film starts. There’s not really a plot or storyline as such, it’s more about how she’s dealing with the break up and how she’s trying to figure out what direction to take her life in next. How she fits and misfits (to reference the name of a well known BiCon workshop) with the various different cultures and identities in her life. The film does this in a warm, witty, funny, sarcastic and very endearing way. It’s the most realistic portrayal of bisexuality I’ve ever seen on screen. I wish there were more films like this.
Appropriate Behaviour portrays the biphobia Shirin faces, but it doesn’t do it in a depressing or negative way. It portrays how her Iranian family reacts to her sexuality when she decides to come out to her brother and her parents. Whilst this isn’t resolved by the end of the film, I certainly left sharing Shirin’s realistic but positive & hopeful attitude towards the situation.
Another thing I like about this movie is the title. I find it very positive and affirming. It’s a nice play on words and the prejudiced beliefs surrounding bisexuality. It’s a nice way of subverting the negative attitudes some people might have towards Shirin’s behaviour in the film too.
I don’t want to write too much here, as I think it’s best to see the film knowing a little as possible about it. However if you’ve seen it I’d love to know what you thought. Did you like it? Did you like Shirin? What did you think about the way bisexuality was portrayed? Let me know and we can discuss it in the comments!
I’ve been tweeting and writing about the film to raise awareness of it and I’ve just bought it on DVD. Appropriate Behaviour is Akhavan’s directorial debut so I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Perhaps we can arrange a screening of it at this year’s BiCon?