Blue Jean: Resisting the shame regime

Jessica Matthewson gives us an insight into the new LGBTQ+ British drama film directed by Georgia Oakley…

Warning: This review contains some spoilers… 

 A charming story about a chain-smoking lesbian PE teacher set in the late 80s, a time when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government plan to pass a law stigmatising gays and lesbians.  

(Photo from The Telegraph)

Director, Georgia Oakley, transports the audience to the north-east with characters all dressed like they have just walked off the set of a George Michael music video. Rosy McEwen plays the main character, Jean, a P.E teacher who parades around the school wearing vintage sportswear that would be sold nowadays on Depop for a small fortune. 

With her butch girlfriend Viv (Kerrie Hayes) and bleach-blonde hair dye by her side, Jean seems to be living the perfect double life. By day, Jean is the supportive netball coach at school, whilst by night, she’s partying with her queer friends in LGBTQ+ nightclubs. But, just like Jean’s pet fish that must endure the taunting of her cat, we start to feel the same impending sense of distress as our main protagonist, as she is taunted in her glass closet by the predators surrounding her. 

The story progresses when Lois (Lucy Halliday), a new pupil at the school, ignites Jean’s desire to hold on to her job, her life, as well as her beliefs. In a climactic fight between Jean and Viv, we see that our main character can’t be the person that her lover needs her to be. A classic trope in any lesbian film – where one out of the perfectly matched pair just can’t admit their identity to themselves. Will internalised homophobia ever leave our screens? 

(Photo from BBC)

In a spiral we see Jean lose her identity, her girlfriend, and her sense of purpose. Her eyes grow red, her bleached hair starts to show its roots, and all seems to be lost…until we reach the scene where McEwen’s acting chops are on full display, leaving no mystery as to how she won the Best Lead Performance at the British Independent Film Awards for the role. After uttering the words “I’m a lesbian”, Jean sets herself down on a brick wall and begins to have a moment of solace with tears, laughter, pain and joy.  

Jean didn’t act the way she wished she could. In a time when being gay wasn’t accepted, when abuse would be hurled your way by strangers on the street and your career could be on the line, she found it hard to be her true self.  

In the final stages of the film, the audience are at a party with queer women of all shapes and sizes, where masculine women act feminine and vice versa; where waistcoats prevail alongside shaven heads, and dresses with boots are all the rage. There, it is revealed that Jean in fact donated part of her wages as a P.E teacher to these women so they could afford essential items if they had been kicked out their homes or fired from their jobs.  

Blue Jean showed us that not all heroes fly around wearing their cape with honour. Some hide in the shadows afraid, but willing to take action nonetheless. A must watch and a brilliant homage to those that courageously campaigned against Section 28

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