On September 6, Stacie Passon’s Concussion opened NYC’s NewFest. This film is fantastic; like Anna Albelo’s Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (which screened September 9 at the festival), it is what lesbian cinema should be in terms of artistry and craft.
Below are some thoughts on the film—I’d like to dedicate them to That White Guy who asked about “the male gaze” during last night’s Q&A, as if evoking a nearly 40-year-old feminist concept was going to win him Dude-Points. Dear That White Guy, this film passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors—let you make THIS your feminist theory du jour.
Passon’s Concussion is basically the story of Abby, a 42-year-old, upper-middle class white lesbian, gay-married, and a mother of two (annoying things), who one day, after getting slammed in the head by a baseball (courtesy of the boy-brat), is just like FUCK THIS SHIT.
FUCK THIS SHIT, “I don’t want this anymore,” she cries as her wife rushes her to the hospital. If you’re thinking, Well, shit, lady, everyone knows that children are vampiric tumors, well think again. “It Gets Worse.” Her wife, Kate, a divorce attorney, is about as passionate as a walnut. There is no (sexual) stimulation. Abby is frustrated, and she works out—spins, does yoga, goes for runs—constantly. BECAUSE SHIT IS FRUSTRATING WHEN YOUR PARTNER WON’T TOUCH YOU. It is especially frustrating when she lords it over you because she knows you want it…amirite, Robin Thicke?
This makes me wonder, are all runners sexually frustrated? This Dude over at Running Times says pent up sexual frustration is great for running. This seems logical: races are generally scheduled early on weekend mornings. If I’m up all night having sex I surely cannot be ready for a 10K at 7am.
So Abby runs and runs and runs. And then one day on the treadmill in the basement of her house in Montclair, NJ, she barfs. I’m pretty sure she barfed some of that libido that’s been restlessly stirring within her.
Wanting to get back to work (renovating, decorating, and flipping properties), she buys a place in Williamsburg and, after making a one-time payment to a hooker, decides to hook for herself.
This part of the film I found wildly entertaining. Why? Because she buys an apartment in my building in Williamsburg:
Her assistant’s girlfriend, a 20-something blonde law student, meets her across the street, at Miller’s Tavern, and the two become her collective pimp.
Abby pulls in $800/hour, which is amazing. Why? Because, after taxes, I only receive ~$3000 for teaching one college course at CUNY. I wonder if I could walk across the street, meet a lady-pimp, and make in 4 liaisons what I make in a 15-week semester at CUNY.
Abby makes ALL THE MONIES and has sex with ALL THE RICH WHITE LADIES, young and old…oh, and there’s one Asian lady thrown in there…ya know, to spice things up. I wondered, Where are all the black and brown ladies? Are they just too smart to pay some old white woman $800 for sex? Are they all having sex with each other somewhere else? If so, CAN I GO TO THERE? Do they know, unlike Abby, that there are plenty of people who want to have sex with you, FOR FREE? …Like, PLENTY…even though none of them live in Williamsburg….
Of course Kate finds out and Abby feels remorseful, saying she’ll “do anything” to make Kate, what? Stay? Not feel like she’s just been drawn-and-quartered?
Abby apologizes profusely when Kate says, “I don’t want anyone,” and a part of me wished that Passon explored this LLL—Low Lesbian Libido—a bit more. BECAUSE SHIT IS REAL. Also, because lesbians. More broadly: if one spouse/partner just doesn’t want to have sex anymore, do you just go with the flow (or lack thereof)? Or do you say, I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS SHIT and buy a place in Williamsburg and fuck a bunch of rich white women?
The film concludes with Abby and Kate still together—The Kids Are All Right, anyone?—talking about adding a wrap-around porch to their house, sleeping at the opposite sides of the bed. A final vignette has Abby in the process of flipping a new apartment, intimating that the cycle will repeat itself.
Passon spoke about the “illusion of choice” during the Q&A, and I feel like this is only partially applicable to the film and to life in general. Or, more precisely (as the wonderful Barbara Johnson has written about), our lives are filled with DECISIONS rather than CHOICES, with the latter implying complete, expansive freedom, when, clearly, a myriad of (environmental, cultural, psychological) conditions have already delimited the range of potentialities. We have to decide amongst what is in our lived purview. The “illusion of choice” is particularly strong under the vice of nostalgia and of the delusion of “what could have been.” If you suffer from the latter go read Bergson’s The Possible and the Real, in which he writes about the dangers of “the possible” in distorting our actual, lived experiences:
“As reality is created as something unforeseeable and new, its image is reflected behind it into the indefinite past; thus it finds that it has from all time been possible, but it is at this precise moment that it begins to have been always possible, and that is why I said that its possibility, which does not precede its reality, will have precede it once the reality has appeared. The possible is therefore the mirage of the present in the past; and as we know the future will finally constitute a present and the mirage effect is continually being produced…. The possible is the phantom….”
Oddly, for Abby this phantom never exists: she has two coterminous lives. Maybe white people with money can just have these things. Cf. Carlos Danger.
Concussion opens 4 October in NYC and LA, and hopefully will receive a wider release shortly thereafter.
About the guest blogger
Marcie Bianco, Queer Public(s) Intellectual, PhD, is a columnist and contributing writer at AfterEllen and Lambda Literary, as well as an adjunct associate professor at John Jay College at Hunter College Her current projects include a scholarly manuscript about the anti-humanist, materialist ethics of English Renaissance Drama, and a memoir about lesbian academic affairs. She lives in Brooklyn with her pup, Deleuze. Tumble4Her at firstname.lastname@example.org.