“There are roughly eight straight couples in Love Actually, six of which get a happy ending – why can’t the lesbians be happy too?”
BY FELICITAS SOPHIE VAN LAAK. IMAGE YOUTUBE.
I adore Love Actually, I do. I think it’s well-written, well-acted, heartbreaking and utterly delightful. And when I recently found out that the film had originally featured a lesbian love story that had been deleted from the screen version, I couldn’t contain my excitement…
However, watching the blurry YouTube video left me somewhat dissatisfied, saddened, and most surprisingly – angry.
Following the deleted scene in which Karen (Emma Thompson) and her son are being called to the principal’s office because of his “inappropriate” Christmas wish – he wants to be able to see people’s farts – the film makers originally planned to give insight into the headmistress’s (Anne Reid) private life.
Consequently, that scene also didn’t make it into the film.
The video shows the headmistress coming home to her girlfriend Geraldine (Frances de la Tour) in the evening. She brings two glasses of wine into the bedroom, where Geraldine lounges on the bed reading a book. The scarf around her head suggesting cancer.
The women ask about each other’s days and the headmistress tells Geraldine about the boy’s Christmas wish essay. Geraldine laughs, stating that seeing people’s farts was her Christmas wish too, before flinching with pain.
“Are you alright, my love?” her partner asks with concern. Geraldine stops her with a wave of her hand and jokingly complains about the fancy sausages her girlfriend has bought for dinner, calling her a domestic goddess.
The next scene shows both of them in bed at night. When Geraldine breaks out in violent coughing, the headmistress turns to spoon her. In the next scene, Geraldine is dead.
What I like about this storyline is the non-sexualised portrayal of an intimate, loving and arguably authentic relationship between two middle-aged women. I like that they took a successful, stern, seemingly humourless character and gave her a queer subplot.
What I don’t like is that they made her girlfriend terminally ill – killing her off shortly before Christmas. This is especially problematic as, historically, queerness has always been narratively sanctioned by death.
There are roughly eight straight couples in Love Actually, six of which get a happy ending. Only Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Thompson), as well as Sarah (Laura Linney) and Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) function as the film’s reminder that not all relationships turn out well.
Notably, this is not due to some great misfortune, but the characters’ own doing as Harry almost cheats on his wife and Sarah stands in the way of her own happiness.
However, Geraldine and the headmistress are in a happy, loving relationship. The only reason they cannot be together is, because the screenwriter wanted to show that, “Sorrow is particularly hard at Christmas,” as Karen puts it.
Well, being queer can be particularly hard at Christmas too. So, I’m asking you, Love Actually creators: Why can’t the lesbians be happy at Christmas too?
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