Theorizinc Queer Cirls In Film

The emergence of independent queer girl romance films in the 1990s can be traced to the release of Rose Troche's Go Fish (1994), which promised quirky insider ways of seeing the lives of individuals and communities historically marginalized within mainstream cinema. Marking a turning point in which young lesbians are positioned at the center of fictional feature films, these and other films, such as Cheryl Dunye's Watermelon Woman (1997), contributed to a growing range of lesbian characters whose intimate relations ap pear for public viewing. While Go Fish and Watermelon Woman profile communities of youth in their early twenties, other films emerged that began to explore the nascent queer experiences of teen girls. With Heavenly Creatures (1994), The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995), All Over Me (1997), Show Me Love (1998), and Lost and Delirious (2001), adolescent girls are portrayed as strong central protagonists struggling to deal with social isolation, friendship crushes, coming out, suicide, and homophobia. These films convey troubling and thrilling realms of girls' experiences as they resist normative feminine ideals in daily school and family environments. Portraying ordinary struggles of teens to find belonging and fall in love, they represent girls in transitional spaces between childhood and adulthood who have yet to establish their sexual identities as they learn to express their feelings for girls, engaging with the complexity of girls whose erotic and social attention is fully turned to other girls.

An expanding range of queer girl films grapple with the visual storytelling of girl-on-girl lust, fantasy, and love. Yet tensions pervade the theorization of queer youth in film, between cultural marginalization and the tendency to normalize differences within teen narratives of romance. Timothy Shary (2002) writes that recent films such as Alex Sichel's All Over Me suggest an ''integration of homosexual teen characters into plots that further normalize queer lifestyles and depict queerness as one of many qualities that youth may encounter on their path to adulthood'' (246). Shary gestures toward an acceptance and integration of queer youth within film narratives in ways that encourage a more holistic view of their social lives rather than isolating their sexual differences in exclusionary ways. This is especially crucial when the class, racial, and ethnic dimensions of youth coming-of-age and coming-out narratives are fully acknowledged as integral to how youth define their sexuality. Youth are always so much more than any single dimension of experience, and many contemporary films have begun to explore this complexity by constructing subtle psychosocial characterizations. At the same time, it is important not to skim over the unique status of queer youth within visual media, the uniquely situated signs and shifts in perception through which youth communicate same-sex desires.

To begin a critical process of interpreting queer girls in film, both feminist and queer interpretive tools of analysis are needed. Yet feminist film theories of gender representation tend to conflict with queer theories of sexual heterogeneity, and both have been developed to concentrate on the cultural predicaments of adult subjects. Feminist approaches focus on women's identifications and pleasures as spectators, paying close attention to interactions between Woman as textual image and women as historical subjects, exploring formations of and resistance to ideologies of femininity. Queer approaches reveal the slippery contested ground of all gender/sexual categorization. Queer theories conscientiously pursue languages of desire in multiple directions, foregrounding and exceeding hetero/homo typologies. Use of performative theories of language becomes vital in struggling to overcome ossified definitions and descriptions, focusing on the interactive events of naming as a process through which sexuality emerges out of signifying movements rather than reflections of a prefixed reality. It is precisely through linguistically and visually creative possibilities to speak back that subjects are able to transform their marginalized and "shameful" queer identities into queer affirmations of difference. Eve Sedgwick characterizes queerness as a dialogical process rather than a fixed identity: "the emergence of the first person, of the singular, of the present, of the active, and of the indicative are all questions, rather than presumptions, for queer performa-tivity" (1993, 4).

Focusing on youth sex/gender/sexuality, I call for new ways of utilizing feminist and queer concepts together with a sensitivity to representations of adolescent becoming. The challenge becomes analyzing the ideological constraints and meanings of growing up girl within a heteronormative society, while also watching how films exceed and disrupt normalizing expectations. For the purposes of understanding and naming films and the girls within them "queer," my aim is to develop a reflexive and open-ended process of theorizing particular film texts as well as broader social and cultural movements. Within many recent girl films, desire does not necessarily translate into clear-cut sexual identity, vividly demonstrated when Paulie expresses shock at being called a lesbian in Lost and Delirious:

paulie: You think I'm a lesbian?

mary: You're a girl in love with a girl, aren't you?

paulie: No, I'm Paulie in love with Tori. And Tori is—she is in love with me, because she is mine and I am hers. And neither of us are lesbians.

Paulie's words resonate with youth resistance to labels that would fix their personal erotic experiences. In response, I use "queer" to signify those subjects who do not fit into neat static categories of gender and sexual identity, while also retaining a feminist focus on the specific emotional and social world of girls.

The indeterminacy of young selfhood, in the process of formation, calls forth a theoretical focus on instability and change. Yet in using queer theory there is a risk of generalizing the malleability of youth identity. Katherine

Driscoll writes that, because youth have become associated with ambiguous, in-between states of becoming, the poststructuralist theories of sexuality articulated around the label ''queer theory'' problematize how one might form or claim sexual identity and thus dominant understandings of adolescence as the formation of sexuality. ... If adolescence locates (as yet) unfixed sexuality identities it can only with difficulty be assigned a gay or lesbian identity. (160)

Driscoll ends up invoking the queerness of all adolescent sexuality. This move is both tempting and troubling as it erases the struggles of particular queer youth as they articulate their desires and relations against cultural assumptions of sameness. While vague notions of sexual instability are continually attributed to girls as signs of their immaturity and innocence, it is much more difficult to find portrayals of strong, intelligent, and willfully desiring girls. I prefer to look specifically at those instances in film where young girls learn to express their queerness through situated and provisional words and acts. It is not a general indeterminacy that marks out queer youth in films but precisely their determination to pursue and experience samesex love. At the same time, naming the sexual orientations of girls in films must not be taken for granted.

Much has been written about transgressive processes of reading films through the queer desires and identifications of spectators. Yet for the most part, these texts are adult centered and often invoke a sophisticated interpretive process in which queer desire is traced in the margins and subtexts of dominant narrative cinema. Queer youth tend to be left out of these discussions of film representation and reception. Watching and analyzing queer girls in film is a delicate endeavor for me as an adult queer viewer. Positions and conventions of film reception need to be questioned: What do queer girls look like on the screen? Who is looking at them? How are they looked at? Who do they look at? How do they look at other girls? In what ways can these looks be named and compared? By attempting to scrutinize and theorize queer girls, what kinds of limits do we impose? Is it my queer adult gaze that shapes the meanings of young girls on the screen? Am I queerly sexu-alizing their looks for pleasure, nostalgia, or control? As I watch films in which girls desire other girls, I am troubled by these questions, fearing that my search for knowledge might reify the differences I seek out. Becoming a responsive viewer involves following the subtle ways a girl's desire for another girl spurs narrative and visual meaning. From the start, a reflexive

246 comíng-of-age queer eye/I becomes crucial to a practice of reading across a disparate field of girlgirl romance films signifying small intimate moments rarely glimpsed in commercial cinema. In Mallen and Stephens' words: ''looking becomes a complex play between characters and viewers . . . the act of looking that characters undertake also helps to make the viewer aware of the particular quality of their own gaze ... to position the viewer in ways that focus attention on the specific nature of his/her gaze'' (paragraph 5).

In this way my readings of queer girl films are emotionally invested and partial; they are shaped through textual analysis combined with the creative edges of my own desire for images of girl desire, which gains significance within the broader context of systemic invisibility and devaluation. I have chosen to work on three film texts which I argue provide exemplary instances of innovations involved in representing queer girls; at the same time, there is no escaping the pleasures these texts offer me as I look for signs of girls growing up queer. Linking each film with a set of theoretical problems, I focus in on the detailed visual and verbal narratives and character formations in specific film texts. Structural patterns tie into my subjective responses, which are refracted through the idiosyncrasy of my queer eye for queer girls. At times they conflict, contradict, overlap, and diverge. Whereas I focus on the silent expressions of queer girl crushes in Show Me Love, I go on to explore embodied gender-bending performances in All Over Me and defiant queer naming in The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. In each case, these films elicit the very question of what it is we desire in watching the desires of girls for girls. These films highlight distinct features of queer girl experience and representation, while also turning back onto our own need to see and understand them. At stake is learning how to read the shared elements across these films while focusing in on the textual, imaginary, and contextual details that enable nuanced narrative constructions of queer girls in film.

show me love, all over me, and the íncredíbly true adventure of two círls ín love: shaming words, visible desires, and active pleasures

Show Me Love, an independent Swedish film directed by Lukas Moodysson, recounts the everyday angst and frustrations of growing up in a rural environment where dreams of escape and excitement coexist alongside mundane longings for connection. The story follows Agnes, a pensive high school outcast who has lived in Amal for almost two years without being able to make friends or feel a sense of belonging. Though Agnes is detached from her peers, she develops an agonizingly intense and shy crush on Elin, a pretty, sharp, and popular blond girl. Elin is sexy, is well liked by the ''in crowd,'' and has an extraordinary physical self-confidence—'Tm so beautiful. I'm going to be Miss Sweden.'' Yet she is deeply unsatisfied by the world and the people that surround her: the boys are dull and predictable, gender roles are stultifying, adults sink into routine entertainments, and her classmates are caught up in cruel girl gossip. It is Elin and Agnes' persistent refusal to give in to the expectations of their family and friends that establishes their bond.

The opening scene of Agnes pouring her heart out over her computer keyboard sets the mood and direction of this romantic story. Agnes, lonely and isolated, closes the door to her bedroom, plays somber music, and writes desperate messages to herself:

My Secret Wish List I don't want to have a party Elin will see me Elin will fall in love with me I love Elin !!!!!!!

The secret longings of an adolescent wish list constitute the opening lines of Show Me Love, inscribed across Agnes' computer screen as she confesses her love of Elin alone, in the privacy of her room. Private spaces have multiple meanings for girls who are excluded from boy public cultures and also from the shared intimacies of girl-friend rituals. Agnes' room represents the solitary place of her romantic reveries. What becomes clear is that the enclosed space and silence that surround Agnes' awakening erotic attraction are filled with uncertain risk and knowledge. An uneasy space between her inner desires and lack of social recognition renders Agnes a remarkably vulnerable character.

Agnes' awkward secrecy is reinforced within a homophobic context in which her schoolmates attempt to shame her. Agnes is outed as a ''lesbian'' through harsh words of gossip before she has had a chance to even kiss a girl. The quick tongues of teen girls making fun of those who are different designates coming out as a locus of ridicule, stereotyping, and innuendo. Even Agnes' mother invades her privacy to find out the ''truth'' of the lesbian rumors. Being called a ''lesbian'' by others works to reify Agnes' subjectivity at a time in her life when being able to explore feelings and impulses is more important than taking on labels imposed by others. Elin lives on an edge of self-discovery and despair as she tries to kill herself after being outed in a humiliating game by the girl she adores. There is a protective silence in Agnes' refusal to name herself, revealing how vulnerable and simultaneously resilient she is in the face of those seeking to belittle her. If words are weapons of public shame, the gaze becomes a realm of subversive possibility for queer youth. Show Me Love allows the contradictions of Agnes' desiring presence to be represented through images of her watching eyes. From an abject position that places her in the background of school social life, we catch her looking at Elin. The camera pauses, offers a close-up, and stays still for a moment in which to catch visual signs of the aloneness and desire in Agnes' eyes. Seeing and being seen are crucial here—''Elin will see me''—a process that is painfully tentative and slow. Agnes' gaze becomes an active expressive force creating a queer scopic field of looking that fosters the development of a nonheterosexual romantic plot. Show Me Love conveys the desires of a girl for another girl through an oblique glance of fascination: the camera lingers over the tension between wanting and indecision, leaving room for viewers to identify with the emotional charge of Agnes' gaze. The status of the visual image over verbal expression becomes meaningful in the context of an adolescent who has not fully come out to herself and others. There is a weight to the quiet passion of Agnes' gaze that lets viewers inside the difficult emotional predicaments of queer youth coming-of-age.

Show Me Love does not simplify or glamorize the process through which Elin comes out to herself and others. Her fear, ambivalence, and confusion are integral to her realization that choosing Agnes will transform her life. But unlike many stereotypical narratives that leave gay and lesbian youth alone, scorned, and unhappy, this film offers a joyful and empowering image of togetherness to end the film. Playing with the metaphor of coming out, the girls are literally locked in a bathroom together as they confess their mutual love. This scene evokes another closed interior space in which the girls grapple with their desires. Tensions build as schoolmates and teachers bang on the door trying to get them to come out. When they finally emerge, Elin aggressively calls out, ''This is my new girlfriend. . . . We're going to go and fuck.'' They storm past the crowd with smiling faces, moving defiantly outside and into the public world. Show Me Love represents the stasis of being alone and withdrawn along with the pull of erotic anticipation and action that drives this teen romance forward.

Show Me Love represents Agnes' process of coming out as a movement from interior secret spaces to shared intimacy, from the homophobic bigotry of small-town teen cultures, as well as from the socially isolated realm of her bedroom toward a rebellious public declaration of girl-on-girl romance. Throughout most of the film, Agnes' hidden desires are visually signified by positioning her within closed claustrophobic settings where she exists im-

In All Over Me (1997), Ellen (Tara Subkoff, left) knows that her friend Claude (Alison Folland) is attracted to her, but she does not know how to handle the situation.

mobile and alone. In contrast, the American film All Over Me represents a working-class queer girl on the brink of self-discovery who self-inhabits city spaces. This film, directed by Alex Sichel, follows 15-year-old Claude as she walks through an inner-city New York neighborhood with an unself-conscious sense of independence, making friends with other queer youth, working in a pizza parlor, and eventually going by herself to a local lesbian bar. All Over Me locates many of Claude's coming-of-age experiences within public street contexts. Using a realist fictional style, this film frames how queer youth enact subversive languages of visibility in the face of hegemonic public invisibility. Claude is neither physically isolated within the private space of her bedroom nor emotionally detached; she is engaged and open to her changing environment, dreaming of being a girl rock star in an all-girl band as she practices guitar with her best friend Ellen. At the same time, All Over Me offers a gritty portrayal of queer bashing, refusing to gloss over the daily risks and traumas that confront queer youth in public spaces. We see Claude struggle to take hold of her awareness of her sexual self as she shifts her social, cultural, and erotic alliances across public/private boundaries.

Queer differences are vividly elaborated through the cultural details of speech, body language, dress, and movements: the ways Claude walks down the street with a clumsy teenage masculine stride, takes up space with her roller skates on the sidewalk, and eats with an aggressive appetite. Claude and Ellen play sex together—humping each other in a distorted circus mirror—laughing as they imitate boy/girl roles in exaggerated heterosexual postures:

claude: Hi there. ellen: Gee, you're real cute. claude: So are you. ellen: Great, let's fuck, fatso. claude: All right.

ellen: I'm going to suck your big juicy cock. claude: Suck me, suck me. ellen: This is stupid.

Ellen cuts off this silly queer spectacle and walks away, leaving Claude in front of the mirror simultaneously aroused and abandoned. This scene offers a spontaneous outburst of girl teen mimicry, and a glimpse of Claude's delight in playing sex to a point where fiction and reality blur. A little later Ellen returns late at night to brag about her sex with her new boyfriend, Mark. Claude asks her to show her what it feels like and they passionately kiss. The film signifies Claude's aching pleasure and frustration in these ephemeral moments of erotic touch and talk, which mean much more to her than a friendship crush. A performative process of queer desire and identification resonates through the role-playing between Claude and Ellen which constructs differences and connections between them and shows up the instability of the sexual conventions they play out.

Refusing to remain stuck adoring a straight girl who gives her little in return, we watch as Claude begins to transform herself through the interplay of another girl's mutually recognizing desire. She makes pivotal decisions about ending friendships and forming new ones. Claude eventually hooks up with another queer girl, Lucy, who not only reciprocates desire but also teaches her the importance of showing her affection for girls in public, outside the walls of her bedroom. Claude finds in Lucy a responsive desire for her desire that confirms and enables her to realize a queer self. All Over Me represents Claude's coming out as gradual, partial, and relational. A transition occurs that bridges the romantic distance of adolescent crushes and the physical passion of girl-on-girl sex. We only catch brief moments, but they allow us to see the interplay of knowing and not knowing, hesitation and action, fear and reaction as Claude begins to let go and experience her desires with Lucy. As she opens up erotically, she must also confront her social mar-

ginalization in a heterosexist society and the violence that surrounds her. Coming out emerges with subtle intersubjective acts of mutual recognition that work to bridge Claude's embodied attractions with her social possibilities and responsibilities. All Over Me explores the uncertainties of coming out without foreclosing the show of affection here and now, since the film ends with Claude and Lucy kissing outside on the street, disclosing to the world their appearance as queer girls. This romantic ending takes the idea of queer public presence and acceptance further than Show Me Love, insisting on the empowerment of young girls to inhabit city spaces as fully as possible. All Over Me not only represents the coupling of two girls in love, but also glimpses a world of cultural belonging and participation criss-crossing everyday spaces of street, work, and family, as well as the ephemeral subcul-tural realms of queer girl movements.

Show Me Love and All Over Me are serious complex romantic dramas, representing the silence and solitary emotional struggles for recognition, unfolding long, slow moving images of girls experiencing their desire for girls for the first time. In a different vein, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love is a light romantic comedy that plays off the predictable twists and turns of a popular teen genre in which opposites fall in love against all odds. Directed by Maria Maggenti, this film breaks ground by refusing to focus on the "problems" of being a young lesbian, and instead allows a working-class tomboy named Randy to exist as an already out, proud, and politicized dyke from the start. Randy is repeatedly insulted as a "freak" and "diesel dyke" by the kids at school, yet she creatively resists the status of social outcast. While spending time alone, smoking and playing her guitar in her room, she is outgoing and engaged with her "normal lesbo family," her gay friend Frank, and her job at a gas station. When Randy develops a crush on Evie, a popular straight girl, we watch as she risks opening up her feelings and her queer world with a boldly direct honesty. In many ways this film replays standard themes of the smart pretty rich girl falling for the working-class outsider, stressing the gulf between them. Yet this theme gets repeated as a queer girl romance across race and class lines, working inside and outside conventional narrative structures, as the film broaches the specificity of girl-on-girl affections within hegemonic contexts of social division.

The Incredibly True Adventure playfully launches into Randy's sexual explorations from the first scene, where she lustfully kisses and grabs an older femme married woman in the bathroom of the garage where she works. This departs from the very gradual, indirect view of young lesbian romance provided by Show Me Love and All Over Me. This film begins with images of raw physical sexual action. Opening with a frenzied erotic encounter sets up a very distinct view of Randy as impulsively sexual: she is portrayed as a 17-year-old who actively pursues other women and puts her body on the line to feel pleasure. Her attentions quickly move toward a deeper, more engaging object of affection as she falls in love with Evie, who is someone she will come to both love and lust after. Randy's challenge is to bring her carnal passion into her new friendship with Evie and to allow herself to become in return a sexual object of a femme girl's desire. While friendship is key to this budding relationship, sexual allure remains a driving force of attraction between these girls. Here, love and sex converge in a gradual process of mutual discovery.

The Incredibly True Adventure elaborates Randy's socialization as a queer girl by situating her within a lesbian household. This pushes beyond a romance-centered teen narrative to include family and community formations of queer culture as integral to Randy's sense of self and belonging. Dialogue about coming out is spoken with personal recognition within her family:

randy: I came out to a girl at school today. aunt's girlfriend: How'd it go? aunt: Well, she didn't run for the hills or anything. randy: She's like this totally cute popular girl in my school. aunt: Well, be careful, you know how people can be, but it's good to come out. I'm proud of you.

randy: Why do you have to make everything into a federal discrimination case!

We witness a volatile back-and-forth conversation across generations of queer women, a rare scene in contemporary films exploring teen relations. This presents a very different set of family supports to deal with the daily realities of being harassed for coming out in a heteronormative society. Whereas Show Me Love and All Over Me represent an impasse between girls on the verge of coming out and their straight parents, The Incredibly True Adventure offers an alternative dynamic of queer family resistance. What stands out in Randy's family are the caring bonds of community that includes friends, ex-lovers, and lesbian partners. The unique atmosphere of this context is vividly shown when Evie comes over to Randy's home for dinner, taken aback by the vivacious, messy, noisy, and chaotic ritual of food preparation in a working-class lesbian household. This sharply contrasts with the sophisticated, neat, and controlled family environment Evie and her mother live in, where we watch them eat an elegant sushi meal over intellectualized discussions of parent-child separation. Communication across these class lines is mediated by race as Evie assumes that Randy's aunt does not like her because she is black, which Randy reinterprets as a dislike of Evie's heterosexual class privilege. Coming up against social inequalities that divide their families, these girls help guide each other through their respective worlds of experience as integral to forging their romance.

While Randy and Evie are from radically separate worlds, they are drawn together in a fictional narrative of teen sexual discovery and independence. Both defy the rules imposed by peers and adult authorities to follow their desires, and both risk social isolation along the way. What stands out in The Incredibly True Adventure is the girls' power to defy those prohibiting their union, their refusal to limit their erotic imaginations and actions to accommodate adults and peers. This film's innovative elements pivot around the development of girls' desires for each other, visualized as a mise-en-scène that foregrounds their sexual pleasure and sensual explorations. Constructing a fantasy space of queer girl erotic intimacy, the film sets up dreamy flowing images of them listening to music while touching, lying in the grass, collapsing ecstatically together on the floor, sucking, grabbing, and kissing each other's naked bodies with abandon. In these moments, The Incredibly True Adventure exceeds the heteronormative boundaries of teen romance films, glimpsing mobile and shifting carnal embodiments of two girls in love.

conclusion: watching girls loving girls

It is impossible to escape the fact that the textual analysis outlined in this essay is imbued with my desire to see cinematic images of teen girls desiring girls. Queer girl films thrill and provoke me! Coming to them as a cultural theorist, I try to be conscious of how my feelings and fantasies inform my ideas. These films are important to me as a queer adult craving stories through which to make sense of my adolescent past. I also feel strongly that they are crucial to younger generations of film viewers looking for a broad range of possibilities for identification and imaginative projection. By making the claim that these films are culturally transformative, I have selected and highlighted certain parts that help build an argument centered on the representational specificity of queer girl experiences. I am deeply aware of how little cultural attention is paid to queer youth and how dominant heterosexual ideologies pervade popular and critical interest in youth. This leads me to argue that reading queer girl films for their nuanced differences is a reflexive and critical interpretive activity. In this sense the personal edges of my reading are also political, an approach that consciously values subjects that have been historically erased and marginalized from public view. Jean Bruce writes that ''a queer reading against the grain, to steal pleasure, is also an implicit politics of interpretation. This is one place where the politics of identity and the aesthetics of resistance coincide in textual analysis'' (288). Films constituting the lives of queer youth in fictional narratives are politically meaningful insofar as they enable ways of seeing and imagining young romance beyond the heteronormative gaze and narrative structures while borrowing and resignifying elements from teen film genres. The point is not to formalize a new subgenre but to open up a dialogue about the representational practices that enable viewers to identify and interpret these stories in multiple ways, to develop languages through which queer girls are engaged with as culturally visible and viable subjects.

The rich variety of stories and images constructed within these films attests to a creative field of queer girl cinema emerging today, calling forth reflexively engaged viewer responses. The significance of these specific romance films lies in their detailed perspectives centered on the psychic, intersubjective, and cultural work involved in queerly coming-of-age as girls. Show Me Love, All Over Me, and The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love help viewers see that becoming queer as an adolescent involves self-knowledge and the ability to communicate and act in the face of widespread denial and hostility. In other words, queerness is portrayed as an active verb, a doing, a growing, and a maturing into agency. The strength of these films lies in their willingness to profile the emergence of queer girl subjectivity in diverse relational contexts. It is not a rational progression toward moral normative maturity that structures these films, but rather a dynamic interplay of self and other, body and mind, silence and language. Performative contours of girls' identities and desires are elaborated through daily enactments, what they say and wear, and the music and cultural icons they enjoy, as well as how they move and interact with those around them. The characters are visually and verbally produced as queer girls in and through their embodied relations. By framing the sexual identifications of girls as an ongoing accomplishment that is contingent and mobile, while also being grounded in their specific stories, these films overcome the closure of hetero-sexist endings. While each film demonstrates that the path toward the self and social recognition of queer adolescence are not reducible to a static formula, they trace difficult challenges as each character comes to terms with her sexual difference. Coming out and coming-of-age is represented as a creative process involving deep feeling, emotional intelligence, and social insight.

The transformative crux of Show Me Love, All Over Me, and The Incred ibly True Adventure is the chance they offer to see smart girls who are determined to find love and become sexually active with other girls. This offers another take on ''girl power'' premised on the strength of girls to defy gender and sexual norms of beauty and desirability and seek out alternatives. Their power is portrayed as vulnerable and relational, breaking with the commodified presentations of the hyperglamorous sexuality of heterosexual girl power icons. Images of ordinary girls embracing, kissing, and fucking girls provide key visual moments through which we glimpse embodied desires, getting a close-up view of queer girl physical pleasures. The protagonists' desires are also the driving impetus of narrative development, making things happen and moving the story along. Through the force of their desires, these girls are compelled to make choices and act in ways that change the course of their social lives, foregoing conformity for risky pursuits. Yet there is no causal or predictable outcome to the plots of these films. While in some sense the girls become heroic individuals overcoming obstacles to get the girl they want, they are also shown hesitating in the ambiguity of adolescent uncertainties. There is a striking vulnerability in the persistence of these girls' erotic longings that combines quiet caution and visible determination. Yet all these films provide narrative endings that involve a happy queer coupling of girls, and they come together if only briefly to affirm the possibility of fulfillment. This queers conventional hetero-endings of teen romances, as we are left to imagine the futures of these girls as queer desiring subjects. It is not the guarantee of a type of romance that matters here but ephemeral images of love actualized between girls that provides hope and promotes change.

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