‘Taking Woodstock’ is an LGBT-Friendly Film

After much anticipation, I finally got to see the movie ‘Taking Woodstock’ last weekend. I was very excited about the film (Demetri Martin and Emile Hirsch and Woodstock?! Swoon!) but if we’re honest, I expected a lot of cheesiness and overuse of the word "groovy." I expected to enjoy it a lot, but I didn’t expect it to be what one would call a well-made film.

I could go on and on about the quality of the production (better than expected!) but here I want to say that I was very pleasantly surprised at how LGBT-friendly it was.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the (based-on-a-true) story, it follows Elliot (Demetri Martin), a young man who’s reluctantly agreed to stay in White Lake, NY for the summer or 1969 to help out his parents at their dumpy motel. Gradually, his plans for his annual summer music festival (which usually consists of a band of 15-year-olds playing terrible covers) develop into the beginnings of Woodstock. The movie follows him and his parents, mainly, as well as the people involved in planning the festival.

Elliot doesn’t act flamboyantly. He doesn’t have a ‘gay lisp.’ He doesn’t wear flashy clothes or have a limp wrist. Yet he’s gay, and he’s portrayed as a very much everyday guy.

His sexuality is never explicitly stated, but the viewer figures it out when he shows interest in a man helping with the festival and eventually kisses him. Even after this surprising scene (the kiss is so passionate, you don’t really see it coming!), Elliot is back to business as usual planning the festival, no mention is made of him being gay, he doesn’t appear troubled over it, and nobody acts any differently. It’s treated as a very much no-big-deal aspect of his identity; it’s like, "Elliot has brown hair. He wears a lot of striped shirts. He’s gay. His car is light blue."

Another one of my favorite things about the movie? A transgender woman named Vilma plays a prominent role, and she’s not comic relief. She’s a wise, helpful character and great friend to Elliot and his dad, who manages to totally shatter everyones preconceived notions about transgender women by pretty much kicking ass all the time. Attention is never really drawn to her gender identity or sexuality, with the exception of one scene, in which Elliot asks Vilma, "Does my dad know what you are?" to which she replies, "I know what I am." (It’s at this point that Elliot starts to wonder about himself. Something else I liked about the movie was that later on he’s encouraged to accept his sexuality when he sees a lesbian couple kissing in a bar — and they’re not thin, or young, or blonde, or scantily-clad. They’re real people, and even though both women are rather large, they’re not portrayed as at all gross and/or hilarious.)

Yes, there were a few aspects of the film that I didn’t particularly appreciate (i.e.: the "hints" towards Elliot’s sexuality, though there was hardly any attention drawn to them, were that he was a freelance interior designer and owned a Judy Garland record; the only people of color I saw were extras or small roles; the only representation of feminists was of them shouting angrily and burning their bras, not that that’s neccesarily always a negative thing but it would’ve been cool to see a character put forward some feminist ideals other than bra-burning; and Elliot’s parents were a goldmine of Jewish stereotypes). Despite it all, I feel like the positive definitely outweighs the negative. I found myself smiling in pleasant surprise and thinking, "That’s really cool of them" far more often than not, and overall, I would really recommend it to you, my feminist pals.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation