Blog One: The Way He Looks

When representatives from Reelout Queer Film Festival originally visited our class to show us trailers of all movies offered this year, The Way He Looks was one of the ones that really caught my eye. The trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBlLAzamSa4

If I’m being honest though, it was not my first choice, but was instead within my top 3 or 4. Needless to say, when I found out that I was not able to view the ones that I would have preferred I was a little disappointed, though still excited in a sense as it seemed like a very intriguing movie nonetheless. The disappointment did not last long; it began to ebb the moment I walked into the room where it would be shown. The excitement mounted while I climbed the stairs, something that I had never done to see a movie before. It was the beginning of a very unique outing. Somehow, I knew it would be a great experience right from the start. Though not tiny, the room was still smaller than I had expected; for some reason, I was imagining a huge room. Still, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, and I instantly felt a sense of community, which only grew as anticipation for the film expanded.

The film itself was impressive, and certainly met my expectations and then some. The Way He Looks follows blind 15-year-old Leonardo and his best friend Giovanna as they deal with teenage angst, romance, and other typical teenage problems. When a new kid named Gabriel joins their class, Giovanna is thrilled at the prospect of finding her “prince”. Ironically, when first discussing him with Leonardo she mentions this and questions whether Leonardo is jealous. Shortly thereafter, Leonardo and Gabriel begin spending an increasing amount of time together, leading to Giovanna herself becoming jealous and feeling as if they are leaving her out and possibly leaving her behind as a friend.

The appeal that surrounds Gabriel is quite clear; in an ablest society, those who are differently-abled are often viewed as childlike, incapable of taking care of themselves, or as defects. As stated within Gender, Race, and Popular Culture, “We are the living proof that minds can and do go haywire and that it can happen at any time. Some people aren’t ready for that news, so they react to it with overt anxiety or hostility.” As such, Leonardo is often treated in an overprotective manner such as when his parents are reluctant to allow him to stay home alone, freak out when he doesn’t check in for an hour, or in their refusal to allow him to go abroad due to his lack of sight. His mother even asks who would take someone like him into their home. When treated any other way, it is most commonly in the form of bullying, such as the little quips that Fabio and his group of friends make. It is quite clear that those who are able-bodied hold the power, and seemingly look down on Gabriel or see him as incapable of caring for himself, such as when Fabio declares that if he must sit behind Leonardo in class, he would be forced to help him for the entirety of the day. Gabriel, however, does not view Leonardo as someone who is incapable of doing things viewed as regular, but instead takes him to the movies, asks him to watch a meteor shower with him, and even has him ride a bike at the end of the film.

It becomes increasingly clear that there are romantic feelings between Leonardo and Gabriel, but also apparent is their reluctance to admit these feelings. This us seemingly the first time they have been attracted to someone of the same sex, thus bringing up questions of sexual orientation for the two boys (Gender Spectrum), both for themselves as well as wondering about the sexuality of the other. Unfortunately, in a heteronormative society such as ours where the assumption is that a person is heterosexual unless told otherwise as that is considered the norm, heterosexuality is a large part of the cultural hegemony (Aulette &Wittner, 200). This is exemplified when Leonardo tells Giovanna that he is in love with Gabriel. At first she runs off, unable to discuss it with Leonardo before first processing this new piece of information. A few days later she visits him at his house to discuss it with him and says that she never saw him in that manner. Rather than imagining that he was homosexual, she automatically assumed that he was heterosexual.

After confronting their feelings for each other, the pair kiss and hug before the screen cuts to black and then begins a new scene. In this new scene, Fabio is once again tormenting Leonardo. He teases Leonardo on his close friendship with Gabriel, implying that they are more than friends. In response to this, Leonardo slides his hand down Gabriel’s arm and entwines hand with his new beau. Upon seeing this, Fabio’s friends begin chuckling not at Leonardo and Gabriel but at Fabio and his sudden lack of power over the pair. In a way, this new confidence on Leonardo’s part shows how this film was as much or more about discovering oneself as it was about discovering one’s sexuality. This is important as it shows that while sexuality is a very important part of ones’ identity, there is much more to a person than simply that. In each other, they find themselves.

In fact, the relationship between Fabio and Leonardo is an excellent example of two cases where an intersectional analysis is required when viewing their interactions, specifically in regards to the power structures in effect (Aulette & Wittner, 18). In Western countries, straight, able-bodied white men are generally viewed as those with the most power. In the case of Fabio and Leonardo, both are male but Fabio is both straight and able-bodied, therefore possessing more power than homosexual, differently-abled Leonardo.

While this film provides a fantastic look at homosexuality and differently-abled bodies and could play a large part in raising awareness for those who fit under either or both categories and could be argued as achieving greatness, there were some problematic scenes among those better ones. For one, there were multiple scenes where slut shaming was enforced, such as where Giovanna calls Karina a slut because of her interest in Gabriel, mostly simply because Giovanna herself was interested in Gabriel. Both Giovanna and Leonardo dislike her for this reason, and it is implied that they disliked her before primarily because she was a “slut” for flirting with many boys. It is Gabriel who says that he likes her because she is a nice person, leaving Leonardo hmming and haaaing in response.

Finally, Leonardo experiences relatively positive responses when coming out as homosexual. Giovanna accepts it, and even those who previously bullied him seemed mildly okay with the concept. While this is great and supportive communities such as that do exist, there are often individuals and even whole communities who outright reject those who are not heterosexual, shunning them and tormenting simply for being themselves. This was not exhibited within the film.

Ultimately, I found this to be a fantastic movie and would very much recommend it to anyone who is given the opportunity to see it. It is well worth it, and truly does bring up important topics.

~MeggaPengu

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 18-120. Print.

Daniel Ribiero. The Way He Looks. Brazil, 2014.

“Disability and Ableism .” Gender, Race, and Popular Culture Book 2. Canada: Pearson Custom Library, 2013. Page 37. Print.

“Understanding Gender – Gender Spectrum.” Gender Spectrum. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. <https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/&gt;.

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3 thoughts on “Blog One: The Way He Looks

  1. Because I did my blog on the same movie, I really enjoyed reading your take on The Way He Looks. You were able to open my eyes and broaden my perspective on parts of the movie I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    Your elaboration into the intersection of ableism was really intriguing, as I did not put as much emphasis into this specific analysis. Reading deeper into your evidence, it became clear that the way you described the power-dynamics and relations amongst the cast captured the essence of the film very eloquently.

    Your use of quotations was timely and appropriate and really took your piece to the next level – a quality I hope to achieve in my future blogs.

    I also really enjoyed your commenting on Leo’s relationship with his parents, as this was also a dynamic that I did not choose to explore. The impact that parents have on their children is quite extreme, and definitely played into a lot of Leonardo’s loneliness and personality throughout the plot.

    Finally, as Robbie The Rabbit has also commented, your discussion of slut shaming was quite intuitive. I missed this aspect of the movie entirely, which speaks volumes about the majority of society’s numbness to slut-shaming as a whole. Good on you for picking up on that line!

    I’m excited to read your blogs in the future 🙂

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  2. Firstly, I enjoyed how you put so much detail into your experience. I respect the fact that you admitted to this movie not being your first choice, but still pursued reflecting on it. I can relate to the fact of the friendly and welcoming atmosphere as I felt that when I was there as well!

    Your summary for the movie was very detailed and intriguing without giving many of the climatic turn points away. I enjoyed your take on the appeal that surrounds Gabriel and his disability, and how people like Gabriel are viewed differently in the eyes of our society because of this factor. It was smart of your in integrate a quote form the course, that “we are the living proof that minds can and do go haywire and that it can happen at any time. Some people aren’t ready for that news, so they react to it with overt anxiety of hostility” I agree with this statement completely as it happens to people everyday. For instance if something traumatic happened to me tomorrow say one of my family members dies of a incident or gets irreversibly damaged, I don’t think I would be ready for that news and can act towards the news with anxiety or hostility. Making sure the rest of my family members are safe at all times, almost like Leonardo’s overprotective parents. Although it’s not the events that happen to us that make us who we are, but the way we deal with these events. I could deal with a traumatic event like this will calm and ease, and go on with my daily life, that would make me a different person than if I were to act with anxiety or hostility.

    I find it interesting that you incorporate Leonardo’s parent’s overprotective manner to be a form a bullying, in which I would have to agree. Bullying is just a word that makes someone feel less than they are, and in this case not allowing Leonardo to do things such as going abroad like a regular teenager would be considered a form a bullying. They are making him feel worse about his disability. This behavior towards Leonardo may have been a factor to the blooming relationship of Gabriel and Leonardo. Gabriel didn’t think of Leonardo as a disabled person but allowed Leonardo to feel like person capable of seeing. Leonardo may not have been use to this and in turn, felt a bigger connection towards Gabriel for his actions towards him.

    I also enjoyed the fact that you added the idea of slut shaming into your blog. It is an immense problem in our society and seeing it as a problematic scene is a step towards creating a society without slut shaming.

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  3. I am exited to find this movie telling a story of teenagers because it’s a sensitive age, so the exploring in all those emotions and sentiments would be interesting. As me myself actually experienced this period, I really understand what would be the obstacles in Leonardo and Gabriel’s relationship, such jealousy, peer pressure and so on.

    Also, I found it would be a sweet movie as the romance between Leonardo and Gabriel according to your description. Under the circumstance of being teased be others, Gabriel faces his true heart bravely and helps Leonardo to become brave as well. I am also interested in the process of Leonardo and Gabriel searching for their authentic sexual orientation since adolescence is age full of curiosity and confusion. Its good of Gabriel acting as a role who leads Leonardo to be confident and to face his true heart.

    Lastly, I really love your emphasize on the scene how Fabio failed to tease their relationship. Due to the braveness Gabriel shows in front of the majority, even Fabio’s friends begin to change their attitudes – teasing at Fabio instead. Here, I have to say that this is the attitude that people should learn – no matter how disadvantaged your position are, as long as you are confident and being on the right way, you will receive the success. Thus, particularly for the countries here LGBTQ are discriminated, these kinds of attitudes should be encouraged.

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