The cover of the film Go Fish is slightly misleading. I picked it up at Blockbuster because of the gorgeous brunette with smoky eyes on the cover. I checked the back and realized that it was about lesbians. I am a sucker for beauty, so I rented it. I imagined a dreamy love story starring the beauty on the cover; she is not even in the film. Yes, I know I am shallow.
However, I am very glad that I picked it up. It received mixed reviews by people that thought Go Fish is worth renting but not worthy of being watched a second time. Well, I loved it. It’s a realistic look at the lives of lesbians, and it goes against the stereotypes that men masturbate to (i.e. American Pie 2). Typical lesbians are not anything like porno lesbians.
Go Fish was directed by Rose Troche and written by Troche and Guinevere Turner, who is also the main character Max West. Max is an idealistic beauty, but not a beauty in the traditional, heterosexual sense. Max makes the film with her dreamy journal passages. She writes about how she wants to meet to love of her life in some chance occurrence—love at first sight. At the beginning of the film she wants beauty, a beautiful lesbian to spend the rest of her life with. She goes on to write about how her dream girl—her soul mate—will probably move on before they ever meet, forget she’s a dyke, and marry a man… Max has a vivid imagination. She also wonders if it would be easier to be hetero. She thinks that if she marries a man, they could have sex out of respect. They could live by gender specific titles: husband/wife, mother/ father, uncle/aunt. Then she wouldn’t be alone in extended family photos, off to the side like a relative nobody can relate to. Max believes this life wouldn’t be so bad, just dishonest. She speculates the thought when she writes “it feels kinda good as long if you irradiate the image of the hole longing to be filled and try not to dwell on the satisfaction he gets from filling it.”
However, what she really wants is a girlfriend, and her friends Daria (Anastasia Sharp), Kia (T. Wendy McMillan), and Evy (Migdalia Melendez) are playing a game of “Go Fish,” trying to get Max fixed up with Ely (V.S. Brodie), a lesbian that Max dismissed as too ugly at first glance. This is where the romance comes into play, and I like the strategy. Max and Ely fall for each other, possibly because a simple sense of longing. They become attracted to personalities; it’s not a Cinderella-oh she finally got pretty story.
Go Fish is unique because it doesn’t fall into any love clichés, and it also addresses some interesting lesbian issues. Daria, for example, calls herself “a woman who loves women,” but after sleeping with a man, she wonders how it will change her lesbian status. She is confident that she is a lesbian that slept with a man, but she imagines a mob of lesbians confronting her on the street. Most don’t believe her and say that she is just pretending to be a lesbian and longs for a penis in her life. Others think she should just admit to being bisexual. Many are disgusted and say they don’t want to think of her sleeping with a man. Daria counter argues that if a homosexual man sleeps with a woman, he was “bored or drunk” and is never questioned about his sexuality. Although the scene only exists in her imagination, it is surprisingly realistic. Some of my lesbian friends have said they would never date a bisexual girl because of the fear that she would leave for a man.
Go Fish also explores how lesbians identify themselves through appearance. Max wonders how she can be “out” to a woman on the street, a man that asks for a quarter, or a child. She contemplates cutting her hair, but would she just be cutting it to look more “butch”? If she leaves it long, is she leaving it long just to hold onto her female identity? None of these questions are answered in the 84min film, but I think that’s the point. The film is about the steps it takes for lesbians (or anyone for that matter) to find their own identities. This is the first film I have ever seen that portrays lesbians in a realistic light.