A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she’d seen an early preview of Normal People. It’s great, she said. Just don’t watch it with your parents.
Then the pandemic put paid to the idea of watching anything with your parents, though it did, at least, spare us the need to pretend to be engrossed in a cup of tea whenever Connell and Marianne went at it on primetime BBC1. I appreciate that some families are healthily, European-ly OK with sex and nudity, and fine, well done for that, you big bohemians.
I thought about Normal People’s gung-ho approach to letting it all fly free when I read about the director Francis Lee, who last week took to Twitter to say that the version of his film God’s Own Country that had appeared on Amazon Prime in the US was a censored cut. “It is not the film I intended or made,” he wrote, promising to investigate.
God’s Own Country is a truly brilliant film, a masterpiece of British cinema. It is beautiful and subtle and romantic, a love story between a farmer and a farmhand. The version that appeared on the streaming site reportedly had its gay sex scenes chopped out. I didn’t see that version, so I don’t know how a story involving a deep attraction between two men flowed without showing any of the deep attraction between two men, but I can’t imagine it fared well.
Lee investigated and found out that the US distributor had uploaded a new version without consulting him, taking out some of the sex scenes in order to increase its visibility on the site. Amazon, said Lee, were supportive when he got in touch, and the unapproved cut has been taken down. The original is available to rent, and I’d recommend it, if you are yet to see the film.
Maybe it was just that it was sex, and not that it was gay sex, but it reminded me of what happened to Booksmart last year, when the film’s director Olivia Wilde saw a censored version on a flight, and found that its LGBTQ content had been largely excised. After an outcry, it was later reinstated in its original form, but, as with God’s Own Country, it leaves a lingering, tiresome question about what is considered to be explicit.
When Booksmart and Rocketman, for example, are cut in a particular way, you do start to question whether there’s a sliding scale of explicitness, and how queer love stories fit into that, and whether it’s the same for everyone.
Lana Del Rey: amazing songs, but take care with the prose, please
Last week, Lana Del Rey posted a “question for the culture” on Instagram, in which she made a lengthy defence of her lyrical content: “I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world.”
She talked of “a long 10 years of bullshit reviews” and asked that since other pop stars such as Doja Cat, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé “have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating etc” then she should not “be crucified” for singing about what she chooses.
I feel as if I’m looking into a kaleidoscope of breathy nostalgia and lengthy arguments about, well, something? I can’t see the wisdom in writing about being criticised by other women while giving the impression of dismissing their achievements, particularly women of colour; nor can I see why she feels so hard done by, given that she’s so successful.
Making the point that one can write and sing about a variety of experiences without being taken as representative of an entire gender is fine, but this “question for the culture” has a retro sheen to it, which is quite Lana Del Rey of her.
Mindy Kaling will make third time a charm for Legally Blonde
It has been almost two years since the world was informed that there would be a Legally Blonde 3. I know that most things are moving at a sluggish pace right now, apart from the hordes of hot, previously confined people in England making their way towards any spare bit of beach or grass, but frankly, the silence on the progress of this third instalment has been deafening.
Last week, at last, there was news, with an announcement that Mindy Kaling has been brought on board as co-writer, along with Dan Goor, who worked on Parks and Recreation. “This is #ElleWoodsApproved!” wrote Elle Woods herself, Reese Witherspoon.
The prospect of Kaling, especially, being given a character as iconic as Elle Woods to play with, makes me certain that this will be worth the wait. Since the franchise’s 2001 debut, when it had a prescient sexual harassment storyline that now feels way ahead of its time, it has spawned a sequel and a Broadway musical (“What, like it’s hard?”). If Bridget Jones No 3 could leapfrog Bridget Jones No 2 to be the second funniest in the trilogy (don’t argue), then I am optimistic about this. I just hope they print the script on pink scented paper.
•Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist