A label’s worth, aka thoughts on “Lesbian Passover” (USA, 2011, 12 min)
Quick: what do you think of when you hear the words “Lesbian Passover”? Depending on your sexual preference, gender, religion, age… you may get a variety of images in your mind prompted by these words. I think watching this 12 minutes long documentary from 2011 will contradict most of those. In a good way. So watch now and I will explain below. (Here is my page about the film with synopsis.)
You know how they say that students of psychology notice the symptoms of all sorts of psychological disorders in themselves as they learn about them. Something similar happened to me, although I was studying Sociology. Each time I learned a new theory that explained something in society for about five minutes I believed “oh this explains everything”. This feeling was the strongest when I encountered labeling theory, that “posits that self-identity and the behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them”. (wikipedia) Later as I learned more and more theories and used them in analysis my understanding got more nuanced and now I actually think it doesn’t explain everything. It is still one my favorite theory, as based on my observations, quite often its explanation of human behavior rings true.
Whatever stereotype the word “lesbian” conjures up in you, this movie will show you that stereotypes are incorrect and a “lesbian” Passover is like any other Passover with some slight, but basically insignificant differences. We learn this through observing the Passover and the observer who is doing a classic “participant observation” by actually being at the Passover. We view the event through the filmmaker’s grandfather’s point of view, whose first time attending this kind of event. He is a bit sarcastic but jovial and open enough to attend. BTW: If you didn’t have stereotypes (or you are not aware of them) then you will enjoy this fast paced, often funny, upbeat comedy, just like everybody else.
The first words of the film are essentialy the host denying that it the special charactteristics of the Seder she regaularly hosts is that all the guests are lesbian. For her it is just a circle of friends, where most, but not all, of them happened to be lesbians. In other words she makes sure that their multifaceted humanity is not narrowed down to one single label.
Each Seder is different, yet similar. Sometimes the emphasis is on the food, other times on the telling of the story, or the singing of the songs, or finishing the whole Haggadah, or drinking all the prescribed wine or making sure that the children are participating too, or getting everyone involved… In my experience there is a hint of every one of these aspects at every Seder, just to different degrees. Why is this (documented) night different from any other? It’s not, not really. Yes there is more focus on liberation, but that’s the theme of the Passover anyway. Yes, the language of the Haggadah used here is updated with gender issues and the part about husband and wife was altered. They also took a unique slant on the plagues with a mask for each and making fun of all of them. How the grandpa summarizes the event: it had a slanted, biased, manipulated service but followed the general path. So this year make your own Seder, follow your own bias and enjoy it just like he everyone else did.