Chasing Amy: A 90s Lesbian Film That Doesn’t Quite Get It Right

Intro by Maria

Chasing Amy is a 1997 film by Kevin Smith. It is on Peculiar Picture Show’s list because I picked it for that year, and I picked it because I wanted to re-visit this film. You see, you may have already guessed that back in the 1990s, I was a big Kevin Smith fan. And Chasing Amy was kind of a big deal when it came out because of its relationship to Smith’s other movies.

Before Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith was known for the movie Clerks and Mallrats, released in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Those movies were independent buddy comedies, and I watched them mostly because I enjoyed the jokes. Chasing Amy, though, promised to be different: This movie was still an independent one, and it was still a comedy—a buddy comedy—but it was also trying to take itself seriously, specifically in regards to how it portrayed the lesbian community and also how it treated romantic love.

So full disclosure here: I don’t identify as being a member of the LGBTQ community, so I really can’t speak about that aspect of the film. At the time, I liked the movie. It wasn’t my favorite Kevin Smith film, as I prefer his comedies, but I still liked it. I still went to the local independent movie theatre to see it when it was released.

But now, many years later, I don’t know. As Brandon and I sat down to make our movie lists for this podcast—a podcast about movies and mental health—and I got to the year 1997, I saw Chasing Amy, and my immediate instinct was to place it on the list.

First, it had been a while since I had seen the film, so I wanted to watch it again. Second, I thought it would be interesting to visit a movie written 23 years ago by a guy about lesbians and women’s issues. And third, I just had a feeling that I had changed so much in that span of time that I was not that big of a fan of Kevin Smith anymore. Sure I could have picked one of my favorite films from 1997—Starship Troopers—or I could have blatantly picked a popular “mental health”-type movie like As Good as It Gets or Good Will Hunting (which is on our list anyway and also has Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in it). I could have even tortured Brandon with the movie Lost Highway. But no, I decided to go with Chasing Amy

And now here we are, and I’ve spent the entire time talking about why I chose this film, but I haven’t even said what the film is about. Here’s my summary: Holden, a comic book author, meets Alyssa, another comic book author. Holden is romantically interested in Alyssa, but he soon finds out she’s a lesbian. Still, they become friends, and Holden’s best friend Banky becomes jealous. Then BAM, Alyssa decides she loves Holden, too. So they start dating. Everything seems to be going fine until Holden finds out Alyssa wasn’t always a lesbian and has had a lot of sexual experience. Once he finds this out, he  thinks he can solve his inadequacy issues by having a threesome with Alyssa and Banky. Although Banky agrees to this threesome, much to Holden’s surprise, Alyssa doesn’t agree, and they break up. I mean, how the fuck is he surprised? How can these two people even love each other? He literally tells her, “I thought you’d be into it.” Just because she has had some sex.

The film wouldn’t be complete without Kevin Smith’s signature Silent Bob monologue that basically tries to sum up the theme of the movie. Silent Bob tells Holden, don’t be like me—accept Alyssa and her experience—but of course Holden doesn’t listen. 

In fact, looking back at the movie now, the whole movie doesn’t seem to listen—it was always two steps away from really “getting it,” but I suppose I still like this movie. After all—what’s not to like? It was the 90s! The decade that seems to support this podcast. We’d be nowhere without our 90s films.

So that’s it. That’s the movie. This is our podcast. And we can’t wait for you to listen to our next episode of Peculiar Picture Show

Show Summary

Overall Thoughts: Kevin Smith is a fond memory that hasn’t aged well

B: First time seeing this; personal film for Smith and Adams, and finding this out changed my opinion; took “Ambien notes” about how this movie was not good; not a big Kevin Smith fan; controversy with Ben Affleck and this film  

M: Part of a trilogy; connections between other films; film inspired by Smith’s relationship with Adams; Smith was 26/27 when he wrote this

Like: A personal statement for Kevin Smith, endearing Gen X humor

B: Progressiveness for its time; personal movie that shows a level of self awareness that can be admirable; artistic respect

M: Funny; characters; entertaining; a “writer” movie; the signature Kevin Smith elements; because of the 90s  

Dislike: A fantasy for straight white dudes that never quite gets what it is

B: Ben Affleck and his character—Holden thinks he’s progressive when he’s not; hetero white dude fantasy; everyone is waiting for a straight white man to explain things to them    

M: Felt like they got close but never delivered on what should be done and what the lesson should be; didn’t age well; need more condemnation of Holden; male fantasy

Mental Health: Is this a statement on fluid sexuality?

B: Sexuality is fluid, and it’s a misunderstood concept; Alyssa seems to portray this fluid nature of sexuality

M: Stigma against sexual women and STDs 

Quotes

M: If it’s not movies, maladies, or mental health, it’s because of the 90s.

B: It’s become almost a meme or a parody for a feminist to talk about the male fantasy, but I feel like that’s exactly what this film is.

B: This entire movie is a fantasy for straight white guys. Kevin Smith writes about straight white guys as if it’s a revelation. Like, ‘Nobody has ever written about straight white guys before!’

Next Movie

Our next film will be Mommie Dearest (1981).

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