*This post contains spoilers from Netflix's I Care a Lot.
As soon as I saw the first trailer for Netflix’s film I Care a Lot, I was hooked. I, like so many other queer women, love a hyper competent and hot evil lady, and I love watching to see what she’ll do.
When I watched the film on Friday, I was in love. Marla Grayson, played with sinister glee by Rosamund Pike, is a professional grifter stealing everything she can from the elderly people she pretends to represent and protect. She’s not a good person, but she’s very good at what she does and loves her girlfriend (Eiza Gonzalez.) Oh, and she's hot as hell because of all of this.
Grayson is a devil in a sunshine yellow suit. It’s undeniably sexy watching her face every challenge in the movie with confidence and brains. Nothing is hotter than a woman outsmarting men. Except for maybe a woman outsmarting men and living to tell the tale.
For the first hour and 50 minutes I was in love. I was having fun in a way I’ve almost never had while watching a movie with a queer protagonist. Then the last 90 seconds came and, in an undignified and blunt manner, the angry son of one of her wards approaches Grayson and shoots her in the chest. As she bled out in her fiance’s arms I couldn’t help but ask why.
Why couldn’t Marla Grayson live? Why do countless terrible characters (usually straight and or male) get to continue their stories relatively unpunished, while a lesbian committing similar crimes is murdered and taught a lesson? Why do Mad Men’s Don Draper, Nightcrawler’s Lou Bloom, American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, and countless other horrible men get to live on after their misdeeds? Why does the Joker survive at the end of his movie and Marla Grayson doesn’t? Hell, why does Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne get her happily ever after while Grayson lies cold in her grave.
Marla Grayson could’ve been an all-time great lesbian sex symbol, but who wants to fantasize about a dead woman? I Care a Lot was on track to be one of my favorite lesbian movies ever until the final scene. If it had only ended a minute sooner.
I recently wrote about monotonous a lot of mainstream lesbian movies are, and for 99 percent of it, I Care a Lot is a great antidote for that monotony (although it's still extremely white). It’s fun, it’s wild, it keeps escalating and twisting and turning, and it gives it’s lesbian protagonist a ton to do, including saving her girlfriend’s life and besting every career criminal that tries to take her down.
Pike and Gonzalez, who are both straight, are hot, hot, hot throughout the deliciously dark comedy and have great chemistry together. We even get a fake-out happy ending before the final minute! I was so happy seeing Marla make an engagement ring for her partner out of her stolen diamonds, and then equally let down a moment later when I saw this man reappear and I knew what was about to go down.
I Care a Lot could’ve been such a fun evil movie, but unfortunately, because it fell into the Bury Your Gays trope at the very last second, some queer women probably won't see it.
Whether it’s fair or not, a lot of queer women and nonbinary people simply won’t watch a lesbian movie or show if they know the lesbian dies. It’s something we’ve seen since the beginning of film and we’re tired.
There even used to be laws saying that lesbian stories couldn’t have happy endings. In the first half of the 20th century, lesbian literature had to end in death or heterosexuality for it to get past censors who considered any happy ending to be obscene. From 1930 until 1967, the Hays Code prohibited Hollywood films from depicting gay reletaionships at all under the category of “sex pervsion.” Unfortunately, those laws have left a legacy of unhappy endings for LGBTQ+ people in film that still lasts today.
Recently, I was reading about The Price of Salt author Patricia Highsmith and how after she published her seminal lesbian love story (which was later adapted into the movie Carol), she got dozens of letters from women saying they’d never seen a love story between two women where neither of them died or goes back to their husband. We’re still just as excited today when we find stories that do the same.
I Care A Lot ends with a clip of Grayson being interviewed on TV about all her success as her dead body lies on the pavement. “It’s been fun,” Grayson smiles. And until that last ninety seconds, it was. That's the kind of lesbian movie we want and deserve: all of this greatness without the death.